Jimmie’s Party

I wrote a while ago about Jimmie, the young man at my church who was shot to death in a local restaurant. About a month after I wrote, I saw posters that said there would be a party, a sort of benefit in Jimmie’s honor, in order to establish a scholarship fund in his name. I didn’t think too much more about it. I wasn’t up for a concert at the local college.

Then our pastor called and asked the hubby and me to work at the benefit. He said he needed pizza and pop servers. We were leaving for Ohio early the next morning, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to help, but I kept thinking about Jimmie’s mom. I kept thinking that we never know what God saves our children from, and I kept thinking that she was trying to make sense out of the whole thing. So I went.

The hubby and I got there about half-way through the concert. There was a slide show with pictures of Jimmie and his family. There was a LOT of pop and cookies. The hubby and I watched as sixty pizzas were delivered. Then we listened.

First Jimmie’s sister got up to speak. She talked about missing her brother. She read things that she had found in his journals. She cried some. We all cried when she read a poem entitled “When You See Me with My Eyes Closed.” There was no way Jimmie could have known what would happen to him, but he died just a little bit before 3AM, and his poem told people not to give up when they saw him with his eyes closed, falling down, down as the clock struck three. I don’t know what could have even put that idea in his head, but his sister said that she thought her brother would not want his death to make people bitter or to make them hate. That somehow, he would want good to come from it.

Then Jimmie’s mom got up and talked. The kids who visited the funeral home had, at her request, written down their favorite memories of her son, and she shared some of them. Then she made the point that the only way to see Jimmie now was to make sure that you went to heaven. For that reason, our pastor was there to counsel people. Jimmie’s grandpa and uncles were there handing out tracts. And I thought to myself that I was so glad I had come because if ever anyone had taken what the enemy meant for evil and turned it for good, it was this family. Jimmie’s family.

That wasn’t even the end, though. Kids had filled out tickets for a drawing when they entered the concert, and Jimmie’s mom and sister drew names and gave out gift cards and other things in Jimmie’s honor,  maybe because they wanted people to have a good memory of his passing, to blot out the ugliness of what happened that one night at 3AM.

Jimmie’s mom asked for prayer for the other young man who was shot that night. As far as we know, he is not a Christian. Although he did come home from the hospital briefly, he is back in now, battling infection and having a hard time of it.

And then it was over. We stood ready to serve the cookies, the pop and the pizza, but those were not the major draws. People went to buy T-shirts made up in Jimmie’ s memory, the purchase of which would help the scholarship fund in his memory. They hugged. They talked. And then they left. But eating was not high on their list of priorities (although some of the young men looked like they had hit the jackpot when we started sending them home with boxes of pizzas).

I don’t know this for a fact, but I think that Jimmie’s mom used some of his insurance money to fund this “party,” to reach out to the young people of our community. There have been a lot of deaths in the past few years, a lot of reasons for kids to wonder. She gave them a party where they could find the answer. And the way she did it, I thought, showed those young people that death is not the end!

I don’t know if I could have been as brave and selfless as Jimmie’s family was to put on this party. Handling tragedy in this way is really unique. It was a joyous memorial to the boy that they loved and its impact, I think, will last far longer than they could ever imagine. And not just through the scholarship fund, either.

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December 2007
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