Wednesday, April 2, 2008

God Be With Ye, Joel

My friend, Joel, just died this week, suddenly, leaving my friend, Sandy, a widow. The Apostle Paul writes: "God is no respecter of persons." [Rom. 2:11], but I certainly am, and there are very few people in this world that have earned my respect -- Joel was one of them. He and I could not have been any more different: his introspection foiled my exuberance, his patience, my wrath, his acceptance, my judgements. I think it boiled down to, essentially, his Irishness to my Italianness. Yet, as Sandy knows best, these two seemingly opposite characters did not clash, but deepened our friendship, and my respect for him over the 18 years that I've known him.

We all know the story that the Irish never say a bad word about the dead: a lady asked to speak on behalf of a man, universally reviled, who just died, struggled for a moment, then burst into a smile as she pronounced: "But he had a brother who could sing." For Joel, I have the opposite problem: I cannot recall one moment where he ever lost his cool or exposed himself to censure. For Joel, everything was alright or would work itself out, and he was there, doing his part to make that so. He was always warm in his greeting, in his inquiry, and took your causes, making them his own.

For example, it was Joel who got me on my feet after I left the military with my first job working at his company. He tried me in one role, working for him in marketing, but seeing I was more fit for computers and software, quickly shifted gears and championed me to the IT managers. He did this over and over again for so many people he came across -- he truly liked to help people, he didn't particularly care that this or that person did or didn't fit Joel's assigned position, he just helped to find the best fit for the person he was helping, regardless of his own benefit. I have rarely seen this egolessness in service: when I saw Joel doing this I saw it come from a rock-solid foundation of faith. He knew he was doing his part to help things along, so he had not one concern about the benefits to himself.

He was introspective and studious by nature -- his most natural pose was one of repose, with a book in his hand. But, at the same time, he enjoyed company. At a business function several years ago, Joel opened his house to me and three other young men for a lunch, prepared by Sandy, that I will never forget. The food, of course, was a very welcome respite from the starched business setting, but what I took away with me was Joel's absolute peace and comfort. It seemed to say: "This is my house, this is my home: I'm comfortable in it, and I'm comfortable sharing it with you." Our dessert was an Irish coffee Joey lovingly hand-measured that I have not tasted the like before or since. Joel was a stately craftsman: proud of his work, and pleased to share it.

I shall end with this: his service and conduct were a credit to himself and his family, and we sorely miss him. God bless you, Joel, may you rest in the company of the saints.

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