This is a guest series by Phil Cate. If you missed previous chapters, you can read them all by clicking on ‘Phil Cate’ under the Categories heading in the right panel. Watch for new installments every Friday.
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The sales manager I replaced was Jim Standard’s best friend since college. Mike Thomas was Jim’s age and was also a tremendous influence on me. He was living in his faith, after really tearing up his own life with some mistakes. It was good to hear that perspective; I had no idea how much I’d need that later on.
Mike had gone to work for a customer of mine that happened to be a competitor as well. In a weird twist of fate, I had actually introduced him to the company and the opportunity. Within a month of Mike signing on with this competing company, they were also recruiting me. The money was just too much to pass up and I took the deal.
Within a month of moving into an office suite with Jim’s best friend Mike, I started feeling very disoriented. I should’ve been on top of the world; I had married the love of my life, and we had a beautiful blonde, blue-eyed daughter together. We had exerted pressure on the legal system to ensure our rights to see Sara more, and it had worked. The family seemed to be clicking along in a very positive direction.
However, some things I didn’t calculate. I voluntarily took out of my life some of the men God had put into my life to bring me this far. As I said, we moved to the other side of town from our church. I lost the opportunity to be around our pastor and our Sunday school class, including the teacher. And I left a company where I was able to walk into the owner’s office and pray with him, a company that had hired a corporate chaplain.
My thinking at the time was, The money will help cut the stress; and I’ll be working with Mike, and Jim will always be around for me.
After moving and losing my Sunday school teacher and pastor, I realized quickly that they would not be easily replaced. Kay and I looked all over for a church home, but never really found what we had lost.
And leaving a company with a Christian boss left a larger void than I had expected. Along with loss of daily encounters with a Christian boss, I lost the weekly encounters with our corporate chaplain. But as I said, I moved into an office suite with Mike and set up a men’s group meeting weekly with Jim.
About three weeks after I took the new job, our receptionist walked in to interrupt a meeting between me and a co-worker. She was clearly shaken and had tears running down her face. She said, “Mike’s wife just called. Mike went to the gym last night, had a heart attack, and did not make it to the hospital across the street. He was dead on arrival.”
Jim and Mike had been best friends since college, and now I had to call Jim and let him know he had lost his best friend. Jim was recovering from gall bladder surgery and was not feeling well himself.
Mike’s viewing was surreal, seeing his sons and his wife in total shock. Mike was only in his mid-fifties and was so physically healthy — and now was gone. All of my current co-workers and co-workers from the previous company were there. It was just unbelievable to all of us.
Jim arrived, and I don’t think I’ve ever again seen that look on someone’s face. There were a few steps to walk up, his wife Cathy was arm in arm with him, and he looked up at me as I greeted him. His face showed shock and hurt, incredible grief, disbelief, and a reluctant acceptance all at the same time. I just wanted to grab him and hold him; he had lost his best friend of almost forty years. He was noticeably weakened, both from his gall bladder surgery and from his grief.
I only saw Jim a time or two in the next couple weeks after Mike’s death. He and I had been seeing each other several times per week, but now he was obviously withdrawn and grieving his buddy. I was busy trying to set up a sales endeavor for my new company and my new boss who had also been quite close with Mike. The pain of his loss was all around me. I had to let his boys and wife in his office to look through his things. On his desk was some paperwork Mike and I had worked on late the night he died.
I just couldn’t believe all I had lost so quickly. Jim Standard really was my true anchor though, and I knew I could talk through anything with him.
A couple weeks later I was hurriedly trying to get home and grab my golf clubs, as I had a date to play with a client and was running a tad late. I walked into the garage of our new home, and Kay came out and said, “Phil, we’ve all been trying to get ahold of you. You better sit down. Cathy called, and she couldn’t reach Jim; so she went home and found him on the floor. He’s had a heart attack, and they’ve taken him to North Fulton and it doesn’t look good.”
There were three small steps from the garage to the house, and I just fell back on those steps and could not even breathe for a while. How could this be happening? I was losing every man in my life. Kay and I jumped in the car, and flew to the hospital. That was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.
Cathy was shaking her head at me and crying when I walked in the door. I just collapsed in a chair; and though I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time, I remember thinking, God, how could you take him away from me? Why on earth would you do this? You know how good he’s been for me. You know I was lost before I met him and had no clue how to live, and now you’ve taken him away.
At Jim’s house that day, his wife asked me to explain to his siblings the relationship Jim and I had. I probably didn’t do a good job of it, but then how could I? This was the man that first explained to me that I needed to do a little more than believe something; he’d shown me that God wanted me to take my life and build something. He was the father figure I wanted and needed; he built confidence in me, he gave me direction and a glimpse of what a husband should be and the courage and desire to marry again. Kay adored him, my friends adored him, I adored him. I needed him, and now he was gone. As a matter of fact, in my mind at that moment, they were all gone.
Next: Let’s Make Some Money
Phil Cate is a resident of the Atlanta, Georgia, metro area and runs a small medical equipment resale business. He is available for speaking engagements and can be reached at PhilC@ER3.biz or by phone at 678-429-0901
Printed by permission from Phil Cate, Mama told me Jesus saved my soul, but who was gonna save my butt??? Confessions, lessons, and revelations of a born rebel, © 2008.