Jim Nesbitt was more than just my namesake

My uncle and namesake, Jim Nesbitt, died suddenly Wednesday while grocery shopping in Sante Fe, New Mexico. He lived out his final years there making friends and making impressions on people that would last a lifetime. He was in his late 60s and had a multitude of health problems, so hearing that he had died was not a shock. But, coming to terms with the fact that someone who was so intimately familiar with my personal failures and triumphs is no longer around, is incredibly difficult to accept.

From the summer of 2010 to April last year, I lived in Beijing, China, working for an English-language newspaper. During that time, Jim and I would talk once or twice a year on Skype. After I moved back to the States, our conversations became a weekly affair. We’d talk basketball, politics, complain about relatives; they were always free-flowing conversations, but the common denominator in every chat was, at the end of every conversation, he’d tell me, “I love you and will talk to you soon.”


Jim and I in Santa Fe, N.M. in 2013.

My first memory of Jim is visiting him in Columbia, Maryland, with my family when I was around 8 or 9. We were watching a movie — Crocodile Dundee, I think — and I stepped out to use the restroom. Jim and his wife at the time, Marcia, had a stack of magazines near the toilet and while flipping through them I found a Playboy. I lost track of time, but apparently spent quite a while in the bathroom. When I returned to the living room, Jim asked me why I had been gone so long and said something like, “You found my Playboys, right?”

Jim loved women, and women loved him. He was the kind of guy who could steal your girlfriend, but charm you to the point where you’d still like him. On Thanksgiving Day in 2007, Jim got sick while on the way to Lexington, Kentucky, for a family get-together and nearly died. I went to visit him in the hospital and he looked horrible. He was pale, and the doctors had taken off his clothes so they could insert tubes and wires in his body.

I immediately began crying when I saw him. Jim, who couldn’t speak because a tube had been inserted in his trachea, pointed to an attractive nurse in the room, looked at me and then nodded his head.

In case I was having trouble understanding him, he pointed to the nurse again and made a humping motion. Here’s a guy on his deathbed, still thinking with his penis instead of his brain.

Relatives have told me that Jim could be incredibly difficult to deal with, and I believe it. He fought in Vietnam and according to my grandmother (his mom), he was never the same after the war. He struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, and only became sober after my father, his baby brother, died in 1989 at the age of 34. Jim was married several times, but never had any children.

Oftentimes, he would say I was like a son, which in reality was accurate. I only had 10 years with my dad; Jim and I got almost 37 years. He never criticized me, but was always honest when I asked for advice or how to handle a problem. According to friends and family, he always bragged about me and my accomplishments as a journalist.

To lose that kind of support is devastating; there is no replacing it. But I’m going to choose laughter and good memories over crying and being sad. Jim and I talked about death many times, and he always said that he didn’t want a typical funeral when he died. “Fuck that shit. I want to have a party,” he would say.

I’m glad his last moments were in public, because Jim loved to be around other people. I imagine him telling a joke to a stranger, checking out the woman in front of him or thinking about a friend in need.

Jim, who wasn’t into organized religion but was very spiritual, told me several times that if he ever saw my Dad again, the first thing he would do is punch him in the face. My father died of an abdominal aneurysm, but was an alcoholic and that addiction undoubtedly contributed to his death.

If there’s life after death, I have no doubt Jim already hit Dad in the face, and then helped him up and gave him a hug.

21 thoughts on “Jim Nesbitt was more than just my namesake

  1. Thank you for writing this. I recently googled Jim as I wanted to get in touch to say a belated thank you. Jim was my therapist for several years in the 1990’s. I was 25 at the time and had romantic feelings towards him, which we talked about- but he always kept our relationship client/therapist focused. His support over a few years helped me grow and heal. I had no idea of how much he loved the ladies! He exercised great control with me.
    I appreciate your writing as it helped soften the shock of Jim’s early death.

  2. I am very sorry for your loss, Jimmy. What a beautiful tribute you have written. A man I never had the pleasure of meeting has just touched my own life through your words, and his actions. It’s obviously not our struggles (and I can relate to many of your uncle’s) that have to define us, it’s how we choose to live in spite of those struggles. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I won’t name myself but i heard about Jim’s death pretty late. He was always trying to convince me to marry him for his “wealth”. He was in nearly every day and was so funny and nice, however my male co-workers called him cold. He always made me laugh and I respected him so much, always humoring his advances. Jim will be missed. -Smith’s Santa Fe Staff

      • I just found out about my sweet friend Jim. I met him in NA 7 years ago and he was one of the sweetest, funniest, caring, open and straight up man I have ever met. He let me stay with him when I had no where else to go and then he fell in love with my cat Zachary and I then knew that they made each other happy so I let Jim adopt him. I just got a email today, 5/27/16 from Monica Gonzalez who is from the Santa Fe Humane Society and she said that Jim’s cat, Zachary was just impounded. The reason I am telling you all this is I am hoping and praying that one of Jim’s family or many friends would get him out of the shelter. I wish I was in the position to do this but I am not so I am putting the word out in hope that someone will help one of Jim’s soulmates. If you have any questions contact me on Facebook under my name Sarah Averill. I am praying for a happy outcome. Jim I miss you like crazy and so does your cat Zachary. I promise I will do whatever I can to help one of your best friends find a good home. I love you!
        Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

    • From Jim’s brother, thanks to all the staff at Smith’s for treating him so well. I hope to be able to thank you personally at some point.

