This isn't good news - hasn't been good news since Wednesday morning, when my mom called me at about 5:15 a.m. I didn't even flinch when I heard the phone, or saw the number. I don't know why, but I didn't expect it when she said it, in spite of the early hour. But there it was. Jim had died.
Jim is - was - my mother's husband. They'd been married 10 years, together 18. (Why rush it? they had said about the time between meeting and marrying. It's not like we're going to have kids or anything...) He'd been sick for a year. Yes, my trips to El Paso last fall were not just to hang out with family - they were to help my mom, and Jim, get through some rough, post-stroke times. And now he's died.
We gathered this weekend in El Paso, from all around the country - Jim's two adult children, my mom's brother, my siblings (except the youngest, who is two weeks from having her second baby and couldn't travel). We've had the funeral. We've cried, laughed, remembered his ornery ways. Jim had them, you see. "Turn left here" would invariably guarantee a right turn, if Jim were driving. It drove me nuts, over the years. Until it didn't, anymore. At some point, Jim was just Jim. He was that guy that told bad jokes, that answered "a million dollars" when the waitress asked if she could get him anything else, that wandered off at family gatherings just to give himself a little space...
And that loved my mom. It was that last one that made the rest of anything else all right. They were a great team, my mom and Jim. They listened to each other, and made each other laugh. They drove each other crazy sometimes, to be sure. But then they'd regroup and start all over again. They were a match. I think that, sometimes, when I think of the couples I know who are the happiest. They're a "match." That was Mom and Jim. A match.
So here's something. Someone at a doctor's office noticed, last fall, that Jim wasn't making jokes when he checked in. (He was too sick by then to be his old self like that.) She was devastated that he wasn't joking with her. That's when I realized - I missed his jokes. I missed them! How in the heck could I miss them... But I did.
Because that was something about Jim - how he got people to enjoy the moment, when he was around. He had a really good heart, that Jim.
The service Saturday was powerful. We all spoke except my mom. My niece wrote from France, where she is spending the summer. The whole service was filled with great stories that made us laugh and cry all at the same time. There was heartbreak, too. There were thoughts about the moments gained, the moments forever lost. "You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived..."
What can I say about the Essence of Jim? Nothing seems to do full justice. He was a really good person, who loved my mom and made her laugh. In the end, that's what mattered most. Thanks, Jim. We will miss you.