Soldier on, Sgt. James (Jim) Taylor … a eulogy
On Saturday, May 18, I had the honour and privilege of writing and presenting the eulogy for my dear friend and brother-in-law, Sgt. James Taylor. It was a day of great emotion, pride and ultimately, peace, knowing Jim is at rest. He will not be forgotten. For those of you who would like to share in my sentiment …
I would like to welcome you all and thank you for coming today. I would also ask you to remember that today, as heavy as our hearts may feel, this is a celebration of the life of James – or as I called him, Jim Taylor. And Jim loved life.
So today, while we share tears and miss him, that’s perfectly okay. But it is also okay to laugh, to share stories and smiles and remember happy times we shared with him too. You are here because, in some way – big or small – Jim had an impact on your life. You are part of this day because you are honouring him.
Jim is at peace now, but he knows we’re here – gathered in love and respect for him – so we had better be good and sure we are celebrating.
My name is Kelly Taylor, and Jim was my brother-in-law. While he was the eldest of the seven children born to Ed and the beautiful Ruth, I married the youngest of the family, or as I like to call him, the pick of the litter – Bruce Taylor.
Bruce and I had been dating for a few years before Jim came home from the military, so while I’d already gotten to know the Taylor family well, I met Jim in the worst of times, when his mother passed suddenly. All I knew of Jim was that he was in the military. That alone told me we would get along just fine. What girl doesn’t love a man in uniform?
I’m kidding. I knew anyone who dedicates their life’s work to the country I was raised in was reason enough for us to be friends. While I studied Canadian history and politics in university, he lived it – every day. We talked together about issues that mattered to us both: patriotism, veterans, history and war. We were kindred spirits for sure.
I remember at my wedding, how happy Jim was to see Bruce and I exchange vows. If I am not mistaken, Jim celebrated to the point of being downright giggly from the wine. He loved us and we knew it.
So, while Jim had become my family through marriage, he was my friend by choice. That’s how I would like to remember him today.
Forgive me for not speaking about Jim as a father or a husband. I have great affection for Darlene, and Matthew was very important to his father, you can be sure, but today I can only speak of the Jim I knew.
Many of you won’t know that Jim and I wrote each other a lot. Facebook, for all its social ills, was a great service for him and I. We had frequent jokes back and forth and many more emails that really were just long letters between dear friends, covering everything from family stuff, to politics, sports and events in the world, to just silly banter and sarcastic remarks back and forth.
He would often threaten to show up at our house with a tent and live in my backyard, to which I replied if he would do the housework and manage the meals, I’d be cool with that. Jim knew I hated to cook. He didn’t judge me for that, but strangely, he didn’t offer to help either. Only once did he show up. It was a freakishly cold, wet weekend. Sure enough, there was Jim with his tent. He stayed out two nights, freezing in the rain-soaked tent. Would he come inside and get warm? Crash on the dry couch with clean linens? Heck no. He had to be the big man in the little wet tent. I laughed at him and then, eventually with him. Tim Horton’s coffee soothed his soggy soul. He was happy just to be with us.
One year, I convinced Jim to come for Christmas and spend a few days. It took some convincing to make Jim believe he wasn’t interfering, because we really wanted him there. However, that meant Jim had to endure the most kid-hyper day on the calendar, plus all the pomp and circumstance that goes with it.
At the time, my kids were pretty young. Uncle Jim was absolutely thrilled to wear his Santa elf hat and help Bruce stay up well past midnight assembling Keegan’s first drum kit. Please everyone, try and picture TWO Taylor Men putting together drums and symbols without making a noise and goodness knows, without reading the directions. Santa doesn’t need directions and neither does a Taylor. IT was a LONG NIGHT.
Now, I always believe the true mark of good human being – especially a man – is how they treat children, and I can tell you all that Jim loved his nieces and nephews: all of them. Maybe he wasn’t in their lives all the time, but he cared and he would often tell me about planting flowers with Rachael, or how proud he was of Bradley, or he would tell me he’d talked to Mark, and give me Kenny and Ashley updates on their growing family or Troy and Crystal visits. He was a fixture in the lives of Alex and Sarah. I know I can’t name all of you here, but please know – you mattered to your Uncle Jim. He understood that each and every one of his nieces and nephews were unique people, with independent lives, but all worthy of love.
But I can only speak to the way he treated my children – Emma and Keegan – and I cannot say enough about the kind of uncle he was to them. Given our distance apart, Jim couldn’t be as involved in their lives as he would have been if we were closer. But it didn’t stop Jim from letting my kids know they mattered to him. I wish now that I had every email, every post he’d put up on their FaceBook pages – cheering Emma on with her horse back riding, sending her notes to check in on how she was doing with lessons, which horses she was riding, how school was going, whatever he could think of to talk to her about. It was always positive and encouraging.
And the same went for Keegan and his sports, congratulating him on a goal or sending him good luck before a big game, watching our online updates so he was almost there with us, part of the action.
