I only knew Jim McEathron for a short time but I am happy to say that he is my friend and brother in Christ.
I met Jim at Rock Solid Church a couple of years ago because we were both regular attendees of the services there. As I recall we both were participants in the living nativity that the church did at the Winter Walk in Hudson New York. I was a Roman Soldier and I think Jim was too.
Now Jim was a scruffy looking guy who you could tell had been through some hard times in his life. I had assumed that he was significantly older than me. Let’s be honest he looked a little rough and when you add Bible carrying-religious enthusiasm to a rough exterior you may wonder if the person is mentally balanced. I’m a little introverted at times and was somewhat standoffish in meeting new people.
Jim was friendly though and I quickly gathered he wasn’t insane. He was a devoted follower of Christ. He attended services on Sundays and Wednesday nights and was an enthusiastic participant during worship. He was active in the Wednesday Night Bible classes, adding to discussions, and often quoting scripture and contributing significant insights.
After Winter Walk, we would exchange pleasantries and greetings at church. I knew his name so I would stop say Hi when we saw each other on the street or at a local store. I even saw Jim at prayer the one night I went during the January fasting of 2015.
In February, Bob Costello announced the beginning of Celebrate Recovery and Jim was on the leadership team. When it was announced, I knew this program was for me and I knew I was all in. I knew Jim and told him that I would be attending and he was very encouraging.
After a few weeks, the recovery program starts to discuss getting the support of an accountability partner or sponsor and I immediately thought of Jim as someone I could turn to. They say Celebrate Recovery isn’t therapy but for me it was. I had shared all my dark secrets and sins to the guys at Recovery and Jim was always there to offer his support and encouragement. So after the teaching on accountability partners and sponsors, I exchanged phone numbers with Jim.
One of my accomplishments of 2015, was celebrating the completion of an Associate degree in Applied Science in Telecommunications Technology from Hudson Valley Community College. At the end of the previous semesters, my classmates and I would get together for lunch to celebrate another term over. At the last lunch, I had enthusiastically drank more than a couple of beers. So here I am, a few months sober and anticipating going into a social situation where drinking is an option, and in my head, an expectation if not an obligation. It felt like the most normal thing in the world to throw care aside and drink deep in the celebratory atmosphere. I was worried I was going to throw away my sobriety. So I called Jim.
I can’t recall Jim’s exact words but he talked me through it. We discussed my options. He suggested that if I was incapable of going in and just having lunch without drinking that I should just not go. He told me it was my decision whether or not I drank. He asked about the last lunch and whether absolutely everyone drank or if it was just a few. I admitted that it was just a few that drank with enthusiasm, some only had one or two drinks, and some of the class didn’t drink at all. Jim was showing me that not everyone drinks to excess and some don’t drink at all. I was to for now on to consider myself as one of this last group: don’t drink at all. I told him I thought I could do it; Just eat lunch and leave without drinking. Jim made me promise to call him if I felt the urge to drink and to call him when I was done with lunch. He wanted to make sure I made it through okay.
That was the day I discovered, I could go to lunch with people drinking, laugh, joke, and have fun without drinking myself. This may seem a simple thing for most but for me it was a milestone for sure. I did it because Jim was there for me. He used common sense and scripture to show me that I was a new creation in Christ and that the habits of the old man really could be left behind. I had a great time at the lunch and couldn’t wait to tell Jim when I got back in my car. He congratulated me and I thanked him profusely for his guidance.
After that day Jim was my friend, accountability partner, and brother in Christ. He supported me in my recovery when I was extremely vulnerable. He counseled me regarding my sobriety, faith and thought life. Jim always brought me back to the word of God to show me who I was in Christ and what I should do. We talked on the phone regularly supporting one another.
Shortly after this, Jim’s health took a very bad turn. His liver was diseased and without a transplant he would die. Through tears Jim announced that He was going to Florida to see about getting treatment and possibly a transplant. He was worried about his health but he was greatly saddened having to leave his church and the recovery group. After Jim left we talked on the phone a few times and he shared that the transplant wasn’t going to happen but he was trying to be positive and saying that everywhere he was going he was wearing his I Love Jesus that and he was sharing the gospel with the doctors down there. I was greatly saddened by what this meant but proud that Jim was staying faithful.
A few months ago Jim returned to New York. I remember seeing him at church for the first time in months and rushing to embrace him. His countenance was somewhat jaundiced and you could see he was in a great deal of pain but he smiled and hugged me tight when he saw me telling me that I looked good. I told him that I was on the leadership team for Celebrate and invited him to come.
Jim was in a lot of pain but he did come to group one more time. It pained me greatly to see that the disease had taken so much out of him and I could see he wasn’t going to last much longer. That night I hugged Jim and told him I loved him knowing I wouldn’t see him again. I started praying for God to take him home.
In December, Jim went to St. Peter’s Hospital. On December 22nd, Jim died.
Obituaries list who you are related to, who died before you and who you left behind. They sometimes tell you where you went to school, where you worked, and what your hobbies were. They rarely give you any idea of the deceased’s status with God. Jim’s tells of his active participation in his church, his love of the Bible, and his time ministering to people in recovery.
When I heard the news of his passing, I was sad but immediately thought that Jim was in heaven with Jesus and that his suffering ended the moment his life passed here on earth. I pushed away my tears and laughed thinking of Jim restored and new in heaven with a smile from ear to ear dancing on the streets of gold.
I miss my friend but he helped me when I needed him and I know he is in a better place now.
Jim didn’t just die and cease to exist. Jim went home to be with the Lord in paradise.
I’ll see you there. Brother.
For those reading this, please don’t be remembered for your love of a baseball or football team, a hobby, or where you worked. Be remembered for the love you had for God and how you shared it with others, like my friend Jim did.
Colossians 3:1-2 “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. ”