This past week has been hard. Incredibly hard. No one prepares you for losing a parent. Even more so, no one prepares you for grieving the loss of a parent while also trying to help your young children cope with the loss of someone very important to them.
So I guess it’s fair to say that “hard” isn’t a strong enough word.
Last week, on Thanksgiving, the world lost a great man. Jim Dorsey was Bryan’s dad, my father in law and the grandpa to our five kids.
He had the best smile, the kind where he smiled with his entire face. He had a great laugh and always greeted me with a “hello, young lady.” He liked eating my home cooked meals, especially my cookies and he always told me it was “mighty good” and thanked me before he left. He had a way of making people feel welcomed and important because he always asked so many questions. But, like so many have said in the past few weeks, he only asked those questions because he really wanted to know the answer.
He loved his family more than anything and was incredibly proud of his three kids, Brent, Bryan and Jill. He was married to his wife of 47 years, Dixie, who he loved and cherished. He had twelve grandchildren who were his pride and joy. Jimmy, Willie and Pete (Brent and Laura), Finley, Ellen, Cooper, Fiona and Fletcher (Bryan and Nancy) and Liam, Dax, Jonah, Zeke (Jill and Kevin) adored their grandpa and loved to talk farming with him, take a ride on his lawnmower or tractor, eat sweet treats with him when they slept over and loved having him at their games.
Anyone who attended his visitation could see he was a well loved and respected man as so many people came to pay their respects.
All weekend there were signs that Jim was with us. For example, when we were praying the rosary that night at St James we looked out the beautiful glass windows and saw the most incredible orange sunset. Orange was Jim’s favorite color.
When the St. James choir was singing his favorite songs before the visitation you could feel his presence and almost hear his laughter when we sang Sweet Caroline. Something I’d venture to guess no one has ever done before at a visitation, but we all know Jim loved it and was singing with his “golden voice” up in Heaven.
Somehow on December 1st we had a 75 degree day to lay him to rest. That’s no coincidence for a man who spent most of his life praying about the weather.
His son, my husband Bryan had the strength to stand up in front of all those in attendance and give the most beautiful eulogy I have ever heard. Strength like that doesn’t happen by accident. Jim was there with him in those moments. I know also, that Jim was incredibly proud of his son and I couldn’t have been more proud of him as well.
In Bryan’s eulogy he described his dad as his North Star. When I got home from the funeral services one of my friends had emailed that when she left St James the night before she has noticed the biggest and brightest star shining in the sky right above SJA and after hearing Bryan’s eulogy she had to share because she knew that had to be a sign from Jim.
Dixie, Brent, Bryan and Jill have lost one of the greatest loves of their entire life. The pain is almost unbearable. However, as I had the gift of being not only a part of this man’s family but a part of his final days on this Earth I wanted to share the things I saw and learned over the past few weeks (some I already knew).
First, Jim loved family above all else and in the past few weeks his family has shown up for him and for each other better than Jim could have ever hoped. I watched them lift each other up and support each other the way every parent hopes their kids will when hardship hits.
Secondly, Jim was so proud of his kids. I know though that he felt more pride in the past few weeks watching them care for him and each other than he ever felt in any accomplishment they’ve ever had. It was something to behold.
Finally, all of us were able to be with Jim when he left this Earth and went on to Heaven. If he could have drawn it up himself he couldn’t have imagined it was possible to have his beautiful wife, three amazing kids and their spouses with him as he said goodbye. We prayed a rosary (his favorite thing), a Divine Mercy and sang him his favorite songs. What a blessing to us all.
At Jim’s services all of Jim’s siblings came in town from Maryland and one even came from Australia. They even brought some of their kids, Jim’s nieces and nephews. We were all able to gather after the funeral and eat, cry, laugh and remember this man who we all loved. As I walked around my house and looked at all the conversations happening I just knew Jim was watching us from Heaven and that he was smiling his whole face smile.
As I lay in bed over the past few weeks I couldn’t help but reflect on a few other things that seem even more relevant now than they did the first time I had these thoughts.
First, to Dixie, as a parent the goal is to raise competent, confident, bad ass humans who live meaningful lives and raise their own kids to do the same. ✅. You and Jim did that. Pat yourself on the back, because this parenting gig, is a challenge.
The second goal is that our kids will show up in a crisis for you, their parent, but also for each other. ✅ You have done that as well. While it may not be any consolation right now, I’d encourage you to hold on to that. Most families don’t have what you do. What a blessing during this incredibly difficult time.
Then I was also struck by how lucky Jim was, to have all those people in that room loving him. Holding him. Encouraging him. That is such a gift, one denied many and a gift I am absolutely certain he felt.
Also, I feel blessed to have a community I can call on in crisis and I know they’ll show up in person and in prayer. All of the Dorsey/Hall gang have that community as well in your respective circles and I’m so grateful. I know Jim is too.
For a man that loved to pray he sure did get a lot of people from many different circles, states and walks of life to pray with and for him. If you create a life that commands that, then well done. Jim has done that. You all have certainly done that as well.
But perhaps the thing I kept going back to most. The thing I know is giving Jim peace in his heart and I hope will give you peace as well, is the way you showed up for each other.
Family can be complicated but there was nothing complicated about the way Brent, Jill and Bryan supported each other and both Jim and Dixie during this difficult time. There is also nothing complicated in the fact that Brent, Bryan and Jill have three spouses that would move Heaven and Earth for them. Good LORD as a parent, that’s the goal. Dixie, you and Jim also achieved that.
There is nothing more important than family. Jim would speak those words right now if he could. And you guys gave him the best gift of all these past weeks. He got to see that the fruit of his and Dixie’s labor was received and fulfilled in the darkest of times.
Maybe this doesn’t help or even take away a little of the sting we are all feeling right now but I feel 1,000% certain that Jim heard your voices and cried tears of real and absolute joy in how you showed up for each other and for him.
After being with Bryan and his family in Jim’s final moments on this Earth these words ring even more true than when I first wrote them.
Finally, I know I speak for the Dorsey and Hall family when I say thank you to everyone who showed up. Either at the visitation, the funeral, on our door steps with food or in our corner in prayer. As parents we try to teach our kids that showing up is one of the most important things you can do in life. To all of you that “showed” up for us and our families. We are grateful.
To my St. James family, you always go above and beyond for your family. I’m grateful we are a part of that. Thank you isn’t enough.
To all of Jim’s siblings and nieces and nephews that came in town. What a gift you gave all of us. The togetherness we were able to share was such a blessing.
To quote my husband’s eulogy and the great Mother Teresa, “if you want to change the world go home and love your family.”
Jim certainly did that.
Rest In Peace Jim Dorsey. You were loved. You will be greatly missed.
Just a few of my favorite photos I had on hand of Jim.