Category Archives: Jimmy

“The Picture” Lives On…

 

I originally posted this in 2014.

Enough time has passed since Jimmy died for me to remember the goofiness more than the anguish of cancer that he endured. It’s natural that death works that way, as he was alive and kicking for much longer than he was suffering. There are still those days when I catch myself wondering what Jimmy might make of something or I half-expect him to drive up to the house after getting more stuff for his hoard from a local garage sale.

Fair or not, a lot of Jimmy’s energy was siphoned away by his one family member’s obsession with money and getting what she thought was hers. It was a travesty and I learned a lot from it, whether I wanted to or not. It angered Jimmy that he was being punished with cancer. Had he survived and not relapsed, I think he might have begun to feel pity for his family member again, as she was at the whim of her own addictions and demons – and he could see it.

The above picture is one which my cousin Jimmy insisted I take of him. It was immediately after his first cancer surgery. We were at his mom’s house. (My Aunt Ardith.) As you can see, Jimmy was still smiling and laughing. His mom wasn’t too thrilled with our brand of humor. Our custom was to make the most outrageous, tasteless and macabre statements that we could imagine. Between the two of us, we used to come up with some epic craziness. Aunt Ardith would sit in her perch on the couch next to the sliding glass doors, drinking her whiskey and coke, smoking, and feigning surprise and mirth at some of our goofiness. We had the ability to literally say anything to each other or about each other, directly, without fear of anger.

Jimmy was very confident that he was going to beat cancer. When this picture was taken, I was very hopeful. Realistically hopeful, I thought. Jimmy joked that this picture would make an ideal Christmas card. His mom specifically told me that I had better not make cards with the picture on it. (My reputation for doing that sort of thing was quite well known…) Jimmy then chimed in that it would make an ideal “All I got was this lousy bout of cancer” t-shirt. It’s still funny, although with a slightly different twist to it now.

The plan was going to be to post this picture on Facebook after-the-fact. Jimmy was interested in being able to talk to people about his experiences. As a well-liked employee of Budweiser, he knew a lot of people and would have a lot of opportunities to talk to people. Unfortunately, his cancer came back to take him down.

This picture might as well have been taken in another century. It both seems like both yesterday and ten years ago simultaneously. His mom became ill and died a few short months before him after he relapsed. His mom’s house is sold to strangers and Jimmy’s life is fading in everyone’s collective consciousness.When Jimmy died, I had tried to get people to write anecdotes and stories to share with me. I had made a commitment to share them out in the world in such a way as to attempt to keep those memories alive. I did my best to disseminate his pictures to friends and family, sharing them on public drives and makings disks, printed copies and any other method I could think of. We all have our stories and moments to remember with Jimmy. Some of us have a strong collection of memories, many of which were times that weren’t fun while we were living them but are as much a part of his life as the “good” times. As time slides past us, our stories will slide into the fog with us.

Whether it is wrong to say so or not, Jimmy’s death affected me in countless more ways than my own mother’s death did. I was with Jimmy for much of his final time and was with him when he finally had nothing left with which to fight. He weighed so little that it seemed only his soul remained in him.

Not only were we contemporaries, but we shared a common bond of ridiculous attitude toward many of life’s idiocies. We were both forged in a family where laughter could be replaced by drunken rage without notice. My youth was fuller thanks to Jimmy and his parents, even when the times weren’t so good.

Jimmy’s life was one of potential. His younger years were full of missteps and mistakes. (Isn’t that true of all of us, though?)  It would have been interesting to see what he would have made of his promotion at Budweiser, of his relationship with his girlfriend (and then wife) before his passing, or of his new appreciation for the scarcity of life. Had cancer not kicked him, I think he would have been one of those people who would have flourished with another lease on life. His laugh would have been a beacon to people and his youthful impatience would have dissipated.

 

 

(Jimmy is on the far right. Picture from Dogpatch, USA, the 1970s.)
If you’re interested, you can find a few more stories about my cousin Jimmy on this blog by using the “Category” drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the main blog page.
Here’s one: A Reminder…   and An Unfinished Blog Post.

A Memory Overcomes Me

 

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As the sun beat down and the creek noisily flowed away from me, I glanced up to see the array of monuments to lost mortality on the bluff to my right. It’s deceptive how the trail sprints like a careless runner through the middle of things. I pictured Jimmy standing up there, waving, telling me to keep walking even if they sun cooked away my enthusiasm. That’s how time works sometimes, hurling the most pleasant of hallucinations upon us.

There’s no lesson or moral to this story, just an observation about the overlap of memory. Maybe it’s because Jimmy is up there on that bluff, his own rock and etched tooth raised against the August afternoon breeze. He wouldn’t waste his time lecturing me; he’d turn up the radio and let the music waft through the air. As I walked past, Cristian Castro sang, “…que el tibio abrazo que no volverá …” It wasn’t Jimmy’s kind of music, but he’d laugh and say, “Whatever floats you away, dude.”

“The Picture” Updated

Enough time has passed since Jimmy died for me to remember the goofiness more than the anguish of cancer that he endured. It’s natural that death works that way, as he was alive and kicking for much longer than he was suffering. There are still those days when I catch myself wondering what Jimmy might make of something or I half-expect him to drive up to the house after getting more stuff for his hoard from a local garage sale.

Fair or not, a lot of Jimmy’s energy was siphoned away by his one family member’s obsession with money and getting what she thought was hers. It was a travesty and I learned a lot from it, whether I wanted to or not. It angered Jimmy that he was being punished with cancer. Had he survived and not relapsed, I think he might have begun to feel pity for his family member again, as she was at the whim of her own addictions and demons – and he could see it.

The above picture is one which my cousin Jimmy insisted I take of him. It was immediately after his first cancer surgery. We were at his mom’s house. (My Aunt Ardith.) As you can see, Jimmy was still smiling and laughing. His mom wasn’t too thrilled with our brand of humor. Our custom was to make the most outrageous, tasteless and macabre statements that we could imagine. Between the two of us, we used to come up with some epic craziness. Aunt Ardith would sit in her perch on the couch next to the sliding glass doors, drinking her whiskey and coke, smoking, and feigning surprise and mirth at some of our goofiness. We had the ability to literally say anything to each other or about each other, directly, without fear of anger.

Jimmy was very confident that he was going to beat cancer. When this picture was taken, I was very hopeful. Realistically hopeful, I thought. Jimmy joked that this picture would make an ideal christmas card. His mom specifically told me that I had better not make cards with the picture on it. (My reputation for doing that sort of thing was quite well known…) Jimmy then chimed in that it would make an ideal “All I got was this lousy bout of cancer” t-shirt. It’s still funny, although with a slightly different twist to it now.

