Jay/A better Obituary

(I was given an assignment to write a “better obituary” for a loved one. One that would speak more clearly and honestly than the usual ones you read in the paper.  I have submitted this about my brother.)

Jay Van Cott

Jay Van Cott died in his Dallas condo on July 4th, 2000, just shy of his 50th birthday.  Mr. Van Cott chose to celebrate the Independence Day weekend, by declaring his own independence from this earth, via suicide.

Mr. Van Cott was born in Hartford, CT in 1950, attended Branford High School, and graduated Suma cum Laude from Connecticut College with a double major in History and Art History.  He left behind approximately 3,000 hard cover books, all of which he read, a closet full at least 200 heavily starched business shirts, and somewhere around 1,000 silk ties. He also possessed a brilliant mind, a voracious appetite for knowledge, impeccable taste in art, and a sister who adored him.

His sister recalls that when they were young, he made a list of Academy Award winners in three categories; Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Actress. He called this list, his “Oscar Roster.” He made his sister, who was two years his junior, memorize the list, and he quizzed her regularly. On one occasion, he woke her up in the middle of the night, and said, “1961, Best Actress. And I will give you extra credit if you name the movie she won it for.” After she answered Elizabeth Taylor for Butterfield 8, he kissed her and told her he had the best sister in the world.

On a good day, Mr. Van Cott was the most charming person in the room. He was well read, naturally curious, and charismatic, so he could hold court on virtually any subject.  People leaned in to hear what he had to say. On a bad day, he could be quite cruel.

He was born at a time when homosexuals were encouraged to keep their sexual identity to themselves, so he became adept at lying about girlfriends that did not exist, and even fabricated a story about marrying his high school sweetheart to keep his elderly neighbor in Dallas entertained. Years of pretending to be something he was not took its toll on him, and his once handsome face was replaced with an ever present sneer.  His beautiful blue eyes, became dark and empty, and his laughter, which was once so readily available, was silenced.  Even his sister, whose job it was to keep him laughing, could no longer succeed at bringing it forward.

For over thirty years, Mr. Van Cott wrote in a daily journal. His handwriting was beautiful to behold, but nearly impossible to read without the aid of a magnifying glass. With the exception of the last month of his life, his daily entries were entered into large, leather-bound blank books, written with finely crafted pens. His final month’s submissions were found on loose leaf paper kept in a weathered, grey, three-ringed binder, and written with a Bic ballpoint.  The last sentence of his last journal, written, after what appeared to be, two solid days of no food or sleep, cup after cup of coffee, and several packs of cigarettes smoked down to the filter, offered no specific reason as to why he would then hang himself;  just that he felt he had to, before it was, “Too late.”

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2 thoughts on “Jay/A better Obituary

  1. First ,I am very sorry for your loss. coming upon this post so long after your family tragedy. Second, I have to ask if your brother lived for a time in Chicago? Jay Van Cott’s name cam up in a conversation about people we worked with, and lost touch with, so I googled his name and found your “Better Obituary”. Of course, I am hoping it is , in fact a different Jay, but the description sounds very much like him. And if it is the same Jay Van Cott, perhaps I can share a little of his time in Chicago with you.

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    1. I am delighted to hear from you. Yes, I believe you and I are talking about the same Jay Van Cott. I would LOVE to have you share some things regarding his time in Chicago. I always questioned why he left there in the first place, as he seemed to like it so much. My poor brother never could find happiness. I wish I had better news for you. I miss him terribly. Thank you for contacting me. I cannot tell you what this means to me. Susan Van Cott

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