My children know Uncle Jim cared – not because of gifts he couldn’t afford, or events he couldn’t attend – but because he took the time to tell them. It’s just that simple, but when you love someone, it’s everything. For that alone I am grateful for Jim.
And that’s what I loved about Jim, he was happy to just be here, wherever here was – to be included, to be a part of our lives. We hardly saw him, but when we did, it was like it mattered – really mattered to him. And I would leave realizing it mattered to me too.
We never take enough time these days for the things and people that matter it seems, so I am grateful for every family dinner at Rob and Sandra’s, for all the inappropriate jokes at the dinner table, for the faces Jim and I would make at each other.
Honestly, Jim was one of my biggest cheerleaders. Every week I publish a column in the local newspaper where Bruce and I live. It is a humour column, usually, where I poke fun at my life as a mother, wife and a writer, trying to juggle all that those roles entail.
Jim would wait every week for that publication to go online and sure enough, come Friday morning, I’d have a note in my inbox with a running commentary from him about what made him laugh this week, or how the story made him feel. He would get my friends talking online about the topic of the week. It was hilarious, but more, it was genuine support from a guy who had nothing in common with my life. But he got it. He kept up on our family and he never missed a story.
On Remembrance Day, many times I would write a more somber piece and always acknowledge Jim in there somewhere, as a veteran.
Jim supported my career, my writing and my need to pursue it even when I was burning the candle at both ends. He always, always encouraged me. He will never know what that meant to me, personally – but I will never forget.
Because he was much older than Bruce, the two of them grew up in different times, and they almost seemed to have a different history, but the bond between them was one of mutual respect. Maybe it is because they shared similarities that were remarkable in some ways. Jim had all the Taylor traits of independence, hard work, and the attitude “if you want it done right, do it yourself,” and a leadership quality of lead by example. Hard-headed, (perhaps stubborn is a better phrase), he was self-sufficient and happiest that way. He didn’t suffer fools gladly, but he didn’t let anyone down either. That sounds like every one of the Taylor boys.
How Ruth survived that pack of boys is beyond my wildest imagination, but Jim sure set the bar of achievement high, and like all of his brothers, he was a good man.
But Jim was also more sensitive then he let on. He was kind, sincere and humble. He was not someone who put value on material things or even titles. Truth be told, he would give you the shirt of his back in a heartbeat, if you needed it. He was loyal and he was kind. The world could use more Jims.
Canada could use more Jims. He was unapologetically proud to be Canadian and dismissed anyone who lacked that passion for this country. I admired that, because he earned that right. He loved his country, his comrades and his career in the Canadian Armed Forces, where he was trained at the Canadian Forces School of Communication and Electronics to become a Line Construction Foreman.
The Canadian Forces wasn’t a career for Jim, it was a life – and he sacrificed a lot to be a part of that world, and we know he had a family in his comrades. It’s something he said little about to the rest of us, it was separate – but we knew – we understood.
To quote Jim: “A Soldier is someone who, at one point in their life wrote a blank check made payable to Canada for an amount up to, and including, their life! That is honor, and there are way too many people in this country today, who no longer understand that fact!”
While I can’t possibly know of or speak to his life in the military, I would encourage you to all to read the memorials posted on the Sgt. Jim Taylor’s obituary site. You will see that he was a respected member of the 052 Lineman, a member of 1 CMBG LINE TROOP.
There is one posting I would like to share with you, because I believe it shows that the Jim we knew and loved was not that different when he was uniform. He was authentic in every way.
Fellow linesman Mike Huard wrote, “Jim and I have shared many adventures and laughs during the past 30 years. During my career, I had the privilege to have served with Jim in 1 Line Troop and out West while he was posted in Wainwright. His unique outlook on life, sense of humour and dedication to his fellow Linemen made him a role model of the Line trade and a genuine friend to all. I will sorely miss him but will keep found memories of this true soldier… Jim was and shall remain a Lineman forever. Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
In the last few weeks, we saw Jim struggle to hold on to life. He was in a battle all his own, and like any soldier would, he fought bravely and with integrity. Some will tell you he lost his battle with cancer. I would argue he held on until he was good and ready to go, on his own terms, because soldiers never quit.
While we stood there helpless wondering why he was holding on, we have to remember the answers don’t belong to us. They belonged to Jim. We will never know. But we can rest assured that Jim finally got what all Canadian soldiers fight for – freedom and peace.
How can we remember Jim? Well, there are plenty of ways; through stories and photos, and our memories. But I would ask you to please remember him on Remembrance Day, because that day mattered so much to him. When you place a poppy on the Cenotaph or you drop a coin in the Veteran’s donation box, do it to honour him.
Sgt. Taylor was a veteran in every sense of the word – and we should all carry his name on our lips and in our thoughts on that special day.
For me, Jim will show up in my thoughts, in the wise-cracking jokes I make, and in the quiet moments when I wonder if I can keep going and he will remind me, silently, that yes, I can.
Soldier on my friend, soldier on …
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.