Jessica Bemis is a full-time, working mom of two who lost her husband to testicular cancer in November 2011. Since then, Jessica has been sharing her story on her blog, Hope for Young Widows and working to bring awareness and hope to women and men who have lost their spouses to cancer.
In trying to find ways to celebrate Jim's life I thought a lot about his favorite things to do, see, work, travel, etc. One way the boys and I have memorialized Jim each year since his death is by releasing balloons on his birthday. The boys write cards to Jim, and then we attach them to balloons and watch them disappear into heaven as if dad received them. It has helped the boys to have a connection to their father.
Some other ways to memorialize your spouse is by requesting that in lieu of flowers a donation be made to a charity or other organization in remembrance of the person; a tree can be planted accompanied by a plaque with your tribute; a trust can be set up to help surviving family members; etc. For us, we chose to memorialize Jim with an annual 5k race.
Jim was an avid runner; he had a passion for running and weight lifting. His dream was to own a gym one day. From spring through fall he would look forward to running in 5k races to support various charities. Jim had a great friend, Mike, who also enjoyed running or rather grew to enjoy running after a 5 mile run through Valley Forge Park. Mike reached out to me to discuss creating a 5k race in honor of Jim's memory.
The event raises money for Bringing Hope Home, a local charity in the area. Bringing Hope Home helps families struggling to pay their bills while receiving cancer treatments. Aligning the memorial with Bringing Hope Home is a great way to give back to the community and honor Jim at the same time.
As I grow older, I realize that some of the most life-changing events are the small but powerful interactions to which we often give inadequate meaning while we wait for the large things (marriage, children, career, etc.) to define us. You have all heard the word nudge. What does it really mean? While to many it may seem a small thing, a nudge is really a push, a stubborn unwillingness to give up, acquiesce, or settle for less than success. Jim epitomized what I call the powerful Tao of Nudge.
For those who knew him it is no surprise that, Jim was first and foremost a devoted family man; son, brother, husband and father. There are so many words that could be used to describe Jim: funny, loyal, determined, courageous, encouraging, forthright, caring, inspiring and loving. He brought these traits to bear in all that he did, whether it was work, running (one of his favorite pastimes), encouraging others, or hanging with friends and family.
Jim was the Tao Nudge in his triumphing repeatedly over adversity and teaching others to do the same, throughout his fight with cancer. Not only was his 18-month battle with cancer a fight he planned on winning, he remained a father, friend and a stubborn mule when it came to giving up or even getting upset at setbacks and nearly innumerable procedures. All the while Jim was an inspiration to me and surely many others. There was a moment, a run actually, that Jim and I went on as a training run leading up to my very first Valley Forge 5 miler.