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at peace

July 29, 2009

My uncle Jim passed away yesterday.

It was a bittersweet end to his battle with two! forms of Leukemia.  It feels awful to have lost him, but there is a little relief in knowing that he’s no longer in pain or suffering – that he’s at peace.

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My uncle Jim was also my godfather, and a really great godfather at that!  He made sure to play a big role in my life.  One of my favorite memories of my childhood was of him and my aunt Vicki (his wife) taking my sister and I to Disney on Ice.  We got to fill up on snow cones and watch the characters skate around.  It was awesome.

As his godchild, I was asked to be in his wedding.  That was a pretty big deal to a pre-teen with a penchant for dresses and other girly things, and I was happy to fill in.  It was a wonderful day, and Jim was lucky to have found Vicki.  She is caring and funny, and has been a wonderful godparent to me also!

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And, of course, he was always around to congratulate me for big accomplishments.  Like graduating from high school.  Jim and Vicki sat on hard wood bleachers in a hot school gym for hours just to watch me walk across the stage and get that little piece of paper.

When I first moved to Minneapolis, Jim and Vicki were some of the only out-of-state visitors that I had.  Over the course of several visits, we hung out at the Mall of America, ate pizza on a patio near my apartment, and caught up on what was going on in each others lives.

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One thing that we could always count on Jim (and my other uncles) for was a good teasing and joking around.  Jim had a great sense of humor!  Anytime you brought a date to a family function, Jim and the other uncles were sure to give him a hard time.  It was a test of sorts – if your date couldn’t put up with the teasing, he just wasn’t going to work out!

It was also a joy to see Jim become a dad.  He had always been so sweet to me, that it wasn’t a surprise when he became such a loving, over-protective father to Colleen.  As the story goes, he even accompanied her on a date – sat right by Colleen in the movie theater!  How funny is that?!  I think both of them were lucky to have each other, and lucky to have my aunt Vicki!

And, when it was my turn to get married, Jim and Vicki were there for support.  Jim read a poem at our wedding, and both Jim and Vicki were instrumental in getting everything set up correctly at the reception.  They also organized a gift opening for us the day after the wedding. We were really lucky to have their help with everything!

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It’s hard to believe that the picture above was taken less than a year ago, and that he’s gone now.

In May, when he was diagnosed with not one, but two forms of Leukemia, we were upset, but hopeful that he’d come through.  Uncle Jim had overcome many challenges in his life, and there was no thought (at least in my mind) that this one would be any different.  And indeed, everything was going well until a few weeks ago, when other, untreatable infections complicated everything.  So we were asked to visit with Jim and say our goodbyes this past week.  And if any of you know how difficult that is, I am so sorry.  Because it really, really, really sucks.

As angry and heartbroken that I am that my uncle is gone, I am also thankful.  Thankful that he was such a big part of my life, thankful that I got to spend almost twenty-nine years knowing him, and thankful that I got the chance to tell him what he meant to me before he left.  I got to hold his hand, and when I smiled at him, he smiled back, both of our eyes tearing up.  I got to tell him how proud I was of him, how strong he was, and that it was okay to go – that I didn’t want him to hurt anymore.

So, we’re a bit heartbroken in the country today (as we have been for the past week(s)).  And we’re remembering to appreciate each other and our life here together, because things can change so quickly.  We’re going to plan that honeymoon that we didn’t take last year, we’re spending time enjoying the outdoors, we’re remembering to have fun while making our home pretty and functional.  And I think you all should do the same.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 29, 2009 1:34 pm

    Typing through the tears here…I’m so very sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to your uncle. He sounds like he was such a wonderful man. And you’re right…having to say goodbye really sucks…I know that all too well. Hold those you love close!

  2. July 29, 2009 2:49 pm

    That’s such a heartbreaking story! So sorry to hear about this, friend! I’ll be saying prayers for you & the family.

  3. July 29, 2009 2:57 pm

    What a wonderful entry! He seemed like a very loving person and you were so lucky to have him in your life. Thank you for sharing his story and I am so sorry that he has past.

    P.S. I had to say goodbye to my grandpa like you did last March. It’s no fun. I didn’t want to leave, fearing the last moment I would remember him.

  4. Debbie permalink
    July 29, 2009 10:50 pm

    Also typing through tears! You are absolutely right about appreciating every day and everyone we have in our lives. Our fates changes so quickly. My prayers are with you and your family. Our paths crossed for such a short time but I know how much Jim meant to you.
    I’m so glad you got to see him one last time; that’s something you’ll aways be thankful for.

  5. mom permalink
    July 29, 2009 11:19 pm

    Jennifer, thank you. That was so beautiful.

  6. Uncle B permalink
    July 30, 2009 7:53 am

    Very Beautiful…….(please email those pics to your mother for a picture DVD)

  7. July 30, 2009 4:50 pm

    …”People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they’re cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you’ll ever be”. From “its a wonderful life”….

    Seldom if ever in life, do you have contact with a person of compassion, passion and genuine caring that Jim was blessed with. For those that had met Jim, we are all the better for it and will always fall short of the bar he set.

    “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” From “its a wonderful life”…. Jim’s bell is still ringing.

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