A longtime friend left for Heaven a few weeks back. He had lived a long and fruitful life, positively influencing the lives of many and rarely asking anything in return. He gave much – much more than he got, but that is how he wanted it. He is missed because we cannot see him anymore, but his touch on our hearts and minds; the memories of laughter, of intelligent discussion and political debate are now integral to our DNA. A part of us left when he did, because we are a mixture of ourselves and the people we love and who love us. The essence of my life is the sum of what God does, what I do, and what I absorb from friends and family. So, some of me left when he did, but much more of him stayed behind. Like I said, he gave more that he got.
Most everyone strives to be good. We want to be known as a good person to our friends and family; worthy, decent and forthright. We can all have periods in life (perhaps decades) where we are kind, loving and just fun to be near, but it is difficult to stay in that mode for long stretches; say for an entire lifetime. My friend did that – he somehow managed to be good for all of his 80 plus years. In reality though, every one of us will define “good” differently.
My friend and his wife owned a large home with an enormous back yard. He once told me that the realtor who sold him the land where his house was built said that two lots were the same price as one, so he bought two (that was back when dirt was cheap). In my early twenties we played countless volleyball games in his yard; full court with eight players per side with more friends cheering and laughing. We were not in a league of any kind; it was just a fun thing to do on a hot summer evening in Fresno. Of course, when you are young and exercising, next you will be hungry and thirsty. My friend and his wife made certain we were well fed and lubricated, because when they opened their home they held nothing back. Over the years a dozen weddings were held in that back yard, only one was for their child. Dinners for church events, lunches for clubs, Boy Scout meetings – whatever the need, you could count on my friend and his wife to share their home for the cause.
A great person, in my opinion, uses their abilities to improve society beyond a reasonable expectation. A great man is also a man of God. My friend was a physician who specialized in bringing life into this world – he delivered babies. His skill and training allowed him to help women deliver thousands of babies during his long and admirable career. His job was to save lives and he was good at it. A person with his talent could demand (with just cause) a high fee for his services, but just like his attitude at home, he shared his skills at work with those who could not afford to pay for the talent he possessed. Great ability is achieved through hard work and determination. Greatness is revealed by how one uses that ability.
Being a good person is not rare, but when we know someone who is truly good, we take notice of their status and treasure our time with them. A great person is a rare find, one whose life is the subject of novels or movies. God only provides a limited quantity of great people for us to know and love, so we must treat each as an answered prayer, and a blessing received. To know someone who is truly good, and who is also great is remarkable. To love and be loved by that person is a gift with endless value; a treasure that neither moth nor rust can destroy. My friend, Jim was that man.
If I were ever to write a list of the people who made my life better, starting with the most important, then Jim would be on the first page, and near the top. That is where I place people who give more that they get.
See you on the other side dear friend.
Thanks for reading.