Friday, May 28, 2010
In Loving Memory of James
There are some friends in life, that you meet during a transitional period, who unexpectedly connect with you, affect you, and leave you the better an for knowing them.
James Was that kind of friend. Someone I met unexpectedly on my journey. I was a Sunday School teacher and Worship Leader, at a small church that consisted Nigerian congregation members, with a few Carribeans thrown in. James was a member whom the pastor ad invited to come, and we became fast friends after a few Sundays. James was a very private man, who was not given to much conversation, even to the amiable pastor or the church, but he did open up to me. Perhaps it was because we were both "Yankee boys",or maybe it was because we both grew up in Brooklyn. Whatever te reason, I shared many a pleasant, thought provoking conversation with James each Sunday afternoon following morning worship. Like all people who attend church, James was not without hs problems, and was motivated to attend church to solve one of them:Drinking. After spending many years dealing with this habit, he'd finally decided he'd had enough, and sought to enlist Gods help in ridding him of it.
Old behavior patterns, he found out ,are a challenge to extricate oneself from immediately. He was not ridiculed in his struggle, but encouraged to keep making progress, and for a while he did...
But then times came when nhe would miss a Sunday or two. his reason was that he felt ashamed of a drinking binge the preceding Saturday, and as a result fell prey to the great lie that keep so many people from God. "God is mad at me, I've et God down". Ad like Adam, when he sinned, Jaes would hide himself refusing not only to attend church, but also to receive calls. It got to the point, finally, that he refused to even discuss the natter at all, and became angry wgen it was brought up.
You can never force help or friendship on people, so I withdrew, hoping that James would have a change of mood, and would soon return to church to continue our endless conversations.
I never got the chance to hear his voice again. The last time I saw Ja es he was lying still in a hospital bed paralyzed from head to toe. Apparently he had an episode where he drank so much, he lost his footing climbing a familiar flight of stairs, and landed hard on his head and back. Lying there in that hospital bed, the only thing he could move was his eyes and mouth. I asked him to give me a sign if he could hear and understand me, a d he gave me a slight smile.blew me a kiss(the audacity of him!) and winked at me. I takes to him for a while like we used to, only this time the conversation was one sided. He could make sounds, but his speech was too low in volume to be heard. I asked him could I sing a song to him that he liked, and with his eyes, he indicated, yes, and I did so, holding back tears and choking up as I sang. I looked over to see a single tear trickle down his cheek, and told him I'd be back to see him again, soon.
Of course, in true cliche fashion, I never got that chance, as he passed away days later.
The picture at the top was the first ever I drew of him. It was my habit, to draw new members and visitors as they came to the church to make them feel welcomed. I just loved giving people something tangible to take home with them. The original picture is now in the possession of his sister. I was flattered that she would want it. And was glad to have drawn it.