Gratitude is My Attitude

This is how I like to remember Jimmy.  A bright smile, a big hug and that “aw mom,” look he got when I asked for “one more photo!”  I am so grateful for every single time I rounded my kids up for “just one more!”  This photo was taken before the infamous Iron Man, where year after year, he would win the paddling part of that July 4th debacle, but lose it in the chugging contest.  Not a shining moment for any parent, but a rite of passage in the South Bay.

Today, almost 16 years to the day he took his life, I can honestly say my heart is full of gratitude for the 35 years we had together, and for his legacy through the Jimmy Miller Memorial Foundation.  In the midst of this Covid catastrophe, I have been so proud to share the amazing work we have done in Jimmy’s name.  Even though we have not been able to help others through our adaptive surf sessions, and the therapeutic work of sharing on the beach, we have reached untold numbers of people who read the articles about our Ocean Therapy Program in  The Global Journal of Community Psychology – Special Issue.  Ocean Therapy is now evidence based science and has become a world-wide practice in the 15 years since we founded our ground-breaking Ocean Therapy Program.

I am grateful that the guys in my family encouraged me to learn to surf when I was 50.  I could finally understand the passion that took them around the world and down the street.  I could feel the power, freedom and rhythm of the ocean that continues to heal all of us. And it was just plain fun!  No longer just for the guys, along with SCUBA, it was family fun!

My heart is full when I think of how close Jimmy and Jeff were for all of Jimmy’s 35 years.  He was more than a big brother, role model and best friend  to Jeff. 

He shared his life, thoughts and philosophy to a generation of Jeff’s friends.  I honestly don’t remember them arguing or picking at each other like other siblings.  Not that Jimmy, Brent, Darren, Dieter and friends did not torture Jeff and his buddies by holding them upside-down over our fireplace, or “pants” them and give them “nugies.”  Boys are boys and that was just what happened!  

Their close bond started the day Jeff was born and continues today, as Jeff shares stories and photos of “Uncle Jimmy” with Riley and Austin.  I am so grateful that both Riley and Austin surf and share those stories about their Uncle Jimmy and JMMF, with their little grom groups. I look forward to all of them helping with Ocean Therapy when we can safely return to the beach.

I am beyond grateful for the original JMMF Board and the love and vision they showed, in laying the groundwork for the work we have been able to do in Jimmy’s name.  The dear friends, relatives, and Jimmy’s first and best students served such an important part in the growth of JMMF.  The new board members who have come to us because they wanted to make a difference in the lives of so many, even though they never met Jimmy, have brought light and wisdom to our program.  And to our dear therapists, beach coordinators and trusty special project coordinators, thank you does not even begin to say how much we value you.

And finally, to all of you who have volunteered, developed research methods and communicated data for publication, sponsored, made in-kind donations of goods, services, amazing food and goodies, taken photos and videos, wrote articles about Jimmy and JMMF, judged contests, performed at events, designed and created our material and equipment and opened your homes and hearts to us and so much more, I am profoundly touched and forever grateful.

A dear friend recently asked, “will the pain ever go away?”  I found I could honestly say, “It never leaves you, but changes form.”  Most days, I can truly say, “Jimmy’s life brings me an attitude of gratitude.”  I love you my dear one.  Today and every day.

Thanks for reading, stay safe and we will see you at the beach again soon.  A little gratitude goes a long way these days!

Please remember how Jimmy lived.  Find a plumeria or flower and walk down to the beach or your favorite body of water, close your eyes and think of that smile.  Let gratitude wash over you and share that feelings with your loved ones.  That’s how we can honor Jimmy today and every day.

In loving memory of Jimmy’s friend Chaun Ralls, and our dear friend and JMMF supporter, Brad Stevenson.

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