After more than 20 years of working at the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems, Inc., otherwise known as NMPASI, long-time advocate for people with disabilities and friend to nearly everyone he met, Jimmy G. Sablan, affixed his signature to a week’s worth of documents, locked up the office and drove away for the last time; he worked late that day (as he often did). Later that same evening—it was April 3, 2019—he’d be helped into an ambulance, all the while assuring his brothers and other family around him, “I’m okay.”
That was Jimmy. Always (in his own words) “good, good” or “okay,” no matter what was going on with or around him; always even-keeled.
In fact, on that particular night, he was not okay and shortly after midnight he drew his last breath and his time with us ended. In the grand scheme of all things human, mortality reigns supreme. One way or another we all fall down…ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Our time here is limited.
Maybe we can take some comfort in knowing that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-4). Or maybe we can find peace in knowing too that, “Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men” and “hope to find some consolation from Christianity’s affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance” (MLK, 1963).
For many of us, Jimmy leaves a significant void. A void that really can never be filled except with the memories and love each of us have for the gentle, virtuous human being that he was—“fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). It is an understatement to say that I miss him; no doubt I am not the only one.
While I’m tempted to expound further on the virtues of my late friend, I know with some certainty that he wouldn’t want me to do it. He was not a man who needed or wanted praise. Instead, he relished in being able to praise others. He had an uncanny knack for finding and pointing out the positives in people (even when the rest of us couldn’t) and he looked to help in whatever way he could. For those of us who knew him, it comes as no surprise that he made a career out of advocating for others, more particularly for those who, through no fault of their own, could not advocate for themselves whether that be clients through work or his fellow Micronesians in need of guidance and/or a voice in their pursuits of life, liberty and happiness.
Jimmy was not a prideful man, but he was proud (albeit silently…actions do speak louder than words) of his heritage, his culture and subsequently his family. I have rarely seen the kind of reverence between siblings that he and his hold for each other and their kids. I feel like a better person just for having been his friend all these years, but can only hope to emulate his example.
In the end, I knew him to be content. He was a man who lived life on his own terms, played hard, worked hard, and knew not to stress over the things we cannot change. His last hours on Earth were spent in service to others and in talking-story with jokes and laughter in the company of those closest to him. Though I can’t presume to know his last thoughts, I will venture to guess that his heart was filled with gratitude—that he felt blessed for the life he had and humbled by the people who shared it with him.
May God exalt and rest his peaceful soul. It has been one of my greatest honors to live this life in friendship with him—all in God’s plan.
For more about Jimmy and the advocacy work he did, feel free to contact the NMPASI office at (670) 235-7273/4 [voice] / 235-7275 [fax] or online at www.nmpasi.org.