When Jaimi and I were first married, we were living in Oregon and had in our possession a Pontiac Grand Am, which even then was on its last legs. After a couple years, it was apparent that the car was not going to make it much further. So my brother, being the kind of guy he was, drove over for a visit.
“Hey man” he said one night “I was thinking of flying back home tomorrow and leaving you guys the mitsubishi pickup. I want to get a different rig anyway, so if you want, you could just give me a thousand for it” his smile was huge, and his dimples were deep. It was obvious, that Jaye was trying to help us. His little mitsubishi was easily valued at over four thousand dollars. But this was the type of person he was.
“Well-” I said stumbling “-we can’t really afford to pay that all at once.”
“I know, I know” he replied. Pulling his hands up, palms out, trying to reassure me. “Just pay me $25-$50 a month for however long it takes. Does that work?”
I smiled “Thanks Jaye, that will help out a lot.”
And so he flew home the next day and time flew right along with him. Days turned into months, and at the end of each, I would sit down and pay the bills. But every month, I would think to myself
You know, Jaye doesn’t need this money right now, he won’t care if I skip this month.
And so I would willingly choose to short my brother. The dude that I am supposed to love and protect.
Three months turned into six, six into nine, and pretty soon a year had passed.
Jaye called me one afternoon asking ”Hey brother! I am driving over for Jaimi’s graduation next weekend, is that cool?”
“That will be awesome!” I replied. Though I knew in my heart, that I wasn’t totally stoked. Because as we all know, when you haven’t been fulfilling your part of a promise, you carry it around like a loose bag of stones.
Jaye arrived on a Friday, I remember him getting out of his new Honda accord and we embraced in a very long hug. Because of Jaye’s history with epilepsy, I remember holding him while thinking
Is this the last time I’ll get to hug my brother?
But this type of thought was fairly common for me. I was the one who originally had found Jaye suffering his first seizure. With all the close calls He had had throughout his life, my brain just digested his condition as increased risk. And at these moments, thoughts like this formed around that fear.
“Good to see you Jaye” I said.
“Well, it is great to see you” he laughed as he spoke. The inside joke being that he knew by using the word “great”, that he had one upped me in our faux sibling rivalry.
The weekend seemed to fly by. And it was filled with hanging out, laughing, and seeing Jaimi walk down the isle to receive her Masters in Education. But throughout all of this, never once did I feel any awkwardness from Jaye. Never once did I feel that he was letting my broken promise affect his love for me.
Before we knew it, Sunday was upon us and Jaye was by the door starting the ritual goodbye.
He gave me a hug and said “I love you Jared”
“I love you too Jaye” I replied, letting him go. And I watched him reach down and grab his bag, turn his back, and walk out the door.
Realization hit like a lighting bolt as I recognized that Jaye was going to let me off and was not going to bring up the owed money. The grace he was offering me was easy to see, and through his actions, proved that he loved me more than the potential damage in trying to collect. And with this knowledge, my pride bent, and my body acted.
“Hey Jaye!” I called out towards his back. He stopped and slowly turned, walking back straight to the door. When we were standing in front of each other I started to speak.
“I just wanted to let you know-” I began, as my gaze found itself upon my feet and my fingers scratched the back of my neck in awkwardness. “-what I mean, is that I need to apologize to you, for not sending you any money for the pickup. That was wrong of me, and I am sorry.”
Jaye stood still, for what felt like a very long time. Then he took a step and leaned into me, giving a giant bear hug. Pulling back, he held me away from himself by gripping each of my shoulders in one of his hands. I could see that his bright blue eyes were happy, and the depth of his dimples forecasted this same joy.
All he said was “I knew you could do it.”
He then patted my shoulders and turned around taking off at a jog. Quickly escaping the depth of emotion that I knew we were both feeling, upon the newly recovered foundation that had been constructed.
Calling out over his shoulder. “I’ll see you soon!”
I yelled back “But Jaye, what about-”
Without turning to face me, and still in stride, he yelled “Don’t worry about it, I don’t care about the money!”
That was the last time I ever saw Jaye, for not a month later he was dead. But when I think of this remarkable life lesson, I am in awe of what he taught me. Which is that a loan is ruled by profit, but grace is entirely funded through love. And it is easy to see, that Jaye truly knew how to love.
* * *
June of this year, marked the five year anniversary of Jaye’s death. The worst thing about this, is that Gracie was born into a world where her uncle will only exist in stories. I almost couldn’t complete this one, because of the emotion it brought. But if Gracie Jaye is going to learn about her namesake, I knew I had to get it out. Thanks for reading.