The call came early on the morning of Christmas Eve. Our friend Jim Chastain’s long battle with cancer was over, a battle he’d been waging since 2001. Jim’s first bout with cancer resulted in the amputation of his right arm. For any person, that is traumatic. For a right-handed writer, it certainly "cramped his style,” but it did not deter him. He taught himself to write and type with the left one. He used and enjoyed his writing talents, whether that was critiquing a film, writing a legal brief, a poem, or journaling through thoughts and observations about living with cancer. Jim was incredibly proud to be LeAnn’s husband and the father of Maddye and Ford. He always spoke with great pride about what fine human beings they are. Jim told me how grateful he was to work for Judge Gary L. Lumpkin at the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. Judge Lumpkin said about Jim, "I have always believed that the greatest blessings our heavenly Father gives us are the people blessings He places along our life’s journey. Jim was one of those blessings.” Another of the judges, Arlene Johnson, spoke of how much she will miss her talks with Jim. "We talked about family, writing, poetry and the process of dying. I learned some important lessons about life from him.” Friendships were important to Jim. He stayed in touch and created times to get together. Some of those he’d known since childhood and others since college days. Then there are people like myself and Norman author Molly Griffis, both of us at least 20 years older than Jim. Molly recalled the first time she met Jim. He had heard she knew how to sell books and that’s what he wanted to learn, so he asked her to join him for coffee. "How will I know you?” she asked. "More than likely, I’ll be the only one-armed lawyer in the place packing a briefcase and a pocket full of dreams,” Jim told her. He had a way with words and somehow knew humor could help ease the awkwardness. Besides that, you never had to pretend he was a one-armed man. He flaunted it. Not that he liked it, mind you, but it was what it was and he kept moving forward. So did we. He reminded us, however, through his poetry, that life is made up of changes and filled with unexpected turns. Through his own awareness that life could be brief, he reminded us to live it fully. I laughed when his longtime friend from childhood, Stacy Curtright, told me Jim had the highest ranking score on Facebook’s "Word Challenge” of anyone she knew. "I used to try to beat his score for HOURS and couldn’t even come close, and he was playing with limitations (one handed!).” From the first time I met him, I have been moved by his writings because they often express what I am feeling and thinking. One of those says much of what many of us are feeling today. It is titled "Time.” "If you could only grab it and hang on, buy a carton of the stuff, or slip some into your front pocket. "If you could only reclaim that moment, revisit that stupid mistake, or swallow that unfortunate word. "If you could only see him again, or tell her goodbye, or reach out and hold her hand. "Violins are quietly tuning up. The sun takes its usual spot. Opportunities skip right on by. "If you could only smuggle a smidgeon, pinch off the left-hand corner, or sample a sweet slice of once more.” Just once more, I’d like to sit across from him having a cup of coffee. Just once more, I’d like to hear him read poetry to me. Just once more I’d like to hear him brag on LeAnn, Maddye and Ford. Just once more I’d like to share a hug. Those of us who knew him are changed now, not because he has left us, but because he touched us.
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