James Henry

I just heard the news that my friend, James Henry, passed away.

I met James at last summer's Oregon Writing Project at Willamette University. James was an amazing man in many ways. He was remarkably social, engaging everyone immediately with his warmth. He was so open that his humility took you by surprise; just when you felt you were starting to get to know this unassuming, kind man, he surprised you with the kind of detail most people would lead with, like the fact that he'd won a silver medal at the Paralympic Games in Barcelona. Walking down the streets of Salem on some of our writing field trips, Jim would run into a stunning number of friends. It seemed everyone knew him, and for good reason; James could make a friend in an instant, and then would maintain that friendship. He continued to correspond with me after the OWP, sending me some of his writing and critiquing mine. James was hit by a car while riding his bike some weeks ago, and suffered sever injuries. He was in a medically-induced coma, but, last I heard, it seemed like he was going to pull through, and I looked forward to many more years of friendship. I'm shaken by this sudden loss and surprised by how much Jim came to mean to me in such a short time. Here's a poem Jim read last summer at the OWP. I liked it so much that I had him email it to me, and now I'm so glad I did, so I can share this little treasure he gave me:


Because I have one arm, people stare.
Because people stare, they remember me.

Because I have one arm, swimming is difficult.
Through difficulty I’ve learned the patience of fish.

Because I have one arm, strangers ask how.
Because they ask, I turn strangers to friends.

Because I have one arm, people judge.
Because people judge, I don’t judge people.

Because I have one arm, some things are impossible.
Rather than quit, I master the possible.

Without my left arm, my body has limits.
My body has limits, not I.

--James Henry