Gus am bris an là, James

Greetings, friends.

If you are the praying sort, please offer up a prayer for the soul of my friend, James A. His story is a great one and worthy of praise. James, Jim as I knew him, was born after World War II in a small down in rural Alabama. His family was poor. They farmed a small plot, raised hogs and chickens, and did odd jobs. Looking for more opportunity than was afforded poor black boys in Jim Crow Alabama, Jim joined the Marines. He served honorably in Vietnam. In 1969 he met a girl in Boston. She was a single mom. She was also white. He married that girl and later adopted her son as his own. He and his wife had two lovely daughters together. After 20 years he retired from the Marines and worked a number of jobs, sometimes 2 at a time. He joined the VFW and advocated for Veteran’s rights. He became a member of the national board of the VFW for a time, but was better known for going through the halls of Bethesda Naval Hospital (now Walter Reed Medical Center) with all the zeal of a Marine Gunnery Sergeant (which he was) making sure the servicemen and women being treated there were being treated right and getting all the benefits they had earned by their service.

He was a good father to his three children. He taught them the values of fidelity, honor, faith, industry, and love. He was a devoted husband to his wife for more than 50 years. He was a patriot and proud American. He was a faithful and devoted member of his church. He was insatiably curious and always read to expand his knowledge. His baritone voice rang out in laughter and joy often. He was a great cook. He loved music. He was a fantastic dancer. And at almost every family gathering for the past 18 years he would ask us to all pause and look around. He would then tell us as we were looking around to, “See what love has created for us all.”

I am proud to have been a part of Jim’s extended family. I was unworthy, but highly honored, to help bear him in and out of church today and celebrate Mass for his soul. My life has been so easy compared to his. I have been enriched by knowing him.

Jim, I offer you words in the language of my ancestors, Gus am bris an là, agus an teich na sgàilean. Which means, “Until the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.”

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