It's been one week from today that I flew to Tennessee to see my good friend Jim Elliott for the last time at his service. It was a beautiful celebration of a wonderful father and friend. I had the honor of speaking at his memorial; below is what I shared with those that gathered. Thank you friend for being the inspiration.
God is good.
I could go on and on about what a great friend, father, brother, son, etc. Jim has been to all of us… and then ask why? Why did we lose a strong, faithful, and loving friend…? Why now? He fought so hard, why him? Good guys always win?
But in Jim’s own words, he would say…
· There is some good that comes out of this bad….
· I’m not happy about this disease but thankful for many good things that have happened because of this disease.
· Actually there has been a great deal of good that has come from this bad and I truly am thankful for that.
· I am thankful for this surgery and I am thankful to have a God that has taken on my sickness. This will be a war and I have tried to prepare for this mentally and physically and again keep in touch and I will get through this very soon.
· I believe God is about process and this illness has me experiencing this process to understand His unconditional love for me and how I should love others well.
In the fall of 1997, I met this young man named Jim Elliott. I would jokingly call him “Jimmy” and he would finish by saying, “I’ll take what you gimmy.”
Little did I know this is what his friends and family called him growing up. Jimmy had joined a company called Lightspan that many of us that are here today that had worked at for so many years. We became like a family. We would go on presentations together, room together, play basketball during our company gatherings and on and on. Over the past 13-14 years, we stayed together. First at Lightspan, Plato and then here at CompassLearning. Several of the folks that are here are folks that knew him from work over the years. My guess is that for those of you that are family friends or high school friends, we could probably tell the same story about Jimmy…
He was a fierce competitor.
He was a champion, a winner; a president’s club achiever
He was a good friend. He was a great friend.
He was a jokester. A charmer, A comedian, a playaaaa. He loved to say “Holla”
He liked to laugh and smile and enjoy the company of others.
He made you feel like you were his only best friend… and he did that for so many.
He was everything that everyone has written on the CaringBridge site.
He was truly a child of God.
He was a father. A great father… He loved his kids…. Rebekka and Davis.
He was his Mom; he was his Dad. He would always talk about both of them. Over the past few months, I learned so much about him through the strength and character of Mertie and Big Jerry.
He was a brother…. To Jerry and Jeff….
He was like a big brother…. To me. And to so many.
In October of 1998, one late afternoon; Jimmy called me and in a matter of fact way says to me. “ I have been diagnosed with cancer.” I paused, didn’t know how to react. As with so many of us; we thought, not you…. You all know his regiment… his strength, descipline, eating habits, etc…
I believe the first words out of my mouth were… “are you scared?” Then we both cried for a bit and of course, the comforting Jimmy, he said we’ll get through this and fight this battle….
I told him that day, that I would call him everyday whether he wanted to hear from me or not. And days that I fell short, he would call me and say; why didn’t call me. He kept to his word and mine. Until his final sigh, he fought the fight. He never let go. He not only taught us how to live; he taught us how to die with courage, dignity, strength, love and faith.
I’ve read over and over from the comments that all of you have left on the site…. “I am a better person because of Jim, I am stronger in my faith and purpose because of Jim and his journey.” I agree.
With more than 62 thousand visits to his site, 3 thousand prayers and notes to the guestbook and hundreds and hundreds of prayer groups and folks praying around the country and around the clock, Jimmy lived and breathed through every note, call, email, text and entry….
One night before he went into the “big” 19 hour surgery, he called me at 12:30 at night. How he knew I couldn’t sleep, I have no idea. It was our daily call and he wanted to make sure I was okay. I asked if we could say a prayer together and we did then he simply said, I’ll talk to you on the other side. I’m sure that so many of you could not sleep that night either. I decided for his sake, I would stay up the full 12 hours, at the time that’s how many hours he said it would take….
Restless and impatient, I decided to read all of his CaringBridge blog posts… One by one I would find small teachings; nuggets of wisdom and knowledge he was sharing with all of us…
In his own words….
· I will continue to fight!
· I believe God is building up my strength and is preparing me for something later in life that will require something more than I have been able to or willing to give in the past.
· Sometimes God uses others to glorify Him just as God has used me to speak to others during this disease.
· I will continue to pray for all of you because I know my struggle is not the only one out there.
· I can find comfort in knowing He never lets go of me. I will get through this “storm” in my life and when I do He will still not let go of me!
· Trust God and do not be afraid. Little did I know that I was the focus of that verse, so I am taking that to heart throughout this journey.
· Now is pivotal.
· I am confident our prayers are being heard and God is sovereign so lets continue to believe and fight well.
· I hope I am as good a friend to you as you have been to me and I actually mean that too.
· I take great comfort in knowing the number of prayers that are going out on my behalf. In sales I talk about being consistent and persistent and the success will come. I believe that applies in prayer as well and I am certainly receiving persistent and consistent prayers and I believe God responds to that.
