The Rest of the Story

Posted on January 6, 2021 by shackelford under Uncategorized

Last week’s offering was entitled “All Bright and Shiny” referencing, of course, this brand new year with which we have been gifted.  It was an easy one to write.  It was so much harder to post.

You see, I had drafted it earlier in the day.  Actually, it had almost written itself.  I knew my kids wouldn’t be coming in for our traditional New Year’s Day supper; I was missing the grands and thinking back on all we’d managed to survive and how long it had been (and how long would it be?) ‘til I could see my Bartlett bunch again.  So the blog was written and read and re-read and edited and finally put on our website.  All that was left was to link it to our Facebook page—which is what I was preparing to do when my cousin Claire called.  They were busy in Bolivar and she was catching me up on some work stuff . . . then she mentioned that one of their employees, Jim Edwards, hadn’t been able to make it to work that day. They’d called to check on him when he was late and he assured them he was trying, but he was so exhausted he just couldn’t seem to get moving.  A few hours later they called again, suggesting he try to see a doctor since he wasn’t feeling any better.

That evening they rang his phone, trying to check on him, but he didn’t answer.  So one of them went to his house, which was just down the street from the funeral home, but no amount of banging brought him to the door.  Concerned, they called the police and asked for a welfare check.  As Claire and I were speaking I could hear the sound of the siren in the background.  Jim’s house was just across the backyard from hers, so it was immediately obvious that the ambulance was pulling into his drive.  She got off the phone, only to call back within just a few minutes.

Jim had died.

This was the knowledge I had when I set up the link on Facebook.  This was the knowledge I had when I publicly encouraged the world—or at least those of you who read this blog—to make the most of your new year and to treasure every moment . . . because we have no guarantees.

But you know what I didn’t know?  I didn’t know Jim had been a multi-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball, and baseball.  And I sure didn’t know his teammates nicknamed him “Wiffle Bird”.  Although he and I attended the same college, he was a year behind me and I never realized he was the catcher for UT Martin’s baseball team.

I knew he was absolutely devoted to his mother; he spent every available moment with her when he wasn’t working.  As a matter of fact, he had just returned from visiting her the day before his death.  But I didn’t know his family had given him the title of Master Griller because of his skill.  And I didn’t know he enjoyed golfing and fishing or that he loved the Cardinals and the Vols—and Hershey’s chocolate.  I didn’t know he had two nephews, one niece, and three grand-nephews he loved dearly.  He made such an impact on their lives that his niece gave her son Jim’s middle name of William.  She thought he’d be pleased since he’d never had children of his own . . . until he told her he’d never liked that name.  But that was just Jim’s ever-present, dry sense of humor; he was really very honored, even if he didn’t readily admit it. I wasn’t aware of any of this because, despite the fact that Jim had worked with us for twenty plus years, he was in Bolivar and I was in Savannah, and our paths rarely ever crossed.  When they did there was always a smile and a few words of greeting, but never enough time to visit.

Jim will be greatly missed in Bolivar and it saddens all of us to know that his wonderful 96 year old mother will now have to bury her son, something I’m sure she never thought would happen at this point in her life.  I think of him dying alone and, like so many people have done in similar circumstances over the years, I hope there was no suffering—just a gentle release from this life as he moved into the next.  As I ended last week’s post, I reminded all of you of the obvious—that we were within reach of a new year—“a brand new year, all bright and shiny and full of promise and opportunity.”  And I encouraged you to “Use it wisely and treasure every moment of it. If 2020 taught us anything at all, it is that we have no guarantees where Life is concerned.”  Jim’s untimely death just reinforced that lesson.  Godspeed, Jim.  And when we meet again, maybe you’ll tell me why your teammates thought “Wiffle Bird” was an appropriate nickname.



About the author:  Lisa Shackelford Thomas is a fourth generation member of a family that’s been in funeral service since 1926.  She has been employed at Shackelford Funeral Directors in Savannah, Tennessee for over 40 years and currently serves as the manager there.  Any opinions expressed here are hers and hers alone, and may or may not reflect the opinions of other Shackelford family members or staff.

