Susan is my wife’s youngest sister. Margaret was 11 when she was born and almost feels like her mother. Even though Susan lives in Seattle and we’re in New Orleans, those two are joined at the hip.
Twenty-five years ago, Susan married Jim Schroeder, a native Washingtonian. Jim worked in the post office and after hours refereed high school basketball games. This large man–he was 6’2″ at least–loved flowers and grew prize-winning dahlias and roses all over his back yard.
For the past few years, Jim battled both ALS and MS. On the first Sunday of October, pneumonia ended his earthly life. We were so sad at losing him, but relieved his suffering had finally ended.
Last February–Mardi Gras weekend–our New Orleans family, all 7 of us, flew to Seattle to be with Jim and Susan while he was still well enough to enjoy the visit. Our grandkids were his delight as he was theirs. Even though he was not able to speak, he went everywhere they did and communicated through Susan who, like all wives everywhere, knew everything he was thinking.
Today, Susan’s Christmas letter arrived. It is so sweet and poignant, I thought some of our readers would enjoy it, though you did not know Jim Schroeder. It’s a fine and funny tribute of a wife to a husband.
Susan begins, “Oh, how I miss Jim this Christmas, every moment really. During the Christmas seasons of 2006 and 2007, he was so tired from overwork, some nights too tired to eat dinner–and we all know how much Jim liked dinner! He’ll never be tired again, God bless him.”
“Jim often did his shopping on Christmas Eve. One year he was so proud to have gotten done 3 days early. He carefully wrapped his packages and sealed them with nylon strapping tape. He folded the ends underneath and taped them down, but in opposite directions. No matter which side was up, the strapping tape showed. Thereafter, he discovered the benefits of gift bags.”
“Christmas music performances on TV were a favorite for him and he often sang along. I so enjoyed his wonderful voice, as did Tinker (shown by climbing to his face and head butting). Some years we went to a Christmas play or attended a Christmas Eve caroling service at church. Last year, in early December, we went to a fantastic Christmas extravaganza at a local mall with machine-generated snow falling, bands playing, nutcrackers and drummer-boys on stilts moving through the crowd and inciting everyone to dance. Trish was so thoughtful to pre-arrange seating for us as Jim could not manage standing anymore. It was energetic and festive and also a dinner celebration of Tannar’s birthday. What would have been better?”
“Jim delighted in the success and happiness of the folks he cared about. His special gift was making every person feel they were important to him, and indeed they were! One Christmas Eve around 8 pm the postal inspectors called saying a customer had phoned, distraught over not being able to get to the post office before it closed. Her mother had shipped several packages, without which there would be no Santa for her children that year. Jim was off the clock and not required to go back, so the postal inspectors left the decision to him. Of course, he drove back to work and got the packages for her. It always made him happy to help someone. He delighted in children, grandchildren, God-children, nieces and nephews, the children and grandchildren of friends as well as those of customers, neighbors, and relatives. Now some of those kids have kids of their own. Jim always loved playing, throwing a ball, acting silly, gently teasing, playing dominos, or even working on chores or reading the paper together. Though confined to a power chair for the last months of his life, Jim’s playful spirit was going strong. He never gave up. While Derek’s family was here this summer, Jim managed to play with three-year-old Caden by using his power chair to shove Caden’s chair all around the room. Incredible!”
“For me, I’m grateful that Jim was a steadfast husband and friend, dedicated to and proud of his 40 year postal career, and that he did as much as he could for the people in his life. I’m thankful that Jim got to experience fun times, during the holidays and at other times. He had the best smile! I was blessed by his very presence in my life and made better by his example, his spirit of generosity and caring for the well-being of friends, family, and strangers. He brought such richness to my life. Though Jim passed away on October 4, 2009, his life was a gift for all of us and he will forever be carried in our hearts. He loved you all.”
“Wishing you love, a peaceful heart, and many blessings this Christmas season,
At the bottom is a quote from Kahlil Gibran: “When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Seeing through Susan’s eye, you see a little of how special Jim was. However, the fact that this wife of 25 years would treasure these little things about her husband–his smile, his way with children, his silliness–says volumes about what a special person Susan is. We are blessed to be part of their family.