"May your travels be easy and true,

May your soul be light and full.

May the road before you open wide

and your horizons be clear.

May you know peace, confident that your work here

is done and your future lies spread before you."

— Benediction for James Louis Laurita, D.V.M., “Dr. Jim” Service of Remembrance, Sept. 13, 2014

Joining the “Jimmy Club” summed up the theme at the memorial service for Dr. Jim Laurita last week at the Samoset in Rockport when he was remembered in front of a community of mourners, by his family and co-workers, after his untimely death earlier in the week.

When a community gathers to mourn and to remember, many things tend to surface; in the case of Dr. Jim, there were many stories and tales of the good works done by a remarkable man.

Entry into the “Jimmy Club” seemed to be more about how one chooses to do life, rather than an exclusive club that one can subscribe to. One must first be a little irreverent; a rebel of sorts, interesting to be around, and funny. Being yourself and doing for others are core values; what you look like (or smell like) is less important then what you stand for or what you do for others, and, when no one is watching nothing changes.

One of his brothers began the reflections with stories about his brother Jimmy that shared how Jimmy inspired others to be their best. While not the perfect man (apparently he didn’t dress to the occasion and passed the proverbial gas from time to time) Dr. Jim was an exceptional role model because he practiced what he preached and set the example by what he did, not what he said.

The overflowing audience at the Samoset was treated to some storytelling and singing by his siblings and by some co-workers; the message was consistent and clear, Jim Laurita led by his heart and his soul, and was deeply connected to his family and the animals he served.

From a personal side, I did not know him well but the veterinarian Dr. Jim helped my family with the passing of three of our pets, Bugsy, Uma and Sadie. With each case different, he gave guidance and assurance, while allowing us the choices. He counseled us and our children on end-of-life passage that made the transition a little more palatable and you could tell he was a man that respected life and understood the relationship between “man and beast."

In remembering and in honoring their brother, the family was consistent in their storytelling of “Jimmy." He was often irreverent, but always kind, with a special flair. He reveled in giving nicknames and in teaching moments, but he showed his consistent kindness and was defined by his non-judgmental core.

One of the many takeaways from the service was Jim’s deep respect for the human spirit. His college classmate spoke to the fact that Jim had a real appreciation of all human beings. She shared that one can often tell the character of a man by how he treats people, especially those who he has nothing to gain from. That was a central point; Dr. Jim showed kindness and respect to all humans, as he did to the animals he took care of. It didn’t matter your station in life, or what he could gain by knowing you, Jim was a man that was ruled by love and made the world a better place.

It was that plain and simple.

A life well-lived, and a legacy, is the take-away from the services that celebrated this special man. Leaving the service, one could only be inspired that “being a better man” was the important ingredient in determining a life well-lived.

A deep loss to a community already rocked with other substantial losses of human life recently, left the question of trying to understand the why, while getting a grip on "what is," a Dr. Jim concept that one of his workers shared with us during the reflections part of the program.

As for his family; let them rest and rejoice in the memories of their husband, father, brother, son, or uncle by remembering all the good he brought to the world and the teaching and mentoring that he generously shared. Being unique came easy to Dr. Jim.

And then there are “his girls," the elephants Rosie and Opal, who he brought to Hope to try some innovative methods that would help them to a better life. Though the circumstances may muddy the waters, it is clear to me that they gave him joy and they loved him as he loved them.

It is that simple and the press’s sometimes sensational headlines, or PETA’s lack of respect to an unfortunate situation, needs to be overlooked because the important thing is that Dr. Jim was living a life of passion and leading by his heart. Being “good” doesn’t immunize one from harm. If it did, Dr. Jim would still be with us.

The tragedy in what happens next is just part of what we call “life’s path” and I hope the community can support the families’ wish as stated on program at Jim’s service: “In lieu of flowers or other gifts, tax-deductible memorial donations may be made to: Hope Elephants, Inc. c/o The Jim Laurita Fund, PO Box 2025, Hope, ME 04847. For more info about the fund and Jim’s mission with the elephants, go to: hopeelephants.org/lauritafund.

Onward. Turn the page. Give back and pay it forward!

Reade Brower can be reached at reade@freepressonline.com.