The plan was going to be to post this picture on Facebook after-the-fact. Jimmy was interested in being able to talk to people about his experiences. As a well-liked employee of Budweiser, he knew a lot of people and would have a lot of opportunities to talk to people. Unfortunately, his cancer came back to take him down.

This picture might as well have been taken in another century. It both seems like both yesterday and ten years ago simultaneously. His mom became ill and died a few short months before him, after he relapsed. His mom’s house is sold to strangers and Jimmy’s life is fading in everyone’s collective consciousness.When Jimmy died, I had tried to get people to write anecdotes and stories to share with me. I had made a commitment to share them out in the world in such a way as to attempt to keep those memories alive. I did my best to disseminate his pictures to friends and family, sharing them on public drives and makings disks, printed copies and any other method I could think of. We all have our stories and moments to remember with Jimmy. Some of us have a strong collection of memories, many of which were times that weren’t fun while we were living them but are as much a part of his life as the “good” times. As time slides past us, our stories will slide into the fog with us.

Whether it is wrong to say so or not, Jimmy’s death affected me in countless more ways than my own mother’s death did. I was with Jimmy for much of his final time and was with him when he finally had nothing left with which to fight. He weighed so little that it seemed only his soul remained in him.

Not only were we contemporaries, but we shared a common bond of ridiculous attitude toward many of life’s idiocies. We were both forged in a family where laughter could be replaced by drunken rage without notice. My youth was fuller thanks to Jimmy and his parents, even when the times weren’t so good.

Jimmy’s life was one of potential. His younger years were full of missteps and mistakes. (Isn’t that true of all of us, though?)  It would have been interesting to see what he would have made of his promotion at Budweiser, of his relationship with his girlfriend (and then wife) before his passing, or of his new appreciation for the scarcity of life. Had cancer not kicked him, I think he would have been one of those people who would have flourished with another lease on life. His laugh would have been a beacon to people and his youthful impatience would have dissipated.

(Jimmy is on the far right. Picture from Dogpatch, USA, 1970s.)

From Alissa’s FB: “… Jimmy … still in his hospital gown following surgery due to the drain tube he had; it took me two days to convince him to wear t-shirts with pockets to hide the tube. He finally agreed if I could find the “right” shirt he would indeed wear them. I finally found the perfect T where I cut the pocket out from the inside. He was tickled that I found a way to hide that drain tube….P.S. I still wear that perfect T to sleep in.”

 

08032014 A Funny Cancer Story (Updated)

(This is a picture of me and Jimmy horsing around during one of his son’s birthday celebrations.)

One day toward the end of my cousin Jimmy’s cancer struggle, I stayed with Jimmy during the day. Jimmy’s girlfriend had to leave town for the day to suffer through her state licensing exam for either cosmology or cosmetology (just kidding), so I offered to wander around and spend the day with Jimmy. The day was broken into long periods where Jimmy would pace and smoke, followed by more smoking. I was accustomed to seeing him smoke but on that day, he smoked as if he had to get them all smoked, forever. He wanted me to run him to a convenience store and drive around. (While looking back at the dates, somehow I had forgotten completely that Jimmy insisted on driving over to the new house he was to move into with Alissa.) We stopped at EZ Mart before going over to check on the new house, chiefly to get Jimmy more cigarettes. We couldn’t go inside the house, but we walked around and traded terrible commentary about the house. Jimmy wondered if there was room in the backyard for “muffin-fetchin” dogs, a long-running joke we shared. After leaving the house, we went back to the same EZ Mart we had visited before seeing the house. I honestly can’t believe I forgot that part of this story as I wrote it. The mind is a strange thing!

Coming back, the traffic around Joyce Street was unimaginably terrible. Jimmy had lit another cigarette as I drove, joking and carrying on. As I reached the intersection to turn right into the side road leading to Jimmy’s apartment, Jimmy fumbled the lit cigarette.

Jimmy looked at me and said, “Dude, I think I am on fire!” He said it as if someone had just handed him a roll of $100 dollar bills and a fresh pizza, except he uttered it in quiet amazement.

Since he was wearing baggy shorts, he couldn’t tell whether the cigarette was on him or had fallen to the carpeted floor. By the time I realized he had dropped the cigarette, there was already smoke in the air. Traffic was piled up front and behind. The look of surprise and bewilderment on Jimmy’s face both made me laugh and terrorized me simultaneously. “Hold on,” I hollered and hit the gas, going to the left hard. (Joyce Street, even on great days, is already akin to a Vehicular Roulette in that area.) Incredibly, some idiot behind me did the same, darting into oncoming traffic behind me. My goal had been to get turned onto the side road, slam on the brakes, then jump out to run around the car, fling open Jimmy’s door and find the cigarette before he burst into flames. The car behind me threw a wrench into my plan, making it very dangerous. I floored it for a second, then hit the brakes. The car behind me screeched to a halt as I started to get out of the car.  He then swerved around me, giving me the one-finger salute as well as some interesting curse words to brighten my day. I had wanted to throw my door open but had to wait to see what the car behind was going to do. It was one thing to potentially let Jimmy catch fire, but on the other hand, I didn’t want my driver car door ripped off the hinges by an angry driver as he sped past.

Smoke was coming from near the door. I couldn’t figure out if it was him smoldering or the carpet. Jimmy was under the influence of a lot of medication, so it was possible that he was, in fact, ablaze without really knowing it. I ran around the car, opening the door as if I were the Incredible Hulk and with enough force to have flung it to three miles into the air. It turned out the cigarette had smoldered on the carpet, burning it, producing smoke. I handed Jimmy the cigarette back an couldn’t help but start to laugh at him as he put the cigarette back in his mouth. And then he laughed and laughed and laughed.

As I got back in the car, he said “I’m so sorry for catching your car on fire, X.” I laughed again and said “At least we’ve got a good story to tell.” (I say this a lot no matter how bad something is that happens.) Despite knowing how I am about stuff, he seemed to be genuinely alarmed about the carpet. At the time, he probably didn’t know how close we had been to having someone drive over the top of us while we were sitting in my Honda, trying to get out of the crazy Joyce Street traffic.

“Promise me you won’t tell Alissa. She won’t think this is funny.” The way he said it made me laugh even harder. I think it would have been MUCH more complicated trying to explain to Alissa how I had gotten us killed than explaining a funny story about Jimmy torching my car. I reassured Jimmy that it was no big deal which led him to worry that maybe Dawn would be upset. I told Jimmy that she would only be upset if I drove the car home while it was on fire – and ran it inside the house. Over the next hour, Jimmy continued to be worried about the car but as I told crazier and more outrageous jokes about it, even he started to realize it was a great story.