5 Responses to The Rest of the Story

  1. Avatar Sandy Keith says:

    I have known Jim for several years. He was a co worker and friend to my brother in law Herbert Wood & wife Marilyn. He definitely had a dry sense of humor & the two of us never stopped teasing each other about anything and everything. He was a good person and I will always think of him and miss him.❣️

  2. Avatar Dale Kendall says:

    I’m Dale Kendall from Martin Tn. The first day of the first grade at Sharon Elementary Jim and I started to school. He was always a friend to all because that was the way he was raised. I knew both of his parents as we attended the same church as they did. Jim was brought up to be a good boy and grow into a great man. All through high school and college Jim was always someone you could depend on. He was our quarter back in Jr High and lead us to the county championship. A great hind catcher with a rocket arm he was dangerous behind the plate. Not long ago Jim wanted to organize a tribute to our teacher and coach during our jr high days. Coach Don Capps inspired many young men in his day and Jim recognized those efforts 50 years later and wanted to honor someone that meant a lot to him. Jim looked to put the spotlight on others rather than himself. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing but there is no doubt where he is now. Gettem, “Wiffle Bird”. A life well done.

  3. Avatar Pat M. Curd says:

    Farewell to a real Southern Gentleman that I have known since 1994 when he and I worked at Memorial Park Funeral Home in Memphis. I hadn’t seen Jim in several yers but I saw him at a doctors office in Jackson where he was caring for his Mother and I for my wife. We rekindled our friendship and our times working at Memorial Park. During that short visit I learned Jim was working with your firm in Bolivar. Of course we had some common ground again because I had known most of the Shackelford’s from my previous association and much praise for their professionalism and caring for those they served. It is indeed a tremendous pleasure to have known Jim and to be assured he is resting in a much better place. God Bless his Mother and the care Jim always gave her.

  4. Avatar Melissa Edwards Cate says:

    Thank you for posting this.

    Jim was my uncle. He was no “relative”, he will never be forgotten as he was Uncle Jim. He was a classic like Cousin Eddie in Christmas Vacation or Buck in the movie Uncle Buck. You never knew what Uncle Jim would do, say or wear. However, it was usually hilarious.

    So many stories to tell, but my favorite would be when he was my 3rd college roommate whenever the Vols had a home game. He was “ that guy” on the couch and became Uncle Jim to so many of my college friends. He would always go out with us. Looking back, he was our bodyguard. He always wanted to make sure we were safe and taken care of. That was Jim, he took care of people. He did it up to the last chance he could with his mom and his profession. It certainly takes a special person to do his job at work and outside work for so many years. He had 2 full time jobs.

    Uncle Jim made a huge impact in my life. The closest we ever lived was 6 hours away. However, we had a relationship that was closer than some that live in the same town. We would disagree on things as unfortunately/fortunately—-he taught me how to stick up for myself. He was very much involved in my upbringing and my life. It takes a special person to do that when you live out of the country or in different states so far away. He made the effort regardless of the location or logistics of getting together. He took me to amusement parks, boating, fishing, came to my track and cross country meets, saw me off to prom, came to my wedding, came to see my son shortly after his birth, etc…he was beyond present.

    It brings me great grief those days of having him present are gone. It saddens me I could not care for him as he aged. Uncle Jim had a huge heart and his death has chipped a piece of mine that’s irreplaceable. Certain people do that in your life. He was “that guy” who never broke my heart until he died.

    He made a tremendous path of how to be an uncle to my brothers. I am so blessed he was in my life. He will always be in and with me.

    My wish for you is to carry on whatever gifts he blessed you with in his honor. Mine are too long to list, but he’s made me a better person for being in my life.

    Rest in sweet heavenly peace Uncle Jim and save me some chocolate in Heaven!

  5. Avatar Stacy says:

    I met Jim around 1980-81 when he living and working in Selmer, Tennessee. He lived in the same apartment complex as my husband and I. We were a young married couple and he was a great friend. We cooked out and watched sports together. Always kind and supportive. We moved away and didn’t keep in touch with Jim, so I didn’t know where he ended up until 1995. I was attending my uncle’s funeral at Memorial Park Funeral Home in Memphis. I heard someone call my name and it was Jim. He recognized me even though it had been 15 years and we had only been friends briefly. He was working at Memorial Park at the time. It was good to see him again. When I saw his name on the Shackelford site earlier this year, I wondered if it was the Jim Edwards I had known years ago. His dark hair was now gray, but his smile was still there. When his obituary came up, I realized it was the Jim I had known. It made me sad to read that he had died unexpectantly and alone. If I had known that he lived and worked at Shackelford in Bolivar. I would’ve stopped in to say hello. Reading this story and the posts about Jim let me know what an impact he had on lots of people’s lives. He was a good son, friend and brother RIP Jim. You will be missed.

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