I was hesitant to write anything about this, but I decided that I should.
When I moved to this city back in 2008, I was a pretty miserable person for a multitude of reasons, none of which are important now. I got on a project that required me to drive back and forth from downtown three to four times a week. At the time, my driving anxiety was significant. I hated the driving. I was lonely and sad, and missed home all the time. I considered moving back.
I used to park in a lot outside of a city building, but once I got caught, I finally started parking in the tiny garage next to my downtown office. All was well until the day I slammed the (good) side of my truck into a concrete barrier. The incident left me jittery. It was just one more silly setback that made me want to move back home. Unsure of where to park, I decided to park at a hotel nearby.
One day as I was walking back to my truck, I saw an older man smoking a cigarette and watching me intently. “You know you can’t park there,” he said. Oops. I began to stammer. “But I’ll let you park there,” he said.
We began talking. His name was Jim, and he worked at the hotel. For the next several years, Jim let me park at his hotel, when he could have easily let me be towed. He would even alert me when a special event was coming up so I could get a special parking permit and not be towed. Allowing me to park at his hotel eased my driving anxiety greatly. I stopped hating my downtown work and began to enjoy it. Jim was outside often, smoking, and he would talk to me after I was done with work.
I began bringing by cards and cookies to show my gratitude; I didn’t want to take advantage of his kindness. We began exchanging emails and texts, and before I knew it, I had gained a dear friend. Jim would call me the daughter I never had. He gave me great advice when I needed it, and made me chuckle with his stubborn Irish humor and charm.
Jim was no fool – he was whip smart and could figure out a person with one glance. He could cut straight through the BS and knew what I was feeling without my saying it. In the past year, he told me he saw a light in my eyes that he never had before. “You were in a bad place when I first met you,” he told me. “Now you are happy. And I love it.”
Jim cared deeply for his family and friends and would do anything in his power to help. He spoke often of his son and his deceased wife, Patty. Patty clearly was the love of his life and though she had passed fifteen years ago, it was clear that he was still deeply in love with her.
Over the past couple of years, Jim’s health declined. His health started deteriorating significantly in the past six to nine months. I remained in denial. He would get better, just like he always had in the past. When I visited him several weeks ago, after Apollo’s puppy school graduation, Jim warned me that it may be the last time I would ever see him. He was right, but I didn’t believe him. I still thought he had time.
I pulled up to the hospice this afternoon after work to drop off a card and some goodies. His son had warned us that his health had taken a turn for the worse, and I wanted to see Jim at least one last time. I was very nervous. I had never been to a hospice before, but I knew what being in one meant. I was worried about how Jim’s condition would be, and if he’d even want to see me. I knew Jim never liked having visitors while he was sick, and I hoped he wouldn’t be upset that I was visiting.
I walked inside up to the welcome desk and asked the receiving nurse if Jim was up to seeing visitors. I saw her exchange glances with another nurse. My heart started to sink. The nurse told me that he had just passed away. I felt like I was in a bad movie or television show. The plot device of someone passing away just before a friend could see him always had seemed so cliche to me, but now here it was, happening to me. I hadn’t expected to cry but tears welled in my eyes. She asked if I wanted to go in and say goodbye, but I was afraid, and I didn’t want to disturb his son. So I left the bag of goodies on the desk and asked that she deliver it to Jim’s son. I had started crying. I felt bad when I did because I thought about how the nurses must have felt to have to deliver sad news like that and watch that person break down. I left quickly so that no one else could see me cry, but I don’t think I was successful.
I am doing okay now, though still sad. His passing wasn’t unexpected, but I still didn’t think it’d be today. Why didn’t I ever get a picture of us together? Why didn’t I see him one last time, before he got really sick? Why didn’t I have dinner with him?
Jim’s friendship came at a time in my life when I needed it the most. I learned so much from this humorous, hilarious, humble, and extraordinary man. I’m so glad to have met him and I’ll never forget him. I don’t know if there’s anything after life, but if there is, I hope he and Patty are giving each other enormous hugs right now.