Towards the end of the memorial service for Michael Jackson today, my husband and I left for a much smaller but just as meaningful memorial service for an acquaintance of ours who recently passed away from a sudden heart attack. It was held at the local YMCA where he had worked for 35 years. Jim was only 59. He died waiting in line for a Judy Collins concert which was a surprise gift to him from friends. The parking lot was full, cars were lining the curbs on bordering streets and we could tell that there was a large crowd. The Y had even closed early for this service. I'm not sure how many people were there, but there had to be at least 200 and there weren't enough chairs to seat everybody.
Jim was a very unique person and well known by many in our small town. The microphone was passed around to those who wanted to say something about Jim and we heard stories that had us laughing, crying, reflecting and for myself, wishing that I had seen Jim more. My husband and I hadn't seen Jim for awhile, in part because he wasn't walking around town as much and we didn't work out at the Y where most people saw him on a day to day basis. I know my husband had wanted to share hip replacement stories, since Jim had had both hips replaced which made him give up running, something he loved.
I barely knew Jim really, but one didn't have to know him for a long time to sense what a special person he was. He had no money, but there was an article about him in the newspaper. He didn't hold public office or own a large business, but there were people from many walks of life at his service today. He was kind of homely and very tall, a gentle giant many said today. Jim always had a wide smile, a caring word, but not the fake kind of caring...you knew that he genuinely wanted to talk to you and to get to know you. He had a fabulous sense of humor. He loved loved loved baseball and was a huge Indians fan and even had a room devoted to all things baseball.
Jim lived a simple life. I learned today that at one time he had given away most of his possessions. He gave often and readily, never expecting anything in return. He was the most popular house and pet sitter in town, which I'm sure he did for extra income but also because he loved animals. I had to laugh at a comment made by his roommate...Jim was a vegetarian who didn't eat vegetables unless they were cut up into tiny pieces on his favorite pizza!
Funerals and memorial services are always a time for reflection. I leave with a feeling that I will change my life, be a better person, figure out what is really important. Today I left with the feeling that it won't be hard to be a better person. What maybe doesn't come all to naturally to me could really be so easy. Reach out to someone every day, speak a kind word, be sincere, give just a little of one's self in some little way. I know for myself that sometimes this is harder with those closest to me and with my family. I just need to remember Jim Boyd, picture his funny smile, hear his voice, and maybe I can remember how to be a better person.