Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just Show Up

I've been working really hard on maintaining all the connections that have been made over the past two years of Jim's illness. I admit, it's hard for me. Jim Daniels was the one who made connections quickly and easily. As Joni Mitchell once sang "He makes friends easy, he's not like me". That was my Jim.

There were many lessons for me living with Jim - and during the course of caring for him with brain cancer. I learned to respect and love that man even more then I thought possible and I learned the power of the love that man offered, not only to me, but to his friends as well. Jim was so incredibly loved by so many people. And as I reflect on this I realize it's because he loved and connected with people on a deep level. Jim wore his heart on his sleeve and, though it made him vulnerable, it also made him available, open, honest and very free with offering his love to you.

I want to keep these connections that he helped me to make. I want to go to the parties I've been invited to even if I don't know many people who will be there. How many times would I try to wiggle my way out of going to such a party with Jim only to have him look at me and say "Mary, you might enjoy yourself", or "Mary, you will really like so-and-so, I know you will." He was always right too. So many of my dearest friends and connections now are from those "you will really like .... " moments.

Did I say it's hard for me? I'm a born-and-raised Mainer. You may know what they say about Mainers ... we might have a tough shell that's hard to crack but once you're taken in as a friend it's deep and lasting. There's some truth to this. And I'm an introvert too. Not an easy combination at times, a pretty tough nut to crack.

But I'm trying. I find myself thinking "what would Jim do?" ... and it always will be to make that effort, to reach out and connect, to just show up. I can hear myself saying to him, "why do you think you are that important to that person?" .... but I realize that it wasn't that Jim felt he was important; it was because that other person was so important to Jim! And he would show up, always. Years ago, long before his own illness, he drove to up state New York when he heard that one of the Maryknoll Priests that he knew was sick with cancer. Even though this man told Jim not to come, Jim got in his car and drove to sit by this man in the hospital. Jim Daniels showed up because that person was important to him ... and it became very evident how important it was that Jim cared enough to be there. People knew that Jim cared about them, and that always feels good.

Jim wanted to get on a plane and get to the wedding of our dear friend in Seattle, but this friend told us of the wedding only a few days before it was to happen. The timing was bad for us, but sure enough, Jim did cartwheels trying to figure out how to make that trip happen so he could be by the side of his friend when he got married. The trip just coudn't get pulled off. I remember being so amazed that Jim actually was going to try to do it though; not because Jim was so important but because Bill was that important to Jim

A woman who I met through Jim asked me to go have a drink with her this week. She hardly knew Jim but was deeply affected by his cancer and had reached out to us over the course of his illness. I agreed to meet her so we organized it. I was nervous about going, worried we might not have much to talk about or that I, in my inabilities to make small talk, would be found boring. "What would Jim do?" ... so I went ..... and we both had a wonderful time and agreed that we wanted to put the effort needed into staying connected and create a deeper friendship.

Just show up. Regardless of the outcome, just show up and remain open to whatever gifts might come. A lesson Jim taught me so well.

I do know that I'm not going to be as good at this as Jim was. I know there are going to be some connections I won't be able to maintain, and I know this is just human and the way of the world. Lives need to intersect somehow, like a spiders web, the glue that binds it all together loses it's strength without the necessary maintenance. But, damn, Jim was able to keep so many webs connected to him. He easily and wonderfully tended those delicate strands. I marvel at this now.

My plan is to just show up, as often as my energy will allow. Just know it's not always easy for me but, what would Jim do?
He'd show up.

Loving you all back .... in my own way,


  1. What a wonderfully simple but powerful rule of thumb: "Just show up." Thank you.

  2. HAHAH! Funny thing is, you ARE good at making small talk! Change that tape, girl! But another thing Jim would do, because we all run out of words sometimes, is shrug, and smirk, like, Hey! Humans! What can ya do?

  3. Hannah, after reading your blog from yesterday I thought ... hmmm, she's going to dish me on this post and tell me to "change that tape" .... shore 'nuff! (HA!)