Saturday, December 13, 2014

A wonderful neighbor

We have some great neighbors.  When Monte, who lives in front of us, was planning his new house, he came up to stand on our front porch.  He wanted to be sure that what he built would not interfere with our view.  I was home teacher to Robert and Jolene, immediately to our east, for many, many years.  About 10 years ago Jim and Ronnie moved in next door.  Jim came over to introduce himself.

As we were getting acquainted I mentioned that I went to UW to dental school.  Jim informed me that he and his wife are ardent Washington State Cougars.  Of course the two schools are strong rivals in everything athletic.  It was not much longer into the conversation that I mentioned that I am LDS, he mentioned that he is Catholic and not interested in becoming LDS, and that he is a fervent Democrat.  Right away I knew that we didn’t have much in common.  His wife is just a simple, salt-of-the-earth woman who loves her husband and has a twin sister.

Over the years I have grown to love Jim as a neighbor and as a friend. Jim has always been ready and willing to help with my small motor problems.  More than once I have called him about my tiller or weed trimmer.  He has always thanked me for calling him.  He says he loves to work on small engines and he has thanked me for giving him the opportunity to work on one.  He would fix it up and bring it back to my shop door. 

One day Jim called to ask if I could help him go get a car he bought at a yard sale.  It was an old Fiat that had been sitting in a guy’s yard out in Jerome County for years.  Jim had the trailer, but he needed to use my truck.  I was happy to help, so we drove out and loaded the old car on the trailer and brought it home.  He worked on it for a while, actually got it running and then sold it to someone else.  It was a cute little car, too.  He and Ronnie had had one like it many years ago while they lived in Seattle.

We often compared gardening ideas.  At first Jim had a big garden with corn and cukes and a big hedge of sunflowers by his north fence.  As the years have passed, he has cut back, and the past couple of years he has not had anything in the garden except one old grape vine, which he has just let grow for the resident deer herd.  

Backyard deer

He has always been free to share apples and pears with us.  I have taken him bunches of multi-colored potatoes.  He has maintained his yard as a standard for me to meet.  I appreciate the example.

More than 5 years ago Jim told me that he went to his physician for a physical and the doctor had found a lump on his prostate.  He had it checked out and it was an aggressive form of prostate cancer.  He had surgery and chemo, and things seemed to be quite normal.

Jim has always been interested in astronomy, so he worked to become qualified to run the big telescope at CSI. He has a home telescope, too, and he has often taken great joy in showing some astronomical wonder to me and to others whom he has befriended.  Jim is actually one of the brightest guys I know. 

From my own perspective as one who believes in continuing revelation, many of the “unanswerable” questions are better just put on the shelf until later, when by faith or by study, some of those questions can be answered.  It is my belief that when our perspective changes, many questions that now seem important and difficult will be clearly understood, often in spite of our intellectual capabilities.  There are some things that we will only know when God is ready to reveal them to us.

While we were on our mission, Jim would keep an eye on our place.  He said we could have our grandsons call him any time they had a mechanical question.  One time the lawn mower suddenly stopped running, so the boys called Jim.  The engine was without a drop of oil and the engine had seized.  Jim helped remove the old engine and replace it with a new Kohler engine.  It is running fine.  One time I had my old chain saw up in a tree, trying to cut out some dead wood.  It was a fussy implement and would not run on idle, so I was trying to balance myself on a limb as I climbed up the tree, while keeping the saw going at about half speed.  He saw me up there, grabbed his own chain saw, and came to my rescue.  He mumbled something about Widowmaker.  I used his saw to complete my task.  Then I threw my saw into the trash.

Last week Ronnie called me to say that Jim was going on hospice.  He had recently gone through more chemo, but it was not working like it did before. She was asking if I could pick up their daughter at the airport because she didn’t feel comfortable leaving Jim.  What an honor, to have her call me when they needed help.  I picked up the daughter and brought her home.  Gaye fixed dinner for them and other family members who were gathering at their home.  Two days ago Ronnie called me to say that Jim wanted to have a garage sale on Saturday and recycle some of his “man” things.  She said she and Jim wanted me to come over and pick out something to take home. 

So this morning I went next door to see how things were going.  Ronnie said that Jim was awake and I could go visit him, so I slipped into his room.  He was gray and cold to touch and was heavily medicated, but he recognized me when I spoke my name.  It was good to see him and bid farewell.

Jim died an hour later.  Rest in peace my friend. We will meet again.

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