      Paul Nesbitt

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your remembrances of Jim. He was such an exuberant people-lover who lived large and generously, with great stories, authenticity, freedom and openness. I’m glad to hear he followed the sun to New Mexico and touched so many in the community there. One of Jim’s favorite Rumi poems, “The Guest House,” exemplified his spirit, presence, and open-hearted welcome for sharing feelings: “…treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.”

    • Jim gave me a book of Rumi’s poems many years ago. He used to quote him a lot in our conversations. Thanks for sharing your memories of him. It’s truly amazing to see how many people he touched, and know that I’m probably just hearing from a small fraction of all of the people he made an impression on.

  5. Thanks for your stories Jimmy, they seem very familiar. he helped me get sober 20 years ago and we stayed in touch. I talked to him on Tuesday night and he seemed well; he was cheerful and positive- always upbeat and happy, even as he related his many physical ailments. He also introduced me to Bagua and Rumi and some of my best friends today. With our Jim, my life would have turned out very very differently and I may not even be around today! I love him and will miss him always. It is really greta to hear from all the others who he touched and who knew him.
    And Jimmy, he talked about you all the time, he was so proud of you and very fond of your wife. Si it is cool to read your blog and I am glad you shared with us.
    I really hope he is smiling down all of us.
    He made such a difference in so many lives.

  6. My first memory of Jim was on our front porch, when I was about 10 years old. He was talking to my father, his first cousin, and I noticed his shoes, they were “Air Jordans”, probably 4’s or 5’s. I told him that I really liked them , and he took one off his foot, and said “I’ll give them to you, try them on and see if they fit “. That was the type of guy my cousin Jim was. I will miss him.
    -Ryan Adkins

  7. Hey Jimmy, I’m glad U posted this story, Jim did always Brag about U, he showed me the story U wrote, he had it framed, Jim was a sweetheart he was our friend since he moved into our neighborhood bout 7 yrs ago or so, I started cleaning his house around 2 yrs ago, when I first started cleaning for him the people @ Smith’s grocery store asked him if he got married cause he was buying a lot of cleaning supplies, he said “Fxxx No, I got a cleaning lady & this is what she told me to buy” Jim was loved by all & will be greatly missed! We love U Jim Nesbitt, U will always be in our hearts!
    Love Always
    Joe & Sylvia Garcia

  8. Well done, Jimmy. I also remember his stay in the hospital over Thanksgiving. Jim was irrepressible; a doctor and nurse were both in the room when Paul went in, and Jim asked the doctor, “Hey doc, I need to ask you something. I have a pacemaker – if someone is sucking my d___ and my pacemaker goes off, will they get shocked?” No one else like him.

  9. Hi Jim, I was not particularly close to Jim but I can tell you that he was loved by the fellowship here in Santa Fe. When I first moved here to get clean he used to joke with me and call me a “hillbilly from Maine” which is kind of funny because we all know hillbillys come from Kentucky! The one thing I loved about Jim was all his stories.He led an interesting life and should have wrote a book! I always referrred to him as Big Jim because he was big in every way! I hope someone throws him that party because I will be there! John D. Santa Fe ,NM

    • Hi John, you’re right about a book. I can’t tell you how many different stories Jim told me over the years. When he was younger the stories would go on even longer … He’ll be missed by many. Thanks for sharing your memories of Jim.

  10. Hey Jimmy, Erik here. I called Jim my best friend and I think the feeling was mutual. Your blog is spot-on. Jim was a hound dog to the very end, the last time I got to spend any time with him was last Wednesday when I took him to the same grocery store that he died in a week later. He knew every person that worked there and they knew him. Especially the ladies. He couldn’t help himself! I was almost embarrassed but it was just the way he was. I’m going to miss the guy terribly. He was there anytime I needed someone to talk to or just to get away from my own house for a little while. He helped me get clean just by using his example- if someone as crazy as that guy could do it then I have a chance too. Sorry for your families loss.

    • Hi Erik. Thanks for sharing that story. Jim was a good friend to many people, and I’m glad he was able to help you get clean. I’m sorry for your loss too, and all the people he touched in Sante Fe.

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