I went to a celebration of life for Jim last week. I called him Jim, but he was also known as Jimmy or Pop. Sometimes, when his wonderfully wacky wife instigated shenanigans, he was known as “Poor Jim.” Though it was used often, it was a momentary label. Everyone knew how much he adored her, even in her wackiness. Especially in her wackiness. He was that kind of guy.
Twice, when I had propane problems, Jim volunteered to come over and relight my water heater. I knew how to do it. I had done it before. He insisted, though. He was a volunteer firefighter, and said he’d rather light it for me than have to come put out the fire if something went wrong. He brought the family along, and we got to visit. It was something we didn’t do nearly enough. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he would have come to help out even if there was no danger at all. You see, he was just that kind of guy.
Jim’s wife once got it in her head that we could get rich making a grown-up version of Underoos with celebrities instead of superheroes and cartoon characters. With a little help from Google Images and some iron-on transfer paper, I created a “prototype.” We laughed. A lot. Jim laughed at least as much as we did. When his friends found out about it, they all laughed too. Because he was that kind of guy with that kind of friends.
At the memorial service, when no one was looking, the grandkids’ toy dinosaurs managed to attack and destroy a flower arrangement. We can’t really be sure how it happened, but it’s no wonder. Those dinosaurs were herbivores, after all. Grown-ups could have been mad. Grandkids could have been in trouble. Neither was the case, however. The messy arrangement remained throughout the service. One dinosaur stood guard while the other tried to sleep off an over indulgence in mums and greenery. It was a welcome bit of humor in the midst of great sadness. Pop would have laughed the most. That’s what a grandpa does when he’s that kind of guy.
As all things do in this social media age, word of Jim’s death appeared on Facebook. Several people offered condolences and prayers for the family, but one comment read, “I will pray for your community.” This person understood that grief would not, could not, be contained within a family. It would engulf an entire town. That’s the way it is when you lose that kind of guy.