Very recently an endeared co-worker of mine passed away. Insights he shared with me when he was very sick have helped me. I give them to you.
Lunch With My Co-Worker James (by granddaughter)
My friend James was a very like-able fellow with a spontaneous laugh and an occasionally mischievous smile that stemmed from a benign agenda to enjoy jokes with his co-workers. He had been a very active church member when he was young but when I met him, he had seemingly abandoned this faith.
Our company had a severe downsizing and we could no longer afford his services, but because James loved his work and he wanted us to succeed, he continued coming for some time without pay. Eventually things worked out so we could pay him, but something was wrong.
James’ smile belied a deep inner conflict. When I looked at the pictures on his desk of a little family he loved, but was separated from, it broke my heart. James had been raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but being a ‘people-person’ and in his desire to relate to others, he had conformed to social norms of people around him, including those that conflicted with his childhood faith. As a result, he carried several addictions that made it hard to want to come back and adversely affected his health.
His health began to fail. He became less coherent at work and it became dangerous for him to drive. It turned out to be from medications he was taking to help him though some hard health issues. He was anemic and later found he was suffering from a bleeding ulcer which could have taken his life.
I didn’t see James for a time while he worked through these issues. My boss and I discussed further consulting work, as we both wanted him to have support of some kind and felt he would still be helpful. I invited him to have lunch, but he was unresponsive for weeks or vague. I grew concerned.
“I tried to connect today with James Stephenson, our employee that has struggled so with health issues. I tried to get with him for lunch or a phone call… I need to pray for this man. He is literally dying and without help, we will lose him.” 2016 Journal Entry
After a month of follow-up, we met over lunch. I prayed fervently that the Spirit would guide what we talked about.
We were both grateful for the chance to talk. It was one of the warmest exchanges I ever remember having. I mostly listened at first. He was struck with a bleeding ulcer, alcohol, a broken family and a lost job all at the same time.
He told of how he had been so gun-ho in the gospel as a young man. He was an avid missionary, doing all he could and training and helping other missionaries as an AP (Assistant to the President). When he came home, he made a tremendous effort to get those around him to read scriptures and do more, but he got a luke-warm response and his zeal gradually subsided.
He told me that he started to do some social drinking because he justified there was little harm in it as a friendly gesture, but this became an appetite that was hard to control. He took to smoking as well. He didn’t feel close to his wife and so spent more time at work. His daughter became alienated and quite upset with him, saying, “Most of what I did, I did because of you, and now I don’t know what to do.”
James and I talked about another man we knew who was amazing technically and a great leader but he began having angry, uncontrolled outbursts that seemed to consume him. From his own experience James said, “He carries his own little demons around. I know you can’t ignore where you come from without something deep down causing your soul trouble. I know this. He left church activity at a pretty young age. It took me a long time to recognize I needed spiritual help.”
James was a ‘work in progress’, when he died, as we all will be. That day at lunch, I saw a man that was clearly not lost. This man, like so many of the men I have worked with in recovery, had feared he might be an empty shell if he gave up his addictions. He was now well past that state and determined to overcome and salvage what relationships he could.
As we parted that day, I perceived his deep concern over his family and told him, “James, you married in the temple. You promised that as she gives herself to you, you would receive her. Be ready for that day. Rekindling those feelings may or may not happen here, but it happened in the case of a dear neighbor and friend of mine who lost his wife but remarried her and developed for her what he termed, “Mature Love”, a love he found as he cared for her while her health deteriorated over many years until she passed on”.
We both left that day with a profound feeling of reverence, an increased hope and peace, and a bond of deep brotherly love.
Rest in peace my friend James!