Monday, November 11, 2013

In Memoriam: James Heaney

I'll be the first to say that I did not know James Heaney very well. But I'm going to tell you a story. I'm telling this story not because it's about me, or happened to me or whatever. I just want to get it out there, in my usual verbose perspective...I want people to feel the magnitude of how someone touched our lives and how to help his loved ones in this terrible time.  Here's the story....

I was sick for like three weeks. It was a really long drawn out cold. On October 25th, there was going to be a Mini Cooper "Rally". We were invited by the sales guy who sold us the car and weren't going to go. It's where like hundreds of Mini Coopers drive together somewhere- this time it was the Warwick drive in movie theater. You have dinner at Mini, supplied by them, there is a car-dress up contest, then we all drive. But it used to be in warmer months so it was going to be dark by the time we actually left Mini and not good at all because it's hard to follow that way.

Let me back-track a little. Two weeks before the rally (Rally was 10/25/13), I ran into my neighbor, Sharon Sullivan-Heaney. We met Sharon and her husband James at the Progressive Dinner or Wine & Cheese night in town about five years ago. I'm pretty sure it was before Ethan. They're a few years younger than us, and were friends already with another neighbor couple or two we are friendly with from town. We really liked Sharon and James. Bryan thought Sharon was one of the funniest people he'd ever met. We'd only see them here and there over time because we're all busy. At some point I had Ethan, they still had no kids. Then the next or the next progressive dinner or some event we saw them. But whenever we did run into them, we'd gravitate toward hanging out with them for the duration of the evening. The last thing we saw them at, the four of us were the last to leave someone's house together.

