Jim Pickett died. Not that I’d ever known his full name. He was just Jim, the cheerful, portly, octogenarian WWII veteran who attended daily Mass and rosary at our parish. There’s a bunch of us who stay after Mass to pray the rosary together, and, as with daily Mass-goers in parishes, we see each other every weekday, pray together, smile and nod at one another, make commentary about the weather or some parish gossip tidbit, and emerge into the daylight to carry on with our days. We are bonded in a special way, but often know little or nothing about each other – not even our full names. I do know there were three Jims … and now there are two.
But Jim Pickett was one who did love to chat, and thank goodness he did; he had a fascinating lifetime to share. He was too young to join the Canadian forces during World War II, so he slipped across the border and somehow managed to join the US army at the age of 15. He fought with American troops in the Philippines, and it was there he met his Filippino wife and brought her home to Canada. In the last few years she had been suffering Alzheimers, and Jim had been tenderly caring for her night and day.
He had another special friend – his Heinz 57 mutt who loved to travel with him. I got to know Jim’s dog fairly well (known only to me as “Jim’s dog”); he and I were on barking/hello terms each morning. I’d arrive my usual two-minutes late for daily Mass, careen into the parking space next to Jim’s pickup, and scramble out of my car to be met with the morning bark from inside the truck. I’d smile and wave hello as I scurried across the parking lot, tugging my missal out of my purse.
But it was a different story after Mass. If I left the church before Jim, I’d reach my car and wave/say hi, but there was never a friendly answering bark, not even an acknowledgement of my presence. Jim’s dog would be in the driver’s seat, his face pressed to the window, big brown soulful eyes riveted on the church door, waiting for his master to emerge. Nothing could take Jim’s dog’s eyes off that door. He knew Mass was over, for he had seen people walking across the parking lot going to their cars, and he knew his beloved master Jim would come striding out any moment. As I noted this devoted loyalty morning after morning, I realized there was a valuable lesson to be taken from this relationship between man and his dog: Would that we could be so attentive to our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, that absolutely nothing could take our eyes off Him.
I grieve for Jim’s wife and family, and I grieve for faithful “Jim’s dog” who surely must be suffering as well. May eternal light shine upon Jim, and all the faithful departed.
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)