James Richard "Jim" Shirey
June 07, 1994 - January 10, 2009

10 Years an Angel

January 10, 2019 will be the 10th anniversary of James passing. It is hard to fathom that 10 years have passed without his gorgeous smile and silly sense of humor. As I reflect on all that has transpired in me personally, in our family, in our community I am struck by the impact of his short life. He only had 14 years on this earth, but his existence has changed the world for the better. I would give anything to have him here and see the 24-year-old man standing in front of me. For some reason I can’t imagine him as a man. I’ve always been able to visualize the future. When I met Jim, I could see us grow old together (I just didn’t think it would happen so soon!) When we got married, I visualized our two children and me as a mom. But I never dared project too much into the future with James. I think God was protecting me and teaching me to take each day as they came. James struggled so much emotionally that I didn’t have a lot of hope for his future at times. I remember praying that his life would be meaningful, not happy, but meaningful because happiness as I defined it back then was all easy laughs and fun. Nothing about being James was easy. Almost everything was a struggle. Imagine if having a scratchy sock could ruin your day, or spilling your milk felt like the end of the world. Imagine having a four-hour temper tantrum or having so much anxiety you couldn’t fall asleep at night. No, happiness was a not a prayer I had for James. Getting through the next day was a prayer. As James grew and learned some coping mechanisms thanks to a fantastic therapist and a therapeutic boarding school, I started to have some hope for his future, but I still could never imagine him as an adult. When he visits me in my dreams, he is the gorgeous 14-year-old that I put on that airplane 10 years ago and wondered to myself if this was the last time I would see him. I don’t know why but I sensed it would be. James died that following week suddenly of an acute adrenal crisis brought on by the flu. In these 10 years I’ve learned way more than I wanted to know about pain and grief and suffering. My idea of happiness has changed, my priorities have definitely changed and my faith in God has ultimately been strengthened to rock solid. James memory has spurred so much good in our community that I know God answered my prayers about him having a meaningful life. Pain, struggle and loss are part of life and we’d better figure out how to use it for good. I’ve watched friends and family crumble and die from emotional pain and grief or personal problems and I’ve watched others emerge stronger and more resilient, more compassionate and understanding. I know James struggled against his ‘nature’ to emerge a stronger confident person. He worked hard to overcome the obstacles he was born with and even though he only had a short time to enjoy the “New Jim” as he called himself, his life had an impact on those around him and is still having an impact on his community. His spirit remains and will always remain in eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ. That is a promise that you can count on, I know for a fact because James told me himself. James is missed every single day, but his life had meaning, and importance and we will make sure that his impact will be felt in our community and around the world. The James Shirey Foundation is a way we can turn our grief into a blessing and make sure James memory lives on. We cannot waste our pain but use it to help others. “Sorrow is not given to us alone that we may mourn. It is given us, that, having felt, suffered, wept, we may be able to understand, love and bless.” God Bless you all and God Bless James memory.

Started by Sue Shirey on January 11, 2019

The James Shirey Foundation, Inc.

It's been 9 years since James passed and at times it feels like yesterday but the world has changed so much since he was on this earth.  I don't update this web page as much as I should because of so many other forms of social media available but I love looking back on it and can't seem to bear to let it go.   We finally have The James Shirey Foundation, Inc. up and running and are gearing up for the James Party 2018 to support CARES Foundation and Young Life, Coronado.  We will celebrate James Life at Meijo Sushi today and eat dream rolls and remember his loud laugh and his big hugs.  His legacy is one of compassion and understanding, of transformation and  hope.  We remember him and the love we shared today and every day.  Rest in Peace James, until we meet again.

