His death occurred at 1:37am. Saturday morning. September 27, 1986. He was seven days short of his twenty fourth birthday.
The last time I had seen my brother was around 7:30pm the night before when we discussed our plans for the weekend. Jimmy said he was going out with some friends. I planned to go down to Brooke’s house to visit with he and his wife. The next morning we were all going to help my other brother, Lee, with parking cars at the annual Quakertown airport hot air balloon festival. We were supposed to be at Lee’s at 6:30am, Saturday.
I told Jimmy not to stay out too late. He told me to shut up and mind my own business. We ate supper and Jimmy got ready to go out. I walked down to Brooke’s house and stayed there about two or three hours. It was probably around 10:30pm when I got home. Jimmy was not home yet. I got ready and went upstairs to bed, leaving the lamp on in the living room so Jimmy could see what he was doing when he got home. I didn’t go to sleep right away.
I laid awake reading a book called “Death of a Salesman”. I was awake longer than usual that night because I was getting very near the end of the book and I wanted to finish it. I thought it was an excellent book; very well written. I finished the book around 1:00am. As I shut off the light and rolled over to fall asleep I thought I heard a car door slam. I thought he was home. I remember thinking it was odd that I didn’t hear him climb the stairs, but I fell asleep.
The next morning my alarm sounded at 6:00am sharp. I did not want to get up. I felt kind of like shit but I got up anyway and got a shower. Something was strange. Jimmy’s bed hadn’t been slept in. I didn’t think it about it too much. I thought maybe he slept on the couch so I proceeded to get my shower. I got dressed and went downstairs to wake up Jimmy, but all I found downstairs was the lamp I had left burning the night before. Now I started to think this was a little strange.
Jimmy was not the type to shirk responsibility. If he had to be somewhere he was usually there. I was a little annoyed so I gave his friend Jim Tice a call to see what was going on. I didn’t really want to go park cards either, and I’d be damned if I was going to go if he wasn’t. There was no answer at Jim Tice’s. I cursed him and went up to Lee’s, figuring I’d try again from up there.
I got up to Lee’s around 6:30am. Lee asked me where Jimmy was and I said I didn’t know, but that I thought he was at Jim Tice’s. Lee was not terribly happy about this. I suppose he didn’t want to park cars either. We went into Lee’s house to get some coffee while we waited for some other people who were supposed to come. Around 6:45am we got a call from Feryl Myers, our friend who was going to help also. He was at my parent’s house where I has just left. Apparently Jimmy had arranged to have Feryl pick him up.
When Feryl arrived at our house there was a cop car in our lane. It seems the cops had been trying to get a hold of someone in our house since 2:30am. They said they had called about ten times. They even sent out a car to see if anyone was at home. I hadn’t heard them. Apparently, I’m a very heavy sleeper. Now things were starting to get really weird.
I had woken up, gotten a shower and gotten out of the house in between calls from the police. Feryl told Lee over the phone that he didn’t know what it was all about but that we were supposed to call the Doylestown Hospital about Jimmy. He had been in an accident. Lee told me to go pick up Feryl at my parents house and bring him back to Perkasie, even though Feryl had a car, and it was totally out of the way. I did this as Lee called the hospital.
When Feryl and I returned to Lee’s we found that another friend, Mary Keller, had arrived. I guess there were a lot of cars to park. Lee invited everyone he knew. Lee had called the hospital. They hadn’t told him anything, only that he should come there as soon as possible. We called Brooke and Robin and told them to meet us at the hospital.
Feryl and I went in my car, while Lee, Kathy and Mary went in Lee’s. I remember thinking on the way down what a pain in the ass this was. My parents were on vacation in Louisiana, and weren’t expected home for at least another week. I kept thinking that I would have to visit Jimmy in the hospital. I hate hospitals.
We arrived at the hospital between 7:10am and 7:15am. We searched around for where we were supposed to go until we found the emergency room entrance. There was a little room just off of the emergency room into which we were led. There was a policeman around age 50 sitting behind a desk. Brooke and Robin were already in the room. They were holding each other. They did not look happy. I don’t remember what happened next.
I remember thinking to myself that everybody had someone else to hug. Lee had Kathy. Brooke had Robin. I guess I could have had Feryl but I settled for Mary. She was a big help. She loves our family very much. We’ve known her since we were kids. She was one of my sister’s best friends and our moms were best friends when they were girls. We sat in that room forever while the policeman took down some crap information and tried to help us decide what to do next. Then we were taken into another room where a “crisis” councilor was. He was supposed to ease our pain. What an asshole! I guess I shouldn’t say that. He was only trying to do his job, and he really did sound concerned, but he was still a dick. We sat in that room for forever again and Mary said a prayer and hugged everybody. We didn’t know what to do.
