My brother-in-law, Jim, passed away on May 13th from complications of throat and esophageal cancer.
He was only 53.
Jim had a loud, infectious laugh that even made him laugh. It rumbled like thunder during a sticky, August, afternoon storm. You could hear his unmistakable voice bark across Lake Michigan to the shores of northwest Indiana and echo back again.
A gruff exterior, he commanded an almost fearful presence with his swagger and aura of rebellion. Not someone to mess with or get in his way.
But go ahead and get in his way, he would appreciate your toughness and grit. He won't bite, he's actually quite the gentle soul. You would become an instant new friend and he'd probably buy you a drink. No, never mind, I am certain he would.
On the inside, Jim was the complete opposite of that salty, curmudgeon facade. In the eloquent words of the eulogy delivered by his dear friend, Chris Murphy, "Jim was like a hard jawbreaker on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside."
He'd loan you money, cuddle your fussy baby, offer you a ride when your car was in the shop or fix the pump on your swimming pool without expecting anything in return. If you ever needed something, Jim was your guy.
An electrician, he worked tirelessly as a proud member of I.B.E.W. Local 134 (Chicago) for thirty years. Just a regular guy in jeans and a flannel shirt who'd gladly give you that shirt if you were down on your luck. Not a boorish, selfish bone in his body.
On the day of his funeral, after mass at St. Domitilla Church, where he had been baptized fifty three years ago, we headed to a luncheon to honor his memory and grieve with his beloved wife Debbie, his big Italian family and a countless array of loyal friends. As we pulled into his favorite watering hole, Stimac's Bar and Restaurant in Hillside, I noticed the sign out in front with a message for Jim.
Rest in peace
We miss you already
Because it made me smile, I took a picture of it. Then one more. I wanted to remember these words.
Jim (or Jimbo or Jimmy) was a regular there. Rumor has it the owner actually gave him a key to let himself in, after hours, should he ever need something. Always on the "honor system" and he would never cheat a soul. Jim's bar tab probably paid to keep the place running the past thirty years. It was his second home. The cream of chicken soup was his favorite and a cold beer could always be found in his hardworking, sturdy hands.
How often do you know of a business honoring the loss of a beloved patron in such a public display?
Well, my friends, they loved him there at Stimac's. He was the brassy guy with the big heart that became the soul of the joint.
When Jim walked in the door, you knew the night was just beginning to get a bit spicy. Not a chance of leaving now.
Take another look at the sign.
To the right.
See that white shock of light shining down on the words about Jimmy?
That light wasn't in the first photo at the top of this page. I took these photos seconds apart.
Where did that light come from?
I call those "God Rays."
When you are despondent, grieving, looking for answers maybe, and you look into the sky and out of nowhere see this light shining from above.
I consider that a sign that somehow, no matter what is going on in life, things are going to be okay.
This brilliant blue sky held "God Rays" that afternoon as we entered his favorite bar.
And I believe it was Jim's way of telling us that he was at peace and we would be alright after all.
Come on in, sit yourselves down, have a cold drink and if you listen carefully, you can still hear my roaring laughter within these sacred walls. It's all good.
We will always miss you, Jim.
You left us way too soon.
You were the lion in a herd of cattle.
With love and remembrance,
Your favorite sister-in-law
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