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Happy 23rd Birthday in heaven. Wishing that you were still here celebrating with your family and friends,
they miss you so much.
Give David and my Dad a hug for me.
How Four Words Can Change Your Life
In Honor of My Extraordinary Nephew and Godson,
James L. Vandewater IV
It always amazed me as kids when we sang the "sticks and stones" song. You know the one I mean – "Sticks and Stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me". I really can’t believe we actually bought into that line of bull, especially when words really do hurt. Not all words, of course. There are some words that bring profound and everlasting joy.
I’ll always remember four blissful words that changed my life forever – "Congratulations, you’re an aunt!" Your Grandmom T. shouted those words on January 28, 1986 from Princeton Hospital the day you were born. It was around 4:30 pm when she called as I was working the second shift at Squibb in East Brunswick. It came as such a pleasant surprise since we weren’t expecting you for another 2 weeks. Your Mom had been rushed to the hospital because her doctor found you were in distress during her checkup. The doctor told your Mom to not expect much. But, they didn’t know what a fighter you are! You came out just fine and healthy as can be. Everyone was so happy beyond comprehension. What a great gift God had blessed our family with! Our lives were changed for the better in that instant and the life we lived before you came seemed so far away and trivial.
So began a wonderful adventure for me – a "Great Adventure". I suddenly felt like a kid again as we made many fun trips to Six Flags Great Adventure, Dorney Park, Wildwood, Sesame Place, and my favorite of all time – Disney World. We always got to bypass those long lines with my handicap passes. When you were younger, you felt like such a big shot yelling "VIG" to the ride attendants at Six Flags. When you got older, you were a little embarrassed and tried to hide behind me, but you still took full advantage of it. Remember how much we laughed at my scooter antics in Florida, especially the time I took the gate off at the pool at Universal Studios’ Portofino Hotel? The next day the pool attendant told you he would just look for the red scooter with the trail of debris behind it to find you. You thought you could also get a good laugh off Grandmom, but she was a good scooter driver and you were disappointed. We rode all the crazy rides together. Roller coasters and water rides were our favorite – the more airtime, the better!! Remember that time we tricked Grandmom to get on the Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach? After she flooded the top of the slide because she couldn’t get going, she must have spent 20 minutes at the bottom of the slide picking out that monstrous wedgie. We couldn’t stop laughing! You opened up such a wonderful, fun world to me – one I never would have experienced without you! How dull my life would have been if you weren’t in it. You gave me such a beautiful gift of countless, amazing memories that I will forever treasure.
As you grew into a remarkable young man with wonderful aspirations, I marveled at your many achievements. I was so proud when you told us you were attending Johnson and Wales to become a gourmet chef. I knew you would have your own world-renowned restaurant one day, and would probably even star in your own cooking show on TV. Emeril – look out!! I was so looking forward to attending your graduation, and later on your wedding. I dreamed about the birth of your children and how they would become the next generation of my roller coaster buddies. I couldn’t wait to take them to Six Flags and Disney World just as I did their father all those years ago. I made so many plans. But you know that saying "Life happens when you’re making other plans" . . .
I’ll always remember another four words that changed my life forever – "He didn’t make it." This time, it was your Mom who uttered those words on November 3, 2007 around 6:30 am. She and Wil had just came from Capital Health Hospital where she had to identify your body. I wish I could have sheltered her from that onerous task, but it was the last loving thing she could do for you. It breaks my heart that she had to go through that. No mother should ever go through that – in a perfect world, that is. I wish I could have ripped my ears off my head so I didn’t have to hear those horrible, painful words. I’d like to obliterate them from all the world’s languages so no one else would ever have to say them or hear them again! Our lives were changed in an instant and the life we live after you left seems so meaningless. You were and always will be our family’s heart, Jimmy, and without you we are not really alive. We’re just going through the motions and counting the seconds until we’re reunited with you again in Heaven.
I will never, ever forget you or stop loving you. You will forever dwell in my heart and forever occupy my thoughts. I long for the day when I will finally stop missing you like crazy and the hole in my heart is healed – that glorious day our precious Lord calls me Home too.
