Where does one start when writing about a friend who has died? It’s hard to know. So I’m starting with his death, hardly the beginning nor the end.
I met Jim Julin through my friend Sue, or at least I think that’s how it went. I met several people who I thought had Friend Potential when I moved to Rockford, Illinois. Turned out they were all friends with each other and called themselves the Foster Family. It’s a tight, but open group bonded together by love & respect, unhampered by bullshit so far as I can tell, blessed with a love of food, art, bonfires & revelry. Jim was at the center of this group in many ways.
Jim seemed to be at the center of many circles, which may have had something to do with mass. Jim was a big man, so it seemed energetically appropriate that he would be the denser star at the center of our various solar systems, with all the people who loved him orbiting in some established proximity to his radiance.
I feel fortunate that I visited Rockford recently. Before going, I sent an email out to a few of “the group” hoping they’d gather at Octane, a favorite downtown spot where one could often find Jim in the evening. He had a seat at the bar, close to the door, so he was the first person you’d see if he was there—a welcoming presence. I followed up with Jim individually, because I hadn’t heard from him. Here’s the way that went:
“Hey Jim! Will I see you on Friday?
It turns out that will be the last email exchange I’ll ever have with Jim. While on the one hand it feels inadequate in its brevity, given its posthumous importance. On the other hand, it is absolutely perfect. It’s Jim in a nutshell.
Within ten days of that email exchange, we learned that Jim had gone into the hospital for one thing, but after surgery the doctors determined he was full of cancer and had days, if lucky, to live. He was in such bad shape that the doctors put him into a medical coma and, according to my sources, did not know if he would ever wake.
Jim did wake and was surrounded by a crowd of family and chosen family, his community of friends. His friends brought wine, Fosters, stories, music and love. They filled his room and his final days. They helped his beloved sister Chris deal with the unthinkable. If nothing else, Jim Julin knew to the very bottom of his soul that he was loved, celebrated, and honored.
One of the things that I come back to is that I wish I had savored more conversation with Jim the last time I saw him. I have not yet outgrown the naïve, or maybe optimistic, belief that there will always be a next time, that our paths will cross again, that life is long. I need to do better in savoring the moments, even as I scramble to “get it all done.” What is most important to the heart and soul must be prioritized, as much as possible.
Life may not have gone exactly the way Jim would have wanted. There was a time I know that he longed for female companionship and regretted the lack of it in his life. But he also loved life more than almost anyone I know. He seemed amused and pleased by all of it and all of us on some level. What a great operating philosophy or way of life.
Jim marked a place in the community and it had the feeling of Home. It’s hard to imagine the sudden loss of that, but here we are.
See you on the other side, Jim. It will be one hell of a party when we all catch up with you.
Photo credit: Nels Akerlund Photography