We were all up early to help get things ready for Jim’s funeral and luncheon afterward. I had helped coordinated all the decor and many helping hands showed up to pull it all together. It turned out beautifully. Gabby brought orchids from her greenhouse, Kara did a beautifully dessert table, Gina made a fun craft and coloring station for the kids, and Elly and I worked on the table decor, quotes, and pictures. Kendra tracked down tulle bows for the chairs that tied everything together wonderfully.
Earlier in the week my sweet friends sent me this beautiful bouquet of yellow roses. I feel so grateful for amazing friends who I know I can count on for anything and who have been such a strength and support to me.
Kara planned to have blue ribbons tied to all the trees and lamp posts leading out of Collier’s Hill and then again along South Boulder road all the way to the church. Rusty and the kids went to help tie the ribbons. We were all delighted to see that through a very perfect coincidence, our favorite hometown bear was sporting golf clubs. They got permission to tie a ribbon on his arm for Jim. Halle excitedly texted me a picture that morning saying, “Mom, THE BEAR IS GOLFING. It’s perfect for Jim!!!” We stopped on the way home from the funeral to snap a few pics.
Jim’s funeral was beautiful. After the sadness and despair of the viewing, it felt good to reflect on the amazing person Jim is and to be inspired and uplifted by his example. So many amazing things were shared at his funeral but one of my favorites came from his sister Erika. I was going to paraphrase it, but she said it so perfectly that I’m just going to put it here.
“My brother, Jim, is fearless.
Not in a jump-off-the-cliff kind of way, but in a:
In a follow-your-brother-and-hang-out-with-his-friends-even-though-they-are-3-years-older kind of way
In a walk-around-with-his-scriptures-in-high-school-way
In a talk LOUDLY way
In a tell-a-joke-to-anyone way
His fearlessness was apparent at a young age. He never walked, he ran.
He was always naked. When he was about 3 ½, my mom got him out of the bathtub and dried him off. She turned around to hang up the towel and when she turned around, he was gone. Out of the bathroom, down the hall, out the front door and running down the street. My pregnant mom could not gain any ground as she chased him down the street. A carload of teenagers saw him coming as they stopped at an intersection. If they hadn’t got out, grabbed him, and returned him, he might still be running.
He was LOUD. My mom was always saying, “Jim, use your inside voice!” Until she realized that WAS his inside voice.
He was confident in the kitchen. My parents were out of town and our babysitter called them in Hawaii to ask them how to tell if a hot dog is done cooking. In the background they could hear Jim’s high piping 10-year-old voice, “Just stab it!”
The definition of fear is: concern about what may happen, it suggests great worry and usually loss of courage.
As the scriptures tell us, Moroni 8:16: “Perfect love casteth out all fear”
Because Jim was fearless, he could love and love and love. I haven’t seen anything quite like Jim’s face when he is looking at his children or at his wife, Sarah. He loved with EVERYTHING he had. There was no fear holding him back.
Without fear, he wasn’t worrying about himself—embarrassment or rejection—he was more free to think about others. He has always noticed individual things about each of my children.
Without fear, he felt comfortable everywhere. From Puerto Rico as a missionary, to golfing with my dad’s friends, teaching music to the primary kids, teaching seminary to high school kids, and with my friends at the law school. When I was a first year law student, Jim was a freshman at BYU. He decided a floral arranging class might be an easy A and a good way to meet girls. (I might have those priorities backwards.) He WAS one of the only male students in the class, but the syllabus required them to memorize flora and fauna and whatever else, so even the C he got was not so easy. I had a carrel or desk assigned me in the law school to study and many of his class floral arrangements ended up on my desk for me that year. Including a #1 teacher mug with flowers. Of course, he stopped and talked to anyone around, so most of my carrel neighbors knew Jim.
He even felt comfortable enough to invite himself to the World Series game in 2002 when John and I scored 4 tickets. And he made it even more memorable.
Without fear, his amazing sense of fun and humor was at its best. Jim would quote a scene from a movie over and over again, and had me crying I was laughing so hard almost every time. Then when I saw the actual movie, it wasn’t even close to as funny as Jim was.
The absence of fear is faith. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love.”
Jim is fearless in a with-God-all-is-possible way.
All of us here have been blessed by Jim’s large, all-encompassing faith. It is a part of who he is, and he is always willing to share it with anyone. He was up for any challenge and never made anything a bigger deal because he was not afraid, really. In his final written testimony on Easter weekend, he said, “I will be getting Chemo, but I know that Jesus is the healer. For all of us.”
That is so true, and he was strengthening us for this challenging time. We may not all have his wit and energy, but we can all be fearless—full of faith and love—like Jim, if we turn our hearts over to the Savior. He CAN heal us all. Our insecurities, any fear, pain, despair. I know it, and Jim knows it. What a blessing to be his sister.
Sarah, Grace, and Claire, Max, Jane and Luke, I know God knows each of you and he will be there for you. Your sorrow is His sorrow, and His strength is your strength. I know we will see Jim again and I thank God for the gift of his Son who makes all things possible and beautiful.”
I have reflected on this fearlessness a lot over the past month and if there is one thing I take away and remember from Jim’s life I want it to be this. Fearless is exactly what I want to be and I’m making it my 2016 mantra.
Don Bennion also shared something that I think describes Jim to a T. He said, “If a life is measured in love given and service rendered then Jim was ancient.” Although Jim’s life on earth was cut far to short, the impact that he had in his 36 years is staggering. What a beautiful legacy to leave behind.
Don also said, “Perhaps the greatest gift that Jim gave to those around him was his sense of humor and laughter. Jim never stifled a laugh, those that know Jim can easily hear in their mind Jim’s loud and contagious laugh. Jim always saw the humor in things and belted out his laughs, making everything funnier to those with him. Jim also rarely passed up an opportunity to get a laugh and there were very few lengths to which Jim would not go to produce a laugh.”
I also loved this about Jim. Everything brought him such joy. He always looked forward with such happiness and never failed to see the silver lining. I want to be more like that and promise that I will never again stifle a laugh or not take the opportunity to make someone else smile.
Jim, saying goodbye to you is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. And as each day passes, it gets harder and harder. But, thank you for living the kind of life we can all look up to. Thank you for all the times you strengthened and served my family. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for teaching me the components of a life well lived. To quote from one of my favorite songs:
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.
Because I knew you, I have been changed, FOR GOOD.
I cannot fail to mention my amazing, incredible, wonderful, above-and-beyond ward. I have never felt so grateful to be part of a ward family in all my life. And people don’t stop being part of that family when they move away. Melvers, Ulriches, Gardiners, McBrides, and Birds all returned to be with their Coal Creek Family for the funeral. What an absolute blessing to have a support system so complete and so eager to jump in and help whenever and wherever needed.
After the funeral we all gathered at the park. It was great to spend time with each other after a long, hard day.
We had the fun opportunity to get to know Jim and Sarah’s great friends Don and Amy Bennion, Josh and Mindy Dahmer, and Jacoby and Heather Larson. They stayed with us for the weekend and we loved every minute we got to spend with them.
After we got kids in bed all of us went over to Rowberry’s where a full party was in swing. Both sides of the family were there and we loved listening to the Bradshaw and Rowberry growing up stories. We loved to hear Don, Josh and Jacoby talk about their college years, and we ate many, many delicious treats. It was the perfect way to end the day.