There I stood in the home office section of Target weeping. Tears dripping into a waste basket, but those tears were not wasted. Each one was a good memory, of a smile, of a laugh once shared with a good man I have always thought of as a second father. I was on the phone with James’ wife learning my friend only had days to live.
I first met James at Public Service Company of Oklahoma when I was 19 years old. It didn’t take long to realize I had met someone sillier than me. James, a big man, with a big heart to make others laugh and for God. He loved to pull pranks on people. Like the time he got his wife to put icing on a board he had cut the size of a birthday cake. James; usually smiling, usually laughing, and always there to mentor. He taught me the one thing college didn’t; how to have fun at work. At this he was truly a professional.
James was one of the first to support my decision to leave a good career and move to Massachusetts to become a youth minister. Our friendship had grown strong. The first Christmas after I had moved he sent a card signed and dated. The following year I signed it, dated it and sent it back to him. This became a tradition until I lost the card two years ago. That same card had crisscrossed America for 30 years. At last count it had traveled over 23,000 miles. Now I wasn’t losing a card, but a friend.