(Sidenote: this story happened on either March 12th or 13th, 2013.)

 

Jimmy – The Unfinished Blog Post

I wrote this blog post quite a while ago. It looks nothing like it once did. Neither does my mind, for that matter. As tightly as I cling to the idea of how cancer punished Jimmy, as much as I want to remember the lesson of how fleeting our chances can be, I still find myself incredulously shaking my head at disbelief at how life doles out its reward and pains.

 

This blog post was longer by a factor of 5, if you can believe it. I’m tired of seeing it in my draft file, challenging me, reminding me that I’m not supposed to be a perfectionist or concern myself so much with presentation. Jimmy would tell me to “fire that thing off” and light up a cigarette, laughing at me. I deleted about ten minutes of reading; I regret doing it now, but like life, it serves no purpose to focus exclusively on what we lost. I can hit “save” on this blog post and get up to have a cup of coffee. It would be a joy to be able to go have a cup with Jimmy, watching him pace the concrete outside, smoking, chatting, and wondering out loud what might happen next week.

A couple of years ago, I Jimmy was dying of cancer. His journey with the disease was like so many other people’s. He initially was defiant, suffered through the uncertainty and treatments, remission, followed by the punch of a relapse and of the reality of it coming back to get him. I wish he had followed through on his initial plan to write about his experiences, even if all he used was Facebook. Those words would be comforting to me now, even if writing carelessly or negligently. They would be his words, allowing me to hear his voice in my head, walking me through his choices in life. He told me differing reasons as to why he stopped doing it after just a couple of entries. Fear and fatigue were definitely factors in his reluctance to share. When his cancer recurred, I think he knew he might have to admit defeat; defeat as he saw it, anyway. Jimmy didn’t want to write a story of defeat, even if no one else would have read his story in that light. Someone once said that life is inevitable defeat but the game can still be enjoyed.

When Jimmy’s cancer came back, he went through intense denial about the likelihood of dying. I don’t blame him. Jimmy’s faith was supposed to insulate him from further abuse from the disease. In many ways, the cancer returning stunned Jimmy, as he had worked out promises to god in his head about using his new opportunity in life and take advantage of it, more so than he had done before when he had lost focus on the frailty of our lives. I do believe that his intention was to figure out a way to parcel out his experience with cancer and share it in the best way he could – had he survived.

Jimmy was also especially at odds with the idea that smoking, dipping or drinking could have had any effect on his cancer’s development. He continued to smoke during his remission and when the cancer came back to attack him. Jimmy loved to smoke. It defined the personal moments in his life, shaped his day into increments of being alive. It is a habit he learned from his mother, a million cigarettes into her lifetime. To be clear, I don’t fault Jimmy for continuing to smoke after his diagnosis. It would be easy for me to jump on it and preach about it – but smoking isn’t something that is easily set aside. When you are facing your demise, anything that can ease the pain of dealing with it is twice as hard to kick off one’s back. Each of us gets to decide how we would handle the slow death spiral that comes with cancer. No matter what I would write about it now, the truth is that I can’t say definitively what I  might actually say or do if I were in his shoes. I know that if smoking is what kept Jimmy saner while dealing with cancer, I will not judge.I always knew that when his urge to smoke waned, he was ready to let life slip past him.

We couldn’t get my cousin to make choices about the rest of his life, as he was so focused on his self-affirmation of survival. Trying to get him directed toward further treatment or hospice was an admission of defeat for him. His stubbornness interfered with the quality of his life in the last few months. He was lucky to have his girlfriend during this – and  my cousin misbehaved enough that it was a constant surprise that he kept her around. Jimmy had the infamous Terry attitude and the anger that gave him rein to lash out when he didn’t feel well. The medication he was on liberated his temptation toward anger.  For a time, he did his best to drive away his girlfriend. But she stuck with him through it all. Jimmy threw her off her orbit sometimes, but she was still circling, connected to him. Despite Jimmy’s issues before with his girlfriend, I kept reminding him of the urgency of being alive and respecting those who had been steadfast in their support and helping him.

When I went over after work to see Jimmy and discuss hospice and options with him, he knew that I was there to be honest with him. One thing Jimmy could always expect from me was honesty, even if it was the type of truth that made him say “Ouch!” and even when I thought he was being dumb. Jimmy had been missing the doctor’s guidance toward hospice and focus on quality of life for as long as he might continue to survive, and insisted that the decision to discontinue all his chemo and radiation treatments again was a positive sign and that he was going to live through it. After considerable setbacks with another round of chemo and a few hospitalizations, Jimmy’s doctor ended treatments and prescribed hospice, with the expectation that Jimmy follow-up accordingly. When we left the treatment center, Jimmy was already talking about how good of a sign it was that his treatment was ending – that it meant that he was going to get better. It was a terrible moment, one with fangs at my throat. Even for me, it was a minute of two of suffocating desire to run away from it.I aged a year or two in those moments; my normal confidence had fled and I couldn’t imagine being in his shoes.

(In an attempt to be clearer, the objective of me talking to Jimmy wasn’t to dishearten him or to in any way ‘preach’ at him. The objective was to get him to change his focus toward a better understanding of his choices and options for the remainder of his life. His denial of some things was directly hurting his medical situation and those around him.That being said, it was his right to do what he wanted.)

Finding the words to get Jimmy to listen to me was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. I made an impassioned and heart-felt attempt to get through to Jimmy to take the first step toward accepting hospice treatment and shifting his focus toward making decisions while he still could. Jimmy had already witnessed and suffered the effects of his mom recently becoming ill and dying fairly quickly. She died without much of her wishes, medical or material, known – this in turn, caused Jimmy a LOT of horrible issues with some family, all of which could have been sidestepped with minimal preparation. I never could get Jimmy’s mom to follow through with a living will, a regular will, or any of the other necessary decisions and planning. She was a very smart woman but for whatever reason, didn’t follow through, leaving Jimmy to suffer the consequences with another family member whose motivations were less-than-reputable, in my opinion.

Jimmy felt that admitting he needed hospice was the first step toward acceptance of his death. Jimmy had all the hospice information there at the apartment with him. I walked him through what had happened, what his doctors had been trying to tell him, as well as all his options, where he could live and how he could continue to expect his family and friends to help him.

