Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Life Richly Lived--Eulogy for Jim Goeke-Morey

Eulogy for Jim Goeke-Morey by his wife Marcie

When Jim told people he was a middle school teacher, they usually responded with a combination of awe, condolences, and admiration. But there was nothing else he’d rather do. He loved his students and he loved social studies.  The “human google” as a former student called him, he brought to his classes tremendous energy and creativity—and flags. He insisted on wearing a shirt and tie every day as a show of respect for his students—except of course on St. Patrick’s Day when he wore a full Irish kilt complete with the sash and bag and little flaps on the socks. Messages have poured in these past few weeks from current and former students and parents saying how much he meant to them. They thanked him for fostering a love of history, opening their worlds to new ideas, and inspiring them to work harder. They also spoke about how he cared for them, encouraged them—and gave them ice cream money when they forgot to bring it.

Teaching was Jim’s vocation, and not just in the classroom.  He taught all of us so much through the example of his life.  

One of my favorite lessons was to embrace adventure. Jim had incredibly fun ideas—like camping our way to and through the Pacific Northwest for a year after we graduated college even though we had no plan, no money, no job, and knew no one outside the Midwest.  Before I met Jim I would never have thought to even imagine doing something like that—before he met me, he probably wouldn’t have pulled it off.  That’s one of the reasons we were such a great pair. He had these amazing ideas and I made them happen. His dreams took us backpacking on a primitive island where he proposed to me and on an African safari where we—intentionally—slid head first down a massive Namibian sand dune, and so much more. He kindled a passion for exploration and the outdoors in our daughters, logging over 30,000 miles in our Toyota Sienna traversing this country, hiking endlessly in National Parks, having adventure after adventure.  With his friends he cycled and kayaked and played Ultimate Frisbee, and he shared his adventurous spirit with St Ambrose students through his stories and summer camp Trip-A-Day. 

Jim was always up for anything. He said YES to life. 
In college in Ohio someone might ask: Do you want to go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, to a college bowl game in Florida, or on a road trip to the Rockies? And Jim was in the car.
Do you want to taste a local delicacy while traveling? Yes! 
Sit in the Dunk Tank for the St. Ambrose school picnic? Yes!  
Go on a mission trip to El Salvador? Yes!
No matter how tired or busy he was, our daughters’ requests to play catch, or to be thrown in the pool or be chased by a monster on the playground were met every single time with a joyful YES!
When we lived in Oregon we visited Crater Lake, a beautiful rain produced lake in the cone of a volcano. We hiked to the edge of the most spectacular blue water-gorgeous and inviting. But it was also 50 degrees. Undeterred Jim leaped in and splashed around for a few minutes.  Still new in his tutelage, I of course did NOT follow him into the frigid water, but I later regretted missing that experience. For over 20 years I have kept a framed photo of him in that water on my desk as a reminder and challenge to myself to say YES and seize the moment and take the risk—in the words of Mary Oliver, to make the most of my “one wild and precious life” like Jim did so well.

For the first two years after his brain cancer diagnosis in 2009, we were in survival mode. As that initial round of treatment ended and the cancer growth stalled we caught our breath, backed up from the edge of the cliff we had been teetering over and built our life there as we waited for the inevitable recurrence we were told to expect within 5-7 years. I suspect we have all mused about what we would do if we had six months to live, and fantasized about quitting our jobs in dramatic fashion, traveling the world, and eating artery clogging foods and decadent desserts with abandon.  Jim taught me and all of us who were privileged to walk with him how to answer the much more challenging question: What would you do if you had five years to live, with responsibilities of children to raise, and bills to pay, and students to teach?   

By Jim’s example, he taught us to live intentionally and meaningfully and fully every single day.  He was a master at making each moment count.  He didn’t take offense, hold a grudge, or gossip—there was no time for that. He was kind to everyone and did good wherever he could. He Smiled. Danced. Sang. Laughed. Worshiped. Worked. Played.  He celebrated holidays—complete with his over the top Halloween graveyard and zombie army.  He tried new things.  After seeing a hurling match during our travels in Ireland (the field sport with the stick, not the ice one with the broom), he came home and joined the DC Gaels, and started hurling with them. Who does that?!  He completed triathlons and mudraces. He was more excited to play in the snow and sled and build igloos than the kids.  A long-time fan of Monty Python, he loved to wear a Spam-a-lot t-shirt that read across the front “I am not dead yet,” a whimsical reminder to get busy living.  

