Hi. I’m Ken Jones and this is A Classic State of Mind, with a word about … Jim
He died a few years ago, now. I had the privilege of conducting his memorial service because on the day his doctor told Jim he had cancer, he came straight to my office and told me that he had just received a terminal diagnosis. He didn’t know exactly when he was going to die, but he suspected it would be in the not-too-distant future, and he wanted to make sure I would agree to do his service when the time came. I sat listening to my friend describe what it was like to go to the doctor and hear his death sentence pronounced. He was not morose or depressing in his communication. More matter-of-fact, I think. But at the conclusion of our discussion, I told him I would be honored to stand at speak at his service, but that I hoped it would be many years from now.
In the ensuing months, Jim underwent numerous cancer treatments, with chemo, radiation, and other more non-conventional protocols. He fought valiantly, and for nearly three years, he held the cancer enemy at bay. But, eventually it became apparent that unless God miraculously intervened, Jim would die within a short time. He called me and asked me to come to his home.
When I got there, he asked me if I remembered that I had promised to do his service when the time came. I assured him that I did remember. We spent a few minutes talking about the service itself, songs that were his favorites, bible verses he wanted me to read, other participants Jim might want to have a part in the service. But eventually, Jim turned the conversation to what he really wanted to talk about: his book.
“Ken, I wrote a book,” he said.
A book? I didn’t know Jim was a writer, or that he had any aspirations of being an author.
“Cool,” I said. “What’s your book about?”
He said, without any apology, “It’s about me; it’s about my life.”
I’d known Jim for several years, and although I didn’t have a total picture of his life, I knew enough to suspect that a book about Jim might lack drama or excitement for anyone reading about is life. Jim was an insurance salesman. He’d never been lion hunting, or mountain climbing. He’d never discovered the cure for some dread disease. Nothing fancy or seemingly extraordinary bout his life, at least on the surface. I wondered about Jim’s motive in writing, so I asked him about it.
“What caused you to write your book?” I asked. “Why’d you write it?”
With a certain absoluteness or resolve in his voice, he said, “I wanted to leave my story on this earth; I wanted to leave some evidence that I have been here, and I figured if I wrote it down in a book, I could sort of document my existence.”
I never forgot that conversation I had with my friend Jim, that day. In fact, I read some of Jim’s book at his memorial service a few weeks later. But, none of the hundreds of people who came to honor Jim at the service had read his book. They didn’t need to read the words in his book; they had experienced the meaning and purpose of his life. His life as a Christian man and husband had spoken volumes to those who had come to celebrate what he called his ‘existence.’ They didn’t need anything to ‘document’ Jim’s existence. Jim did that on a daily basis, every day of his life.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with having a written record of where we think we’ve been, what we think we’ve done in life. But those who watch us every day are a far better ‘testament’ to our lives. Like Paul of old, we are indeed, ‘living letters, known and read by all men.’ And those who observe us and our walk with God know more about our story than we might suspect, even if we never write it down.