[This is the eulogy that nobody heard. My brother, Jim, passed from this world on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2015. That tragedy was made even worse when his wife, my sister-in-law, Lisa, died of a liver disorder several days later. A joint memorial service was held for them and I had intended to give one of the eulogies. I prepared my comments, but less than 48 hours before the service I underwent a 7-hour medical procedure and I was not able to deliver the eulogy. This is pretty much what I would have said.]
First, I would like to thank you all for being here today. It is a sad time for all of us, and the whole family appreciates your love and support.
There are many of you who have known Jim for 30 years or more, and know a lot about him. I would like to mention just a few things that you may never have had the chance to know because he wasn’t your baby brother.
It’s true. Jim started out as a baby back in 1952, when Harry Truman was president and the only television station in Denver had been broadcasting for only eight weeks. It was a simpler time, but an exciting time for me because I was already four years old and my brother Lonny was three – and we had a new baby in the house. I still remember how our mother always made sure we had something quiet to do when the baby was sleeping. You don’t want to wake those babies. But whatever we were doing, we listened carefully and as soon as we heard the baby stirring we yelled, “Jimmy’s awake,” and ran to the crib to see him wake up, and to see him move about and play the way babies do. Just watching made us so happy. It was absolutely our favorite pastime (like most families, we did not own a television, so that one channel was not a choice for entertainment).
As we all grew, we continued to watch him play because whatever we did, Jimmy was tagging along. And we were still happy to have him there because he had that way that young children have to make whatever they do fun and joyful. The one place he couldn’t tag along with us was going to school. He hated to miss that and he couldn’t wait until he would be five years old and could come to kindergarten.
There was a problem, though. The rules said that children entering kindergarten had to be five years old by September 1st. His birthday was September 16th. He was crushed, but my parents met with school officials and convinced them to let Jimmy take a test to see if he was ready for kindergarten. He passed; he started school; and he was always one of the smartest kids in his class, even though he was often the youngest – by about two weeks.
He was a good athlete. He played some baseball and football during his school days, but his real passion was skiing. Whenever he could, he would get rides with friends or ride the ski train to Winter Park. He loved his time on the slopes and became an accomplished skier – until one of his black diamond runs was rudely interrupted by a tree, which blew out his knee.
Jim’s travels weren’t limited to ski trips. From the time he was in high school, he and his friend, Jan Jesser, used their vacation time to hop on Greyhound Bus or hitchhike to places like Crested Butte and Durango and Taos and Santa Fe for a long weekend or for a week or more. After they graduated, and he and Jan weren’t together as much, Jim continued to take those trips across much of the Western United States, just for the adventure.
His longest trip, and the one I considered as certainly the most adventurous, was when he took off by himself to spend six weeks traveling around Germany and Eastern Europe. He even went to some countries that were considered to be behind the “Iron Curtain” back then, in the 1970s.
One place that Jim somehow missed during his travels was the State of Ohio. Now, my wife Cathy was born and raised in Ohio, and when we got married there in February of 1980, I remedied that oversight by bringing Jim along to be my best man.
Then, in what now seems quick succession, he met Lisa, married her, Paul and Sara were born, and the adventure and sense of exploration in his life got a new focus. Poet
T. S. Eliot wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.”
The place where Jim arrived was “family.” The baby brother now had his own babies. He remained a good son and a great brother, but he was even more a husband and father. We all thought he was a “rock.” He went to work for Mountain Bell, and stayed for decades. The company itself changed to US West and Qwest and CenturyLink, and I don’t even remember what else. Through it all, Jim took on some hard assignments, earned a good living and made sure that his family was never in need. When Paul and Sara had their track meets and soccer games and other activities, he was there for them. When neighborhood kids needed a safe, supporting place to hang out, they knew they could go over to see Paul and Sara.
Jim and Lisa did a great job of raising their children. Just look at Paul and Sara now.
I also want to mention what a great support Jim was to our parents – especially as they grew older. As an example, when our dad was 91 years old, he and our mother took an extended trip to Texas to visit some relatives. On Thanksgiving Day, our dad wound up in intensive care with a serious respiratory disorder. By the next day, Jim had arranged to take time off from work and flew to Dallas to help the family through that crisis.
Two years later, our brother, Lonny, needed a stem cell transplant to try to correct a rare bone marrow disease. Jim volunteered to be the donor. He went through all the tests and turned out to be a good match. Some complications arose and he became the back-up donor. Still, through the whole procedure he was ready and willing to come to Houston on a moment’s notice if he was needed.
Well, those are a few things that you may or may not have known about my baby brother. I miss him and I miss Lisa. Thank you.