man graveyard

Jim Death & Honor

This morning I got an email telling me that my friend Jim was dead. Lost his job a couple of months ago, lost his wife and killed himself…it just really hit me hard.

First let me say that Jim was a turd. He was a crass, obnoxious, arrogant, mean spirited, cocaine addicted alcoholic that cheated on his wife and treated her badly. With that said, he was a certified genius and excelled at everything he put his mind to.

The first time I met Jim, he was interviewing me for a job. It was the hardest, most unreasonable interview I had ever been in and I was certain he was having fun trying to knock me off my game. He told me to go quit my other job and then he would consider hiring me…what an ass.

My entire time working for him he berated me publicly and kept moving the goals he set for me. He treated everyone poorly except those that he liked and if you were in you were IN. Unfortunately, I was out.

He beat me at every game we played, pool, darts, horseshoes, shuffleboard, bowling, poker, he even out fished me on a retreat. And it wasn’t good enough to win, the bets were always something humiliating like doing pushups on the bathroom floor or something worse.

At some point I realized I couldn’t beat him and submitted myself to his quirky leadership. That was the day our friendship started. He had an ivy league education, a fact that he would tell you within 15 minutes of meeting him. He was better than me, and smarter than me and he made sure I and everyone knew it. Strangely I grew more as a manager under him than at any other time in my career, probably because I disagreed with his style so much that it forced me to perfect my own. (Jim ruled through ridicule and fear, and I managed through building my group up and developing their talents.)

Finally Jim was transferred to Dallas and pulled me aside to tell me that he did what he did to make me strong and that he was proud of me and how I managed. That moment was a mountaintop experience for me, and is what is giving me trouble today.

As a man, Jim was detestable, but he bested me and beat me into submission. Between men this is a rite of passage in some ways. When we lose a competition, we leave something with our opponent. They take our flag with them when they leave the field and it sets the stage for the next battle. I gave something to Jim that I wanted back and he took the cheap way out, like leaving the poker table before the game is finished.

By submitting to him, I had to concede that he was the stronger man. By killing himself, he dishonored our epic battles and for some reason I cannot reconcile with that.

His death leaves me frantic that someone else around me is crying out for help and I am missing it. I learned of another friends death last week under somewhat similar circumstances. How does this happen? How can life be so bad that you would just whack yourself and no one knows you are hurting? Do we lead such insular lives that we can’t feel each others pain any more? Have we become so desensitized that we don’t even care about the problems of those we love?

Not that there was honor in his death. He was a coward. But I can’t let it go in vain. I have to make something of this. I am committing to listen to what those around me are saying and not saying. I will pray tirelessly for those in trouble and carry the load for them until they can handle it on their own. I don’t know what else to do, I just can’t bear to know someone else around me died and I did nothing when I could have stepped out of my comfort zone and grabbed them by the collar and shook some sense into them.

Good bye Jim. You were a wretch and a bastard and I will miss you. Save a Crown and Diet Coke for me.