“You think I’m going to die, don’t you?” was Jimmy’s response. It broke my heart for a while to hear him ask in such a plaintive, accusatory tone. “Yes,” I told him. “Your cancer is going to win, sooner rather than later.” I reassured him that in reality, little had changed – that the only difference between the present and five years ago was that he could be assured his death was to be sooner rather than later. We talked about his renewed faith and how he could use that to focus himself on living the rest of his life the way he needed to.After talking to Jimmy at length, I told him that a pastor was coming over to talk to him and to ask him any questions he might have, and that we could figure out how to help him get as much choice out of his life as was feasible. Praying and offers of comfort were supposed to be part of the equation, too. Jimmy’s outlook was immensely more optimistic and informed. We talked about how beautiful the Hospice Lodge was and Jimmy kept saying he needed to go spend at least one night there. He also spoke of understanding how his medication and frustration were making him lash out at Alissa and the girls and how having Noah see him that way wasn’t what he wanted in his memory. Then, the pastor arrived. The comforting acceptance vanished…

The pastor came over to get my cousin to listen to the necessity of making plans for how to spend the rest of his life in comfort, as well as making all the decisions to take care of his girlfriend and son, as well as all his things, before leaving us. When the pastor arrived, instead of talking to Jimmy as both a comforter and counselor to help him make plans, he used the opportunity to pray with Jimmy, insisting to God that his cancer would be taken from him and to focus only on surviving the disease. No mention was made of hospice, what course of treatments were left, or any discussion of the decisions Jimmy should focus on. The literature regarding hospice was ignored and after the pastor left, no further mention was really made of it. I had hoped, too, that the pastor could make a personal connection with Jimmy about not letting his disease continue to anger him and affect his bond with his girlfriend and her two children. I was very frustrated that the pastor missed his chance to address all the other needs and things Jimmy needed to hear.

His method was full of vocal holy spirit and not focused on counseling. I don’t understand it. Maybe I’m not supposed to.

(Sidenote: If Jimmy could come back for a day and listen and see what the consequences are to his not having made certain decisions back when he could have…To this day, over 18 months later, people he wanted to protect are still dealing with the aftermath of it. Jimmy would not be happy about it. I would look him in the eye and call him a goofball for not taking the lesson of his mother’s death and how his half-sister behaved and using it to make better decisions.  I tried and tried from the outset to get him to use his mom’s example to motivate himself to make the decisions he wanted, to disclose them to everyone who would need to know, and to face the mortality. He wanted Noah to have things, but he also wanted Alissa to not have to stress. That’s why he chose to marry her so late into his life. Not out of fear and not out of regret or obligation; rather, as an affirmation of life and the realization that he was going to go ahead of his time, even though he had so much more to live for. I’m both surprised and amused by how a couple of people behaved, even after his passing. Jimmy made his declaration loud and clear when he married Alissa. It would embarrass me to step up and fight against his wishes in this instance, were I not observant enough to look at his life and see that his marriage signaled his priorities and his wishes.)

Until right up before Jimmy died, he would look at me and say “I’m not dead yet,” or more likely, “I ain’t dead yet.” The last few times he was half-joking, just to get a rise out of me. He even asked me the day he got married. When Alissa, Jimmy and Alissa’s dad and step-mom dropped by the house one afternoon, as tired as Jimmy was, he looked me dead in the eyes and said “I ain’t dead yet” and came into the house.

About a week before Jimmy died, I was certain that he was going to be gone that Saturday. He stopped breathing for what seemed like a minute, his skin grew discolored and his condition could not have been worse. When oxygen arrived, he showed vast improvement. Alissa had to make the decision to give him oxygen or not. Had she not, Jimmy would have left us that Saturday afternoon. It would have been a good day to die. The next day, he was outside, smoking, talking about how close to death he had been. It was his Indian Summer, one that afforded him mental acuity and the ability to laugh at the absurdity of it all. “That’s the way to go,” he said. But he wanted to smoke when he work up that next day – a sure sign that he wasn’t ready to dive into death just yet. He had the twinkle in his eye that day.

Someone very close to Jimmy joked that maybe he should have been smoking during his viewing. No disrespect was meant by the comment and it has a harsh truth to it. When I mentioned his mom having smoked over a million cigarettes before her death, it was no exaggeration. Even at 3 packs a day, 365 days a year, over 50 years, it surpasses a million cigarettes.

He died on a March Monday afternoon, in his relatively new home, married, and had not survived long enough to see his son Noah graduate, and without the chance to use the knowledge that cancer had cruelly given him: that all these plans we make, things we hold in esteem are nothing without happiness, health, and people we enjoy in our lives.

Jimmy died months ahead of my mom. For whatever reason, his absence has so far made a much bigger impact on my life than my mom’s passing. I don’t hide this fact or sugarcoat it. I feel like Jimmy could have done a few things so much differently had he lived a few more years. When the cancer came back he was certainly mad and resistant to the idea of dying. But I wonder what might have become of his new marriage and his better job at the Budweiser. It feels like he and might have had a much different appreciation of one another and been around to suffer and appreciate middle age together. Cancer is a scary infection, one which challenges everything you are hoping for and all too easily takes your optimism and burns it in front of you.

I use Jimmy’s suffering to compare how I might react to the same challenges. I know I would not do well.

I work to remember the good and bad times with Jimmy before cancer defined him. His life was a long bookshelf, with cancer being but a blip on one end. It sometimes is so hard to look back and see past the long interlude when cancer start its dance.

Toilet Photos (Update)


 

One of my previous hobbies involved taking pictures of the toilets (or a toilet) in a place I visited. (I didn’t take a picture if the place were filthy.) At the apex of my hobby, I had at least a 100 great toilet pictures. I’ll bet you’ve never read that sentence in your life before, have you? Say what you will about the foolishness of such an endeavor, it was certainly inexpensive to collect such “mementos” of the places I had visited. I would even take them back when all I had was a traditional film camera. Imagining what the people printing the pictures were thinking was no small part of the fun of the stupidity I enjoyed.

Whether I sauntered into the Imax in Tulsa, Oklahoma, or Liberace’s private bathroom, I would take a snapshot of the toilet. Doing this rarely failed to give a me a burst of laughter. There were times someone might walk in during my shot. More than once, I had looks of outlandishly bewildered expressions thrown at me. On one occasion, I took a shot and the flash must have bewildered someone in an adjacent stall I thought to be empty. I heard a very quiet “What the f$%^” come out of the supposedly empty stall. Explaining what I was doing in these situations didn’t seem to sate the curiosity of those who walked in during these photography sessions! No, it usually inspired the inquisitive people to march away quickly, very quickly.

