Sunday morning, Oct. 29, this text arrived: I see my friend would have been 90 today. Miss him…Dan.
Dan has been Jim’s and my friend for many years. He saw Dan nearly every Thursday morning for pastors’ prayer meetings. Dan’s simple and thoughtful dozen-word text which gave me joy and comfort fit right in with the Sharing part of this blog which I had already begun.
Honoring Jim on what would have been his 90th birthday is a great joy for me. He’s still a significant part of me—more like entwined—therefore, I’m very aware of him throughout the day as I assume the care of the house, yard, finances, keeping up with our extended family and the church family.
Looking back when Jim was in the hospital for a month and rehab two weeks, I spent every day from 8-8 with him. We read scripture, prayed, read get well cards, laughed and cried together--a precious time that we both knew would be our last. Whenever I’d ask, “Jim, what can I get for you?” he’d always whisper “Clara”, who was our year-old great-granddaughter, who just being who she was, delighted and blessed Jim greatly. She couldn’t talk, but her smiles and romping a bit on his bed were sufficient. Clara was a yearned-for gift. We knew that it wasn’t easy for Laura to bring Clara in nearly every day along with toys and her lunch, and we appreciated her effort.
I was reminded of these ‘noonish’ gifts of Clara as I began to develop the subject of the gift of being, when a couple of weeks ago, as I headed down the drive for my usual walk, I noticed a little girl in the yard where new neighbors had moved. I had been looking for an opportunity to meet them, so I made my way toward her. She was all smiles and came toward me. “Hi”, I said, “I have been hoping to see someone from this house. My name is Ruth and I live across the street. What is your name?”
“April; April Elisabeth Nelson. We are the Nelson family”. “April is a lovely name. How old are you, April?” She looked at the fingers on her right hand and answered, “Four”.
“I have a granddaughter who is four, and just about your size. Her name is Clara, and she has blue eyes like you do and long, curly hair like yours.”
She pulled her hair back and said, “Do you like it this way,” and pulled it to the front, “or this way?”
“Both ways are nice, April”.
Her dad moved off an exercise machine in the open garage to check out who had engaged his daughter in conversation. I introduced myself and where I lived.
“I’m Jeff” he said. “My wife is Angela.”
“The families on this street are very friendly and we’ve all been eager for a family to move in. I’ve enjoyed getting acquainted with April. She’s very special.”
Jeff and I chatted for a few minutes about his job, Angela’s position in healthcare and where they had moved from and that his parents live locally. “This is our dog”, April broke in, “Duke Runner Nelson”. And I have a brother in heaven.”
“Miscarriage,” Jeff explained.
Jeff said goodbye and returned to his workout in the garage.
And as I turned to continue my walk, April called out, “I will miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too,” I assured her and walked back toward her. “Would you like a hug?” She said “Yes”. Wow! What a delightful experience!
I concluded that she was the welcoming committee, not I.” In less than five enjoyable minutes, I’d learned a lot about their family. What a refreshing way to begin the day. I couldn’t help but giggle a little and borrowed Jim’s expression “How ‘bout that.”
As I continued my walk, I silently thanked God for this special experience, surmising that the gift April had bestowed on me was the gift of being, such an important part of communication. I was still deep in thought about the importance of being, when a shiny black pick-up pulled-up and stopped in front of me. The driver rolled his window down and said “Hi, Ruth, how are you? “
“Just great, Ron.”
“I enjoyed reading the blog about Jim’s Shed”, he said. “It brought back good memories about Jim. He always had work clothes on. You know, we lived close to the church that you guys were building and I could spot Jim on the backhoe or other machines. Not many preachers do that.”
“Jim loved to work.” I commented.
“And I remember him driving the Purple People Picker Upper bus to its parking place at the end of our street” he continued. “He knew how particular I was about my clean truck and one day he stopped by and apologized for the dust the bus stirred up. What a guy! One of a kind.”
But as I resumed my walk, I realized that I had a warm comforting feeling after hearing Ron’s memories about Jim. Ones like the notes tucked inside sympathy cards about the first time they met Jim, something he had said, how he had helped them, repaired something or that he led them to Christ, etc. were very comforting to the children and me--the gift of sharing--how interesting. And again, I realized I was chuckling aloud once again and borrowing Jim’s “How ‘bout that!”
The gift of memory-sharing is one that we all have to give. Many say that they don’t mention the deceased for fear of making the person shed tears. But I learned from my brother John, the professor of Death and Dying college class that shedding tears contribute to healing grief. And now I’m adding that bits and pieces of memories also contributes to healing grief. I’ll share this with John to see what he thinks. So, go ahead, despite any tears, to share your memories.
The tribute to Jim is how he exemplified the gift of being all the time. He was never out of sorts, grumpy or critical. If you ever had a conversation with him, you’ll remember how much he liked to share memories of his family, especially his Papa Ward. Jim genuinely loved his neighbors, his biological family, his by-marriage family and church family.
Clara, Dan, April and Ron were my inspiration for this blog. Please let me know (my email is at the top) if you have an experience of either receiving or sharing memories that you’d like to share. Who knows? Maybe a follow up will emerge.
For adults, being is a gift that actually fulfills the disposition of humility, a spiritual goal of putting others first and leaving them uplifted when you left.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Rom. 15:13 (NIV).
One of Jim’s favorite verses was the text of the last sermon he preached on the last Sunday in December, 2019. For in him, we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28 (NIV).
You (We) are the light of the world: Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt.5:14
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Rom. 11:36. (NIV). This verse was underlined in several of Jim’s bibles.
Jim’s goal was to live and speak for the glory of God. Are you aware of the simple gift of just being who you are, upbeat, pleasant and transparent? Like April. Is there someone you know that would probably be comforted by your memory of their deceased?