Friday was the day of the funeral. It was the funeral for a man who had just turned 47, a man who was our neighbor--the great family who lived across the street from us, when we lived in our first house--in Suwanee(South Forsyth County), Georgia. James B.(affectionately known as "J.B." to his long-time pals)had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, only a few months ago. He went into a coma on Tuesday, only hours before he passed.
I spoke to my lovely niece, Breaz, by phone on Thursday night, and told her what I thought about the fact that I had a funeral to attend, the very next day.
I told her that "At twenty years old, we think a 'big life, a great life,'is when someone is wealthy, or has great fame, or is someone working to cure cancer, or something else 'big'."
But I told her that as I've grown, and become older, I believe having a big life means being the devoted husband, the wonderful, loving father, the kind son. "These are things that are not easy to do; to be this requires care, and love, and genuine goodness."
James B. had a lot of people in his life who obviously felt as I felt. The funeral home was packed with men from his softball team, close friends he played golf with, or hunted with, or fished with, folks from a nearby church that loved him dearly, clients and colleagues from his many many years in the auto-sales business, and many neighbors, and like us, former neighbors. The family had assembled a video that displayed images of James engaged in various activities, or holding his boys close--James has two great human boys, Cort and Grant, and two non-human(Black Labs), Remy and Chester. He also has a deeply committed wife, Janet, who fell in love with him when they were both teenagers. Classic high-school romance. Except this one lasted. For 27 years.
I grew close to his wife, Janet, as I began a journey in 2003 towards renewed faith in God. She and I began speaking about philosophical issues, life, and faith just after 9/11. Years later, when I visited their church, I noticed she & James held hands during the service. I remember thinking how touching that was, that sense of connection to each other, and to their God, at that moment. I longed for that connection with my own partner.
James never sought attention or fame for himself. He sought the company of good people--hard-working, decent folks who are happy to have a good job to go to in the mornings, are excited to discuss sports, appreciate a good businessman, and share faith in a loving God. James' life was a big life, a huge life, filled with the friendships of those who came to mourn him, but more--to remember and celebrate his life.
Towards the end of the service, I could see tears forming in my husband Hansoo's eyes. I reached for his hand, and a moment later, the pastor asked us all to pray, and in that instant, I could feel the Presence of that which we call God.
Here's to Grace and Peace and Blessings for his wonderful family.