Thursday, January 26, 2006


My friend Jim died yesterday.

Unlike most of those who find themselves eulogized here at SSTOL, Jim was not rich, or renowned, or beautiful. At least, not in the worldly senses of those words. He was rich in faith and compassion and goodness. He was renowned and honored by every human being who knew him. And within his stocky, grizzled, and at the end, cancer-wracked body, he carried a beautiful soul, and the heart of a lion.

I knew Jim only for about the last five years of his seventy-something sojourn on earth. He was, however, one of those people who, no matter how long or short a time you knew him, made you feel as though you'd been close friends with him all your life. When he and his wife Nancy joined our little church family, it was as though they'd been there forever — even as they were making a fundamental, character-changing impact on all of us.

Jim served ably and stalwartly as one of our congregation's elders for more than three years. As a shepherd, he exuded a quiet command, and led far more by example than he ever did by executive order. He was a sound and perceptive student of the Bible, and even though we disagreed on occasion, he was as agreeable in disagreement as anyone I've ever met.

I always felt that when I was in Jim's company, I came away from each encounter a better person, and wiser for the experience. Even the last extended time we spent together, when I sat with him for several hours last Friday morning while Nancy went to a chiropractic appointment, I gained power just from observing his calm in the face of onrushing death. That morning, we watched on television — or rather, I watched as Jim mostly dozed — the films The Great Santini and The Green Berets. Jim was neither as brash and boisterous as Robert Duvall's Lt. Col. Bull Meechum, nor as mountainous and laconic as John Wayne's Col. Mike Kirby, but he was a greater hero than either.

Although clearly weakening, Jim made the journey to worship last Sunday morning. He had a handshake or hug and an encouraging word for every individual present. If you didn't know, you might not have guessed that he was so near the end of his life. That's the way Jim was — he was more concerned that others were worried for him than he was worried for himself.

Words are often cheapened by overuse. The word saint is one such. But if you turn to the "S" section in the dictionary of my mind, and trace your finger down to that word, you'll find a picture of my friend Jim.

I miss him already.


1 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Donna offered these pearls of wisdom...

To quote a line from my favorite movie "It's a Wonderful Life", "Everytime a bell rings, an angel gets his wings." It sounds like Jim was quite an individual and I'm sorry to hear of the loss of your friend. You now have one more angel above who's watching over you.

10:52 AM  

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