Started by Sue Shirey on January 10, 2018

Christmas 2016

James I felt like this year was a turning point and I wouldn't feel compelled to write but as the Christmas eve winds down it feels as though you were just here.  We had such a fun Christmas eve night party with friends and family and we spoke of you and our memories of you and we had friends here who had never met you and it reminded me of how long you had been gone.  And even though these friends had never met you you still touched their lives because you touched OUR lives and like the ripples in a pond it affects so much more than we see.  We are always working to keep your memory alive and we love you as much today as ever before and we are so grateful for your love that lives on in our lives.  James we are so ever grateful for your love and your presence in our lives.  Merry Christmas in Heaven

Started by Sue Shirey on December 25, 2016

January 1, 2016
7 years ago we were celebrating the new year with a house full of family including James home  for 10 days from boarding school.  I will never forget the happy, hopeful time we had.  Loud laughter, lots of food, boxes and wrapping paper, gifts laying all around.  I even remember the crumbs on the kitchen floor and thinking how blessed we are to have enough food to leave crumbs. I could not know that in just a few days our world would be forever changed.   As I reflect back to the Christmases since then and how each has had it's own unique feel.  The following Christmas we spent on the boat because I thought a Christmas at home without James would be too painful.  I absurdly overcompensated by buying Matt every gift he had ever mentioned wanting.  At the time I thought I was going to show everyone that through the pain and grief life can go on and we need to seek joy again, but in hind sight it was such a shallow attempt to fill up the gaping hole James passing left in our lives.  Christmas morning under our tiny tree on the boat stood a pile of gifts big enough for the Dugger family.  It was cold and raining and Matt's window leaked onto his bed causing him to wake up in a cold soggy bed.  This set the tone for the Christmas morning.  As we watched Matt open his gifts it became embarrassing, just the sheer volume of gifts and with each package his mood became more sullen. As he sat among the torn wrapping paper he told me he didn't like any of the gifts I bought him and he didn't want the GoPro camera either.  He burst into tears and ran to his soggy room.  For a moment I was stunned, then I burst into tears and realized what an  idiot I was for trying to fill the hole with "stuff".  Trying to literally paper over the fact that our Christmas from now on would be a lot quieter without James.  Instead of acknowledging the fact that his brother was gone from this earth and facing head on our grief and our new normal I thought I could distract us away from our quiet, sad Christmas.  The next year was a little better with a house full of family again and a new understanding of how my feeble brain tries to trick us into being happy.  I learned it's OK to let the tears flow and talk about our loss and remember James out loud.  The Christmases since have kind of all mashed together in my memory and I'm so thankful that I have photos in files listed as Christmas 2011, Christmas 2012 and so on.  This year was a whole new season with Matt gone, halfway around the world with an 8 hour time difference and not much access to communication.  We weren't allowed to send him ANYTHING.  Just our love and our wishes for a Merry Christmas.  He has been living out of a back pack for 4 months and sometimes sleeping in a tent and every picture I see of him he is in the same 4 shirts he took with him.  And I have never seen so much JOY on his face as I see in those pictures.  He has grown so much in his walk with Christ.  A journey that has been all his, on his own.  We merely pointed him in the direction but he chose to walk there.  He knew at age 13 that Christmas wasn't about "stuff" and his mom was seriously delusional if she thought she would put a smile on his face with all those presents.  He taught me that we must face what life hands us and ask God to help us through the crummy parts.  He taught me that we have within us everything we need to make this world a better place. We can't buy it.  Matt is touching lives all over the world and I truly believe that James memory and the searing pain of that loss has shaped Matt into the strong, compassionate, empathetic person that he is today.  This Christmas will be one that I remember vividly, not for the presents but for the love that we can share and it doesn't cost a thing.
Started by Sue Shirey on January 01, 2016

A Mothers Day Present from James!
 The weirdest thing happened this morning as I was walking out the door to walk my dogs.  I put my headphones in, ready to click on my podcast, when music started playing in my headphones.  I looked at my phone and no music was open and nothing was showing but it was James favorite artist - Weird Al singing "I think I'm a Clone Now".  I kept staring at my phone and clicking but nothing was open although the song kept playing and I was cracking up!  The lyrics are hilarious and I understand why he found him so amusing.  He had loaded all of his Weird Al music on my Itunes.  After the song was over I again looked at my phone and my ITunes wasn't open so I opened it.  The Weird Al songs aren't even loaded on my phone!  Thanks James for the giggles and the Mother's Day present.  I love you and miss you every day but you never fail to remind me you are still with us.  
Started by Sue Shirey on May 11, 2015

