Out of Bounds

January 26, 2009

My cousin Jamie died last weekend. I got the news when I was at the beach. 

I walked along the shore with sorrow stalking me. I’d break into sobs then wipe the tears and my windblown hair from my eyes. I was sad for myself, that I’d never see Jamie again. I will miss his bright spirit and courage.

My cousin spent 30 years as a quadriplegic, a passenger and victim in a car accident when he was 17. The driver and the Jeep failed to hold a curve. Jamie was the only one who didn’t walk away.

And though he was bound to a wheelchair for three decades, he was never bound by it. He lived out of bounds. He outlived all the predictions for his life expectancy. He outmaneuvered others’ expectations for his life.

He was a husband and a father. He was a businessman. He volunteered his time to the Southeast Massachusetts Spinal Cord Society. He learned to use a computer, first typing with a stick in his mouth, later with voice activation.  Jamie had a will and he knew how to get what he wanted.

I saw Jamie in October. We gathered for a spaghetti feed, enjoying my aunt’s famous family recipe on a fabulous fall day. Jamie’s garden was full of blooms. Jamie was in great health and high spirits. We made lots of photos…of him with his family, his cousins, his wife and daughter, his dog, Chelsea. 

I sent him a DVD with hundreds of photos and e-mailed him a couple of small files. He immediately printed the photo of his wife and daughter hugging and the other of his dog, paws up on Jamie’s wheelchair.

He sent me an e-mail to let me know how much he loved and appreciated the photos. That’s Jamie. Grounded. Present. Appreciative. He lived breath to breath. He loved the people in his life and the moments he strung together, for years, until he slipped away on one last breath. 

I’ll attend Jamie’s memorial on February 14. And I’ll honor him by following his example: staying present, breath to breath. And living life out of bounds.


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