Jim Ahern was one of my very good friends. He was a great, big-hearted funny guy. We grew up together in Anaheim, CA – at both St. Anthony Claret elementary school and Servite High School and for several years thereafter. During our first couple of years at Servite, Jim, me and few other guys would meet each morning and ride our ten speed bikes the four miles from home to school. Many, many nights during high school and the years afterward, Jim would come over to my house and we would shoot pool on the really cool table Dad had put together in our garage. We would laugh and talk all night, solving all of the matters that seemed SO important at the time.
Tragically, when Jim was thirty he died in a car crash along with his fiancée, Kathy Faley. It was really, really terrible. A few years ago I was on the phone with another friend from that time and we were reminiscing about Jim, what a great guy he was and how much we still miss him. My friend reminded me of when Jim was starting out as a surveyor up in the hills of Orange County; he came across a wounded red tail hawk. Somehow Jim managed to get the bird in a crate, bring it home, nurse it back to health and eventually released it back into the wild.
My friend and I remembered that all during the burial service for Jim and Kathy at a cemetery in the hills of Orange, there was a hawk circling overhead. When their caskets were eventually lowered into the ground, the hawk soared off out of sight. I still get goosebumps thinking about that.
A couple days later after talking with my friend, I was out for my morning run. My usual path takes me through a neighborhood with a lot of tall pine trees. I came around a corner and saw a bird standing in the middle of the road. As I approached it just kind of looked at me, so I clapped my hands a couple times to scare it off. It just calmly hopped a few feet over to let me pass. A little bit further along I realized it was a hawk and I turned around in time to see it fly away.
Then it struck me like a lightning bolt what had just happened. Now, the older I get, the less I believe in coincidences. I am totally comfortable with the notion that Jim just wanted to remind me that he is still looking out for me. And how lucky are we to have these kinds of experiences to remind us of these truths. Thank you, Jim!