As I write this, my heart hurts. It aches with an ache that a lot of people can't understand. An ache that has no cure, no aspirin regimen. An ache that I have felt so many nights since the night he died. The night in 2012 when it really felt as though my heart was literally breaking into thousands of pieces. The night I felt like my throat was closing up which made it so hard to breathe. Yes, 48 months later I still get that same hurt and lump in the back of my throat. While, in some ways you could say that the months have gotten easier, today I can tell you that the emotions are still as raw as those last several days in September 2012.
This year I decided to look through that "tub"...you know, that tub everyone has under their bed or in their closet, the one that you throw things in that you want to keep but don't need to look at every day? Well, mine contains so many precious things...pictures of family and friends, concert ticket stubs, pictures my nieces and nephews have colored for me, and finally the documents that followed my dad's death. As I am flooded with so many emotions, I can't help but smile. People loved my dad...like, they really loved him. Not just liked him or thought he was a nice guy...they loved him. Reading these things makes me incredibly proud, as most stories do when anyone stops me to tell me a story about him!
When the day came when my dad needed to go into a nursing home, his co-workers put together a booklet for his caregivers...something I hold so dear to my heart today. I would like to share just a few of the kind messages some of them wrote with you:
"He seemed genuinely interested when he asked, 'How are you?' each day."
"The Jim I knew was tall, with dark hair, and a smile that would light up a room... the Jim I knew was a man of grace, pride, and understanding."
"In my early days with the agency, my recurring thought about Jim was, 'Is he for real? Is he really that utterly sweet, friendly, and kind?'. The sure answer to that, which came to me so clearly over time...yes, he is."
"'Our Jim,' a Gentle Giant...always with a smile and a kind spirit, always helpful, always thoughtful of others. 'Our Jim,' a family man; always proud to share."
"I am so thankful my path crossed with Jim. He blesses my heart in so many ways. His gentle spirit gives me strength and courage."
"He has a past filled with friends, co-workers and a family that all love him. He has proudly served his country and community with honor. He is known as a kind man with many a great story to tell you about his years of working with senior citizens. He is a loving Christian family man."
"Once upon a time there was a man they called Jim Appelquist. Jim had so many gifts and talents and it was mesmerizing. His kind loving spirit was known throughout the land. The charm of his smile and warm greeting to everyone made the earth a better place. Gentleness is his secret force. The love of God reaches through his spirit and heart. Music flowed from his being proclaiming joy and happiness to all those fortunate to hear. What a gifted man this Jim Appelquist. He is known to his family as a husband, father, and grandfather; but to the rest of us he is known as a true, kind, compassionate friend."
I love to read these words. While those might be the words of his co-workers, they seem to be the same kinds of words I hear from everyone that knew him. I am by no means trying to brag, or to make it appear that he didn't have his faults (trust me, I pointed his faults out to him when I felt the need...which usually resulted in me getting grounded, but as the youngest, I felt it was my duty to keep him on his toes), but I am just so incredibly proud to be his daughter, to be referred to as Jim's daughter, and to keep his memory alive.
As the months go on, my biggest fear is that people will forget him. That they will stop saying his name. That people won't remember the humor, the beautiful tenor voice, the heart and soul that was Jim Appelquist. But after reading and looking through the "tub", I know that is impossible. He left an imprint on so many.
Finally, one last note from one of his dear friends and CRB band members: "I know I will never miss your dad as much as you and your family do Katrina, but I do miss my friend Jim!" A simple statement that touched my heart. He is not forgotten.
48 months later and people still think about him...miss him...remember him.
I miss you, Dad!