In 2000, the Yellowstone family lost one of its greatest outdoorsmen and one of my best friends. Jim Syron was killed when he was hit by a car in Bozeman, Montana while riding his bike. Sean Harrigan and I met the coroner to identify his body. That image will never leave my mind. I read this the day we poured Jim’s ashes in the Yellowstone-
It has been five months, two weeks, and one day since Jim left the world that surrounds us. I have often wondered what that really means. I ask myself what really happens when we die, but the answer seems to escape me. I do realize that the real answer doesn’t matter. The possibilities are what make life worth living. I dream of all the potential variations of the after life. Maybe we sit in a real place called heaven, maybe we don’t go anywhere. I love the thought of us becoming part of the earth. In my mind, I have pictured all of Jim’s friends watching his ashes float away. Within minutes, fish scoop small portions of the ash up. Later in the day, Jim is part fish, only to suddenly become part bear, or better yet part eagle. He will be watching us from the sky by the time we leave the valley today. For the next few weeks or months, Jim will be making the great river trip toward the Gulf, being born again in many places, and maybe flopping around the bottom of a few drift boats along the way.
The possible outcomes of life after life will continue to flow in and out of our minds, as sure as the memories of Jim will forever make us laugh and cry. I’m sure we all picture Jim, with his long black socks and skinny legs, hiking or skiing out in front of us (maybe not you Hahn), or standing in the back of the crowd, Camel in hand, taking in the big picture. I miss that. I like to picture Jim sitting with his legs crossed, along a river or high on a ridge, holding a map between his fingers, while he studies some detail that seems to escape the rest of us. SHHH, SHHH.
I’m fairly sure these little descriptions of Jim are clear to all of us; just as I’m sure everyone could throw a few dozen of their own into the mix. I also know that Jim would not want this to be a sad day. This is a day to remember and laugh. This is a day to be safe, in many ways. I really mean that. This is Jim’s day, please be careful today. And from this point on when we drive or float through the valley we will all watch for that skinny eagle. You will know the one when you see it; It will be the one in wool pants.