A friend who offered the benefit of the doubt

A friend who offered the benefit of the doubt

For about 3 hours most Sundays during football season, I am a complete lunatic.

Being a fan of the Chicago Bears will do that to a guy. I will scream at the television and pound my fist on the arm of my chair.

One time, after the Packers beat the Bears on a 48-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 8, I punched a dent into a wall.

My wife and daughters will tell you I punched a “hole in the wall,” but that is giving me way too much credit. Andy Bernard punches holes in walls. I just dented it a little.

Usually, when the Bears are on, my wife Kim will sneak away to the bedroom to seek some peace. Most of those days, she also talked on the phone to her friend Jaime MacCool.

Jaime was a calming voice who helped keep my wife sane while surrounded by insanity for all those Sundays.

The two friends would talk for hours, and they would talk several days a week. Even though they were on the opposite end of the Donald Trump spectrum — Jamie liked him, while Kim most certainly does not — the two got along so well.

They talked about everything, never letting the two-decade age difference between the two of them get in the way. They talked and talked and talked.

Kim met Jamie when they started working together at a bank about 15 years ago. Jamie had moved to Montana, and Kim used to laugh as Jamie mispronounced Conoco, as in the gas stations, in her thick Jersey accent.

They talked all day at work, and then Kim would come home and tell me all about what Jamie said.

I could not wait to meet Jamie in person, and she turned out to be even better than Kim described.

For some reason, Jamie seemed to like me, too. And that was after she heard only my wife’s side of the story on every dispute we have had over the last decade and a half.

That probably had something to do with Jamie’s time spent working with the accused.

Before she moved to Montana, Jamie worked with prison inmates, doing little things to help make their lives better. She would help them write letters or help them find lawyers to appeal their convictions.

She had such a soft spot for the inmates that she married one.

Yes, she married a man she met while he was in prison, and he was still an inmate when they said their vows.

Jamie then waited for years for Finn, who served 28 years for a robbery committed when he was 17, to come home.

By the time Jamie was able to welcome Finn into her home, he was legally blind and could not walk. That was the result of an inhuman mistreatment of his medical condition while serving time in privately-owned, for-profit prisons.

Jamie dedicated her life to Finn. She took him to kidney dialysis three times a week. At first, she did not have a ramp, so Jamie would literally drag Finn and his wheelchair into the house.

She pushed him every day until Finn was able to walk again.

The first time she brought her husband to our house for our July 3 fireworks party, Finn was confined to a wheelchair, and we had a heck of a time getting him inside. The last time, in 2017, I was blown away as Finn slowly walked up three stairs to our front door.

While the women talked inside, Finn and I sat on the porch as he told me stories of being in prison. He told me how they kept extending his sentence for violations that seemed to be made up.

He talked about what it was like to be free after all those years. He talked about the hard work he put in so he could walk again.

He told me how he never would have made it without Jamie’s belief in him.

Thanks at least in part to his poor treatment in prison, Finn suffered a stroke and died on Nov. 22, 2017, and Jamie was heartbroken.

After his death, she wrote some stories about Finn to share with a few friends. It was her way of dealing with the pain.

I laughed when I first heard Jamie married a guy who she met while he was in prison. I joked that she was a Ricki Lake episode waiting to happen.

After reading Jamie’s stories, I saw it in a different light. Jamie and Finn were a great love story.

Here is a short sample from one of her stories to and about Finn.

“I’m going to put this out there because I want people to know that even though you were incarcerated for so long, you were human and you did have a heart. I know not many people got to see it, but I did and that’s what matters.”

Jamie looked hard to see the best in everybody. She knew that sometimes all people need is the benefit of the doubt, and she gave it.

She also gave her heart to the people she loved.

The years after Finn’s death saw Jamie devote her life to her granddaughter, the insanely cute 4-year-old RoseMarie.

Jamie was the guardian of the little girl, who quickly became her everything. Her entire life revolved around that little girl.

RoseMarie was a cat for Halloween this year. Her grandma surprised us by driving her to our house to trick or treat.

After getting a couple handfuls of candy, the impatient trick or treater waited as Jamie and Kim talked and talked and talked on the doorstep as daylight faded into night.

It was the last time either of us saw Jamie.

A few days later, Jamie tested positive for COVID-19, along with other family members. At first, Jamie had no symptoms.

Then she got sick.

Like Finn, Jamie, who recently turned 60, had health issues. Her doctor in Anaconda cautioned against getting the COVID-19 vaccination because he was concerned it could be unsafe with all of her issues and her many medications.

Of course, I have a suspicion that Jamie shopped for the kind of doctor Joe Rogan would gravitate toward.

Early last week, Jamie called Kim from the hospital in Anaconda. She could hardly talk.

Kim told her to text her when she felt better, and Jamie could not even muster the strength to say goodbye.

A day later, Jamie was flown to Great Falls, where she was put on a ventilator. At about 3 a.m. on Friday — three days shy of the fourth anniversary of Finn’s passing — Jamie took her last breath.

My wife is heartbroken, and it is so hard to look at the person I love more than anything in the world and know there is nothing I can do to make it better. The person she wants to talk to the most is gone.

So, I thought it might help just a little if I told everyone how wonderful her friend was, and Jamie definitely was that.

She was not famous, and she was certainly not rich. She just simply made the lives of those she touched so much better.

I will forever be grateful for Jamie’s friendship with Kim. I will also forever be in her debt.

I cannot help but think that many of those long phone calls were spent convincing my wife to give me the benefit of the doubt.

Even when I did not deserve it on those insane Chicago Bears Sundays.

— Bill Foley, who is also pretty much a lunatic Monday through Saturday, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.

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6 Comments

  • Ted Richards
    November 23, 2021, 8:50 am

    Great article

    REPLY
  • Amanda Binaco
    November 23, 2021, 9:10 pm

    This is beautiful. Thank you for writing this for my mom. I wish she could read it.
    Love you guys.

    REPLY
  • Sandra Binaco-Fitzgerald
    November 23, 2021, 9:58 pm

    For my sisters mom and grandma… my fathers childhood friend… and a confidant who touched many lives past and present…

    “So that her light can shine from one coast to the other and everywhere in between- because she did during her time in this place the one thing that so many of us can’t. Jamie found not just one life’s purpose but many…. and fulfilled them until her dying day”.

    My only regret will be that I didn’t know my sisters mother better.

    REPLY
  • John Michael O'Farrell
    November 24, 2021, 5:30 am

    I am so sorry for our loss.

    REPLY
  • Went Simkins
    November 24, 2021, 5:36 am

    This is a beautiful tribute

    REPLY

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