I've lost family and friends before. Rode each event out pretty much whole.
But losing Jim McGarvey has been a hard ride maybe not yet over.
Jim was my friend.
And I was his.
Jim was a comrade in arms.
Right now, losing Jim, I feel empty . . . somewhat the way I felt another raw moment 43 years ago on a God forsaken LZ scape of earth hard by the Ho Chi Minh trail.
A huge part of MEA-MFT has died.
At first Jim and I warred against each other as MEA and MFT competed for members and affiliates . . . sometimes oblivious to the wreckage we left around and the outside, predatory, anti-union dangers our warfare invited.
But once we figured out our respective union interests were better served united than not, we built one hell of a union.
Then we warred together, joined at the hip in common cause, for the best things good government exists to provide: public schools, public health and human services, public safety, minimum wage, universal health care . . . and against right-wing, libertarian political evil that would destroy the social compact, drown government in a bathtub, privatize public schools, sell out Social Security and pensions, and prohibit workers from organizing to bargain collectively for competitive salaries and benefits -- the stuff that makes the American middle class.
The war continues. It is a war, you know.
Now without Jim.
And I have other memories:
Decoding Jim's history lessons and instructional stories. He was a book of infinite chapters, and he never began a story on the first page.
Fishing Jim out of truly dangerous rapids in the Alberton Gorge.
Jim painstakingly ordering dinner a la carte and not eating most of it.
Jim and his damned tea bags.
Jim calling whenever and demanding, "Tell me what I don't know."
Jim's three cell phones buzzing at once, one in his ear.
Jim and his fat beat up book of multi-colored note pages that he carried everywhere but rarely opened in my presence. Each color meant something to Jim. I don't know what.
Jim forcefully calming troubled waters between MEA-MFT and the governor's office setting the stage for successful legislation creating state-funded quality educator payment, education loan repayment, and full-time kindergarten.
Jim and the iron-clad friendships he built, nurtured, and never forgot.
Jim and the implacable enemies he made, nurtured, and never forgot in the rough-edged world of union organizing . . . because, well, because he was Jim . . . and he despised jealous competitors who failed to grant or even acknowledge his success. They gave it back in kind.
Jim and Butte, the sacred city of his birth.
Jim, a Montana organizer, without peer.
Jim's funeral is today, Monday, Labor Day, as it should be.
P.S. Despite rumors to the contrary, I don’t believe Jim ever really fished with dynamite.