A couple weeks ago, my phone rang at work. It was Jim, sounding like his usual jovial, conversational self. He began something like this: “Guess what happened to me today – I had a stroke! I’m in the emergency room right now!” He went on to tell me that the doctors had informed him that he’d suffered “the good kind of stroke.” I opined that this was rather self-evident, given that he was phoning me himself with the news.
I spoke to Jim again soon thereafter and he had more information. He had been receiving a steroid treatment for a bad shoulder, and one of the side effects of the drug was that it caused his blood sugar to zoom up to an alarming level. It was this heightened blood sugar that appeared to have brought on the stroke. Jim was mostly paralyzed at first, but the doctors had optimistically projected a near-full recovery. Indeed, Jim was walking, albeit clumsily, within a day or two, and he reported increased motor skills with every passing day. Still, the prognosis was for months of rehab.
Jim had suffered the stroke while in Indiana on company business. In fact, he’d been sitting in a meeting room with coworkers when he’d suddenly slumped over. So he’d spent nearly a week in a hospital in Indiana before he was transferred back home to Michigan. At the time of his death, he was in the Michigan hospital preparing for a transfer to a long-term rehab facility.
The 2:00 a.m. phone call informing me of his passing came from a friend of Jim’s, who was calling me from the hospital. She’d been on the phone with Jim only a few hours earlier and he’d sounded fine. Whatever happened to him came on very quickly. It wasn’t immediately apparent whether he’d suffered a heart attack, another stroke, or, as some doctor there speculated, an embolism. I believe an autopsy is being conducted though frankly, those details are of little interest to me, because the bottom line is unwavering on this point: my friend Jim is no longer with us, and that’s a very sad fact.
I have a lot of friends/family/acquaintances named Jim, so maybe a few details will help you to know which Jim I’m talking about. This is the Jim with whom I took a bunch of memorable road trips. The Jim with whom I attended a great many Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day football games. The Jim who used to be married to my sister.
Jim was a very smart, funny, and generous man. He loved a good joke. Even better (for my purposes), he loved a bad joke. I have a lot of memories of Jim that are wonderfully amusing, even laugh-out-loud funny. But please forgive me if I don’t share any of them today. Perhaps another time.
Jim stipulated that there was to be no funeral, so I won’t be going to Michigan for any sort of service. In fact, I’m told that a party in Jim’s honor will be happening soon here in Chicago. He knew a lot of people here, so I’m looking forward to attending that when plans are firmed up. I have no doubt that there will be a lot of laughter on that occasion, and a lot of stories told at Jim’s expense. Neither Jim nor I would have it any other way.