A few years ago, I had visited Olive Garden in Fayetteville with my cousin Jimmy Terry. He wanted to “see me in action,” so to speak. He accompanied me to the bathroom and as I opened the stall door, he couldn’t control his laughter. “I can’t believe you do this all the time!” he giggled. I let him take the picture but his giggling resulted in all 3 of the pictures coming out looking like he had a seizure while trying to take the picture. More than once, Jimmy would later ask me if I took a picture of any toilets while I went to Vegas or to a new restaurant. He liked to joke that I should get a photography service started and do the photo shoots ONLY in bathrooms. He said it would be easier to clump everyone together if they were all crammed in a stall together – and that they would be more inclined to not waste time, especially if the stall were “between users,” so to speak. He added that since people were always running off to the bathroom, doing the shoot IN the bathroom would be thereby eliminated as an excuse, too.

When going through old photo albums, you could have seen two dozen pictures of the Air Museum only to be thrown off guard halfway through by a full-color shot of one of the toilets residing there. Every once and a while, I would throw in a picture of one of the toilets in the dvd picture slideshows I loved making. (From my perspective, there was just as much recognition of my visit having seen the toilet as the front of the building housing it.) Including toilet pictures in a person’s slideshow is a quick method to determine how much of a sense of humor someone might have.

(I used to joke that such a book would make an excellent coffee table book. The novelty of such an item should have been enough to achieve modest sales, even as a gag gift.)

Sometime not too long ago, I thought I was doing myself a favor by culling the toilet shots out of my photo collections. I think by doing so that I excised a portion of my wonderment and amusement toward the world. It would be a great pleasure to laugh at some of those pictures again and to test how many I could identify without any context.

Newser Story Containing a Couple of Links Directly Related to This 

 

“The Fault In Our Stars” (Update)

The Fault In Our Stars  (Novel, not movie…)

Have you ever had a mystery revealed to you? Even when you know you aren’t going to comprehend fully, you get a glimpse of what it might feel like to be satisfied with your own mind? Reading this book was like that for me.Such a book overshadows your days, lingering at the edges of everything you say and do. For anyone unfamiliar with such a feeling, I would ask that life allow each of us at least once to be so overpowered by the written word. I’ve never been one to concern myself too much with book genres; I find that ‘interesting’ and ‘not interesting’ are better expressions of the content of a book. While this separation seems a bit too generalized, each of us is also governed by where we are in life as we experience a new book. I think that TFIOS is one of the few novels that will touch you regardless of your circumstances. I wish that I would have read this book when it was first published. It would have been such a boon to use the humor with my cousin Jimmy and others. How other people who’ve lost people to cancer might avoid being overwhelmed reading this book is beyond me. Whatever your temperament, you can’t “just read” this book and not immerse yourself in issues beyond the book. It is personal, much like the way John Green describes the cancers his characters live and die with.

I’m a late arrival to the John Green bandwagon. For whatever reason, I’ve always read his words in bursts on the internet, even at the expense of not watching him and his brother on their online presence, or of reading his novels. Despite my lesser writing ability, I see an affinity with the unexpectedness clever preciseness of his writing.

Even though I bought the book for interim reading on a recent trip to Hot Springs, I found myself gleefully abandoning the facade of the real world for the quick-witted, emotional world of The Fault In Our Stars. Few books have hit me with such explosive force. It compares equally to A Prayer For Owen Meany in punch. While the latter’s world is more complex, TFIOS is a rapid succession of both emotion and wit. For those who have lost people close to them to cancer, it not only will make you laugh at the serious absurdity of it all, but challenge you to not cry. For it to have been written by someone not scarred by cancer, it is a testament to John Green’s intense style.Regardless, you will yearn for a world inhabited by people as smart and interesting as Hazel Grace and Augustus. As you walk around your real life while consuming this book, the people you encounter will suffer by comparison.

For the five people who’ve never heard of “TFIOS,” I would ask you to forego the usual clichés and give this book a try. Whether you are into clever banter or engaging story, this novel should satisfy anyone. I’ve heard some criticism of the movie, as it allegedly veers too harshly into shmaltz. With the novel, John Green writes with such clever insight that you’ll find yourself wanting to earmark pages for re-reading and sit alone with a cup of coffee, pondering the issues it will free up in your mind. For whatever reason, reading the book will spark 100 distinct bouts of creative thought and leave you wondering why you couldn’t have shared the world described in the book. At its heart, the book is devastatingly harsh, but always true, and always resonates.

“You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect.”

“I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

“The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives. I wondered if that was sort of the point of architecture.”

“Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.”

“The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself, as if the things we’d done were less real and important than they had been hours before.”

“That’s part of what I like about the book in some ways. It portrays death truthfully. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence”

“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.”

“Without pain, how could we know joy?’ This is an old argument in the field of thinking about suffering and its stupidity and lack of sophistication could be plumbed for centuries but suffice it to say that the existence of broccoli does not, in any way, affect the taste of chocolate.”

― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

 

Either Hypocrisy or Mixed Messages (A Memory)

In the early 2000s, my Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck finally tried to learn to use a computer. Ardith got a special discount for internet, having worked at AT&T seemingly forever. I wasn’t involved in buying the computer: Ardith bought it with winnings at a casino. The computer was very slow and wasn’t very much to begin with. I fixed that miserable machine dozens of times, adding memory, a bigger hard drive, replacing the power supply, reloading the OS a couple of times, etc.

My focus with the aunt and uncle was to get them to see the utility of a computer for bookkeeping, email, weather, and easily staying in touch with anyone in the world. I also loaded the computer with thousands of pictures. It was my hope that they computer would reduce the isolation that their retired lives and constant drinking were creating.It was an uphill climb, too. They seemed to attempt to use it most often after having too much to drink. It was a terrible combination and I ignored it as best as I could. I spent hours at their house, going through the same routines over and over in an attempt to get them able and comfortable using a computer. I spent a lot of time with Jimmy, teaching him to use antivirus software, fix minor issues and keep the computer running. But other people such as one of his half-sisters and a couple of friends of the family were constantly doing stupid stuff on the computer: not only looking at some fairly crazy stuff on the internet, but deleting important files, cancelling necessary stuff on the computer, etc.

Because my cousin Jimmy was at his parent’s house so often, it was usually he who used it go get on the internet and it was also his job to call me when something wasn’t working right. One thing Jimmy enjoyed were those stupid videos, the kind usually featured on America’s Funniest Home Videos. He also liked the ones that were a lot more vulgar, such as the ones featured on the movie/show “Jackass.” He would watch the same video over and over and over. Honestly, Jimmy loved watching porn on his parents computer, too. Instead of wasting my time trying to convince him not to, I instead showed him to try to keep it away from the accidental eyes of his parents.

