I was going to call the Grim Reaper a "craven coward" and "slacker," amongst things that would make those who make their living doing blue humor, get a healthy dose of whiplash from the language I was about to type. Yet that would take away from a man who fought bravely and fought well, despite the fact that his mind and body left his corner along time ago.
I'm talking about a man who despite Parkinson's holding him back and the removal of a good portion of his intestines holding him down, he still dealt such a blow that the Grim One pissed in his robe from the force. He did all this and more, because he wanted to get back to the woman he loved...the woman that stood by his side for over fifty years.
He did this because he wanted to see his five children go down the five different paths that they chose. And while he might not have liked each turn that they took, he loved them, and he loved to hear of their journeys. Still the one thing he wanted most was to see his eleven grandchildren grow and if you looked over your shoulder at each family gathering, you would see him beaming with pride.
It is easier to be brave or to be a hero when you have a fighting chance and it's a whole different thing when the fix is in. Let me tell you that this was as crooked a boxing match as all of them put together. My Father-in-law showed Death for the bully that he is and he knocked that scythe right out of Death's hand and clear out of the ring.
I am not a religious man so please believe me that I am not preaching when I say that James fought the good fight as a Christian. I don't mean as someone has once said, "hit them over the head with The Bible until they cry out "oh, God." I mean that he lived his life by following Christ's example. He didn't throw money at a charity and called it a day. He tutored the less fortunate, he fed the hungry and he gave work to the needy.
Yet he didn't want credit for these deeds nor would you ever hear him thumping his chest about them. You weren't going to find him in some glossy magazine, at a benefit in the Hamptons and he didn't care if whatever he did made the church newsletter or not. This was not his ticket into Heaven or a chance to one-up someone in his parish; this was simply Jim being Jim. He did the right thing because it was in his heart.
He didn't accept things at face value, either.
"There are no stupid questions, but how you ask a question, can make you look stupid."
I am paraphrasing him in the above quote, but the sentiment is dead-on. He wouldn't want anyone to merely "question authority," but for them to ask informed questions. He always pushed everyone to not just ask how something works. Find out about the thing's origin and how it could be improved. All five of his children graduated college and each of them can hold their own in any conversation, a good portion of the credit goes to Jim and his Missus.
I wrote this so you would get an idea of what my Father-in-law was like. He will get only so many column inches in his obituary and it won't tell you of the greatness of this man, or the epic battle that he waged. Oddly, so many people are praised for running companies, being rich or for their athletic prowess. Yet being a parent, putting a roof over the heads of five children, and pointing them in the right direction, will never be praised the way that it should be.
He was in the hospital since the first week of August and at about 2:30 EST, Death finally won. No, actually Death lost, because my Father-in-law gave him the whipping of a lifetime. Death will not cheapen Jim's legacy, because his children and his grandchildren will carry that on. They will thrive, they will flourish.
R.I.P. J.J.D. (1926-2008)