My brother, Jim Burnett Sr., aka Jiminy Cricket in Groundwaters, is dying. He’s in the end stages of terminal esophageal cancer, and has been told he has only a short time remaining.
Yesterday, my sister Barbara (I call her B.J.) and I drove to Vancouver, where Jim and his wife, Jonni, currently live, to spend some time with him. He is no longer able to eat or even swallow, and has not eaten anything considered “food” in about two weeks. He’s been existing on ice chips and, up until yesterday, occasional sips of warm tea. Yesterday, the tea would no longer go down.
Despite all of that, we spent those seven hours talking, laughing, crying and sharing portions of our lives together that we have either kept hidden or have just not shared until now. Most of the talking was done by Jimmy. He seemed to need to open up and talk about his life and the parts of it that he has carried with him during his 81 years: His blessings, his regrets, his feelings of inadequacy, his proud moments, his sorrows and, above all, his love for us — his family and the many friends he has gathered over the years.
He talked about his frustration that none of us get a chance to take part in our own celebrations of life, and how he is reaching out to as many of his special people as possible via phone calls and emails to touch upon these special relationships one more time. He showed us pages of printed email messages that have begun to pour in to him from former co-workers, people whose lives he touched as a minister and others he has not seen for some time. He sent them messages, telling them how each has touched his life in special ways and, in essence, to say goodbye.
Jim shared with us not only his acceptance and, even excitement, of the journey he is about to take —“It’s time to set out on a new adventure,” — but also admitted to his nervousness about the actual process of dying.
Next Tuesday, he will be moving into a beautiful hospice center located close to his and Jonni’s home in Vancouver, where he will be lovingly attended to until he is called Home.
Just before B.J. and I wrapped ourselves in his wonderful hugs and said our, “See you laters!”— not “Goodbyes,”— he began to ask me to send word to our Groundwaters family of his great appreciation for the experiences that Groundwaters has given him over the years. While trying to get the words out, he broke into tears. Taking on the persona of Jiminy Cricket in the “Philosopher’s Corner” of each quarterly magazine, and how the annual anthologies gave him a voice and a connection to each of you, which he has long carried in his heart.
The only gift I brought to him yesterday, besides my presence, was the newly published 2018 Groundwaters anthology, which he lovingly looked through as soon as I presented it to him.
I know that he would love to hear from any of you in a message sent to his email address of [email protected]. In that way he can feel that he is participating in his own celebration of life.
Thank you all for your kind words to me and the concern that you have shown for his well-being. He’s in good hands.
Godspeed, Jiminy Cricket — Jim Burnett Sr. — my brother!
Be sure to check out my personal website! http://allthingslorane.com