Goodbye Jim, and Thank You

Last week-end I got an e-mail from Jim Botkin, an old friend, colleague and co-author that he had liver and blood cancer and that he’d love to catch up with me. He said he had to use a walker and had people coming every day.  I immediately interpreted that as code words for “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to last, and I’d like to say good-bye.”

I sent back an e-mail that I was overdue for a trip to Boston and how ‘bout if I came to see him?  He said it would be great to see me – whenever my schedule permitted.

I flew to Boston four days later.  While I was grumbling about waiting for the bus and missing the commuter train,  Jim was taking his last trip – in an ambulance – and thanking those who carried him into the hospice house.

I got to the hospice house at noon on Saturday. What a lovely place it was – warm,  friendly and caring. Jim opened his eyes and recognized me. He could hardly talk, and I told him he didn’t need to – we’d just hold hands, and I’d reminisce about our times together.

I thanked him for his friendship and patience when we were writing our book, Winning Combinations.  When I discovered I had cancer.  Jim said, “Don’t worry.  You just write what you can, and if we need to go slower, I’ll explain to the editor at John Wiley.”  And I recalled the time he was scheduled to give the final report and his flight was cancelled.  Our client chartered a private plane to pick him up so Jim could deliver the recommendations.  He was a memorable speaker – rational and eloquent – an unusual combination!  He was a dreamer, a broad thinker, yet a very approachable person who was delighted by all the challenges and delights that life offered up to him. As I talked, Jim drifted off.

Jim died the next day. He went quickly and quietly, and I’m grateful I made it in time to say good-bye. Thank you, Jim. Because of you I am a better writer, a deeper thinker, a bigger dreamer, and a more interesting presenter. Already I miss you.