Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Loss of an Unlikely Best Friend

Two days ago our neighbor died suddenly of a heart attack.  He was 67.  He was also one of my children's very best friends.  They would rather go to his house to hang out than to try and play with any of the neighborhood kids.

I have known Jim since I was 6 years old and lived in this house with my grandparents.  His kids were a little older than I was, but their family has always been in my life since then.  As it turns out, my husband has always known their family as well since they were very involved in Boy Scouts.  It has been such a privilege for my kids to get to know them as well.

Looking at Jim you wouldn't guess that small children would want to hang out with him.  He was gruff, always had a cigarette in his mouth, his hands were always worn and filthy from the project he was working on at the time and he was physically a large man.  My kids ADORED him.  Anytime they'd go over to his house on their bikes they would have a million questions about what he was working on.  He always answered their questions, sometimes teaching them how to do it themselves. If the girls needed anything on their bike fixed, they wouldn't even bother telling Mike or I about it, they would just go straight over to Jim's house for him to fix it.  Bikes were one of his many areas of expertise.  My kids went so far as to knock on their door to see if Jim was home if he wasn't outside.  I had to explain to them that they needed to give Jim and Joyce their space and that they could only "play" with them if they were already outside.  Jim has a pool and he and Joyce are always inviting the girls over to swim anytime they want to.

When the twins first came to our family, and had limited English, the neighbor's names were in the first 100 words the girls obtained.  The best part was that they combined their names and called them JimsJoyce.  It was so sweet and now upon reflection, quite appropriate.  What a blessing to have such a beautiful example of a loving couple who, after 44 years of marriage, were still best friends and loved being together.  Jim was also a beautiful lesson for my girls that you cannot judge someone based on what they look like.

As I said before, Jim passed away 2 days ago.  When I told the girls the news, I could tell that they couldn't really process it.  They seemed to kind of sluff it off.  Their reaction was a bit concerning to me.  I knew how much they cared about him.  Charlotte and I went to visit his wife today and for Charlotte, seeing how her heart was so broken really made it more real.  Caroline couldn't bring herself to even go over.

At bedtime tonight the twins took turns coming downstairs telling me they couldn't sleep.  I got annoyed.  I just wanted to sit and spend some time with Mike.  I went upstairs to tuck them each back in and Caroline came clean.  She couldn't sleep because she was sad about Jim and it was reminding her of when Brutus died.  She broke down.  I held her as she cried.  I reminded her of how much Jim loved Brutus, a fact I had forgotten until tonight.  When Brutus was a kitten, Jim would come over just to see him and it was quite a site to see such a big, tough guy holding such a tiny little kitten.  I remember how heartbroken he was when he found out about what happened to Brutus.  I'm sure he is snuggling with that ornery little kitten up in heaven!  I then came downstairs to dig through the dozens of boxes packed for our impending move trying to find the stuffed moose we named Brutus so Caroline could snuggle with him.  Of course Brutus the Moose was in one of the very first boxes we packed and was therefore on the BOTTOM of the pile!  It took me 30 minutes and I was sweating by the time I dug that thing out, but if than dang moose was going to help her sleep, then you better believe I was going to find it.  That's true love people!!

I then went into Charlotte's room to re-tuck her into bed.  By this time it's 10:30pm...they went to bed at 8:45pm.  I asked her if she was ok and she told me she was sad about Jim.  I held her as we both cried for the next 15 minutes.  She misses him.  After we cried I reminded her of his love for Brutus and we were able to smile remembering how funny it looked when he held that tiny kitten and how he would bring Brutus back home after the many times he would make a daring escape out of any open door so he could have an adventure.

None of us want our children to experience pain of any kind, but in real life any relationship has its risks of resulting in pain.  I wouldn't change their relationship with Jim just to spare them of this pain.  Their relationship with this man was such a blessing.  They learned so many life lessons knowing and loving him.  Having a relationship with God helps makes these times more bearable because we know we will all see Jim again one day in heaven.  I know he will be up there watching over my girls in the same way he'll be watching over his own grandchildren.


xim-xim said...


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