Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

This is a picture of my brother James taken in my mother’s kitchen in Suffield, Connecticut in the early 1990s.  He would have been in his early 40s.  It was Christmas time, and the family is sitting around the table, drinking tea, nibbling cookies, and laughing.  At Jim’s elbow is an expandable brown folder with a sheaf of papers inside, surely his poems.  The cover of the book on top of the folder looks like Seamus Heaney’s The Government of the Tongue, which Jim gave to me a few years later.

This past weekend his two daughters, two sisters, and two brothers sat around his hospital bed to share memories with him and with each other.  We laughed and we cried.  He was just breathing, loudly at times because of the build-up of fluid in his lungs.  One nurse told us on Sunday that he was listening to everything we said.  When she asked him to squeeze her hand, he did.  As I mentioned earlier, a mass was discovered on Jim’s left lung about two weeks before.  Late on Thursday, August 3, he suffered a stroke or a seizure, which sent him to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford shortly after midnight August 4.  He recognized my brother Patrick when he arrived Friday morning, but he wasn’t opening his eyes by the time I arrived that afternoon.

Jim died at 5:15 pm yesterday, August 7.  Patrick and my sister Kate were with him.

I’ve mentioned before that Jim was a favorite of our grandfather, my mother’s father who came to live with us shortly before Jim was born.  That idyllic memory gets clouded by the hard life James had as a teenager and adult.  In this he reminds me of Bobby Dylan’s song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.”

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall


  1. Jim was blessed to have such a loving family. As I told Kate, he is with his heavenly family now, in his glory I’m sure. Rest In Paradise James.

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