Love you always,
By JoAnn Phillips
As you know, today is my birthday. Although, I must admit, not a very happy one, as this is my first birthday in 22 years
that you aren’t physically present to celebrate with me. I long for that voice mail message from you wishing me “Happy Birthday”
and saying “I love you”. I miss the birthday hugs before going out to dinner to celebrate. I miss the sound of your voice and
seeing that beautiful face of yours. When I close my eyes, I can hear you and see you just like the last time I saw you on
Wednesday, October 24, 2007. My greatest fear is that one day the passage of time will fade my memory to the point that your
voice and face aren’t as crystal clear in my mind as they are today. I treasure every memory and never want a single one to fade
the slightest bit.
I heard a song the other day by the Christian band Mercy Me called Homesick. Boy, this really hit home when they sang:
“You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times.
And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you.
But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry,
is how long must I wait to be with you?
I close my eyes and I see your face.
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place.
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow.
I've never been more homesick than now.”
This time last year all was right with the world. But now …
Miss you and love you always,
Aunt JoAnn and Uncle Doug
By Wilfred Hitchman
James L. Vandewater IV was born to Victoria Vandewater and James Vandewater III on January 28, 1986. As a young child
Jimmy thrived on adventure and you can start to see the nature of his independence start to brim at a young age. Jon, his
childhood best friend, and Jimmy enjoyed going to amusement parks and often wanted to go on rides by themselves. The duo
lived were neighbors and you can always find them at one house or the other.
As Jimmy grew bigger he became more daring. When Jimmy was 10 years old he went with his mother down the shore, to Wildwood, and they went to a restaurant. Jimmy excused himself and approached the staff cautiously not giving any clue to his mother as to what he was doing. He had the staff bring a birthday cake and paid with this with his own funds. How many kids
that age would be that bold?
Before high school Jimmy often talked about possibly studying law. After beginning high school he wanted to be a carpenter
like his father and took shop and home economics. The shop and home economics class paid off and Jimmy finished off a wall
to close up one of our rooms and also set up our light fixture. Jimmy wanted more though. During his junior year he attended a
career fair and learned about theculinary arts. As his father said, “this came out of left field”, but Jimmy found his calling…to become a gourmet chef.
James chose to attend Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, a school known for excelling in the culinary arts and
producing quality chefs. He began his classes in the fall of 2004 and after his freshman year he worked at Rat’s in Hamilton,
one of the best restaurants in New Jersey. At this young age he began to add to his resume and while he was at college he also cooked at a well known Providence restaurant. He recently completed a five month internship at Daniel, one of New York’s most exclusive restaurants. James gave it his all at Daniel which says a lot since he was not receiving any pay and commuted from
New Jersey to New York 6 days a week. This helped him get a position at the French Laundry, a restaurant in Napa Valley,
California known as one of the best in the world and also add to what is already an astonishing resume. James was also
scheduled to graduate in May, but now we are left with what could have been.
How will I remember James? I have known Jimmy since he was 10 and I remember when I first met him how I was able to pick
him up over my head. Sometimes we raced and I barely beat him, but as he grew bigger a foot race between Jimmy and I would be no contest…I would have to concede to his victory every time. Vickie and I often took Jon and Jimmy to the mall, movies or out to eat. We also went on vacation together and played ping pong, pool, air hockey and other games as well.
One weekend we went to a water park in Wildwood and I went on one of the parks slide where the water was about 10 feet deep at the end. Well I figured I will go under, touch the floor and pop back up, but I must have miscalculated. I was thrashing and bashing in the water and needed some help, so the lifeguard blew the whistle and jumped in. He later said I needed a life jacket if I am to go on this slide again, and during this whole time Jimmy was laughing, hard at times. I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed and got upset at him because he was laughing at me, but what I would give to hear him laugh right now. Actually we were at the shore one time and again I miscalculated the deepness of the water, so anyone who knows me knows my fear of water (particularly water getting into my eyes). Well I was not able to touch and I had water in my eyes so here is this 11 year old giving me his hand bailing me out.
He grew up to be a remarkable young man. When I think of Jimmy it is a lesson of how hard work and planning for your life will help you focus to become successful. He was on the path that he himself created to achieve success, this was his life and he gave up on relationships and everything else to attain his goal. The world is an empty place not having such a remarkable young man. I miss Jimmy dearly and have very fond memories that I will never forget.