Sunday, July 24, 2016

Grieving a Friend I'd Never Met

Dear Jim,

I hate when my voice inside my head tells me to do something and I do. not. listen. For months now, I'd intended to email you and see how you were doing. This past week I got the idea to check your Facebook page and I found your obituary saying you had died in April.

Upon hearing you were gone, and not having followed my gut and contacted you, I did the next best thing I could do. I perused all my emails and comments you made on my blog over the years. You were an encouragement to me, Jim. You often pointed back to my spiritual roots and the strength that could be garnered in them. So many times I was grateful for the reminder. Our friend Cheryl remembered the way you always spoke to us with grace. I felt that too, and needed it.

Among my notes I found a place where you quoted from "A River Runs Through It,"

"Each of us here today will look upon a loved one in need and ask ourself the same question: We are willing to help, Lord; but what, if anything, is needed? If the Word is true, we can seldom help those who are closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourself to give, or that which we have to give is not wanted...And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them. We can love them completely, without completely understanding." Norman Maclean
I've come to understand this quote so much more than I did in 2005 when you first mentioned it. This was another of the things I enjoyed about you, your ability to pull references from other works and to present them at just the right time. I've checked "A River Runs Through It" out from the library at work. I think I've probably mentioned to you at some time that one of the perks of working at a university is that I get to keep library books for a full semester. It's a short book but I won't be pressured to read it too quickly. You'd probably be pleased to know that one of my work friends just "happened" to have mentioned the book and movie last week, before I knew you were gone, before I was reminded of your reference to the book (in that dark and learning time in my life that taught me so much about the power of love, and what love could and could not do), so I'm sure there is some wisdom there that I can use for this present time in my life.

I've also had the copy of Annie Dillard's "Pilgrim on Tinker Creek" on my bedside at the country. We wrote during the years of how you enjoyed her work and I started reading the book years ago but never finished it. I'll be picking that book up again as I remember you and grieve your loss.

I often dreamed that one day we'd get up that way, or you and your wife would come somewhere close to us, and I would get to meet and visit with you in person. It never worked out, but I'll keep you in my heart for a very long time. Your presence in my life was a blessing and it feels way too soon for you to have had to leave. I'll remember your wife and daughters and grandchildren in my prayers. And I'll pray for the others who will carry on your work in the rescue mission and in the juvenile detention center.

Oh, Jim, now I'm reading about how you were the dance king of the high school where you worked, for jitterbugging around the cafeteria! Why am I not surprised? How I would have loved to have seen that! 

 Jim Filer
10/13/41 - 04/21/16


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