My friendship with Jim spanned twenty-four years, during which he was my mentor, my law partner, my marathon training buddy, my best man, and my true friend. True friends know us, and our families. They know our secrets, our vulnerabilities, our deepest fears, and they know how to call us out when we are wrong. He was all that and more. I have come to realize Jim was a true friend to many.
We lived parallel lives despite that he was fifteen years ahead of me, but we were also wired very differently. For example, I prefer organization, preparation, and a plan. Jim preferred spontaneity. Unlike any other lawyer, Jim could start preparing for a civil jury trial, in earnest, the Friday beforehand. We never planned a ski trip together more than a week in advance. Instead, I’d get a call from Jim with the news that he had settled all seven of the cases he had set for trial the next week, so “pack your bags and get some airfare.” As contrary as that was to my nature, it was so much fun to have a friend like Jim. Jim’s adventurous spirit was contagious. Countless times Jim encouraged me to take chances, to boldly go where I had not gone before, and to ignore the implications. Those risks typically paid off, and I grew to believe, as Jim already did, that there is more to life than just what we can see. Jim never seemed to concern himself much with the past, or the future. He lived by the mantra that God will take care of him, and, He always did. Armed with that perspective, Jim was fearless. By using the gifts that had been divinely given to him, Jim liberated others from their own fears. I aspire to know the freedom that apparently comes to those like Jim who obediently serve and obey God.
Nine months ago, when Jim shared the bad news with me, I asked him what I could do. He simply suggested I pray for courage. Not for healing. Not for the removal of the cancer from his body. Just for courage to face the days to come. Although cancer is so painfully indiscriminate, Jim’s final trial on earth reminded me that God freely grants us the courage to accept our earthly circumstances. In fact, I know that the hardest part of these final months for Jim was not his pain, which had to be horrendous. It was the pain he knew we would all feel. Jim would hate that we all got together to celebrate him, not so much because he didn’t want the attention, but I suspect because he didn’t want us to feel pain on his behalf. He wanted our pain to be avoided, because of how fiercely, and how selflessly, he loved all of us. Jim genuinely cared about people, about who you are, and HOW you are. Even in the final stage of the disease, his body ravaged by cancer, he remained singularly focused on others. Countless friends have told me Jim continued to call them in the final months, to check on their wellbeing.
Saying goodbye is so incredibly hard. But I’m glad we took the time to celebrate this amazing man. Sharing joy, sharing tears, and exchanging our memories of Jim makes it hurt a little less. May God continue to bless all of you who knew and loved Jim Corbett, and may He grant you strength and courage to carry on, until we meet Jim again.