About two weeks before Oct 25, I ran into Sharon in the park. Totally odd because we both work full time but we happened to be off or I left early or whatever. No one else we knew were even there which was also kind of strange because it's "the" park. Everyone we know goes there. We ended up there an extra hour just to catch up and I told her that if she and James ever want to come over just for pizza night on a Saturday that would be cool...and it really seemed like it would. I REALLY like her. And with busy lives, you know, you can only make time for people you really want to spend time with. They are those kind of people.
Then we heard about this Mini thing. But we had plans to go to a party. I had Jordan, Sydney's sister lined up to babysit. It was going to be Jordan's first time staying alone, I thought she was looking forward to it, and I'd already cancelled on her the week before because E was sick. I still had a really bad cold though and I didn't want to go anywhere. THEN, James Heaney, Sharon's husband emailed me on FB. We were FB friends but never had any personal email communication. He was really into Mini, which I forgot. He was all geared up for this thing. He seemed to genuinely want us to go. He really pitched the rally, which I found kind of amusing- I don't know. I thought his Mini passion was funny. I'd had a Saturn for ten years before we got the first Mini in 2006 and Saturn people were like that too. I guess I like cars that have a real cult following. Bryan kind of wanted to go when we'd first heard of it but his interest had been waning because it was going to be so cold outside the night of the event.
BUT, here I'd seen Sharon, told her we should hang, her husband bothered to get in touch to make sure we knew about it and wanted to coordinate going together. I felt like I should put my money where my mouth is, decided to forget the party since we weren't sure it was even definitely happening, cancelled Jordan, and told James we'd go. We made a plan for them to meet us at our house and we'd go up together so we'd be next to each other for the movie. I think a day or two before the rally, James emailed me and said that Sharon couldn't go. She had a work meeting. James met us at our house, without Sharon but with the twins.
B and I were saying how impressed we were- James was so into this hobby of Mini and wants to share it with the girls that he's willing to take twin two and a half year olds by himself to this thing. I mean, anyone with kids knows that with just one, the worst hours are the "witching hours"- dinnertime through bedtime. Who really wants to take their kids out of the house at that time? After working a full day. James acted like it would be a breeze. We just shrugged and followed his lead, kind of thinking he was nuts but thinking maybe he knew something we didn't. And if he could do it with two kids, surely we could do it with one kid.
We got to Mini and James was playing with all the kids. He wasn't just "dealing" with his kids. He was chasing Ethan and this other boy, they were running and playing out in the cold on the grass. He'd gotten the girls to eat dinner, got them to the bathroom, all with minimal help and a smile on his face. He just seems like a really good dad, really HAPPY to be a dad.
It was too cold that night to really hang out- we finally made it to Warwick and we had to watch from the car, closed in. It was hard for him with both girls- they are the cutest kids ever but twins at two and a half are no joke. Amelia tried to touch every button on the dashboard of her dad's car. She was all over the place. Just thinking about it is still funny. I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd figured out how to drive away. they didn't want to sit still and halfway through he said it was time to go- for them. So they left and that was that....It was Friday night, October 25th.
I was stressed out all week from then on because I was still sick, Bryan got re-sick, we were hoping E wouldn't get re-sick, and I was trying to prepare to go away. I was leaving for a four day trip the next morning. Thursday night, October 31st, I planned to go to bed early because I had 5-6 hours of driving alone to do on Friday. I checked Facebook ONE last time around 11:30ish. I saw all these photos posted by someone I don't know, in my feed, saying goodbye to his dear friend James Heaney. But there were many photos, with numerous people in them.  
WHAT?? No, it must be someone else that passed in these photos. Maybe his father or brother or something. We were JUST WITH HIM. SO randomly. I hadn't seen them in like a year, I ran into Sharon, then we go with James to the Mini thing and now he's 36 and just GONE?? So I went to his page, her page, and yes, indeed, he had passed away. I was floored. It's not about me, but I couldn't even sleep. It was like in About Last Night when Demi Moore wants to talk to a sleeping Rob Lowe, going, "Dan...are you awake? Are you sleeping?" B was sleeping, I was supposed to be sleeping, and I had no one to confirm, deny, nothing. It felt totally surreal and I felt AWFUL for Sharon...and those sweet, beautiful girls whose dad just loved them to pieces. James died on Sunday Oct 27- two days after we were with him.
It's awful to say, but there are some people you hear of this happening to and you're not exactly surprised. Maybe they do some drugs, party a lot, work ridiculous hours in a high stress environment, are out of shape, have all kinds of health problems. This was not the kind of guy you'd think this would happen to- he was in what looked to be like in generally good shape, he was only 36...
And unfortunately, there are people you hear of stuff like this happening and you feel for their family, but don't feel THAT bad because they aren't stand-up people. James was not one of those.
He was sort of quiet. But quietly funny. He was super nice and when I think of him, I think of him with a smile. Playing with kids. I think of he and Sharon as one of those couples you like to be around because they showed a genuine affection for each other. They didn't bicker. At least in public. You know you know those couples who you want to retreat into your own skin because it's so uncomfortable to be around them. What struck us about them is that Sharon is one of the funniest people we encountered and he was her quieter, but still funny, partner in crime. I didn't even know they were together for so long. But it makes sense. It's like they were puzzle pieces that just fit. And that's just the perception of someone being around them together just a few times. But I've been around couples just a few times that I would expect to hear not long after that they'd divorced. Not them. They seemed truly happy and enjoying each other's time.
Sharon is going to need a lot of help. She didn't SAY she needs help. But anyone would need help in her situation. I don't know what kind of help she'll utilize and/or ask for. It's always weird when someone dies....People are around, making meals, trying to help, all in the beginning. But, then, as is human nature, people go back to their own lives. It's not a fault, it's just a testament to how resilient human beings are. Time does heal and life does go on. But, Sharon is in her 30's and their girls are only two and a half years old. They're going to need monetary help as anyone would in her situation of being a single working mom now. It's just a fact. I'm sure everyone wants to disrupt the girls lives as little as possible now and the only way to do that effectively is to make sure they have the money they need to keep life as normal as possible.
Some local/mutual friends have set up a donation site for them. I'm passing it on to get to as many people as possible. Please share it- share if from here, from my FB page, from my blog FB page...share, share, share. I want it everywhere. The goal on there is $10,000. I'd love to go to the page and see the goal hit as soon as possible. It would probably be a huge weight lifted from Sharon. There isn't much we can do to help, because there are very few words that can comfort at a time like this, but at least we can raise money! Nothing can bring James back, but we can bring some peace of mind.
Rest in peace James Heaney and peace and love to Sharon, Layne & Amelia, and all of James's friends and family.


  1. OMG tara... i read your whole blog - and when i got to the end and you said he was 36 - it all fell into place - my sister knows sharon, (my sister is also a speech therapist in the Paramus school system). she told me last week how her heart was breaking for this young family. May God bless them and hold them tightly. Rest Peacefully James, we know you are now your girls' guardian angel.

  2. Cathy- hopefully people will share and at least donations can come in. It's just such a tragedy. :(