It was fitting Henry Harding took me to the airport last Wednesday.
Henry’s friendship goes back to the end of time, mine and his time at least, and he went out of his way to arise early and drive me to Berry Field (I still prefer that moniker to “Nashville International Airport”) for the only non-stop flight to the Southwest corner.
It was appropriate after a week of saying good-byes to my father to spend that drive with Henry.
Now, I am back in my barge office moored to the wooden pier in perfect Southwest corner weather with tugboats chugging to get underway and cranes groaning as crews hoist and move loads. It’s not the same as it was two weeks ago. It will get better for me, but it’s not the same. It will never be the same.
As I plug away at safety reports and insurance documentation, I keep thinking about Lebanon. My brother Joe, sister Martha, and I are trying to help our mother, and taking care of business just like my father would have. Our focus is on Lebanon. Another reason I think eastward is my continuing realization of how wonderful the good folks in Lebanon really are.
The outpouring of sympathy and support in these past few weeks has been far beyond what was expected. The visitation and the service for Jimmy Jewell were attended by numbers far exceeding my projections. Certainly, a great deal of this support was created because of Jimmy Jewell’s place in the community. But it also reflects the caring of folks in Lebanon.
All of the inhabitants at Deer Park assisted us more than they will ever know. Food began arriving almost the same time the family did. We were in the middle of wondering how we were going to feed everyone when the first batch showed. Joyce Waggoner, the next door neighbor, and Linda and Gene Shehane were the spearheads for the provisions, but most neighbors contributed.
Even more beneficial were the kind words the denizens of Deer Park offered to our mother and us.
Another group who must be mentioned is the ladies of the First Methodist Church of Lebanon. When a member of the church passes away, rotating teams augment the main dish supplied by the church with their own wonderful Southern fare for meal after a funeral service. They provided us such a meal in the church’s fellowship hall. It was a kind, helpful, and generous gesture. It was even better because Helen Mason, a family friend whose parents spent many good times with mine, was on the team.
The outpouring of respect for my father helped my family greatly. My mother, Estelle Jewell, laughed and remarked, “Jimmy would have been surprised so many people showed up.” Later she added, “Jimmy would have never believed the mayor (Lebanon’s mayor, Phillip Craighead) would have been here.”
There are many to thank, too many to thank here. We are beginning the process of personal notes of thanks and will, undoubtedly, miss some folks.
As I thought about all of this and my continued affection for my home town, I also realized I have a bully pulpit (as Teddy Roosevelt deemed it) in this column. Often I am concerned my personal life and those of my friends in Lebanon are the only folks (Do we call ourselves “Lebanonites?”) I mention. There are other churches in Lebanon which help others in similar ways, but are not mentioned here because my family experiences are with the Methodists. There are many other people, especially those younger than I, who are missing from these columns because I hang out with my friends from the past when I come to visit.
I suspect from my few times around the younger set, the tradition of helping others when needed is carried out by that generation as well. I also am sure other places, not only in the South, but all over the country, have that feeling of community and of being in it together.
But those other places aren’t my place, my Lebanon. As much as I enjoy my life in the Southwest corner, I know Lebanon’s spirit of community, is stronger, more selfless, more caring. I miss that.
Thank you, Lebanon, for your help in our time of grief.
Jim Jewell is a writer and retired Navy commander living in San Diego and working for Pacific Tugboat Service. He was the director Navy’s West Coast leadership training and has been an consultant in executive coaching, teambuilding and organizational development. Jim still calls Lebanon his home.