Happy Wednesday Fabbies! For today’s blog post, it is STORY TIME! You read the title of the post, so you already know that the story is wild, and YES! indeed very true. I told the short version of this story on my Twitter over a decade ago, but the details and specifics need to be told in its full totality, because I mean really, something like this occurring definitely needs its own blog post!
Let’s start from the beginning. The year was 2007 (maybe 2008? I think more 2007 though), and I was living in Memphis, TN at the time in my own apartment on the East side. I was just a few years removed from graduating from The University of Memphis, having been there on a Full basketball scholarship. The reason why basketball is relevant to this story is because the wonderful man who passed away, Jim, was a long-time Memphis Women’s Basketball supporter, and perhaps one of my biggest fans. Jim was an older gentlemen with an infectious smile and spirit, and whom I could always hear say: “get that rebound Raven” anytime I was in position to rebound while someone was at the free throw line. (Sidenote: Even though I played shooting guard almost my entire career, I had to play small forward some at The University of Memphis because our team had lots of guards, and we would sometimes go with a four-guard lineup in the offense, and I had a knack for rebounding so I was the “small forward” in the offense:
All 4 years I played at Memphis, Jim was in the seats at the home games, cheering loudly and proudly, and he especially took a liking to me. I began to look forward to Jim’s “Get that rebound Raven!!” whenever we were at the free throw line. Jim was also apart of what’s called “The Booster Club”, which is basically a wonderful group of fans who go out of their way to make athletes feel like they have family away from home. They would cook meals for us after games, host us in their homes for the holidays, and sometimes write us encouraging notes throughout our season. All of the Boosters were wonderful, but Mr. Jim and his chants always had a special place in my heart.
I had learned of Jim’s passing from his family, who had written a letter to me letting me know that he passed. In the letter they mentioned that Jim was always such a big fan of mine, and that it would mean a lot if I were able to make it to his funeral. I was heartbroken to learn of his death, and immediately knew that no matter what I had planned, I would absolutely attend his funeral and pay my last respects. It just so happened that my longtime friend Ayana (hey girl heyyyyy!) was in town visiting me for the weekend during that time, and she and my friend Ashley (hey girl heyyyyy!) were at my apartment hanging out. The day of Jim’s funeral, I told Ayana and Ashley I’d see them later, and out the door I went.
Jim’s funeral was held in East Memphis, not too far from where I lived. I pulled up to the funeral home, parked, and walked somberly towards the building. I assumed I had arrived somewhat early because the parking lot was not full, which is what I expected because I know that Jim was such a beloved man. Once I got inside, I began looking for familiar faces like his family or other Booster Club Members. I sat down in a back bench with my hands folded, watching as family members consoled one another. I saw several men wearing kippahs, the brimless hat that Jewish people sometimes wear. I thought to myself, “wow Jim had a lot of Jewish friends and family!”
People were quietly talking amongst themselves, and again, I was thinking that I must be early because it seemed to be a wake more than a funeral. One-by-one people began walking up the casket to pay their respects. I continued to wait in the back awhile, and finally after not seeing anyone I knew, went ahead and made my way to say goodbye to Jim for the last time. I walked toward the casket, my heart began pounding as I ignored the quizzical glances from a few people that were thrown my way. I walked up the casket, looked down, and could not believe my eyes. Lying there was a young man who looked to be in his 30s with jet black hair. This was not Jim. Jim was at least 70 years old, balding, and well, much older.
I was absolutely horrified! I bowed my head towards the casket, then quickly turned around nodding to a few people as a silent hello, and immediately walked out of the funeral home. It took everything in me not to buss into an all out sprint towards my car! I jumped inside the car, closed the door and let out a deep sigh. I then began looking in my purse for the letter that Jim’s family had sent me to double check the name and address of the place. It turns out, Jim’s funeral was actually at a church, which was located across the street from the funeral home that I was currently at. I looked at the time and realized that I was now indeed running late, and drove across the busy street (if you’re familiar with Memphis, the street was Poplar Avenue) and quickly saw a full parking lot, complete with people lined up for days waiting to enter the church. I parked and began walking towards the church, and instantly began seeing people that I recognized, including my University of Memphis basketball coach at the time, Blair Savage. I remember it being a chilly day, but I gladly stood outside in the brisk air waiting to pay my respects to Jim, and happy that I was finally where I was supposed to be.
When it was time to “view the body”, another long line awaited, and when it was my turn to walk up to the casket and see (the real) Jim, I briefly became sad, but saw his beaming family nearby. They were so happy that I came to his funeral, and hugged me and expressed as such: “Jim would be so happy that you’re here, Raven. Thank you so much for coming.” I almost burst into tears! I then glanced back over at Jim, who laid there peacefully and looked so serene, and pondered if he knew that I just went to the wrong funeral. I’m sure we both would have shared a hearty laugh, which is what we would typically share after my basketball games.
After Jim’s funeral, I drove back toward my apartment, passing the funeral home where I just (wrongfully) went to, and then it hit me that I just assumed Jim’s funeral would be there because I saw the sign that said “Funeral Home”, and saw that it also had a gravesite nearby. It was then that I learned that paying attention to detail is so so important. It could have saved me from being mortified I’ll tell you that!
When I returned to my apartment, I couldn’t even get inside my door good before blurting out to Ayana and Ashley: “I went to the wrong funeral!!!!!” They both looked at me and were like “what?!!” I then quickly told them the story, and we all laughed for a good thirty minutes. We all began wondering what the family members of the unknown man in the funeral home were thinking when they saw me walk in: “is she his mistress?!” “a distant cousin we’ve never met?!” “a coworker?” and many other scenarios that we just couldn’t stop laughing about. It certainly made an otherwise somber day that much lighter, and I’m just glad that I ended up seeing the “right” Jim and his family.
May Jim continue to rest in eternal peace, and may I continue to pay attention to detail for the rest of my days. I mean really, who does this kind of shit happen to?!
*Bonus: Here are a few throwbacks from my playing days at The University of Memphis:
And since I didn’t have any college basketball video footage on hand, I found some high school basketball footage from a few games that I used on one of my old YouTube vlogs from yearsssss ago:
She was cold. Shoutout to my high school Murrah!
RIP Jim. RIP Kobe & Gigi.