Yesterday I watched as my husband's image was etched on his tombstone. While the artist was incredibly talented and it was an amazing process...
...this was something I never thought I'd be doing at age thirty-five.
It took a couple of hours, and a myriad of thoughts went through my head as I sat there and watched. My stomach was in knots and there were times that tears came to my eyes- especially when his mouth and cheeks came into view. That smirk...I loved that smirk.
There are a lot of things that I love about who Jim was.
I loved his blue eyes that would change color according to his mood or what he was wearing. I always thought they were the prettiest when he wore blue or black- they'd turn the most incredible bright blue. I loved his perfectly straight teeth. He never had braces. Let's hope Marley got his teeth. So far so good! He had the most beautiful hair that I've ever seen on a man. He looked awesome whether he kept it long or short. And when it started to fall out from chemo, he first shaved a mohawk (reliving high school days, perhaps??), and then shaved it all off. He would grow it out in the winter when he was able, but as soon as it got hot outside, out came the clippers. Few can pull off the bald look like he could! I loved that bull neck and strong arms and shoulders. I loved the short fingers and broad hands that could open any jar with ease. He was a short, stocky guy, but ridiculously strong. I felt safe and protected when I was with him.
I loved that he was so slow to get angry. His laid-back nature was the perfect counterpart to my tendency to want to fly off the handle. He'd ask me, "Megan, does it really matter? Is it going to change anything if you...[insert issue here]? Then what are you worried about? Either take care of it, or let it go.". He helped me not to sweat the small stuff.
I loved how he was comfortable with himself. He didn't care what people thought of him, or me, or us as a couple. We came from very different backgrounds, and I admit we were an unlikely pair. But he was perfect for me, and I think I was a good fit for him too. His attitude was "What you see is what you get. If you don't like it, it's your loss". He taught me that changing how you act around different people and changing who you are to make others happy is pointless. He helped me to learn to be true to myself and not betray being my authentic self.
I loved how he was a hard worker. He started working right out of high school, and rarely missed a day for the next twenty years, even if he didn't feel well. When cancer came into the picture, he would go to radiation in the morning and head to work in the afternoon. Even when he was really sick, he still worked part-time for a long time. He wasn't afraid to get sweaty and dirty and tired. He was proud of his strength and his ability to work hard.
I loved his tenderness. Jim wasn't an overly touchy-feely kind of guy. I rarely heard my actual name come out of his mouth. It was usually "Sugar" or "Hon". He knew when I needed his embrace and reassurance. He was bluntly honest and said whatever came to his head to everyone I knew. But when it came to me and my family, he was tender and kind. He would kiss my mom every time we went to visit (and then remind me that she loved him more than me. Ha!) and hug every one of them. When I was upset or weak in spirit he knew how to make me feel better and how to reassure me that it would all be alright. When friends came to visit us in Michigan he was so happy to have them there, even when he was sick and could barely walk. Whether we were the ones receiving the visit or the ones making the visit to friends and family in Indiana, he always ended it with a hug and "Love you.".
I loved how he interacted with his family. They're an amazing group of people who welcomed me into their family with open arms. Gatherings with his family were always full of amazing food, countless games of Aggravation or Yahtzee, and hysterical conversation. I choked on my drink more than once. Jim's sister Lisa made so many visits to us in Michigan, bringing different family members with her, and we always loved it. Marley especially loved visits from her uncles "Jonkey" (John) and Vance. We still enjoy visits with them now, even after Jim has passed.
I loved his quiet confidence in his salvation and where he was going after this life was over. He was never one for attending church regularly, and he had very strong opinions about religion in general. But he was sure of his destination, and he told my sister toward the end that he was not afraid, that it would be alright. The last words out of his mouth were, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.". That has been an incredible comfort to me and many others.
I loved how he wasn't confined by traditional roles for us as man and woman. We both worked full time when we were first married, and he recognized that though our jobs were very different, we were both tired when we came home. He split the housework with me 50/50. He cooked more than half the time, because we both knew he was a better cook, and he liked it whereas I tend to view it more as a chore. He didn't even attempt to do laundry, because he couldn't fold a shirt to save his life! When life changed for him and he was undergoing chemo, he really embraced the role of stay-at-home parent while I worked outside the home. He used to call himself my "house husband".
I loved how naturally he fell into the role of father. I'll never forget the vision of him with his shirt pulled up over his nose, gagging, while he changed a newborn Marley's dirty diaper! Or how one day I was in the other room while he was again changing her when I heard a horrified, "Oh my GOD, Megan, get in here!!!". I ran into the room, and found him bug-eyed, looking first at Marley, then to the poop that had shot out when he opened her diaper and hit the wall, then at me. We both learned that day about how infants can project terrible things amazing distances. :) Marley was his shining light. He loved her so much and so loved just being in her company. When she was a baby, he would tell me- "Now come here and teach me how to do this. I've never taken care of a baby or a girl, and I need to know the right way.". As she got older, he was more comfortable with caring for her. He'd take her to the park many days for lunch and play while I was at work. In fact, he took her with him almost everywhere, even when I was home. I think he loved the smiles and comments they got as they were out and about. They would sit and chat like grownups. He bought her toys and then would lay down on the floor and play with her. He was a natural.
I could go on and on about the things I loved about Jim. I hope this post will help you, the reader, to remember the good things (or get to know him better). And I hope that someday when Marley reads it she will be reminded of the wonderful Daddy she has.