The 2nd Annual James Richard Shirey, Jr. Party With Purpose
 The 2nd Annual Party With Purpose is happening Sunday, March 22, 2015 5pm-8pm at the beautiful Coronado Cays Yacht Club.  The cost is $40 per person and includes a buffet dinner, auction, raffle, dancing and music by Ron's Garage Band.  You can pay on line at www.squareup.com/market/party-with-purpose-2015      RSVP early because we will have a sell out!  This party was born in 2014 as a way to remember James and to give back to the CARES Foundation.  The CARES Foundation is the Congenital Adrenal Research Education and Support for those people and families diagnosed with CAH.  James passed away from complications of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia brought on by the flu. James Mom, Sue, is a Southern California Support Group Leader for the CARES Foundation.  This rare disorder is not well know even to some doctors but the CARES Foundation is working to change that.  CARES has campaigned for newborn screening and EMS protocols.  They provide support and Doctor referrals for families looking for answers.  This year we have added another beneficiary.  Young Life Coronado has been around since 2013 and has had a profound impact on the youth in Coronado.  James Brother Matt, is a Young Life leader and has seen first hand the change in himself and his friends when they seek a life of meaning, hope and love in the word of Jesus Christ.  Come join us and remember James and the huge impact his short life has had on so many. 
Started by Sue Shirey on March 15, 2015

Christmas without you
James,  6 years ago we had the most amazing Christmas with you.  In 2009 we had a house full of family and food and festivities!  We celebrated with such joy and love.  This year most everyone will be back for the first time since since then.  There will be a huge void without you here but your memory is so strong and your presence is felt every day.  We tell stories of you and we cry, we tell stories of you and we laugh.  You left such an indelible imprint on our lives that we will never forget you and we will always remember your laugh and your love.  Your brother has grown into such a strong Christian leader and I know you would be so proud of him.  He misses you so much and I know he wants to honor your memory by being an example of what a loving man can be.  We will be thinking of you this Christmas and thanking God that we know you are safe in His loving arms.  We Love you and miss you more than life itself but we are grateful for the time we had and the lessons you taught us in your short life.  
Started by Sue Shirey on December 24, 2014

Encouraging email
I recently received this email from a young man - It shows me that James spirit is alive and well and his words will live on to encourage others.  I'm so proud of this young man for reaching out and for having the wisdom to see outside of his own circumstance and see the big picture.  I wrote him back thanking him for reaching out.  God is Good!

 Dear Mrs. Shirey,

I unintentionally came across James' website and after reading through your journals, you have provided me with much needed strength. I, like James, went to a residential treatment center at 14; I went to Red Rock Canyon School in St. George, UT. I am 16 years old and returned home after experiencing serious physical abuses in Utah. The experience was eye opening, but also one of the darkest times of my life as I wept 24/7 for 9 months because I missed my mother and father, or just anyone from home. However, about a year after returning home, I find myself in one of the situations that ultimately led to my family seeking out my treatment: relational problems between my parents and I. Tonight I got into a really big fight with my mother and father about something that seems to dumb after reading your journals. Reading your journals has helped me come to the realization that all of these little fights don't matter when it comes to the bigger picture. James is very lucky to have you. The unconditional love and forgiveness that you have for James has given me hope and strength. I needed this, and it is surely God that has brought me here. I hope all is well!
Started by Sue Shirey on May 06, 2014

5 Years

I cannot believe it has been 5 years since you left us.  Grief can cause time to warp and in some ways it feels like yesterday and in other ways it feels like 100 years ago. 

I think of you every single day.  In the beginning your absence felt  like a cavern in my heart but as time passes I seem to feel your presence more than your absence.  I have filled that cavern with memories of you and with the knowledge that God has you in the palm of His hand.  Prayer has led me to know that you are in the presence of the Lord and that you are perfectly fine in every way.  My prayers have changed from “Help me know he’s OK” to “Help me be OK”. 

