James' family lives in California. Most of his friends live here and my family is scattered across the country. When he died it was up to me to make the funeral arrangements. His mother is not in the best of health (which may be the understatement of the month) and cannot fly nor should she endure long road trips. Obviously, she needed to be at her son's funeral. Having the funeral in California, however, meant the majority of his friends would not get their chance to say good-bye. Ultimately I decided to hold two services: one in California and one here. Because his brother was stationed in Iraq at the time, the California service had to be planned around the Air Force bringing him home. It worked out so that funeral was first. I know I got up and said something; I couldn't tell you what I said if my life depended on it. It was completely on the fly.
For the funeral here, I felt I needed to give James a properly eulogy. I was told I didn't have to be the one to do it, but for myself, I needed to do it. I needed to say good-bye to James and I needed to say good-bye for James. Two years ago today, I delivered these words to my family and friends-our friends, his friends and my friends who came to offer their support to me:
"Thank you all for being here today. I know that two weeks ago, this was certainly the last thing we all thought we would be doing today. James touched so many lives wherever he went. Unfortunately, when someone dies so suddenly, they don't get the chance to say what was in their hearts; they don't get to say good-bye to those that mattered most to them.
Jay-as you know, I have referred to you as the mistress for about 2 years now. There were days he would talk to you more than me. And I could always tell when he was talking to you because if you weren't discussing WoW, he was laughing about something. You were one of his closest friends. He was always laughing about something you said or something your kids did. He admired and respected you and really wanted you to be his 3rd groomsman in our wedding. He was looking forward to you meeting Jason and knew our reception couldn't be anything but a good time with the three of you together. I, on the other hand, was pretty sure the three of you would end up in jail. But you probably would have turned even that into a good time.
Jason- you were so much more than his best friend. You were a brother to him. You were his best man. Until I found out you weren't the same age, I was convinced you were separated at birth. I don't know two other people who could have such meaningful conversations about such random topics as you did. I know a lot of his best times were spent with you and I am not really sure how there are places you two were never banned from. I was concerned he wasn't happy when me moved back from Arizona-he assured me he was and a lot of that was because he loved that he got to hang out with you again. He loved you so much.
I can picture James standing wherever he is looking around and saying "well, this is certainly less than ideal." And I have to agree it certainly is that. But I can honestly say that while he did not die on his terms-he planned to live until he was 80-he lived life on his terms. I hope that you can find some comfort, as I have, in knowing that with the type of heart attack he had, he did not suffer; did not feel pain in his last moments.
James loved life. He loved to get into his car and drive, he loved to sing and read. He loved to watch his beloved Steelers. He was developing a real passion for photography, yet hated to have his own picture taken. He loved to laugh and could find humor in almost any situation. He greatly enjoyed World of Warcraft. I don't know that is was so much the game he loved or the opportunity it gave him to stay connected to his friends from Arizona. He was fiercely loyal and protective of those he loved the most and would do anything for them in a heartbeat. James was one of the most patient people I have ever met. There were times that I just wanted him to get riled up too, but over time, he taught me to be a more patient person. He had a way of bringing out the best in people.
When James decided he wanted something, he went for it but not before thoroughly researching all his options. We researched dog breeds for 6 months before deciding that cocker spaniels would be the best fit for us, and he really loved our boys. When he decided to trade in his Eclipse, he test drove 17 cars. In one weekend. Some of them, he never seriously considered buying. He just drove them because he could.
James was by far the best thing to ever happen in my life. It did not take long for me to realize I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. For seven years, he told me that he never planned to get married, so no one was more surprised than I when he proposed. When he did, he asked if I would consider marrying him, so I wasn't sure if he was really asking or if I was just supposed to think about it. I could not wait to be his wife; it was the one thing I wanted more than anything. He was such a loving an accepting man. I am fortunate to have had 8 wonderful years with him.
We have all heard that the good die young. In this case, it is certainly true. James was one of a kind-he was the absolute best."