I always thought it was cool that I had twenty first cousins on my Dad's side. My oldest first cousin - Jim - was born in 1942, so he was twenty-two years older than me. Yet despite our age difference, Jim and I always got along really well.
A former Marine, Jim was in great physical shape and placed a lot of emphasis on fitness and health. Last Thursday morning, he headed out for a long bike ride with three friends. I don't know the details, but in my mind, they were someplace like Umstead Park near Raleigh, North Carolina. They stopped for coffee, rested a while, then got back on their bikes and began riding in the park. Suddenly, Jim fell from his bike. He never got up again.
I got the call Thursday night, and spent the next twenty-four hours in disbelief. How could this happen? Jim's Dad lived to be 88 and his Mom is in her 90s and sharp as a tack. Why did it happen? No one knows. It just happened. I'm in shock. I'm angry. And I'm just the cousin, so I can only imagine how others who were even closer to him must be feeling.
A few random things about Jim that are coming to my mind as I write this: He is the person who got me interested in genealogy and in our Scottish heritage. I'll never be able to visit Beaufort, North Carolina without remembering the fondness he felt for that seaside hamlet. He liked classical music, especially a certain piece by Paganini. He once gave a home to a stray dog, whom he named "Lucky." He was a great guy, very laid-back, with a funny sense of humor. He was the kind of person you wanted to be friends with, and he had many friends.
Today would have been his 67th birthday. Instead, there was a memorial service. I'm told the church was packed. I wish I could have been there.