I don’t know when exactly, but at some point, a supposed friend of the family “found” the videos that Jimmy had hidden on the computer. By way of preface, the friend of the family was a very shady character himself, having been involved in every nefarious activity he could get into. (Jimmy and I later had a good time making many funny pictures based on this guy, who I’ll call John to protect his guilt. Up until Jimmy died we would sometimes say “Even babies hated John” to get a good laugh.)

My Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck flipped out on Jimmy. (As much as they ever could flip out on him or become angry – he always escaped unscathed from consequences with them.) They then tried to act like all of it was somehow my fault and that I was some type of degenerate for letting Jimmy leave the horrible videos on the computer.

Also by way of preface, my Uncle Buck had always had one of the biggest porn magazine stashes in the world. It was in the upper left side of his bedroom closet. He also kept a few in the garage where his electronic repair area was located. He was certainly no stranger to either porn or illicit behavior. I’ve already told you stories of some of the absolute craziness and destructive behavior all of my family had been involved in, so  a repeat shouldn’t be necessary – just keep in mind that both my aunt and uncle were guilty of much, much worse behavior than looking at bad videos on a computer.

A few days later, I remember Aunt Ardith getting drunk and just going on and on about how sick Jimmy and I were. Using my normal direct approach, I told my aunt and uncle that they were being very hypocritical and should stop and compare their own behavior to any accusation towards Jimmy and especially toward me, as anything on the computer was Jimmy’s, not mine. I used examples of their own porn stashes, affairs, and DWIs as examples to drive home my point of hypocrisy. They got really angry because I pointed out the hypocrisy. It was one of the few times they got mad like that at me. They drank too much every day, so it was difficult to catch them in a normal state of mind, much less talk to them rationally.

I don’t know at what point one of them had complained to the Brinkley Aunts. Jimmy and I had one aunt in particular who was always judging people and turning her nose up at anything or anyone she disagreed with. This really angered Jimmy. He wanted to get 5 or 6 of his dad’s favorite porn magazines or vhs tapes and mail them to his aunts to see how his dad would enjoy being called out. I finally convinced Jimmy to not do anything stupid and let me come up with a way to get through to them. Had I to do it all over again, Jimmy and I would have loaded up their mailboxes with every kind of porn imaginable.

For a couple of days, I couldn’t figure out how to talk to Uncle Buck when he wasn’t drinking. I knew that there was no point even trying to get through to them if alcohol were present. After an inspiration, I wrote him a letter and put it in the middle of his newspaper. I drove over to his house at 4 in the morning and put the letter inside the rolled up paper and then put the paper on the porch. I knew that my uncle would find it, read it when he was sober and realize that Jimmy looking at videos in bad taste on the computer was almost meaningless in comparison to the things that our adult family members had put us through when we were growing up. I also reminded my uncle that he had short-changed Jimmy and I – as we had no way to be adults and talk to him when he wasn’t under the influence and Uncle Buck well knew my dislike of trying to be around alcoholics. I had written my uncle, detailing a few of the things that were MUCH worse in comparison to looking at bad videos on a computer, both words and violence that had direct impacts on living people.

When Jimmy read a copy of the letter, he teared up and told me that, until that moment, he had never really considered how crazy some of the stuff we had lived through had been. I might have used a verbal sledgehammer in my letter to my uncle, but it really opened Jimmy’s eyes. I think that letter I wrote to his dad made him see me more as an adult than he had ever thought about.

Anyway, I don’t know ‘why’ I wrote down this memory in particular.Every once and a while, Jimmy would joke about how pissed he had gotten about his parents telling the family in Brinkley about the videos on the computer. “F them,” he would say and then laugh.

A Reminder About Our Own Lives (Update)

During Jimmy’s last days, I was one of the people trying to help him be in comfort and be in control of the little life and time that he had left. It was hard and I wasn’t good at it all, even though I was a geriatric nursing aid for over two years when I was young. Everyone had demands on his life and his wife. Half-forgotten acquaintances, disconnected family members and others clamored to have their moment with him. It was too much. Like so many, I was spoiled in the pursuit of my own life and demands on my time.When someone we love is stricken, we have great intentions, some of which get withered away by the sheer fatigue of normal life. A lot of my time with Jimmy honestly was to get him to think differently about his remaining time, regardless of how long he lived. I wanted him to get his affairs in order, make plans for everyone in his life, to use the energy he had to go places and be with people he truly wanted to be around. I’m sure I got on his nerves about living wills!

When Jimmy was healthy after the first bout of cancer, he focused on being alive and getting back into the daily effort to live and be happy. He needed time to get back to his own mental place of quiet. Most of the people Jimmy treasured had the chance to laugh and smile with Jimmy, to talk about the good times, and to wish him well on his new lease on life. Even I left him peace. I should have bothered him more, dropped in unannounced, and watched over him. But he was his own person and had his own laundry list to tend to. I made it clear to those caring directly for Jimmy that everyone, including me, should be told to go jump off a boat if necessary.

Anyone who had wanted time with Jimmy had more than 40 years before his cancer to enjoy life with him. They also had time during his first bout and during his remission. Many people squandered these opportunities – and that is okay. That is how life is. We often fail to express in our life what matters to us and time sneaks past us until all we have left are regrets and missed opportunities.The ones who squandered their chances the most were also by and large the people who were the most vindictive and vicious as Jimmy’s condition worsened. They tried to compensate for their failure to be with Jimmy in the past by lashing out and somehow trying to prove their devotion by demanding time with him when he wasn’t so willing or able to provide it.

You have to take advantage of your life in the present. Waiting until someone is crippled with a disease to attempt to recapture a lost connection is a disservice to everyone involved. It is not about you or me once someone is dying – it is about him or her and what he or she wants. His or her demands take precedence.

Once Jimmy’s cancer returned, it was another feat of energy for him just to deal with daily life. As more and more people came forward, it became a drain on his lifeforce. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate those who shared time with him before, but rather his limited energy had to be measured out and carefully tended. He avoided talking to many people; some of those people he sometimes wanted to talk to a lot but just didn’t have the energy. When you are confronted with a disease like cancer and you think it’s going to kill you, you want to live in the moment and not be constantly reminded of what is being lost.  Old acquaintances have less and less in common with you and while they might want to recapture some of what was lost, the person who is ill is facing losing everything, both past and present.Somewhere in the midst of all this, his mother got ill and died in a very short span of time. Jimmy’s life was very much connected to that of his mom. Her loss had a profound effect on him. Her death also opened up the door for another family member to continue to distract Jimmy about things that normal people shouldn’t have to deal with.