God has answered my prayers.  I KNOW that you are OK because you told me yourself.  And God has helped me to heal by allowing me to help others that have lost loved ones and to guide me to strengthen my faith. 

Your brother misses you a lot and wonders what you would be doing now.  Your friend Enrique still stops by to visit us and loves to talk about you and laugh about funny memories.  Your Dad misses you the most because you were so much like him, in looks and in personality.  We all struggle in our own way to process our grief and meld it into ourselves without it completely defining who we are.  We want to use our loss to grow without getting consumed by grief.  I choose to remember your life and the impact it had on us, not just your death and its impact.

We love you forever and always James and you will not be forgotten.  Your life had meaning, you touched so many with your love and exuberance and we will do our best to pass that on in your memory.


Love, Mom, Dad and Matt

Psalm 25:5

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.


Psalm 147:3 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds

Started by Sue Shirey on January 10, 2014

Sorrow Again
Another young soul, suddenly, senselessly, has gone to heaven.  Tommy Henderson, a 17 year old from Eastlake High School died suddenly while swimming.  I didn't know the boy or his family but I know the pain that Mom is feeling. Friends are calling me, can you talk to the mom?  What should we say?  Can you recommend a support group? My own pain rises to the surface as raw as the day my James died.  I welcome the pain like an old friend who doesn't come around as often as she used to.  I look at the photo of my James that has been sitting on my desk for 4 years.  Yesterday I looked at this photo and smiled at the memories of his sweet spirit. Today I look and sob, the pain and loss taken out of my heart like a dusty photo album that has been tucked in a bookshelf, not forgotten but put away so that life can continue and the normal rhythms of life can return.  That is how my grief journey has been going for four years.

I don't know why perfectly healthy kids die suddenly.  I don't know why good people have to suffer. But I know that pain has a purpose.   I know that God never wastes anything and that this pain is a necessary and useful thing in our fallen world.   I learned I had to carry the pain and curl up with it and ultimately walk through it.  I learned to find comfort in the Bible and in the promise that this earthly world isn't all there is - This life really IS a dress rehearsal and we can meet again and have eternity in heaven in the presence of God himself and he really doesn't ask much at all for this privelege, just to have faith and believe.  God promises us that if we accept Him we will have eternity in heaven but He also promises us that we WILL have pain on this earth.  So far God has been truthful about that so I'm going to trust him on the eternity part.

I try to remember the words that comforted me.  As I think of those early days of January 2009 I realize that the the "words" were few and far between.  It wasn't the carefully selected words, it was the prayers, the meals, the cards,  the hugs, the people who had no idea what to say but stopped by anyway and cried with us.  The friends I hardly knew who shared their own stories of loss and pain.  The friends who couldn't come by but prayed for us anyway.  The friends who fell away and disappeared and taught me that it's not what you say but just showing up that matters. The friends whose unwavering faith was like a life raft in the tsunami that is grief.  Faith that was so solid that it seemed the only thing that offered a way out of the maze of grief. My faith was solid but not very deep and my level of understanding was in it's infancy.  When I became overwhelmed with sadness I would remember that my son was WITH GOD!  He was perfect and happy and OK.  That was a comfort to know that someday I would be there with him.  I knew I had to learn and trust and ultimately accept that I may not get an answer as to "why". Once I let that go and got about the business of grieving I knew I could make it.  I accepted that it's beyond my tiny brain to get the big picture but I knew that God wanted me to use this pain.  I knew because he kept putting people in my path that were hurting like me.  I feel like in the last 5 years I've seen so much more pain than ever before in my life but I'm beginning to understand that I might just be noticing it more and able to walk up to it and share it in a much more compassionate way than I ever could before.  Your life is dramatically and permanently changed when you lose a child but you can chose to become bitter or you can choose to become better and you can understand and bless others in a much more meaningful way.  "Sorrow is not given to us alone that we may mourn.  It is given us, that , having felt, suffered, wept, we may be able to understand, love and bless.  

Started by Sue Shirey on March 19, 2013

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