Wednesday, October 24, 2012

To The Strongest Man in the World- A Tribute to Paul James

Over the past several years, I've had the honor of becoming friends with a guy named Paul James.  Paul played the bass guitar at our church and was one of the most talented musicians I've ever met.  Little did I know in the beginning was that he was also one of the strongest men I've ever met.

To look at him, most would just see an old, broke, chain smoking hippie, who worked at Circle K.  But as you got to know this guy, who didn't own a cell phone in a society where cell phones are more important than food, you began to realize that you were in the presence of a guy who just "got it."

He understood life in ways most of us will never get and it wasn't fully demonstrated until I got to watch him get to face death.  Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I spoke with him as he peacefully explained that he would not fight the disease.  He then calmly set forth on his final journey in life with grace and dignity.  About a month or so ago, the band played a final time together.  Paul arrived in an extremely weakened state.  He was helped to his stool and handed his bass where one last time, I got to watch him play the instrument he had mastered so well.  It was obvious he was in pain as he sat uncomfortably on his perch, grimacing with pain, yet his fingers skillfully and effortlessly danced up and down his guitar.  Every now and then he would lock eyes with the tear filled eyes of one of his friends who were present.  His drawn cheeks and thin lips would draw back his white goatee revealing an assuring smile.  It was strange in that we were supposed to be there to comfort him, yet it was he that was comforting us.  He played for an hour before he was too weak to continue.  He thanked everyone, exchanged some hugs.

He told me several times that he was actually looking forward to death and the opportunity to meet his Savior.  And he would say it with such assurance that I really believed him!  Well, last night Paul got his wish.  Sometime in the night he slipped from this world, leaving a body that was writhing in pain and peacefully settled into the embrace of his Father.

All I can say is "Thank you Paul."  Thank you for showing me how to live in how you faced death.  Thank you for being my friend.  Someday I look forward to the moment when I cross over and hear the thunderous sound of heaven rumbling from your bass guitar.  Off in the distance as the sun rises, I look forward to seeing your restored and healthy body.  Your closed eyes and bobbing head with lighting sparking off the frets of your heavenly instrument as you furiously play away.

Until that day my friend, God Speed!  I love you brother.