With the bluest eyes and the funniest laugh and the most endearing way of saying, "Garsh!" instead of taking the Lord's name in vain. He was clear and focused and had the whitest hair and the most flattering beard of the same color.
Every May, October and December for years we met at his office where he used to counsel me as a doctor and we'd get in his car ( one of those times he backed over a traffic cone: the only person I have ever known to do that ) and drive to Elizabeth, PA to go to Yesterday's Best, a gorgeous victorian house that had ben converted into a consignment shop. On every dresser drawer ( the goodies were in drawers, too! ) there were parables and bits of sage advice, snippets and quotes from the great minds of the ages. Dr. Brennan would inevitably buy me something outrageous and beautiful and when times weren't so lean I would pick him up a thing or two. I would arrive home later that evening with my battery full and a whole new slew of memories to add to the lifetime of adoration and mutual esteem I shared with this incredibly tall, bearded man of letters. He had known me since I was four.
In 2005 I didn't hear from him in May, October or December. Life was busy and I figured he was hectic with patients. The few times I spoke with him on the phone that year he was scattered, talking of machines that refresh your life-force and trips to Mexico for things he didn't share the purpose of....and then there was the next May: I called him as soon as I was home only to have his sister answer: Jim was very sick. Would I be able to come by?
It was hard not to register my shock when I saw the tallest, healthiest man in a hospital bed in his home, obviously failing but still managing a "Garsh!" and a huge smile. We played him my new CD, I sang to him. He filled us in on his life with colon cancer and cried those tears that you cry without sobs, just two rivers that run down your cheeks. I only had a few more days at home, and we vowed to talk over the phone and when I left him that day I knew it would be the last time I would ever see him. Two things became locked in my memory: the clarity and peace in his bluest eyes and the stained glass window next to his bed, with a scarab beetle and a crow.
We spoke a lot in the coming months, wondering aloud about what his angel name would be when he died, how would I know he was near? I sang to him. He said I was the daughter he'd never had but had always hoped for. I said he was my second father. He passed on July 3rd.
With the scarab beetle haunting me for the last two years I tooled one and it was quickly snatched up by a friend. The scarab, according to Wikipedia:
The image of the scarab, conveying ideas of transformation, renewal, and resurrection, is ubiquitous in ancient Egyptian religious and funerary art.
Well, here is another incarnation of the original. As always, it's for you, Dr. Brennan. No face-lifters ;)