Jim taught us that life doesn’t have to be free of challenge to choose joy and generosity and hope.  With no cure (yet), we knew his earthly body would never be free of the cancer. So Jim set himself to the task of living with it--his unbridled positivity unabated.  He showed us how to be happy in the mess. To find beauty in ugliness. To live in the present moment. Jim didn’t sweat the small stuff.  Heck, he didn’t sweat the big stuff! Instead of feeling sorry for himself or anxious or depressed, he smiled and laughed and remained hopeful. He never in nine years lamented “Why me?”  In his tremendous humility, his attitude was instead “Why not me?”  In his last act of selfless generosity, Jim donated his brain to science in the hope that one day soon researchers will find a cure for this devastating disease so no one else will have to leave the ones they love because of it.  

Although 48 years was not nearly as much time as he or we wanted, Jim lived a consequential life. We are better for the time we had with him. We will continue to learn and be inspired by the memory of his life so richly lived.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Jim's obituary

https://www.gaschs.com/notices/JamesJim-Goeke-Morey

Some people ripen in their humanity early and are called home. Jim was one of those people.

Jim served God by serving people, and his gift was bringing people together. To his middle school students, he brought the world, through World Cup flag parades, lively debates, and social justice projects, making Jim a legend to scores of children whose lives he touched through teaching. To his friends, Jim’s love of sports, craft beer, and community made him a lynchpin of fun. They will sorely miss deep and involved conversations with him about history, hurling, ultimate frisbee, and IPAs.

Jim completely adored his wife and daughters. When he married his best friend, Marcie Goeke, they joined their names, as well as their lives, becoming the Goeke-Moreys. Jim lived well his promise to love, honor and cherish, remaining smitten with Marcie for over 27 years. The perennial “fun dad,” Jim kindled in their daughters, Carrie, Amara, and Genet, his passion for life, adventure, and the outdoors. Together the Goeke-Moreys traveled the country and the globe, playing, camping, and spending precious time together building memories. Bridging the divide between D.C. and the Heartland, Jim loved returning to his hometown of Elyria, Ohio, and bringing together his Washington family with his Midwest family.

When Jim was diagnosed nine years ago with a brain tumor, he treated it like a speed bump, not a rock wall. Even through his treatments, Jim lived each day fully, continuing to teach, cycle, compete in triathlons, camp, and travel. He chose joy and hope, and inspired everyone who knew him with his positive attitude and zest for life. He nurtured the rest of us by generously sharing his journey through his blog. And his sense of humor never left him. In one of his missives, mid-stride of explaining the schedule for his next MRI, Jim wrote, “I have a beard now. I’m very hipster.”

On Sunday, December 9th, God called Jim home. Here on Earth, Jim is survived by his wife Marcie and their daughters Carrie, Amara, and Genet; his adoring parents, James & Carolyn (Kaminski) Morey; and his devoted brother Steve (Tara). He was the treasured nephew of Barbara Kaminski, endeared son-in-law of Joseph (Sue) Goeke and Carol Goeke (Jim Joseph), admired brother-in-law of Joe (Jennifer) Goeke and Keith (Cecilia) Goeke, and loving uncle of Lucy and Gretchen Morey and Henry, Max, Sadie, Anna, Stephanie, and Michael Goeke.

Family and friends may call at Gasch's Funeral Home, P.A., 4739 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville, MD on Friday, December 14, from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 15 at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 3107 63rd Ave., Cheverly, MD. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made in his name to Catholic Relief Services or National Brain Tumor Society.

Donations may be made to:

Catholic Relief Services
228 W. Lexington St., Baltimore MD 21201-3443
Tel: 1-877-435-7277
Email: info@crs.org
Web: https://www.crs.org/

National Brain Tumor Society
55 Chapel Street, Suite 200, Newton MA 02458
Tel: 1-617-924-9997
Web: http://braintumor.org


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Funeral services

Visitation for Jim Goeke-Morey will take place Friday December 14, 2018, from 3:00pm to 5:00pm and 7:00pm to 9:00pm at Gasch's Funeral Home, 4739 Baltimore Avenue, Hyattsville MD 20781.

