I want to share something beautiful with you.
Our son Jimmy ran the Los Angeles Marathon in March of 2007. He was 23 years old. It was his first and only Marathon. He finished in 4:08:39 and was the 2,112nd runner to cross the line. He wrote a poem about the experience titled Suffering Is the Only Honest Work which is included at the end of this post.
Jimmy Gauntt-2112nd runner to cross
On Sunday March 18, Evan Nicholas and John Dale ran and successfully finished the L.A. Marathon. It too was their first marathon. Evan and John were two of Jimmy’s best friends. Jimmy knew John since the 3rd grade, and Evan and Jimmy met at USC and were pledge brothers. They soon discovered they share the same birthday, November 8, 2008. What are the odds? After graduation, Jimmy, John and Evan lived together in Santa Monica as they pursued careers in writing, acting and comedy. They were close—they were tight.
Evan and John were completely devastated by Jimmy’s death, as were so many of his friends. Evan and John have remained connected with us, for which we are very grateful.
In the Spring of 2009, Professor David Roman and the USC English Department instituted the James T. Gauntt Memorial Award given to the top graduating seniors in the Department. In addition to a monetary award, the recipients of The Jimmy are invited to a dinner attended by many of the professors in the department and receive their well-deserved accolades. My wife Hilary, daughter Brittany and our son-in-law, Ryan are honored to attend as well. It truly is a warm, beautiful evening, and there’s nothing else like it at USC. There are always tears—good tears.
Evan and John decided to run the marathon in honor and memory of their pal. They set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the USC Jimmy Award. Their target was $2,000. So far they’ve raised over $6,000!!
This is from a message John sent to a bunch of us regarding the genesis of this endeavor:
It was November, getting cold in Atlanta, and I had probably had some whiskey. The 10-year anniversary of my best friend Jimmy’s death was quickly approaching, and I was once again reminded of how different my life had become from when we were 24. I have a daughter. I have a wife. I have great friends. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I also have the constant guilt of moving on.
Then I made a mistake. I emailed Evan, the third roommate in our trio. I put it on paper – What if we ran the LA Marathon, like Jim did the year before he died? After all, we’re both fat dads now. Thoughts?
Evan took the bait. What an asshole.
Keep in mind, John still does stand up comedy.
I think it is a natural tendency for us to think mostly about our loss—the impact on our ourselves and our families—and not as much on the friends, teachers, work colleagues and others also swamped by the wake of the loss of our kids. They too suffer greatly—survivors’ guilt, the guilt of moving on with their lives. John, Evan and Jimmy’s other friends were in their early 20s and as far as they knew they were immortal, bullet-proof. This wasn’t supposed to happen, and they were shocked to their core.
I know it has been very hard for Jimmy’s friends to grieve and process his death. I explored this in a recent post Healing All Around, and the incredible healing energy that was released when another very close friend of Jimmy’s asked me to be best man in his wedding. Of course Jimmy showed up in a very tangible way to be there for a guy who was in all ways except biologically his big brother.
Jimmy’s friends have not forgotten and they continue to grieve, mourn and honor the memory of their pal.
They don’t want to forget.
Here is Jimmy’s Suffering Is The Only Honest Work poem and a couple of photos of John and Evan in the T-shirts they had made for the marathon. Evan is on the left. We love those “fat dads.” You bet they will be attending the 9th annual Jimmy Award dinner in May.
If you look carefully you will see the words on the front of their t-shirts DOUBT IS A BAD IDEA. That is one of our favorite lines from Jimmy’s poem. It is also the favorite of Jimmy’s theatre teacher at Torrey Pines High School, Marinee Payne, who proudly wears it every day as a reminder to herself and all of her aspiring actors.
Marinee’s tattoo-Doubt is a bad idea-JTG [James Tedrow Gauntt]
Jimmy’s poem is also a favorite of mine and our youngest grandson, Hunter Kirby. Full circle.
Unveiling of the tattoo on August 9, 2013