I have not been on my computer for at least seven days. I mean, NOT EVEN TO CHECK FACEBOOK.
Last week was brutal.
My mom had to have another surgery last Monday (they had to insert a permanent port for IV infusions in her chest) and it was a lot harder than we had anticipated. My mom is soooo tiny (5’0″ and about 90 lbs.) and her skin is so thin that this stupid thing they had to insert below her collarbone looks like a damn volcano. I mean, just imagine a square box being lodged under your skin. For a YEAR. Good times.
It is probably going to be tender for a long time, and we are all crossing our fingers that it doesn’t try to work its way out of her thin skin. Her friend Mary had an ingenious idea of making my mom a big bubble-wrap collar to wear around her neck and chest. We tape it around her ribs and it is the one thing that has helped her feel a little less scared about something hitting or bumping the horrid chest box.
Then, something else happened last Monday.
Have you ever gotten one of those phone calls from a loved one where you answer and right away you know something is horribly wrong? They don’t even have to speak. YOU JUST KNOW.
That happened to me when I was sitting in a little hospital room with my mom and waiting for her surgical IV’s to be started. I got a call from my best friend Jen in Portland. You know Jen. I’ve written about her here and here. We have known each other since the fifth grade and she is more like family than just a friend. She is part of me, my spirit, my soul. And she calls me and chokes out a couple words and I am gripped with fear, because I know something life-changing has happened.
And I was right. Because through her tears, she told me Jimmy had died that morning.
Jimmy was Jenny’s husband for eighteen years. He is the father of her two children. He had been in her life for twenty-three years. And now he’s gone.
Jen and Jimmy met on our high school senior trip to Mazatlan, Mexico. Our East High group was down there and a Judge Memorial group was down there at the same time. Judge is a private Catholic school here in town, and right down the street from East High. We had some mutual friends, and when Jenny laid eyes on that kid, she was DONE. Done. Like, HE IS MINE. Isn’t it funny in life the people we fall for and the experiences they lead us through? I figure it’s all part of learning your life lessons and part of your path – whether those experiences bring you to new highs or new lows.
Jen and Jimmy were the first of our friends to get married. They seemed so young, and they were. Twenty-two years old. I was one of her bridesmaids and wore a long, navy blue off-the-shoulder dress and was photographed inside the reception smoking a cigarette along with three other girlfriends in the room where the band played. That’s how long ago their wedding was. You could smoke INDOORS.
Even though Jenny and Jimmy have been divorced for over two years, it doesn’t make the pain and shock and anger or grief any less. Not one bit less. How could anyone think it would be less, just because two people aren’t married anymore? They were a part of each other’s lives for more than half of their Earthly existence. And now two children, ages fourteen and twelve, are facing the rest of their lives without their father. THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.
I’m not sure if Jimmy’s story is mine to tell. I am brutally honest when it comes to me and my own issues. But I want to be sensitive to the fact that others are more private about their struggles, pain, and demons they can’t shake. But I will tell you that Jimmy tried to shake them. And Jenny tried her best for eighteen years to fight for Jimmy and his health. It all became so hard and so dysfunctional – something had to give. But this is their path, their journey. Not mine.
I do want to say how lovely of a person Jimmy was. He was gentle. He was kind. He loved his children so much. He loved the outdoors and beautiful places. He was an amazing manager of people and teams of hundreds during his 20-year career with UPS. Jen was so proud of his accomplishments.
Jimmy called me a few weeks back and we had a great conversation. I hadn’t spoken to him in over a year, not since he had left Portland and moved back here to Salt Lake City. It felt really good to tell him I cared. I told him I would always care, and that I wanted him to be happy and healthy. I told him we were here for him if he needed us.
Jimmy also called my mom a few weeks ago because he felt so terrible about her cancer. They had a great conversation, and laughed about old times and memories, including Mazatlan, where my mom was the East High chaperone. My mom will never forget this conversation, and Jimmy telling her that he was praying for her and her recovery.
Jimmy, you were loved by many. Probably more than you know. I’m so sorry for your suffering in your time here on Earth, and I’m so sorry for the pain and struggles of the past four years. I’m heartbroken for Carter and Nina, that they will not have you present for their graduations, their weddings, the births of their children, family dinners, and vacations. It makes me weep. You were a good person, Jimmy. I really did love you. Thank you for the beautiful children you brought into this world, and thank you for the things your life and struggles have taught me. Because your life did teach me quite a few things. I hope you are at peace now.