This post is being written with a heavy heart; I've lost a very good friend in a tragic accident. This post is as much about talking through my grieving as it is sharing his wonderful story. I hope it's cathartic for me, as well as you. It's one of those - "if you haven't reached out and connected with an old friend lately, you'll never know when it's going to be too late" kind of stories.
So - let me tell you a little bit about my friend.
People talk about the invasion of privacy that can occur on Facebook, but that is how I first heard about Jim's death. See, I'm "friends" with both Jim and his ex-wife, so when I sat down at the end of a long day and started "catching up" with people on Facebook, I noticed some very odd (and disturbing) posts, in which people were sending their condolences.
What are they saying? I thought to myself. Who has died?
Imagine the sorrow you might feel to learn of a good friend's death while sitting at your computer. But then again - imagine not hearing about it. It occurs to me that Facebook is a modern day Pony Express, where information is shared in seconds, not weeks. Say what you want about it - but admit that it was beneficial in this instance.
When I think of Jim, one of the first things that comes to mind is what a good and decent man he was. We met as kids, really, eighteen-year-olds in college, and our love for playing guitar is how we met. Many a day was spent sitting on the lawns of Ohio University, singing and drinking beer.
And talking about life.
See, Jim didn't have a clue what he wanted to do in life. He was a little lost, in fact. As the years passed, everyone else was graduating and moving on with life; Jim was still deciding. I remember his stints as a bartender, a house painter, a construction worker - you name it, he did it. He wasn't afraid to work. He just didn't know what he wanted yet.
Here we are as "kids" at my graduation ceremony - when I completed my Carpenters Apprenticeship program. Jim's fat tie and my bangs make me cringe, but it was sweet that he drove 200 miles to be there with me that night.
When Jim told me he had decided on medicine, it didn't surprise me. He was the kind of guy who cared about people. Deeply. I knew he'd be a great doctor.
Fast forward many years - a wife and five kids later - Jim found himself back in the town he grew up in, practicing medicine. He was the quintessential small town doctor, where everyone knew him, where he gave generously of his time and talents, and was loved. Seriously loved.
Just two weeks ago, I heard from him, proudly announcing that his son was graduating from boot camp, and had become a Marine. I love that he posted a picture of them smoking cigars. To hell with the evils of smoking - they were celebrating, dammit!
If I close my eyes, and listen, I can hear him talking about the depth of his pride for Parker. Well, actually - about all of his children. The relationship he had with his kids wasn't like any other father-son or father-daughter one, for he was truly their friend, their mentor, their leader, their example. I grieve for the sadness they're experiencing. Kelsey, Parker, Molly, Brianna, and Cooper - know that your father was loved by many, many people. He made a difference in this world.
His funeral is taking place as I type this, and I can't help but imagine the stories that people are sharing with each other about him. I have a great one to share about us.
Jim was an amazing athlete - a kick boxer who was feared and respected. When we were in college, Jim gave me a couple of tickets to watch him fight, and a friend and I showed up for the match. As you might imagine, beer and excitement freely flowed, and I cheered like a maniac for my friend.
"Kick his f#%@ing ass, Jim!"
When the match ended, Jim came over to greet us, and said - "Oh, I see you met my mom." Seems we were sitting next to his mom the whole time, and she heard us wildly (OK, drunkenly) cheering him on. She simply said "well, I could tell you were fans of his..."
How embarrassing, what a first impression I made with her!
When people die, everyone tries to say comforting thing, like - he will be dearly remembered, or his legacy will live on forever.
In Jim's case, these words are all true. Rest in peace, my friend.