Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jim: My Personal Hero

On Sunday, September 9, 2012 at 1:00am this world lost an amazing man. My dear friend, Jim lost his battle with cancer. He has left behind his wife, Cindy and his three children: Vicky (20), Jimmy (turning 18 tomorrow) and Derrick (10). And he has left a void in this world. I really can't believe he's gone. Part of me expects to walk into his shop next Friday and be greeted with a "Staaaaacie Brown! How are you?!?!" and a loud belly laugh from the both of us. It breaks my hear that that will never happen again. I have moments where I'm fine, where I put aside my grief and can laugh and be present in the moment. And I have moments where all I can do is weep, weep for my friend who is no longer with us and for his wife and kids. He will never see Vicky get married. He will never see the boys graduate from high school. He will never meet his grandchildren. Cindy has lost her best friend. Jim and Cindy did EVERYTHING together. They were together at all times, working side by side every day. Cindy joked that the only time she wasn't with Jim was in the shower - that that was the one place that was her solitude :). I can't even begin to comprehend the devastation she is experiencing now that Jim is gone.

Jim's passing has my mind reeling. I don't understand why he wasn't healed. I don't understand why he got cancer. I don't understand why Cindy and the kids have had the most important man in their life taken from them. And I know I'll never understand why. I've also been reflecting a lot about my own life. I'm so very glad that the last time I saw Jim I gave him a huge hug and told him that I loved him very much. But so often in my life I take people for granted, assuming they're always going to be in my life. I tell myself all the time that I'll call that person tomorrow, I'll send them a card/email later, they know how much I care about them, we can get together some other time...I put the people I claim are most important to me on the back burner to work and sometimes to laziness.....I don't want to lose another friend suddenly to cancer or a car accident or whatever it may be, and have regrets that they didn't know how much I loved them and valued them. So I am going to do my best to be more intentional with my friends and really tell them how I feel - to put myself out there with the people I love.

And I have been thinking about where I put my time and energy right now. I spend most of my time working,  working out, sleeping and watching TV. I think I need to step back and re-prioritize my life and do what's important: spending time with my family and friends and doing things that bring me joy!

A few months ago, I auditioned for The Biggest Loser (another post for another time). And on the application, they asked the question "Who is your personal hero?" And I immediately thought of Jim. Here's what I wrote:

My personal hero is my friend Jim. When he was a young boy, he was put on a boat by himself by his brother to make a life in America. He grew up very poor in Vietnam & his family wanted more for him. He went through many struggles after coming here. He was moved around a lot – bounced from home to home. He was teased, ridiculed, abused, homeless, hungry. He suffered greatly. But when Jim tells his story, he always focuses on the good, never the bad. He tells his story with a smile on his face and always had hope that things would be okay, even in the darkest times…He met his wife, Cindy and they married, had three amazing children, and own their own successful business. He is living the “American Dream.” I don’t think his family knew the depth of their decision when they put Jim on that boat, but they really have saved his life! In April of this year, Jim was diagnosed with liver cancer. He is currently in treatment. If her were in Vietnam, this would be a death sentence. Jim is a fighter through and through and views his cancer as just another trial. He still has a smile on his face as he fights for his life. He is the most positive and amazing person I know and really is a hero. He has become like family to me over the past thirteen years. He is the older brother I always wanted and I admire him greatly. I hope that one day I can be a little bit like him. My life is richer because of my dear friend, Jim.

Here's a link to Jim's story that was in the Kalamazoo Gazette on Christmas Day:

I will remember my friend Jim as a man with a huge heart! I will remember his laughter, his mischievous nature. I will always remember teaching him American slang terms and how to use them PROPERLY :). I will remember how hardworking he was. I will remember how much he loved his family. I will remember Jim as a fighter, a father, a husband, a brother, a friend. I will remember the endless number of conversations he and I had about me getting married and having babies. He wanted that for me just as much as I want it for me. Jim has been such a bright spot in my life over the past thirteen years. No matter what mood I was in when I saw him, I always left with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Jim, without knowing it, has left a legacy here on earth. And I hope that I will do him proud as I continue to live my life and attempt to live my life the way Jim did - with hope and joy! 

I miss you my friend and look forward to our reunion in Heaven one day!