Jim Gray June 4, 1932 - December 10, 2019
Dates that mark the beginning and the end of the lifetime of Jim Gray, artist.
Yet it is the life that was lived in the dash between those two dates that is what really counts.
And for any one of us looking back on a lifetime, that dash is aptly named, as life does truly dash by from beginning to end.
The first date marks the day Jim Gray came into this world, his birthday. The second date marks the day his spirit stepped away from this world, leaving a worn and tired body, a mind that had lost much of its' ability to process and record memories, and eyes that could no longer do what his had done better than most for so many years. His eyes saw deeper and with more intensity than the average person, and he used his mind to record what his eyes brought in, then process it in a way that he could use his hands to create images that, unlike a camera, were not simply photographic, but also managed to capture the very essence of what that image held in store. And, as Jim so aptly wrote on the sign his figure of Christ among us carried, The Beginning Is Near, as Jim has now begun his heavenly life.
God blessed Jim Gray with the seed of many talents, planted in this man with the hope that he would nurture them and allow them to grow. Jim did this with each of the gifts he was given. He had an easy nature, a kind smile, a twinkle in his eye that allowed others to be drawn to him and to want to know him better. With these he built and honored trusting relationships, the most precious of which was his more than 66 years of marriage to Fran. He was given a good dose of creative talent and a huge portion of desire and drive to grow and improve those gifts of talent. He was given enough ego to take pride in the work he did, and was humble enough to realize that we all are better off when we accept the fact that one person can not do it all, that there is strength in teamwork, and the very best team was headed up by God. Recognizing that all these blessings were ultimately gifts from God, Jim sought to honor God with his very best in all he did. Whether painting a canvas of the Smokies or a square rigged sailing ship, sculpting the likeness of Dolly, Alex Haley, or the Teaching Christ, singing in barbershop quartet, or serving as Scoutmaster of a Boy Scout Troop, Jim Gray gave his best to the effort. And the results of his best efforts have become a blessing to so many over the years. He would constantly ask, of a project, a piece of artwork, or even a given day, what is its' "reason for being". When moving items out of his painting studio several years ago, and collecting those that would become a portion of the permanent collection now housed at the East Tennessee Historical Society museum in Knoxville, his easel was certainly going to go with the collection. Pinned to that heavy wooden easel was a small slip of paper with the words hand written in ink by Jim...
"reason for being".
There was nothing Jim was involved in that was not consequential to those who crossed his path. With this in mind, it seems only natural that even his living with Dementia, that slowly took him away from all who love and care for him, could have a "reason for being". Recognizing the early signs that, like his own father, Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia seemed to be on his own horizon, he pondered how to make a record that could not be taken away. Treasuring all that had made life a joy for him, and not wanting to risk loosing the memories of the events and people and places that filled his mind and heart, Jim began painting his Joy of Life Parade. Other pages of this ongoing blog have delved into many of these painted memories, and no doubt there will be more in the future, but for this day, I'll write a bit more about the big picture of Jim's dementia, and our wish that those who want to honor Jim Gray in some meaningful way will first off, continue to enjoy the work he created, and then, if you are inclined to do so, make a donation to the Dementia Action Alliance. www.DAAnow.org/donate-now
There are wonderful organizations like the Alzheimer's Association that are working to find a cure for this cruel disease, and we applaud that work and the successes that are occurring. However, there are so very many folks who are living with now and will likely pass away before that "cure" is found and available for all. It is these folks and those that care for them that DAA strives to assist in making life with dementia be meaningful and rewarding in any way that it can be. One thing that I have come to realize is how long we human beings can carry on after a diagnosis of dementia. Not unlike arthritis, it slows us down and it requires doing some things differently than we always have, but unlike other diseases, dementia has long held a stigma that could have harmful effects initially greater than the disease itself. DAA is working to eradicate that stigma, to enhance understanding about symptoms and to offer strategies for changing abilities. They work to identify beneficial technologies and improve care practices while educating physicians and other healthcare practitioners about living beyond a diagnosis of dementia. If the life work of artist Jim Gray can help others with dementia to live better, then let it be so.
Please look at what DAA is doing, utilize them if you or someone you love is dealing with dementia, and consider supporting the work they are doing with a financial contribution or with furthering the awareness by simply sharing this blog.
Christmas is just around the corner. May the Joy of the Season be all around you.
May Peace fill your world, and may Love surround you and yours' always.