They did the nicest thing for Jeremy Grim at his funeral. You couldn't have imagined a nicer thing, or a more fitting one.
As the funeral procession made its way from the funeral home to the cemetery on Monday, it took a detour onto the grounds of the Schnecksville Fire Company, along Route 309 in North Whitehall Township.
Up behind the firehouse is a dirt track with a few tiers of bleachers, where the members of the Keystone State Quarter Midget Racing Club periodically gather to compete in their tiny but powerful cars.
Jeremy, who graduated from Parkland High School in 1994, was a lifelong enthusiast of this sport. He came by it genetically, I suppose. His father, Larry, co-founded the club and helped build the track.
In fact, the track is where I met Jeremy in July 2012. I had gone to write about a fundraiser his family and friends were holding to help with the expenses of his upcoming bone marrow transplant.
He was getting the donation from his sister, Jessica, in a last-ditch effort to cure the leukemia that had resisted all other treatments.
"I was never really even in the hospital before," he told me that evening, recounting how he had been stricken by a series of mysterious ailments — including joint pains and a facial paralysis called Bell's palsy — that led to the diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It isn't the rarest cancer, but it is far more common among children than people in their 30s.
Anyway, back to Monday. The funeral procession made its way to the dirt track, and as the Heintzelman Funeral Home hearse idled at the entrance, the scores of mourners filed into the bleachers and sat down.
Jeremy's brother, Justin, waved the checkered flag, and the hearse took two achingly slow laps around the track.
Apart from the humming of the engine and the rasp of the tires over the dirt, you couldn't hear a sound. People dabbed their eyes. The American flag, at half-staff, fluttered weakly.
Then the procession carried on to Egypt Cemetery in Whitehall Township, where Jeremy was laid to rest.
"He had to have his last victory lap," said Jeremy's cousin, Alicia Kumernitsky, who arranged the 2012 fundraiser and hastily pulled together another one a couple of weeks ago after Jeremy — who had been doing very well since the transplant — suddenly took a bad turn.
The cancer had returned, aggressively, and Kumernitsky was trying to defray the expense of flying Jessica Grim home from Wisconsin to see him.
Jeremy's father also had to close his Ironton auto parts store for a week so he and his wife, Barbara, could be with Jeremy at Jeanes Hospital in Philadelphia. That's where he had the transplant and that's where he died, on Oct. 29. He was 37.
"I never thought the fundraiser we had two weeks ago would be paying for his funeral," Kumernitsky said.
On Monday night, Kumernitsky sent an email in which some of Jeremy's friends offered their thoughts about him.
I will step out of the way here and share them:
•The Rochelle family: We want to thank Jeremy for being a great mentor when Morgan started racing. She looked up to him and listened to what he had to say. Thank you, Jeremy, for being a caring, kind-hearted person, and for being a great friend. Til we meet again.
•Tim Henry: Jeremy has been a longtime friend and we shared many chats and laughs over the years, especially when we worked together…I will sure miss being able to just stand and have our chats at the races! Rest easy, my friend.
•Dan and Amy Brigidi: We met Jeremy at the parts store and over the past couple years became better friends because we all shared the same passion — racing. He was there for our son Donato when he started quarter midget racing and showed us all the right things to do, just as he did with everyone who asked him for his advice and help … His soft smile, kindness, knowledge and leadership will be greatly missed by absolutely everyone.
Kumernitsky offered a few of her own thoughts.
"The best part of trying to organize things for the Grim family in their time of need was seeing the amazing response from not only our community but so many communities that really came together to help Jeremy," she said. "This shows me how many lives Jeremy has touched in his short 37 years here. I am so honored that I have had the chance to know him. He will be in my heart forever."
•Anyone interested in donating to help Jeremy's family with expenses can email Kumernitsky at email@example.com
Donations may be made to DKMS (the bone marrow registry) or the Keystone State Quarter Midget Racing Club care of Heintzelman Funeral Home, P.O. Box 196, Schnecksville, PA, 18078-0196.