For many distanced friends, family and acquaintances, the polite veneer peeled back to reveal a self-righteous anger, especially when they were politely told “no.” For those of us in the middle of it all, we forgot that people don’t always respond to logic. Had I to do it all again, I think a taser and pile of restraining orders would have been handy. (And a 7′ hulk of a man whose sole job would have been to visit the miscreants draining away our energy. Anyone still arguing would have gotten one courtesy knock to the head and tied to a chair.)

As Jimmy started to withdraw and avoid talking to people, some of them didn’t respond well to being asked to wait or to plan their visits. The people providing care were put in the middle. Jimmy’s wife was left to be the scapegoat and recipient of the anger and stupidity of those people. As bad as it was for me, I can only imagine what it was really like to be the caregiver and yet be cursed at and threatened for following Jimmy’s wishes. People didn’t stop to think that Jimmy was always needing medication or that he was tired and confused a lot. He would have moments of great lucidity and a desire to talk to people – rare moments. Followed by intense withdrawals. Some couldn’t understand that this was normal for someone going through intense cancer treatment. Meanwhile, his wife, who was keeping Jimmy alive, was being called horrific names, harassed, and even threatened. Her motives were questioned and her life was degraded from some of the anger.

Meanwhile, someone who should have known better than any was torturing me. This person had missed the years of chances to visit Jimmy and once it became too late to do anything about it, lashed out with some of the most vile anger I’ve ever imagined or witnessed. I almost lost my mind over it. Had I to do it all over again, I would have been aggressive about it when it started, rather than hoping for a person’s better nature to come to the surface. So great was this person’s anger and guilt that I was ultimately cast as the villain in the story. Luckily, I was keeping my sanity for Jimmy. But I did waste a lot of my energy trying to get the idiot spreading anger out of my life. That energy could have been better served by being available for Jimmy and those around him. Instead, I had no choice but to suffer from the foolishness of this person who was ruining our lives under the guise of caring.

I want to be certain to mention that most people were understanding and could subvert their own wants and wishes long enough to listen to the family as Jimmy’s time was parceled out. As in daily life, most people are compassionate and generally great. A small handful of people can make life into a living hell, though, if they want to do so. There’s so much frustration wasted on the few who don’t listen that it can easily drown out the good people around us in these situations. Even though it was a lesson I thought I had already learned, the next time I have to deal with those who attempt to insist on their interference in such a situation, I think I’m going to opt for the less subtle approach. (The taser or a bucket of water…)

Link for the “Ring Theory” about not sticking your foot in your mouth…

In part, it was Jimmy’s resurgence of cancer that motivated me to keep writing. I’ll try to explain why in this sidebar. When Jimmy was younger, he was a hellcat. He loved Hank Williams, Jr, Pantera, and above all, Metallica. He loved smoking and drinking – being around people was his primary comfort in life. He was wild. His biggest demon was alcohol. It caused him a lot of heartbreak and misfortune. As he aged, his demon still climbed on his back, but somewhere along the way he opened his eyes to god and allowed himself to see another way of living. Even when he failed to live up to the standard, he knew in his heart what direction he should be walking. Even though we disagreed a lot on religion, he knew that I got a kick out of the idea of a “Converted Jimmy.” Jimmy knew what failure was but he still plugged away at the idea of a renewed life, spiritually and in daily life. The first time I went to church with him as an adult was an interesting invitation into his new life. To see family members look at us is astonishment – that both of us were going to church, was a great laugh for Jimmy. One thing he disliked intensely were those who professed to be christian yet lived their lives in judgment of others. Given Jimmy’s propensity to drink, it’s no wonder. These observations lead me to mention that the latter part of Jimmy’s life didn’t mesh well with his youth. Those who wanted to remember Jimmy as nothing but a hell-raiser couldn’t accept that while Jimmy still had that hell-raiser loose inside him, he had changed into someone else, moving in a different direction. Many of the people who caused difficulty for Jimmy’s wife tended to be those who shared the younger years with him. They had indeed shared many a drink with Jimmy and even a degree of love with him – but couldn’t see that he wasn’t the same person. Even during Jimmy’s viewing, a childhood friend brought pictures and angrily told me that this new Fayetteville crowd had somehow tricked Jimmy – that he wasn’t that kind of church-going person they were trying to celebrate. He wanted to do the eulogy and share some of the wild stories. While I think mixing some of the old “wild Jimmy” with the Jimmy of the last few years of his life wold have been interesting, the truth is that the old crowd still would have felt as if his real legacy had been betrayed. That’s what convinced me to write more. In my case, no matter what sins or mistakes I’ve made, anyone can come back to my words and see firsthand what I’ve wrote. My own words will be the best guide of what I thought was interesting or important.

It’s not the destination that matters most, for we all will finish our journey inside the same house. How we get there is the story. None of us are the same person at the end of the journey as we were when we stepped into life. None of us knew how complex, beautiful, and utterly tiring life can be. I wish Jimmy’s journey had been at least a little longer and maybe then I could have convinced him to share more openly so that he can be remembered the way he might have wanted.

He was, like most of us, different in each of our eyes.

 

A Wedding (Update)

“Time announces itself not with bells, but with whispers.” -x

I’ll start this post with a funny anecdote. (It would be funnier if someone other than me were to write it down!) Jimmy and Alissa were to be married at her mother’s house on the east side of  Springdale. The wedding had been assembled in a few short days and the house, though large, was full of people. Jimmy was pacing the house, nervous and trying to relax. At one point, he wanted to sneak away and smoke. Given how close it was to the start of the wedding, I told Jimmy he didn’t have time. Ignoring me, we went out the back in the garage. He very seriously and in a very quiet voice told me to keep watch by the door to make sure that Pastor Harry wouldn’t come out and surprise Jimmy, catching him smoking. Naturally, I obliged, but pointed out that Pastor Harry had probably seen worse things than people smoking, regardless of cancer or weddings taking place. Jimmy insisted that Pastor Harry not find out. The cigarette had a huge impact on Jimmy’s state of mind and calmed him down, but I was still amused that Jimmy thought Pastor Harry would have cared whether he smoked or not. As we went back inside, I stood in the middle of the living room and told everyone, Pastor Harry included, that I had just been outside with Jimmy so that he could smoke, and that Jimmy had me stand guard so that Pastor Harry wouldn’t find out Jimmy had been smoking. Everyone turned to look at me, as I had just ratted Jimmy out. And then we all laughed. Alissa’s dad Nick laughed the most over it. Jimmy just shook his head and smiled when he heard what I had done. At least I fixed his Pastor Harry problem!

