A few months ago, Heather's dad (Jim) mentioned to Heather that he'd like me to write a book about his life. I thought it was a great idea, so we agreed to do a series of interviews to cover . . . everything. From his earliest memory to his ten-year battle with cancer.
Last night, that battle ended. Jim won. He's in heaven, pain-free, and the cancer is fading to nothing. But the rest of us left here are taking turns blubbering, remembering, laughing, and quietly coping. I just finished my blubbering shift, but I wanted to comment on one of the great gifts of my life.
That handful of evening interviews with Jim were amazing. He relived a little bit of troublemaking on the South Side of Chicago. He journeyed back to summers with his grandparents in Michigan where he met his first crush, a teenage girl ten years his senior. And he returned to his days as an altar boy, where his primary responsibility was sneaking wine with one of his buddies.
Every childhood story was sewn together by the single common thread of drinking. It was like alcohol was his best friend, the only one who never left his side. And I got to hear about it. I had the privilege of hearing his reflections on alcoholism at its worst, his saving grace in his wife Judy, his private revelation from God calling him out of that life and into a new life with Him.
He told me about his father, a man's man, a cop turned mechanic, who could do just about anything around the house or under the hood of a car. And I could see how Jim emulated the things he admired most. But he also told me about Orville, his spiritual father who showed him what it meant to follow Christ, to be a good father and husband. Again, Jim imitated those things he loved, and it made him a great man.
Then I got the cancer stories. He told the recorder (not me . . . when he gave details about his cancer, he most definitely spoke to the recorder to keep his emotions in check) more than I had ever known about his struggle. Conversations with doctors, his fears, and the unexpected grace that came from God and the people who surrounded Jim. It humbled me and emboldened me at the same time.
Here was someone who had the opportunity on this earth to reflect on his entire life and see the unmistakable hand of God in broad strokes and pin points. And as he did, with a candid honesty toward his own faults, he had no regrets. And he talked as if it was only the beginning. And there I was to take it all in. I saw his life, as well as my own, as a story. Not just some "one day at a time" meandering. Everyone's life has a conflict, but without the courage to change, it has no plot.
Jim showed me the plot of his life, the story of how God gave him victory over alcohol, over cancer, and over the sin that drives us away from Him and from each other. It was an incredible privilege that changed me forever. I didn't even realize it was changing me, but it did.
So, Jim, if you're reading this . . . thank you. (Also, if you can pull a few strings up there, is one World Series too much to ask?) I love you, Jim.