A Most Unexpected Ending

Icy Cove

I filled this past week with busy work in preparation for my son Jimbo’s memorial service. As I shifted through many lifetimes of photos—my parents, mine, my siblings, my sons—I was searching for the photos that would best depict Jimbo in all of his phases, in all of his moods.

With each photo I reviewed, I triggered memories. Some good, some not so good, such as the photo showing Jimbo all bruised and cut up. Riding his bike home from work (he was saving money to buy a car), he had an accident which landed him in the ER. That late night phone call wakened me and off I rushed to the hospital. When we brought him home a day later, we took photos of him in case we needed them for any reason. And maybe just to remind ourselves that he was so lucky not to have life-threatening injuries.

I found the newspaper article and photo taken of him at about age 9 with his grandmother and great-grandmother. The occasion was Grandparents’ Day at school, and he was handing them cupcakes after the program. It was during that same year that Jimbo would wait for me at the bus-stop where the bus from Madison dropped me off on Fridays. I was going to graduate school then and didn’t take a car to Madison. On Sundays he’d ride with my mother as she drove me back to Madison for the next week of classes. He never missed a trip. And his loving me and seeing these activities as his “responsibility” (“making sure you get to school”) made me realize every moment I was in class how important it was I do my very best.

On Friday evening we had our Memorial service for Jimbo. All the picture gathering, snipping, placing, and gluing were worth it. Just as going through the photos jump-started my memories and a few tears, they did the same for the many friends and family gathered for the service. Jimbo’s boyhood friends, former coworkers, neighbors from areas we lived when he was growing up as well as new neighbors—all showed up on a snowy, cold evening. They shared their memories. The photo collages and artifacts of a busy life cut short too soon prompted many others. Everyone agreed the essence of Jimbo’s spirit watched over our sorrow.

But the imp in him showed up.  Once the service ended, the food was eaten, and people eased away into ebony night, we started gathering up those collages and artifacts. Those doing so insisted I not worry about it, they’d get it done. And they did.

Once we got home, in a heavy snow squall of short duration, got our youngest son (whose wheel chair gets cranky in snow), carried in those collages and artifacts, my husband and I settled down for a quiet reminiscing about the service and all the memories and emotions stirred during those hours. My eyes scanned the room, the box of artifacts, the bags of cards etc, the foam-board collages, but I didn’t see the simple, beautiful, hand-crafted wooden repository with Jimbo’s ashes. We rechecked our car.

Icy Lake Quilt

No Jimbo.

I called my son who had the other car. Was Jimbo with him? “No, Mom; he’s with you.” I called my brother and Jimbo’s biological father. I got the same response.

Jimbo was AWOL.

Frantic, I called the funeral service. Yes, Jimbo had been left behind. We could pick him up in the morning. I breathed a sigh of relief and then I laughed. So like him. He wanted another night at the lake, where the fish always bit, where he’d catch his limit, where he found his peace after a day of work.  When I repeated my earlier calls, I got lots of laughter too. Everyone had the same thought.

So Jimbo. So fitting. So missed. So loved. I hope he’s caught some heavenly record-breaking musky since he’s died. I also expect he’ll pull a few stunts wherever he is. He may even slip quietly into a dream some night to let me know how he’s doing.

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10 Comments on “A Most Unexpected Ending”

  1. Deb Maher Says:

    So you forgot your son! 🙂 Tears and laughter – the signs of the best services, and blog posts, too. I cried and laughed as I read your words, MJ. I feel I know you both better because of it.

    You know that Jimbo isn’t gone, my friend. He’s just gone fishing up yonder, to meet up with the loved ones who have gone before. Such wonderful memories he leaves to comfort and sustain. And as you said, some late night as you sleep, I’m sure he’ll be back to check in on you.

  2. caseyclifford Says:


    This past week’s been quite an emotional roller-coaster and in having a discussion with my brother last night he begged me to use this experience in my next book, along with some family history we discussed. More to think about.

  3. Anne Parent Says:

    What a beautiful memoir of your son. Although I never met him, I feel as if I have.

  4. caseyclifford Says:


    You would have enjoyed his humor and probably want to throttle him at times. 🙂

  5. Edie Ramer Says:

    Mary Jo, how beautifully written. I’m tearing up and smiling at the same time. I’m sorry that I never met Jimbo. He sounds like a wonderful person.

  6. caseyclifford Says:


    Of course I’m prejudiced, but he was pretty special and so handsome. My oldest son made Jimbo’s favorite meal tonight with my husband. My brother was here and we shared Jimbo stories. I’ve cried and screamed in my anger at things but now I’m calm. Jimbo would have wanted it that way. Somehow this experience will enrich my writing.

    Thank you for caring.

  7. Oh, my, “Jimbo was AWOL” made me laugh, even with my eyes watering for you. You amaze me how you handle all this, and I bet Jimbo would be so proud of you. So glad you found him. 🙂 Wish I could’ve given you a hug on Friday.

  8. virginia mccullough Says:

    What a beautiful story of this past week. Your words remind me why I love you so much.

    I know your son would be proud of the way your family pulled together.


  9. caseyclifford Says:


    Yeah, Jimbo was AWOL and he’d do that a lot as a joke–all of a sudden during family times or when chores needed doing with his name on them, we couldn’t find him. Then when he was ready, he’d slip back and get the job done, or the dinner eaten and always show up for the chocolate chip cookies. 🙂

  10. caseyclifford Says:


    Jimbo would have been prouder of the fact that he managed to give us the slip–one last time. And I love you also. 🙂 See I’m smiling today; it’s warmer, the sun is shining and when I let Oreo out this morning I heard song birds. How great is that!!!

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