We finally decided that Brooke, Robin and Lee’s wife Kathy should go to Becky and Neal’s because we didn’t think we should tell them such bad news over the phone. I don’t know what went on out there. Lee, Mary and I were going to go to Uncle Feryl’s house. I don’t remember why. I forget what happened to Feryl Myers.
We went to my Uncle Feryl’s. I stayed in the car, Lee and Mary went inside. In a few moments, I heard the strangest sound I ever heard in my life. Uncle Feryl was wailing. Wailing; that’s the only word for it. It sounded like a out loud laugh. I thought I was losing it. I stayed out in the car for a while until Lee came out and said that he and Uncle Feryl were going to my Aunt Dolly’s to see if they could get a hold of my parents. I was supposed to stay at Uncle Feryl’s until they got back. I was really not into that so I walked home. It’s only about a mile. When I got home I was soooooo lonely and sad that I didn’t know what to do.
I went up in my bedroom and I CRANKED some John Prine music. John Prine’s songs are some of the few songs that I can play along with on my guitar. I must have had been playing it at about 9000 decibels. I played the same songs six times. When I got tired of this I gave my old girlfriend a call. I hadn’t seen her in about two months, but I didn’t know what else to do. She got there about a half an hour later. I guess Lee and Mary had gotten home by then. I cant remember. Kim, my old girlfriend, wasn’t much help. I think she cried more than I did. After a short time, people started coming. I couldn’t ever begin to list them all. I just know that for the next three days there were at least ten people in our house at all times. It was nuts. It was kind of fun; not a whole lot of fun, but kind of.
I forget whose idea it was, but about six of us piled into my cousin’s van to go pick up my mother and father at the airport. That sucked. We drove all the way to the airport, about an hour and a half drive, and those fucking people in that van did not shut up for one second. They talked about everything single subject under the sun. I was going crazy. I just wanted them to shut up. I couldn’t stand it. I just laid in the back seat trying to fall asleep, but I couldn’t. When we got to the airport we were early, so I had to sit and listen to people talking some more. I couldn’t wait till that plane got there. When it did my mom and dad were the last one’s off the plane.
I saw lots of people meeting their loved ones that they hadn’t seen in years. Hugging and kissing each other while I waited to see the faces of my parents. This is another part I don’t remember too well, but I remember that my father was not talkative (I liked that) and my mother was very upset. My father didn’t talk for about two weeks. My mother was amazing, very upset but also very strong.
We got back in the van and drove home. Again the people in the van wouldn’t shut up. We got home and the rest of the day, still Saturday, is sort of a blur. I went up to my room and CRANKED some more music. A little less than 9000 decibels this time; we had company after all. But that helped.
I remember that Brooke came up to ask me to come downstairs and be with him. He said he needed me. I told him that I didn’t have anything to give him. He walked away angry or hurt or disappointed or something. The hours passed. There was a lot of food. I wasn’t into it. I guess I must have gone to bed.
That whole day it was cloudy, it looked like it wanted to rain. The next morning when I woke up it was a beautiful day. The first thing I heard was a bird singing. The whole day there was a million people at my house. It was decided that my cousin David would fly down to Louisiana to pick up my parents car. He wouldn’t even let my dad pay for his plane ticket. He’s great. He told me he loved that day. Him telling me that probably meant as much to me as anything anyone has ever said to me.
It’s kind of funny the way people react in a situation like a death of someone close. They all want to do anything they can to help. It seemed to me that the ones who were the most afraid of death themselves, are the ones who are the most eager to help. I think that by helping they think that it won’t hurt as much. One thing I learned is that it hurts no matter what you do. Another thing I learned is that there are a lot of people in this world that really love me and my family. I learned how important those people are to me. I still take them for granted, but at least I know that they are important.
Later that second day, Sunday, I wrote the poem , or whatever it is, on the following page. My brother Lee, against my request, read it at his funeral.
Yesterday was Jimmy’s day.
The world knew this.
It cried all day.
It knew that something was terribly wrong.
The sun didn’t even show it’s face.
But this morning when i awoke in knew today was our day.
The first thing i heard was a bird singing.
It was a beautiful song, a song filled with hope.
And it woke up the singer in me that was sleeping
for a very long time.
Today the sun still won’t show it’s face.
The clouds still cover the sky.
Tomorrow the sun will shine; and i’ll be glad it does.
but some days the clouds will return.
I don’t know if they will be stormy or calm
but then i never knew what Jimmy was going to be either.
The clouds are Jimmy’s. They always will be.
But the birds are ours, the birds are for the living
and the living have to start singing again.
It’s just that now our song has to be better.
It has to be sung louder and with more feeling, because
one of our best singers isn’t here to help us anymore.
Blooming Glen, PA — Sometime in late 1986 or early 1987