· I am thankful he loves me enough to put me through this journey.
· My conflict (struggle) will continue to shape me as a person and I will continue to be thankful for everyday and I will enjoy everyday.
· You are spinach and I am not superman; I am popeye!
· There are two truisms that I seem to live everyday during this time in my life. One is that, “conflict changes us,” and secondly, “God tells us to be thankful for everything.”
· I can’t tell you enough how much your words are giving me strength, how much your comments are keeping me focused and that we will overcome this disease.
· I have prayed for courage, I have prayed for wisdom, but I have never prayed for serenity.
· Be strong and fight each day and do not let fear paralyze you to live an exciting and fulfilling life. (of course I’m actually giving myself a pep talk!)
· I’m not sure what “normal” is at this point. However, it made me think why do I want to go back to my previous “normal?” The reality is that I don’t want to go back there, I am so thankful to be experiencing this season in my life.
· I believe God was loving me well when he decided to destroy my “normal” but what I want you to know is “THAT” is a good thing!
· Now is critical, I look forward to experiencing a long life of that kind of normal.
Over the years, as with so many, Jimmy shared so much of his time with his friends and family. I recall our skiing trip to Steamboat, Colorada. I told him I had never been skiing, ever… When I got there, I didn’t see anyone that looked like me; that was not a good sign. Jimmy, Steven Hoy and myself along with our kids endured and I learned how to ski alongside all the little 5-6 year olds while Davis, Rebekka and the other kids learned to snowboard. It was the most expensive, I mean, the best time I shared with my son. When I was going through issues with my teenage boy, jimmy was there. Last spring break my son and I took a trip to visit Jimmy. I don’t know why I chose to do that. I thought maybe I could be there for Jim, but it turns out he was there for me. AC never forgot the drills Jimmy taught him about basketball. During our summer vacation, I re routed our trip to Ohio to make sure we drove through Nashville, Jimmy was there to great my family. And this fall, he was adamant on seeing America’s team… so we spent some time at the Cowboys game and observed the new stadium. These were some of my best times. Jimmy was about adventure and doing stuff. These were special moments for me and I’m sure all of you have these special moments that he shared with you.
I’ve had the privilege of working with Jimmy all these years. And throughout his career he always performed at such high levels and achieved all his targets. Under the circumstances, this year was no different. We know that he is already rewarded with his greatest achievement of his life – being with his Father in heaven. But I do want to take a moment to acknowledge his achievement at work which I know he would be so proud and deserves our recognition and celebration. As you know, he was not able to attend our summer meeting and gala this past week, and as Mertie and her family can attest, he tried every effort to get there. We were able to live feed the awards ceremony to his home and with his family, and he was able to see and participate in the event virtually. It was amazing, and in Jimmy fashion, he showed up to work ready to receive his award. At this time, I would like to present to his family this award on his behalf. This was in fact Jimmy’s greatest year of his career reaching more than 209% of quota and 3.139M in sales, On behalf of the company, our CEO and VP of Sales and all members of CompassLearning family – Congratulations to our 2010 president’s club achiever – Jim Elliott.
When I received the call after his final surgery that there was nothing they could do anymore, I wanted to give up, I wanted to end the fight… I sent Jim a text stating he needed to focus on his family and not to worry about texting, calling me…
He immediately texted me and said… “you are family.” I didn’t respond. He replied… “do you understand…. You are my family.”
I made a commitment to him and to God that I would not give up I would not let go or give up the fight if he was not willing to give up the fight.
He fought well to the very end. And he will continue to fight for each one of us in heaven. We truly have an advocate, a warrior and champion in heaven that is watching over all of us and his children.
A month ago today, June 27, Jim wrote his last and final blog post to the CaringBridge site. It was mostly an update to the beginning of the final treatment…
The week prior, June 20th, he writes…
I am so blessed and fortunate to be a father and my children have been amazing during this journey. I cannot imagine how they have processed what has happened to me. At times I want to apologize to them for having to experience this journey I am going through and then God reminds me that he loves them more than I do and he is teaching them to cling to Him and not to things of this world. Still it is difficult to watch them having to be grown up before their time. If you read this kids I want you to know how proud I am of you, how much I love you and how much you truly are a gift from God.
Jim has taught us the true meaning of life… our values and our goal.
That being to put God first in all you do, To fight well, to live al life that ensure your place in the kingdom of heaven. Faith and family were his foundation; everything else followed…
To close with a quote from Jimmy’s blog post….
· I could go on and on of the people that have and continue to be instrumental in my recovery and one day we will have a hell of a party to celebrate what God has done.
· As always thank you for your unconditional love toward me.
Jim, Friend and brother, till we meet again…
Below is a tribute video from his friends: