I woke up this morning with a busy “to do” list. Margaret and I get to spend the weekend camping with good friends. The break will be appreciated even if it’s only for a couple of days, but there’s still much to be taken care of today. At least there was…
I received an unexpected phone call this morning. My friend Jim passed away yesterday. Somehow the “to do” list seemed unimportant.
So I sit here this morning thinking about my friend. Ironically, yesterday I ran across a picture of us together at his 20 year birthday roast. That was twenty one years ago. I had to laugh. My memory’s not that great at times, but I certainly remember that night. Some of the guys he mentored got together and made a plaque of our favorite “Jim-ism’s” to present at his roast. Mine was “this thing is too damn serious to be taken so damn seriously”. Even when life showed up with all it’s difficulties and stress, he taught me to not take it so seriously and to look for the joy. So, we all shared our favorite stories, laughed, and expressed our love and gratitude for having him in our lives.
I could go on for many pages with “Jim” stories, but I’ll just share one. I share it with you because he would share it with anyone, whether they were in the recovery process from substance abuse or not (I don’t want to break anyone else’s anonymity). You see, I struggled to get clean from my addiction. I became a real knucklehead. I would collect a few days clean here and there; even a few weeks or months, but I simply couldn’t stay that way.
Jim saw me one day, after I’d been “out there” and was trying one more time to stay clean. I went to say hello and give him a hug. That didn’t go as planned. He pushed me away and said, “Don’t hug me. I don’t hug tourist” (those who “visit” but don’t stick with it). At the time, I recall the hurt and devastation I felt from this man I admired and loved. In hindsight I know the wisdom behind his actions. It was probably one of the best things someone had ever done for me. A few months later, I got clean and sober and stayed that way for the last twelve and a half years: the best years of my life.
But that’s not the end of the story…
You see, after I really got into my recovery I would be with Jim in a groups of friends or a Bible study and he would tell that story every time. I would cringe every time we got together. If I’m honest , it was a little embarrassing and humiliating at first. Although I wished he wouldn’t tell the story, I came to accept that he was my friend and there was no ill intent.
I’m not blind to the reality that I’m in the “fourth quarter of the game” as another friend likes to reminds me, but I guess I’ve always seen Jim, and myself, as we were in that picture. I just always thought he’d be there. Now I wish I’d spent more time with him. That tends to happen this late in the game.
What I can tell you today is this: I really wish I could hear that story one more time. I really miss my friend.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton