Wednesday, April 13, 2011

nine years ago this week

True Story.

Jamez was the foster son of Linda, a sister of my heart.  He was young and angry, a perfect candidate for delinquency even though he was only 10 years old.  But he was unprepared for Linda.

Linda may be one of the strongest, gentlest people I have ever known.  Great wisdom and acceptance.   She lived her life with authenticity and love.  She taught music and lived ethically, close to the earth.  She had an industrial-strength garden that supplied much of the food her family ate.  And it was all natural, no pesticides or growth hormones.

Linda was (and is ) a healer by nature, but it is a quiet healing.  Healing when you might not notice it, healing of the heart and spirit.

Jamez never had a chance.  The moment he set foot on her place, he was hooked.  Jamez loved animals, which was good, because Linda lived with dogs and cats and horses, wild ducks that let her hold them, a flock of humming birds that graced her feeder and various other critters from time to time.  And then there were the children.  Linda's own, plus more friends, students and relates than one can count.

 Jamez was hooked.  Jamez, you see, loved animals.  And when he saw how Linda treated the animals, something inside him began to heal.  And he made friends with the other children, and with the adults, too.  Perhaps for the first time in his life, he was accepted and even appreciated.

It was slow going at first.  He had a terrible temper.  But Linda wouldn't say a word, she would just take his hand and quietly stroke it while he ranted.  She trusted him with the animals, too.  That made Jamez very proud and he slowly began to trust himself.

As the years went by, Jamez began to grow into a handsome, thoughtful young man.  He laughed a lot, had a delightful sense of humor.  He loved to play card games and loved to be with the animals.  He gathered folks around him with his magnetic personality.  He began to pay the world back for the love and care that Linda had given him.  He volunteered for all sorts of things, but particularly for events that had to do with children at risk.  He enrolled in collage and took drama classes.  He had tons of friends that came to the weekly campfires at Linda's home.

One night he was walking the fields with Linda when he said, "Man! I am so glad I am not your natural-born son!"  Startled, Linda asked "Why?"  Jamez twirled around, his arms outstretched, "Because then I would take all of this for granted." and then he hugged her.

Not too long after that on a balmy April night, Jamez was supposed to show up for a campfire gathering, but he was late.  As his foster family, girlfriend and friends waited, he still did not show.  They called his dorm room.  No answer.  Perhaps he was with some of the kids he was working with?  No, they had not seen him that evening.

The night was long as Linda called everyone she could think of.  But no Jamez.  The next day the police were called.  No Jamez.   His car was found abandoned.  It had been used to hold up a small branch bank.  But still no sign of Jamez.

Days went by with no word.  Days became weeks and then became months.  Every Friday night, Jamez friends would show up at Lindas for a campfire dinner, and they would all talk about Jamez, hoping for his return.  The police at first did suspect that Jamez had something to do with the bank robbery, but as they began to get to know him through Linda and his friends, they became convinced that Jamez had nothing to do with it.

It was not until August that his body was found.  By then, we adults had already figured out that he wouldn't be coming back, but his friends and girlfriend still held out hope.  But the body dashed their hopes.  Yes, the bank robbers had killed him for his car.

Nine years ago this week, Jamez died.  But he left behind a remarkable legacy of love and friendship.  He also left behind a story of transformation, because Jamez could have walked a very different path.  Instead, Jamez chose to take in what Linda offered him.  He made a fine person of himself, one that was dearly loved by friends and family.  We still hold him in our hearts.  I know Linda does.

At his memorial service, there were a number of photos of him.  My favorite was one that was taken when he was around 15 or so.  His head was down but he was looking up, his bright blue eyes twinkling with mischief as he peered up at the camera.  And sitting on the top of his head was a hamster making a nest with Jamez long blond hair.

That was Jamez.


  1. A wonderful memory to share, a beautiful story and a soul free to grasp the light. Painful and beautiful.