Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Season to Remember Our Blessings

As Thanksgiving draws near this year, I will have an enriched outlook about the blessings of my life! This past year Harry and I learned a lot about blessings from our brother-in-law, Jim Hall. Jim was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung and liver cancer earlier this year. We were fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with Judy and Jim during his illness, and we recall so many times just during the last five months that Jim left a legacy of good-living, right priorities, and the ability to recognize and recall life’s blessings beyond measure.

We recall an evening just days after the diagnosis when Harry and I were seated at their dinner table, and Jim asked that we bless the food. We were all struggling with emotions that day, and honestly none of us, Harry, Judy nor I, could choke out a word to say grace. Jim just smiled at us, we joined hands, and Jim led the most beautiful prayer you could ever hear. He thanked God that evening for all the blessings we have in life.

Jim knew at the time of the diagnosis that his time remaining on earth might be very short. He made the most of every moment, and he often expressed what a Blessed Life he had been given. In fact, it was Jim’s idea to share some of those thoughts at his memorial service.

Jim expressed over and over in these last months what a Blessed Life he had, starting with his family growing up, then the journey through life with his wife, Judy. Judy’s ultimate gift to Jim was her loving care - being able to stay at home throughout the illness – and passing on to Heaven from the comfort of his home surrounded by those who loved him. And Jim’s loving care for Judy was demonstrated once again in his last hours as he showed J. J. a new car on the internet, a car that he wanted to buy for Judy. To the end Jim was looking after his bride!

Recalling his Blessed Life, Jim mentioned that being Judy’s husband also enriched his life with In-Laws that he enjoyed so much. Next came a joy that Judy and Jim had never imagined could be so wonderful - - Having a Son and a Daughter. Their children J. J. and Joey brought so many wonderful experiences, friends, travels and adventures into their lives. Next for Jim, he discovered the joy of having a Daughter-In-Law, especially one who could COOK like Stacy!!! And she would cook anything he requested!!! Their close relationship was sealed at Stacy’s wedding shower when Jim gave her a special gift - - a cookbook entitled “Any Bitch Can Cook.” Once she got over the shock, she was thrilled through the years as Jim added to her collection of cookbooks. Next came a Son-In-Law. Matt is the Son-In-Law who moved Jim’s daughter to Nevada – and we were not sure Jim would ever want to forgive him for that - but of course he did forgive Matt - - - and Matt was listed among the “best” things when Jim recalled his Blessed Life.

Words cannot express the absolute JOY Jim received when J. J. and Stacy blessed him with a new title “Daddy Jim.” Jagger James Hall brought a brand new kind of love into Jim’s life. At first Jim was Daddy Pim to Jagger and later became Daddy Jim. On the last night of his life, just hours before his death, Jim was able to spend time with Jagger. They sorted the Halloween treats Jagger had “gained” on Dogwood Street. And, of course, Daddy Jim added Jagger’s favorite kind of treat to his Halloween bucket – the green stuff to put in his wallet!!

That brings up another Blessing Jim often recounted - - his neighbors on Dogwood Street. What an awesome bunch of friends! Other friends, who were honorary Dogwood neighbors, were Debbie and Daryl Wood. After some of the automotive adventures that Judy and Jim experienced on several trips to the doctor appointments, Debbie and Daryl decided that they should go along to lend assistance if needed. Sure enough, Judy ran the Caddie over some curb somewhere in Muskogee and hung up “just a little bit.” Not having any baling wire handy, Daryl took off his shoestrings and tied up the dangling parts until he could get the Caddie home for more professional attention. And when Jim bemoaned the fact that Judy’s dainty little crystal and silver pepper shaker would not offer up even a flake of pepper - - it was Daryl who went out with J. J. and returned with newly drilled holes in the top of Judy’s dainty little crystal and silver pepper shaker. Daryl was there with Jim ready to help in whatever way he could even through that last night.

Jim loved coaching his kids and their friends, and he loved watching them play sports. He loved traveling and finding new places to eat, BUT mostly he loved sharing those adventures with his cherished friends and family. Jim even approached Joey’s many moves across the country as an opportunity for travel. Jim was proud of his interest in the J & M Moving Company that was established by Jim and Max Rowley for the sole purpose of moving Joey from one job to the next – each a promotion for Joey and a new slate of restaurants for Jim! After this last move to Nevada, Jim did hand the torch to Matt stating that Joey and all of her moves across the country were now Matt’s responsibility!!

Jim recalled his regularly scheduled appointments at the Coach’s Office (Jerry Johnston’s man cave). Through the years those were cherished times, and those Saturday morning appointments became even more dear during the days of his illness.

Jim loved spending time with his siblings and their families whether it was drinking coffee, eating b-b-q and ribs, watching one of his nephews or nieces participate in a sporting event, going to a football game or just watching one on TV, or telling a story; really he just loved spending time with his family and friends.

Jim recalled the consistent love and the enduring relationships of family and friends, always picking up exactly where they left off even if time and distance kept them apart from time to time. And friends recalled that being with Jim always made them feel better – not just during the illness, but all through his life. Jim gave his friends and family the gift of his positive nature and he also taught us to give to others, to recognize needs around us and to meet those needs – whether it was offering an encouraging word or meeting physical needs of those around him. Jim requested that we honor his life by also looking to meet needs of others. A memorial fund was established at Poteau Primary School in Jim’s name to help provide for needy children and their families.

The vastness of the love we all have for Jim has been somewhat symbolic in the bells that surrounded him these last few weeks. Jim’s voice had come and gone and had become a raspy whisper. He loved sitting on the front porch or the deck, but he couldn’t get loud enough to get Judy’s attention. Judy decided that he could ring a bell and she would know to come to him. Well, he tried the bell, but Jim soon declared that the cute little butterfly bell with the delicate tingle-sound was not adequate. Jim said, “A man’s got his pride - - I need a man’s bell with a robust ring! - Something that could really get Judy’s attention.” Judy decided that we would put a bell in every spot in the house where Jim might sit or rest. The bells represented so many special people and places - - one from a loved one who had passed - - one from Judy’s school friends - - one that his mother-in-law June Bain had rung at Heavener football games back when Jim was playing - - one from UCO representing all the coaches in his family - - one from a State Championship football team representing that JIM WAS A TRUE CHAMPION - - and one from “his dear old Heavener High” representing all the Heavener friends who had remained steadfast friends through the years. We will miss hearing those bells …….. and we look forward to the day when we are all together again in Heaven.



At November 11, 2009 at 7:55 AM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...

Beautiful eulogy!! One's life worth is measured by the friends acquired along the way. This was a blessed life.

At November 11, 2009 at 8:49 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful, Kathy. You told of everything I didn't know about Jim, even tho I knew him for all 12 years of high school and another year in college, at Northeastern when Garry Ritzky and I lived in the Oak Park Motel. We had some good times and good memories. Jim was always smiling and it sounds like he had plenty of reasons to smile in the later years. Not to mention, he had a wonderful wife, too.


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