No man is an island. Each man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main. John Donne wrote down those thoughts in the 17th Century. A few days ago Donne’s words came to mind again.
I was eating a late lunch at Old Country Buffet near the Metrocenter mall when I heard a woman’s voice call my name. I turned to see Lee, an acquaintance of mine. She sat alone at a table, waiting for her husband Louis to return. It was unusual to see her there on a Monday. They normally made the long drive up on Tuesdays. Lee looked sad.
“Jim was killed,” she said, “murdered we think.”
Jim, Jim? I couldn’t remember him at first. Lee jogged my memory. Of course, that Jim. Jim the gray-haired man with the crew cut that usually ate at the same table. I noticed Jim’s woman friend, Dorothy, was not there.
Jim was an acquaintance, someone with whom I spoke only a few words over the years. He was in his 60s and looked in good health. He liked to wear sweaters on cool winter days. He had some sort of mental impairment. Lee said he took medication for depression. But it was more than that. Of those few words I spoke to him, I think he understood very little. “Hi, Jim,” was about it. He would return the greeting verbatim using my name.
And yet I sensed there was more to Jim than what I saw on the surface. I was astonished when he told me once he had been playing chess with a friend all afternoon. He and Lee’s husband, Louis, were very close. Driving in the car, I often saw them walking together around the corner of 7th Ave and Osborn.
I didn’t even know Jim’s last name until Lee told me. “Bosold,” she said and spelled it for me. Jim Bosold. Or James C. Bosold, born in October 1945, as I learned later on a quick internet search. Listening to Lee and Louis, I also learned Jim had no surviving kin, was never married and had no children. He was a veteran of military service and did not like VA hospitals. Louis said he and Jim were regulars at Mi Patio, a little Mexican cafe not far from where they lived.
Anyway, from what I could pick up, it was Dorothy who found Jim. She found him lying on the ground outside the Barrington Regency on Osborn. He had fallen or been pushed from the 4th floor where his apartment was. That or, left unsaid, he could’ve jumped. This was Thursday night, March 4. Jim died at St. Joseph’s hospital, Lee said. He would’ve been 65 in October. Jim wanted his body cremated, I was told.
The person who may know Jim best is in the hospital. Dorothy is a patient there, devastated by the ordeal, Lee said.
I’m sure the death of Jim will change the course of my life, no matter how minutely. The time I spent saying a few words to him will now be spent thinking about something else. And now I am interested to know more about the circumstances of his death. I regret that I did not take the time to try to know him better.
Maybe Jim’s legacy is this. I will try to stop, even for a moment, and attempt to know and understand those people on the periphery of my life. For I believe what the tormented Donne wrote with the final words of his now famous quotation.
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”