The Funeral Mass will be at 1:00pm on Saturday December 15 at St. Ambrose Catholic Church, 3107 63rd Avenue, Cheverly MD 20785.  Reception following in Fannon Hall.



Monday, December 10, 2018

Flying with the angels


There’s a party in heaven tonight welcoming our dear friend and my sweet love, Jim.

I imagine beer is flowing and glasses are clinking.
Irish music is playing and flags are flying.  
Joy and laughter are filling the air.
Gramma Flo Flo is making him crepes…”Just eat!”

And God is patting him on the back saying,
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done.”

 (arrangement details to follow)

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Saying Goodbye


Just when it seems that we may have gotten a handle on Jim’s nausea, he gets sick again. Thankfully on the whole it was a better week with more alertness and less discomfort. However other symptoms have worsened and new ones are appearing that indicate with more confidence and sadness that the end is nearing.

It is hard to say goodbye. Hospice suggests perhaps beginning with one of the following:

What I love most about you…
What I will always remember…
What I will miss most about you…
What I learned from you…
What I will cherish…

If you are so inclined, please consider sharing your memories and reflections with us as you say goodbye to Jim. We have been moved by the messages of love so many have shared already. They mean the world to Jim and to me and they will be an invaluable lifeline for our daughters to their dad in the months and years ahead. You can email (marciegm@gmail.com), mail, drop off, or send through FB.  Thank you.

Please continue to pray for a peaceful transition for Jim.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Decline


Dear family and friends,

So many are praying and asking about Jim, so I wanted to send an update. Unfortunately, the disease seems to be progressing quickly at this point.

Jim has changed quite a bit in the last few weeks. Since Thanksgiving, he has gotten up briefly (in a wheelchair) a few times, but has spent most of his time in bed. He wakes periodically during the day, and may be awake for an hour or so if he has a special visitor, but he spends most of the day sleeping. He’s harder to wake now, less alert when he’s awake, and seems to have more trouble understanding. He enjoyed some homemade chicken noodle soup a few nights ago (thank you Jamie), but if he eats, which he doesn’t every day, it’s generally just a few bites of graham cracker or applesauce.  He is plagued with intermittent nausea and vomits at least once or twice a day but we’re still making medication adjustments in hopes of lessening that. He is having an even harder time communicating verbally so it’s difficult to know exactly when he has pain but we’re working hard to keep him comfortable. 

Based on all this, we expect that he is likely in his final week(s) and is unlikely to be here by Christmas.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has been walking with him these past nine years that Jim has yet to complain, cry, yell, or pout in the face of this decline. At most, when I tell him it's time to take medicine (that tastes bad or is likely to make him throw up) he may scrunch up his face or grimace until I ask him to please open his mouth, at which time he acquiesces because for 27 years he has wanted nothing more than to make me happy.

Please continue to send greetings, memories, stories, admirations, photos, and funny videos. They mean the world to us and will be a treasure for the girls as a remembrance of their dad.

If you are inclined, please join the community prayer service Sunday 12/2 4:00 est  at St. Ambrose in Cheverly, or in spirit from wherever you are.

Blessings,
Marcie

Belated Thanksgiving Greeting


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We are grateful beyond measure for all of you and your support these past two weeks (and nine years!). Thank you for strengthening us through your prayers and well wishes. Thank you to those who have visited or sent emails, cards, facebook greetings, funny videos, and photos—I have not responded to most but have so greatly appreciated each one. Thanks to all who have brought food, desserts, and flowers; sent gift cards; run errand; raked leaves; or responded without question to all manner of odd request. Thank you for your friendship and your heart felt expressions of love.

We are so grateful for the medical care Jim has received all these years, and the large team (at hospice, Hopkins, NIH, & Weill Cornell) of dedicated and compassionate researchers and practitioners who support us so well (and return my emails and texts at all hours).

We are so grateful to have been able to share a lovely Thanksgiving week with dear friends and family—and grateful that Jim felt well enough to visit and even eat a bit of mashed potato, turkey, stuffing, and apple pie!

We are so grateful for each minute we have together... each kiss, each snuggle, each smile. each peaceful moment.

We are so grateful.