I CAN CRY NOW

Jimmy Carnes died a few weeks back. He was a generous man. He thought big and usually ahead of his time. He gave me my first track and field coaching job on the collegiate level when he brought on to his staff at the University of Florida in 1975. He was as unselfish and void of ego as any successful person I have ever known. I never quite understood how someone who was as ambitious as he was, who had such grand ideas and objectives in life, could be so non-self-absorbed and giving.

Jimmy had been ill with prostate cancer for several years and it had come to my attention recently that he was really quite sick . I was at my son’s  track meet when the phone call came telling me that he had just passed. I immediately went into a state of deep denial and damage control. How could a man as good and generous as Jimmy be taken away ? Where was the logic ? Where was the validation and justification for such a tragic thing ? For God’s sake,….why ?

Finding no satisfactory answer(s), I simply refused to accept his death. This refusal stayed with me for some time. I did not attend his funeral for fear of having to formally and  finally acknowledge what I did not want to face and/or accept.   Tonight as I was listening to Miles Davis playing “Round About Midnight”, the tears came for Jimmy. As is often the case with me, a lot of what I am moved and motivateded to do has its roots in jazz, blues, or art. What Miles was saying/playing,  and Coletrane was echoing, was so pertinent and poignant to Jimmy, that the flood gates of denial burst open and  I cried. It was  my time to let my feelings surface and spring forth. I felt some small comfort and solace  in knowing that despite the fact that I could not alter or postpone when he died, I could hold off and delay when I had to fully accept it.

Jimmy was that strange contradiction that occured once in a while with white southern gentlemen. He was born and raised in Georgia during some of Jim Crow’s(segregation) most turbulent times ( 40s-50s-60s ). Yet he somehow found a way to elevate himself above the racial hatred and bigotry of his culture and times, and emerge as a caring human being, who as Dr King preached, ” judged a man by his character and not the color of his skin “.  I have always marvelled at white people who could be as free prejudice as Jimmy. When such people came from the south, I must admit I was stunned, and sometimes shamed, by own prejudgement of them.    

It is now 11:24pm.  It is approaching “Round Midnight”. Jimmy is gone, Miles is gone, and soon this day will be gone too. I have had my long repressed weeping for Jimmy and another and new day is just a few minutes away. But in the time I have left in this night, I ask myself over and over, where is the logic ? Why do such good people have to die ?

Brooks T. Johnson

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