While Jimmy and I were in the garage, he told me that he should have gotten married a long time before, not just for himself, but for Alissa, his son Noah, and Alissa’s girls. He reminisced a little over his first marriage years before in Eureka Springs. Jimmy had been deathly afraid that I was going to run around naked as a surprise for that ceremony. He got the idea because I kept telling him I was going to do it. (For reference, he was married the first time in a glass and steel church, one which would have been ideal for a bout of streaking…) I promised him that I wasn’t going to pull any stunts and he told me it might be a good surprise for Alissa’s family if I ran through the living room naked. He was certain that Nick would get a laugh, if not a snapshot to commemorate the event.

Just a few short weeks before Jimmy’s death, he had finally decided to get married. One of the reasons I moved up my plans to become an ordained minister was to remove one of Jimmy’s impediments to getting it done. It surprised me when he had went to Las Vegas without getting married and I was also fairly sure that he and Alissa would have wanted a small ceremony somewhere private. I had been a strong advocate for Jimmy to get those things done in his life which he thought to be valuable. When he and his then-fiancé went to Las Vegas, I talked to him more than once about getting married there to minimize the stress and to focus on the positives, rather than his fears. During a couple of his hospital visits, I thought he might opt to go ahead and take the plunge. Having my minister credentials made it possible if were to come up.

There’s no reason now to sugarcoat the fact that several people were against Jimmy getting married. Some were very angry about it. Their anger led to much of the frustrating interference in his life that I wrote about in a previous blog post. Another word for those naysayers: doofus. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course, but opinions should be grounded in facts. In Jimmy’s case, disconnected acquaintances and some family were alleging that Jimmy didn’t know what he was doing or that his fiancé was somehow forcing him to do something he didn’t want to do. How they could have known Jimmy’s mind well enough at that point is the reason for my derision of their opinion. Their were only a handful of people that were very close to Jimmy in his last weeks.

As outspoken as I am, as negative as I can be about things at times, I had been 100% supportive and encouraging toward Jimmy getting married and to live his life to the fullest he was able. For quite a long time, it included marrying Alissa. Jimmy had often expressed his regret of not marrying again, of not trying for a normal life. It surprised me that he was reluctant to take the plunge. When he would talk openly to me, he was honest and revealed that much of his reluctance was actually grounded in other people being negative about marriage, especially with Alissa. His mom was one of those reluctant ones, but even Jimmy could see that she wasn’t normally a person motivated by happiness.It seemed that a few people were spreading their own fear and distrust into Jimmy’s head.His mind would get cluttered with “what ifs” and fears of what could happen; to which, I would counter reply that all the positives could happen just as easily and it would better to decided things not from a vantage of fear, but choose based on hope and positives. Jimmy and Alissa had experienced troubles. To use the excuse of difficult times to not take a leap of faith is to lose before the attempt. When Jimmy first dated Alissa, I heard only his side of things. (Upon meeting her, I was surprised to discover that she couldn’t breath fire and that she wasn’t carrying a loaded gun to shoot those who argued with her.)

Getting to the point: if you were one of those people being negative or hateful about Jimmy remarrying, you were wrong. It was a good thing, perhaps even a great thing.Alissa stepped forward and took care of Jimmy for long months. She was his lifeline and his only source of constancy in life. When everything else was waning, she was there, during chemo, radiation and above all, when Jimmy’s impatience and anger would get the best of him. Most people didn’t get to see Jimmy when he would be in those long, dissatisfied bouts of depressive funk. Just as Jimmy’s misunderstanding about the severity of his disease hindered him, Alissa’s presence allowed Jimmy to live longer. (Jesus himself would have pistol-whipped Jimmy a couple of times, or at least hollered at him. Alissa managed to avoid setting his bedclothes on fire.) Those who were judgmental about Jimmy’s choices and his marriage were not witnesses to the daily struggle as Jimmy came to terms with his slide into oblivion.

(Now that time has elapsed sufficient enough to think more clearly, I would remind everyone that I’ve been quite clear about my thoughts and wishes if something as harsh as cancer should get the best of me. My wife gets to decide when, if, and everything else. If I choose to act strangely, it is because I choose to. Please stay to the right, so to speak, and allow me disintegrate in the manner I see fit. I would wish fire upon your head if you were to speak ill or interfere with my wife as she strives to entertain my wishes. It seems obvious to say so, but those closest to us in our boring daily lives get the ultimate say in just about everything when our lives are ending. I would want whoever I leave behind me to get out the taser or shotgun and deal with those interfering appropriately.)

It’s easy to look at the wedding pictures and focus solely on how gaunt and frail Jimmy looked. You can choose to either see him as an ill person getting married, or as someone getting married who is ill. I think the perspective you look with indicates much about your own outlook.

This picture is of Jimmy and Alissa during the after-party. It reveals so much about the weeks leading up the wedding and of Jimmy’s priorities before his death. Again, you can look at this picture and be overcome with sadness; to me, it is a metaphor for our lives. If we are looking closely at our lives, we should be able to see that none of us know for certain whether we are closer to the end or to the beginning of our time. We often fail to honor the staggering implication of our lives being either quickly or slowly snatched from us.For good or ill, Jimmy had the unavoidable and unenviable long approach toward his own death.

Jimmy, Alissa, and Pastor Harry. Pastor Harry evidently needed a kiss, too.

Just to be sure everyone understands the context of some of the wedding pictures: Jimmy had no bottom teeth, something that bothered him relentlessly. Not just because of his lessened eating ability, but because his mouth was pulled up and tight due to the growing tumors. I’ve had people incorrectly assume that Jimmy wasn’t smiling because he didn’t have cause to. His physical limitations were always there to bother him. Even when he smoked, he had to curl his mouth a certain way.

Here’s a picture of Jimmy making his favorite person in the world comfortable and more handsome.

 

For this picture, you might not think so, but Jimmy had just laughed at me. He was fidgeting and I joked to him that I would run and fling open the back garage door if he wanted to run away. He laughed and asked if his face looked funny. “No more than usual,” I told him and hugged him, then quietly asked if he and Pastor Harry wanted to go outside for a quick cigarette – and then promptly made my own face for the next picture.

Some might wonder at the efficacy of a wedding so close to one’s death. I would ask you to note that the only difference is that Jimmy clearly saw his approaching reaper and made a positive decision. Each of us, right now, might be breathing our last breath or might have just started our last day on the face of the earth. We just don’t know. That Jimmy did know can’t be used to lessen the meaningfulness of his decision to get married. His was a position that we all secretly and fervently wish to avoid and we should grant him the measure of respect he earned – not just through his cancer, but because he was a human being whose time and effort in this place is worthy of consideration.

Words Jimmy texted to his new wife on his wedding night:  “I love u so much Alissa. And can’t say enough how beautiful you are. I love you.”