Circling the Wagons

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  • By Susan "The Wife" Bartley
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Circling the Wagons

Grief over a long hard week and a big bucket of love.

Our gym is a family.  In my case I have been here and known everyone for 17 years.  Marc has known our members for 20+ years.  The people I see every day at my gym (my job) are very, very important to me and this week has been hard for all of us.

 

It started on Monday when the local news announced that a Nuclear Plant they were building in a neighboring county had been abruptly shut down.  Over 4,000 people lost their jobs with no warning, with no way to prepare.  8 of those people are members of our gym family.  As soon as the news hit we began scurrying trying to find out who was affected and what did they need.  One friend had just landed his dream job with this company, where he could finally work 9-5 and spend the evenings and weekends with his wife.  One friend is expecting his second child.  One friend has to decide whether to stay in town and close to his 10-year-old daughter or move to a city where he can find the same level of employment.  This is not easy stuff.  There isn’t much we can do to help – except love on each and every one of them so they know we care and we will do whatever is needed.

 

That was Monday.  We rode the wave, made a plan and moved forward as a family.

 

Then Thursday came and one of our beloved members suffered a massive heart attack in the gym after doing a set of arm curls on his favorite Cybex curl machine.  In a second we went from a gym full of people getting in their workout to a gym full of people praying that God wouldn’t take our good friend Jacob Holmes. Everyone stopped what they were doing and waited, and prayed, and bore witness to the fight our brother was going through.  Everyone who was in our gym that night stayed to help Jacob win the fight.  We would not learn until later, after the ambulance took him away, that Jacob lost his battle on earth and won his glory in heaven.

 

Jacob Holmes was not just a gym member, he was everyone’s friend.  He was a mentor to anyone who needed it.  He was a smile that could brighten the room.  He was a man who made your day better just by his presence.  He was an AME Pastor who led many into the light of Christ and he was a middle school principal who touched the lives of thousands of young people through the years. He could (and would) talk to you about anything and he will be remembered, and honored for all of these things.

 

He will also be remembered for the old, frayed, stinky wool lettermans jacket that he wore to workout in even on the hottest days in South Carolina.  He received the jacket from Eau Claire High School when they won the basketball championships sometime in the 90’s.  I believe that his wife did everything in her power to get rid of the jacket (as most wives would – it was truly awful) but he kept it in the trunk of his car so he would always have it to wear while working out.  It was his mojo.  People might not have known his name, but they knew he was “the guy with the jacket”.  My husband used to joke with him that one day he would be buried in that jacket. That jacket had a life all its own.

 

So many stories.  So many ways this man touched my life, Marc’s life and the lives of everyone in our gym.  He was very loud when he wanted to be and you could hear him say “I command you to grow” and turn your head to watch him kiss is bicep.  He also liked to do the iconic Ric Flair “Woo!” if he thought it was too quiet in the gym.  With Jacob in the house it was never quiet for long.

 

I have reflected a lot over the past few days about love.  How much I love our community.  How much I love all my friends who are going through a hard time after losing their jobs.  How much I loved Jacob Holmes and how much I will miss him. I am humbled by the people who chose to stay Thursday night to offer what support they could.  It would have been easier to say it wasn’t their grief and go home. I love them for staying.  I have thought long and hard about how I have been blessed to have all of these people in my life and I and humbled that I have been given the opportunity to love each and every one of them.  I am even more humbled to know that they love me back. 

 

I hope Jacob knew how much we loved him.  I hope all of my friends know. I love you. I love you. I love you.

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