Posts Tagged ‘friend’

For Jim

February 7, 2010

A true friend is gone.

Jim Wong, who I highlighted on this blog way back in August of 2008, lost his battle with Thyroid Cancer Saturday (February 6, 2010) about 6:00 PM Eastern Time.

Jim was the Moderator of the Adult Congenital Heart Association‘s (ACHA) message board; he helped select me as the second Moderator and got me up to speed on how things worked. Not just on the message board, but how hearts worked, how Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) work, and even a little about how life works. And even before that, he was one of the first people I physically met after joining the ACHA in 2006.

If you didn’t know him, he could be intimidating. He was Jim, but his official title was James Wong, PhD. And you wouldn’t think that a PhD would have much patience, or suffer fools gladly, but we got along well. I think I’m the biggest fool to ever come down the pipe – I like to laugh, and cut up, and enjoy life.

PhD’s are supposed to be so serious. But Jim took it all in stride; he was a rock – for me and for a lot of other people. I think that no matter what he did or where he went, down deep he realized he was just someone looking for answers. And when he found them, he wouldn’t hesitate to share with the rest of the CHD community.

Jim’s friends will be glad to hear that his heart hung in there until the end. Let the record show that Jim Wong, PhD, never lost his battle with his heart defect.

I’m still looking forward to going to Florida and speaking at the Regional CHD Forum; it’s going to be a wonderful trip. But right now I’m taking a moment to remember a friend.

Rest in Peace, Jim.

The Reverend

December 17, 2009

We met him in 1977, while in the hospital at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). “I’m not sure we’ve met,” he said to my dad. “I’m Reverend E.W. Harris, a couple of my members are patients here. And you are….?”

“We’re the Funky Heart family, our son Steve is here for a heart operation.”

“Where are you from?”

“South Carolina.”

“I won’t hold that against you.”

And so began a friendship that would last nearly 20 years. Rev. Harris was a Methodist minister, but he took a bunch of Baptists a long way from home under his wing and became our “second pastor.” He didn’t know us, had no connection to us, and by most standards had no responsibility towards us. At least by Man’s standard. A higher power told him otherwise.

Did my parents need a car? Yes you do, no arguing. You look like you need to see something besides these hospital walls for a few hours. Borrow mine. It’s ok, I’m planning to be here most of the day. My wife will take you around the city.

His wife was his chauffeur; Reverend Harris was born with “tunnel vision” – an ailment that limited his vision to only what he could see directly in front of his eyes. Look through a couple of paper towel tubes and you will get a good idea of how he saw the world.

But he always had a smile and an encouraging word, and jokingly let us know that as far as he was concerned, the Methodists would get to Heaven a few moments before the Baptists would. “I’m hurt,” he pouted when my dad told him that my pastor from home was flying in for my surgery. “We pray to the same God. But my prayers get there a little bit faster.”

How do you figure that?

“God has a summer home in Mobile.” (Alabama city on the Gulf of Mexico, for my non – US readers.)

He was there during that first surgery and my recovery, and there again when I went to surgery in 1988. He was there when the surgeon told my parents “I will speak to you last.” Dr. Pacifico’s skills and Reverend Harris’ prayers got me out of that operating room alive.

Our friendship continued for years after that, long after my doctor moved and I found care elsewhere. UAB is a great hospital, but it is a long way from home. My favorite doctor was now in Greeneville, North Carolina, a lot closer. It continued until that day a few years ago when the call came; the call you begin to expect when friends reach a certain age but never want to answer.

And Reverend Harris had one last surprise for us – he wanted a Baptist to speak at his funeral!

“Looks like you were right, E.W.,” Dad said that day. “You made to Heaven before the Baptists did!”