In February at my fathers visitation a wizened elderly man stood in front of me, stooped over with his skin the color of ill health, his friendly eyes met mine as I smiled at him, he took my hand and introduced himself. My face went from a smile to one of shock and disbelief. I searched his face for some reassurance that it really was him and sadly I stepped into his open arms for the hug he was offering.
My God. I had not seen Jim since Joe and I left Mayberry to move to Hoosier Land three years ago. The cancer he had been valiantly fighting for 15 years was finally winning. The strong, friendly, tall, lawyer, who knew everyone in Mayberry, born, raised, went to school here, left to attend college, returned here to teach, left again to get an advanced degree, returned here to practice law, married, raised his own family here,coached the youth leagues here, was a surrogate father figure to many here, adopted a child from the orphanage here, became a pillar of the community here, opened his heart and wallet to many here, and last week died here.
This is the type of man he was...
From the Funeral Home guest book.
".......Peggy, we have never met but I own Neighborhood Grocery on Clifton Road. Just wanted you to know how good Jimmy was to Wajeeh and I. When we first bought the store and were having a hard time, Jimmy would come in the summer carrying fresh tomatoes and other things we could sell in the deli just to help us out. He would come in hot and tired, carrying produce and other items and tell us, "just hang in there. I was thinking about you all and brought these for you'll to use in the deli and sell on your sandwiches." Your husband's kindness and wishing good for everyone will be greatly missed. If there is ever anything Wajeeh and I can do don't hesitate to ask us."
It's good to know that people like him do exist. The greatest gift about living in a small community is this, we all know each other. Even as our little Mayberry town grows and embraces all the new blood from places far and wide (as my family entered over 50 years ago)there will be people like Jim to meet them and make them feel welcome and at home.
Unfortunately, there will never be another one quite like him.