Monday, June 10, 2013

A First, and Last, Sip of Cheerwine

Shauna Gamble has been one of my dearest friends since 7th grade. We haven't seen each other in years. We don't call each other much. Time and geography have a way of creating such distances. But in our case, the distance disintegrates as soon as we get on the phone together.

On May 30, Shauna messaged me on Facebook that her father, Martin Wimbs Sr., had just died. I called her right away. Among the many endearing, inspiring, heart-tugging stories she told me about her father, one in particular sticks with me. It involves Cheerwine.

For the uninitiated, Cheerwine is a cherry-flavored soft drink made in North Carolina (where Shauna and her family live and where I'm from). Its distribution is mostly in N.C. and a few neighboring states--though I'm happy to report that BevMo in San Francisco sells it.

Shauna's sister Pam is a Cheerwine devotee. She nearly always carries a can of it, Shauna tells me. On the last afternoon of her father's life, Pam goes to visit him in his hospice room, Cheerwine in hand. Her father notices the red soft drink can. Though he'd never tried the drink before in his 86 years, he was curious about it. He asks Pam for a taste. She obliges.

"That's pretty good," he says afterwards. And other than perhaps a sip or two of water, that swig of Cheerwine was his last drink.

It was a small moment. But not to me.

Shauna's father's was a successful business executive for many years at Blue Bell in Greensboro, which made Wrangler jeans. He was a devoted husband, married for 65 years to Shauna's mother, Nelle. He was a beloved father, grandfather, great-grandfather.

But Martin Wimbs Sr. was also an adventurer. After high school, he became a Merchant Marine; he loved the sea and sailing. In his business career, he worked in and traveled to over 54 countries, including Egypt, Morocco, India, Thailand, Argentina, and countries I can't even pronounce. He flew private planes.

With his Cheerwine request, Shauna's father was still exploring. Think about it: How many people do you know who, facing imminent death, would want to try something new?

Most of us say we love adventure. I suspect the truth is, in our stressful world, we prefer comfort-- especially as we grow older, and even more so when we become seriously ill. But comfort, whichever stage of life we're in, can be a cage. Adventure is what sets us free, helps us grow. Martin Wimbs, Sr., right up to his last few minutes, never lost sight of this. He was what I aspire to always be: free.
Martin Wimbs, Sr.

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20 comments:

  1. All I can say is WOW. To live your life every single day to your dieing breath is an accomplishment all on its own. To live life to the fullest is something else all together. My condolences to this gentleman's family.

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  2. What a wonderful tribute to such an inspiring man! This is a lovely gift you've given to your friend, to share such kind words of her father. (also a gift to us to get to know him through you)

    I can only hope that we all have the courage to live outside the box and step outside our comfort zones like Mr. Wimbs.

    Love to you and your very dear friend.

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    1. Thank you, dear Judi. He was quite an inspiration! xoxo Jim

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  3. This has been one of my favorite stories, Jim. I don't truly understand why, but I'm also one of those who prefer comfort. There's a difference between wanting to be surrounded by what's familiar and being intimidated by getting out of your comfort zone. That includes something we'd consume, experiencing cultures not our own, hanging with people unlike us, traveling distant lands (or to North Carolina), and even extends to our intimate relationships. The downside is we don't experience adventure or what could certainly help us grow and set us free. In the past 20 years or so, I've endeavored to move more and more out of my comfort zone, and I've had a great time doing it. I'm also leaning toward the wisdom of a best friend's father: "The older I get, the more people can kiss my a--." ;-)

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    1. I know what you mean, Derek--particularly the part about growing old enough to tell people to kiss your behind! Very liberating.

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  4. Cool story, Jim. And some good food for thought. Maybe I'll grab a can of Cheerwine the next time I'm in BevMo.

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    1. Thanks Chris. I'm drinking a Cheerwine right now. Love the stuff.

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  5. There is such chilling, emotional power in being able to see how some seemingly trivial detail connects to the true essence of why a story matters. Thank you Jim. For seeing how a sip of from a soft drink can inspire someone like me to want to look beyond my own comfort zone. What a wonderfully meaningful post revealed by such a simple observation.

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    1. Thanks Steve. It's those small details that can really have big meaning!

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  6. A very inspiring post indeed and a good point. Never stop trying new things and do it often. My condolences to the family. I too, am a transplanted Bay Area person only from Indiana, the Lake Michigan area.

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    1. Thank you Bekkie! It is indeed a point worth remembering.

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  7. I agree with the rest of the comments, pretty inspiring. My partner is not a blog reader, but I am always shoving the laptop at him to see what you have written. You are becoming a part of the household here.
    As always, thank you.
    Tim

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    1. You're too kind, my friend! Hope all is well with you and your partner, Tim.

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  8. Jim - I haven't peeked at the blog for a while (my Facebook fast is holding, but it was also my link to SinSF). So imagine my surprise when I popped over today and saw this post. I'm tickled by the coincidence that I tweeted you the Cheerwine pic from Cost Plus just a couple of days after this story came out.

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    1. Fred, I assumed you saw this and then sent me the Cost Plus Cheerwine pic. Too funny! Either way, thanks for reading this and for your pic. I'm comforted in knowing I have TWO Cheerwine connections in SF!

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  9. You always find a way to make each story something that others can not. You are a truly talented writer.

    Respects to Shauna and her family.

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    1. Thank you, Claudia. Coming from a talented blogger like you, that means a lot! I will convey your respects to Shauna and her family and I know she will appreciate it. Jim

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  10. seeing if this gets to you...I grew up with martin being a major part of my life...in Indiana...a very witty gentleman who taught this kid (me) to play cribbage! he and my dad worked together for the blue bell company! I am Susie Sexton (but chose the anonymous designation just to get on board here? )

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    1. Hi Susie, thanks for your comment! Jim

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