Jim Owens and Lance
I was reminded through FaceBook of a friend we are dearly missing. He wrote a book and I illustrated it. I wrote this for the publisher to share the story behind the story and they put it at the end of the book. It is about Jim but it also shows another side of Lance that we should never forget.
Jim and I met at “The Ride for the Roses” in Austin Texas. We took our picture together and the start of the ride and chatted a bit before the ride really cranked up. I was immediately struck by his big smile and honesty. His internal strength while he talked about his disease was truly inspiring.
A couple years later the phone rang and it was Jim. He told me that he had written a story and would like me to illustrate it. He sent me the manuscript and I knew he had something unique. A clear and simple way to tell his 6 year old why he didn’t feel well. I showed it to my wife and she said, “you have to do this.” The work began slowly at first, but the book started to take shape. Jim and I had some long discussions over the phone and had a pretty good disagreement about how to deal with the “Faith” aspect of the book. It forced me to look outside my own opinions and ask others about their thoughts on the subject. I learned a great deal through those discussions.
The book moved forward slowly and Jim called again to see if we could meet in person. He was very excited. The American Cancer Society wanted to publish the book. He was up in Seattle and we planned to meet in Olympia Washington. I was proud to show him the progress I had made but was taken aback when I saw him. His Cancer had a strong hold on him now and it was evident. We made plans to really get this thing going. I promised I could have all the illustrations done by January 1st.
One of the things we talked about in Olympia was to see if Lance would write the forward for the book. I wasn’t sure but I thought there was a possibility. I called his friend and agent Bart and sent him the manuscript. A month later I had all the sketches dialed in and was ready to start my finished art. I kept working and called Jim a few weeks before Christmas to give him and update and Jim didn’t call me back. This was very unlike him and I was nervous. He called a week later and said he was having a tough time. I kept focused on the goal of the first week of January and kept going.
I called Jim one night and he was really struggling but he really wanted to know about Lance and that foreword. Barb got on the phone and gave me the update. Jim had taken a bad turn and there were no more medical options.
I focused on what I could do and called Bart again the next day. He told me Lance was going to write the foreword. I excitedly called back and talked to Jim very briefly. Barb and I talked again and she said he was really close. I called Bart back again to ask if there was any way Lance could call Jim. I was not the only one.
On the Saturday just after Christmas Lance called Jim and talked for a while. Jim was lucid, had a great chat and heard from Lance about all the phone calls he had received on his behalf. Lance also told him he would be writing the foreword.
The next morning my phone rang and it was John, Jim’s brother. The moment I heard his voice I knew why. Jim had passed that morning. John and I talked about how Jim had really hung on just to make sure that Lance would be part of it.
I really struggled when I sat at my drawing table to finish the last two illustrations. I just stared at the screen for over an hour before I began. Once I started I don’t even remember time passing. As I worked on the last drawing of Jim and Max riding together the strangest thing happened. I started to laugh out loud. I wasn’t really in a laughing mood until I realized it was the joyful way one laughs when they go for a ride around the block with their son.
Jim, you will be missed.