Lately, my cousin, James Jay Spencer has been on my mind quite a bit. He passed away seven years ago today. Jim was a happy, smiley little boy, whose life ended far too soon, after he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. It had been some time since we had seen Jim, and I really do regret that, because my cousin, Jim was a great guy, and I loved him very much.
During the time of Jim’s illness, Uncle Bill naturally focused on the time he had left with Jim. They spent as much time together as they could. In the last few years of his life, Jim went to see his dad every day, something that pleased Uncle Bill very much. They would do lots of things together…or nothing but sit and talk. It didn’t really matter. They shared a number of interests, making them very good friends. Losing a child, no matter how old, is a devastating event in a parent’s life, and one that they never really get past. It is always there, just under the surface…a bittersweet memory that can be hard to talk about, and easy to cry over.
As a little boy, Jimmy loved to play in the vacant lot across the street from their house. The neighborhood kids played there in the summer, but in the winter, it became an ice skating rink. The kids who had skates skated, and the ones who didn’t like my cousin Jim, just took a running slide on the ice. Jim quickly grew to love the ice. One day when he was about 4 years old, he came running into the house, and when his dad asked if he had been skating, he said “No, I’ve been swiding on my boots!” Soon, his love of the ice turned into a love of hockey. At first, his team couldn’t seem to win a game, but Jim always said the same thing, “We’re gonna win this one, Dad.” As time went on, the team did win and Jim got to be a great hockey player, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t real tall. Then, he passed that love of hockey onto his son, Cody who was a great player too.
Uncle Bill and Jim shared more than a love of sports. They understood each other. Jim’s loss was devastating to Uncle Bill. His mind was already slipping, and the memories of the past were quickly becoming all he had left…his children and his family history. And now, his youngest child was gone. He wrote the things he remembered of Jim’s life…the precious memories…the thoughts and feelings…all the accomplishments…all the things they had done. He set Jim’s place in the family history, and at the end of it all, he finished with the words that were the sweetest to his tired memory, “I called him Jimbo. He called me Daddio.”