From the time he was born we knew James was going to be a big guy. Apparently he was in a hurry to be born, but didn’t want to venture out on his own… the doctors were convinced that he was malnourished and needed help being born ahead of schedule… but when he arrived, we could see he had us all fooled. At well over ten pounds, he was the biggest baby in the nursery. Nurses kidded us about this little boy who would go straight from the hospital to kindergarten!
He was an easy baby… the only one of our seven to sleep through the night at an early age. He was a bright little boy, and most definitely ALL boy despite being the only brother among three sisters, till his first brother came along when he was seven years old. His favourite toy was his Lego blocks, and he got his dad and all his sisters involved building all sorts of amazing things.
His sense of humour made itself evident very early. He was barely eighteen months old the evening that three-year-old Irene squealed from the bedroom that James was going to pinch her. I stepped to the bedroom doorway to see what the commotion was all about, just in time to see tiny James crawling across the bed, grinning mischievously, finger and thumb opening and closing like pincers, chanting softly, “Nipper napper, nipper napper…”
James was homeschooled all his life, through high school and into his fourth year of university. Back in the late 1980s when we started, homeschooling families were a rarity. Friends and relatives worried that our children would not be properly taught, and would be poorly socialized. The next biggest concern was, “How will they ever learn to use the computer??? After all, you don’t have the money to BUY a computer, let alone take lessons so you can teach your children how to use it. And they’ll never get anywhere in today’s world if they are not computer literate!”
Well, guess what? We got our first used computer when James was four years old. It came with a pile of games on floppy disks. Guess who climbed up on the chair in front of the computer and slid a floppy in the drive and proceeded to teach his big sister and his DAD how to play the games? One small boy who had never seen a computer before, and didn’t even know how to read yet.
James spent several years as a camper at Whitney Lake Bible Camp, run by Canadian Sunday School Mission. He was one of the lucky ones… his own dad was his counsellor, so he didn’t suffer the homesickness that so many young children do in their first years at camp. After that first year, James earned his way to camp free of charge, by memorizing passages of scripture… up to 100 verses each winter. There he learned Bible lessons, arts and crafts, and such skills as archery, canoeing, swimming.
James’ interest in computers and software grew through the years. He was given free reign to fool around and experiment with our computer. He seemed to know just what to do, and if he got stuck, he knew what questions to ask, and where to go in the public library to find the answers.
At barely 17, he was offered a summer job at Acrodex. He worked with his dad, doing the same job, for a man’s wages. When September came, he was asked to stay on permanently. He worked there for a year and a half, leaving only when he was laid off due to downsizing when the computer industry began to decline. Since there was no way for him to travel to town for a job, he used the time to study from home, through the Athabasca University. And when his funding ran out a year ago, he got a job at Extra Foods. For someone whose entire life had been computers up till that point, one might think he would not enjoy stocking shelves at a large grocery store… or working nights when everyone else in his world was awake all day… But James loved his job at Extra Foods, and enjoyed all the people who came across his path there.
He was so proud of his truck, which he bought last summer, a few days before his 25th birthday. He never got to do everything he had in mind, to make it look the way he wanted. But he did put a row of lights on top of the cab, and he proudly displayed the Welsh flag on the front. It is fitting that he should spend his last hours working at the job he loved, and then driving the truck he loved, before going home to the room he had just gotten set up the way he wanted it.
James was a homebody, and liked nothing better than to spend time at his computer, listening to his favourite music. But he was always willing to drive his sisters and brothers to the city whenever they asked. And when he went places, he always had a following. He learned early on that he would only get in trouble if he fought with other kids, because he was usually bigger than they were. Warding off the blows was about all he could do. It was a common sight to see big, strong James, holding a small child at arm’s length with the child’s arms and legs going a mile a minute as he tried with all his might to get closer to James to play fight with him.
Ian and I were privileged to have James living at home with us until the end of September of this year, when he moved into town, to a rented house with his three sisters. To have our grown children living so close by is a blessing we’ve been enjoying while we can, knowing it would not always be that way. It also made it a little easier to coordinate everyone’s schedule on Friday night, December 11, to celebrate the marriage of our oldest daughter Irene. We had a wonderful time that night, with the whole family sitting around the supper table together, for the first time in a long time.
We could wish James had not gone for a drive after getting off work on the night of December 12. We could also wish the air hadn’t been so dense with patches of ice fog. We could wish he had seen the stop sign in time… and that the grain truck driver had been a few minutes earlier or later in reaching that spot on the road. But the truth is, there are no accidents with God. And we know where James is today, because he knew God and loved Him. He trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord when he was a little boy… and he never wavered in that faith all through the years as he was growing up. He knew where he was going when he passed from this life. And it gives our family great comfort, to know we will see him again some day.
James was an exemplary son, and best of friends with his brothers and sisters. He will be remembered for his wacky sense of humour and wonderful laugh, his friendly ways, his love for kids, his magic touch with computers, and his quiet faith in his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
~ Willena Flewelling
A poem I wrote on James’ birthday a few months after he was taken…
~*~ July 10, 2010 ~*~
On this special Saturday
Your 26th birthday
We long for you and wistfully
Think of what might have been
But we know what you would say
If you could talk to us today…
“For me to live is Christ
and to die is gain!”
We miss you, James.
Mom & Dad
Irene & Sean
Raewyn, Vicki, Andrew,
Timothy and Nathaniel