Monday, November 5, 2012

Our last conversation

It's been a while.

There is so much going on right that it is sometimes too much to process. I have been wanting to blog for a while, but I haven't felt particularly inspired. Lately work has left me so fried that I can't even bring myself to think about writing, let alone actually do it.

Sarah is working on compiling people's stories of Jim for a special project, and I've been putting off compiling mine. Jim is the only best friend I've ever lost, and it's not always easy to have to recall memories of our past. It can be painful. I miss him. But after a really awesome couple of weeks of getting time with other best friends, I figured I wasn't being fair to him, to his memory. I wasn't giving him the time he deserves. I decided to sit down and start to compile. When you spend as much time with someone as I did with Jim, you gather a lot of stories, so I only have a preliminary list and I'm only just beginning to elaborate on them. Which gave me an idea.

I spend a lot of time telling people about my best friends that are still here, sharing their stories and what they mean to me. I tend to keep Jim to myself, or to people who he meant that much to too. But I think maybe it's time to start sharing some of my stories with people who maybe never knew Jim, and as long as I'm writing them down, why not use them here? It's something I'm doing either way, and what could be more inspirational to this blog than Jim?

So with this post, I introduce: The Jim Series. I cannot tell you how long it will last, how often I'll post, but I'm going to share some of my stories here. Some are meaningful, some are HILARIOUS, all are important to me, and important to who he was and is to me.

Why not start with a double whammy: Our Last Conversation

Jim was a man of action, not usually words. In our friendship, I knew I mattered to Jim not because he ever really said it, he just showed it countless ways. And that was always fine with me. I liked that our conversations were typically made up of banter, not flattery. It's ironic and beautiful that the last conversation we ever had was an absolute contradiction to the general terms of our friendship.

The week before Jim and Mrs. Smith died I gave a recital at JMU. It wasn't required for my degree but I had enough repertoire to give one and I really wanted to make more performance opportunities for myself than I was getting. I had the recital on December 11 of that year at Otterbein Methodist Church, where I sang for a church job. Almost all of my friends, several of my professors, and other people I knew in the community came. Jim was obviously one of them.

The week leading up to my recital I was completely focused on having everything ready (and passing the rest of my finals), so I didn't talk to Jim at all. What I didn't realize was that he was insanely sick that entire week, yet he dragged himself out of bed to make sure he made it to my recital. After it was over, as I was greeting and thanking people for coming, he came up to me and first introduced me to Emily, his girlfriend who I hadn't met yet, and then proceeded to say the nicest things he has ever said to me.

He first told me that he was so proud of me and that I sounded so amazing, and that he was blown away about how far my singing had come since he had last heard me. Then he told me he was just so happy that we were friends, that I meant so much to him and that he loved me a lot.

I completely taken aback by his candidness, but I thanked him over and over and told him that I loved him too and was also so happy we were friends. He told me he wasn't feeling great so I thanked him again for coming, gave him a big hug, and he and Emily left. It was the last time I ever saw him. For those of you who are new to me, my blog, my long history with the Smith family or the Smiths in general, a week later he and his mom were killed in their home by an armed robber.

I want to reiterate again how out of the ordinary Jim's behavior was. It's not that he wasn't normally a nice guy, or that he didn't say kind things, he absolutely did, he just wasn't usually gushy. At least not to me. I would have expected a "Yo that recital was the MAD NOTES" or "Seriously wtf let's get drunk to celebrate how TIGHT that was!" Maybe it was the cold meds, or maybe he just had a strange premonition that he needed to say it then and in that way. Either way, this conversation will mean the world to me for the rest of my life.

When someone dies it's natural to think about your last conversation with them, your last interaction. My last interaction with Mrs. Smith was completely opposite; she was driving me and Sarah crazy as we sat in the house two days before she died, trying to have a girl talk convo that was continually getting interrupted by Mrs. Smith going on and on about the goings on of the Hylton Choir Department. Completely typical...exactly what I loved about her. Conversely, that was absolutely the perfect ending for my relationship with her because it was true, it was real, it summarized so much about what she meant to me and how things were, how I'll always remember her.

What I love about my last interaction with Jim was that it summarized who he was. He was more than the kid who lived for the story. He was the kid who lived for the people he loved, the one who was willing to do everything for them. He was the guy who was always on board, always supporting you, whether it was at a recital or realizing your biggest and scariest dreams. He is one of my main examples of unconditional love. I treasure this moment, this glimpse of his deepest nature, and when I miss him most it is what gets me through.