The Final Words Of A Dying Man

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I’m blue as I type this tonight.

I found out an hour ago that a friend of mine just died.  That’s Jim, in the photo above, when he stopped by to visit us last year at our mountain cabin.  We had a wonderful visit, one of many we’ve had over the years with Jim.

Unfortunately, it was our last.

At 7:37 pm on a recent evening,  Jim sent me an email from his home in Guatemala.  He went to bed shortly after he hit “send”, and he never woke up.

The final sentence in his email is below:

HEY Fritz, I am attaching a document written by a famous Dallas Seminary prof thinking it might trigger some ideas for you to use in your “Retirement Manifesto.”

Those are the final words I’ll ever receive from my friend.  As I thought about that email while writing this post, I realized something.  It wasn’t the final words that mattered, it was the symbolism which they represent.  I’ll explain more at the end of this post.  It’s important.


The relationship.  We’ve known Jim since 1992 (25 years!) and he’s been a part of our lives for decades. He knew us before our daughter was born (she’s now 22, and married). We’ve known Jim longer than we’ve known our own daughter.  We first met Jim & Cheryl on a Sunday morning in the Spring of 1992, when we visited a small non-denominational church in Ohio.  A few weeks later, they had us over for lunch.  We were hooked, and we’ve been friends ever since.  The laughs we’ve shared with them over the years will always be special memories.

Jim and his wife, Cheryl, had recently moved back to the USA after years of missionary work in Latin America.  They made the move for their children’s’ educational needs, putting their personal dreams on hold for the sake of their children.  It was the first of many selfless acts we witnessed in Jim’s life.

I remember when we were new parents in 1994, and he encouraged us to take time for each other, and not let our role as parents dominate our relationship.  “Your child will someday leave the nest”, he said, “and it’s important that you’ve continued to foster your relationship with each other as husband and wife.  Many folks wake up in an empty nest and realize they’ve grown apart. Don’t let that happen to you.  Carve out time for date nights. Be intentional.”

Don't wake up in an empty nest and realize you've grown apart. Be intentional. Click To Tweet

Before we left Ohio in 1998, Jim & Cheryl were back “in the field”, and have spent the last 20 years doing the missionary work that is their Passion. They’ve been moving around Latin America, and we’ve kept in touch with them on a regular basis through the years.  We consider them both to be true friends, a valuable commodity that’s getting rarer in today’s culture.  We’re truly fortunate to be among the thousands of people they’ve impacted with their lives.

In Honor Of Jim

Today, I write this post in Jim’s honor.  He was an amazing man, and he’s made a huge impact in the life of my family.

As I would expect from Jim, the document he attached in that final e-mail was a good one.  But as you’ll find out, that’s not the important point of today’s post. There’s a bigger message here than the article he sent me.  I’ll get to that.  I wish he were still here to see this post.  I hope somehow he’s aware of the words I’m now typing and knows what a positive impact he’s had on our lives.

I want to share something with Jim.  His main reason for sending that final e-mail was to congratulate us on our daughter’s wedding.   The attached article was a closing thought, but the bigger point was about the wedding.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to send him a wedding picture before he passed away, so I’ve included one of my favorite pictures below for Jim to enjoy.  I hope, somehow, he’s able to see it.

Thanks, Jim, for your role in creating an incredible relationship with our daughter.

You’d be proud of her, and what she’s become.

I wish Jim had seen this picture.

Preparing For Retirement – 8 Questions To Ask

The article Jim sent to me was titled “Preparing For Retirement”, written by Ken Royer.  Below, I’m going to summarize the key points of the article and add my thoughts on the concepts presented. I’m doing this for Jim, but it’s going to be brief.  The article isn’t the important point of this post.  (See “In Closing” for what really matters).

Below, I’ve summarized the article received from Jim.  Ken begins his article by presenting his purpose, which is primarily to help prepare someone who is approaching retirement.  He then enters into the essence of his article, which is the following 8 Questions one should ask as they Prepare For Retirement;

Q1:  Is it necessary to “retire”?

If you enjoy your work and continue to be productive, is it necessary to retire?  Don’t assume retirement is mandatory.  If you’re doing work you enjoy and you feel a calling to stay engaged in your work, consider staying.

I like that thought, and encourage everyone to decide for themselves if retirement is right for them.  There’s a reason it’s called “Personal” Finance, after all!

Q2:  How can your wisdom be passed on as a legacy?

Face it, by the time you retire you’re likely an “expert” in your field.  Be intentional in passing your wisdom down to the next generation.  “The older sharing with the younger”.  An important concept, too often lost in today’s fast paced society.

Q3:  How can you utilize your wisdom without being a threat?

As you leave the workplace, it’s time for the younger generation to fill your shoes.  How do you support them as they step into decision making positions, without having your experience be a threat?  Get this right, it’s important that your “vast storehouse of experience and wisdom” be used for long term benefit by those left behind.

Q4:  How can you continue to bear fruit after retirement?

Just because you’ve left your job doesn’t mean you can’t continue to impact the world for good.  Ken shares the story of a 98-year-old who is still making an impact. What’s your impact going to be?

Q5:  How will you stay active after retirement?

Ken reminds us that “retiring to the rocking chair” isn’t the best path to a succesful retirement.  Rather, he cites studies that show our physical and mental health are strongly enhanced if one stays productively active.

This question makes me think of the book I recently read, Younger Next Year, which has motivated me to focus on physical fitness as a high priority in my retirement.

Q6:  How can you structure your life for fruit-bearing even after Age 65?

What spiritual and natural gifts do you have?  What hobbies intrigue you?  Think about ways to use your gifts and hobbies in a way that bring you joy, and bear fruit later in your life.

Q7:  What are our financial resources?

It was interesting to me that Ken didn’t ask this question until he asked 6 other questions.  To me, it highlights his recognition that money, while often one of the first things folks think about when they’re considering retirement, is actually not as important as other aspects of your life.

Legacy, Purpose, Wisdom, Bearing Fruit, Activity all questioned before Money. Take a hint. Click To Tweet

Thanks, Jim, for sharing this Wisdom on what’s really important.  That’s the biggest lesson I got out of this article.

Q8:  In what ways can you still “Think Young”?

How can you continually learn from others, asking questions in a way that engages your mind? How can you continue to read, discuss ideas, keep up with the world news, and be involved in the interests of your grandchildren?

Bottom Line:  Remain Curious.

It was a good article, but as you’ll see below, that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about Jim.  And with that, let me reveal something which you’ve probably figured out by now.

My real purpose for writing this post is the section below.


In Closing:  The Final Words Of A Dying Man


As I thought about Jim and the email he sent me, I realized the Final Words he sent weren’t about the article at all.  I wrote that review as a show of respect to Jim.  He deserves that.

But his Final Words were about so much more.

“…thinking it might trigger some ideas for you”.  The Final Words.

The Final Words Of a Dying Man reveal his character of generosity, selflessness and genuine human caring. He was “thinking it might trigger some ideas for you“.  He was thinking about ME. He was ALWAYS thinking of others.

He was always thinking about YOU.

It doesn't matter what that final email said. It's The Act Itself that speaks loudest. Click To Tweet

Throughout the 25 years I’ve known Jim, I’ve noticed a special quality about him.  He really cared about YOU, and made you feel like you were the most important person in the room.  He asked sincere questions, and he offered heartfelt fatherly advice.  He listened, intently. He was sincere, principled and a man of integrity.

As he demonstrated once again in his Final Words:

His Focus Was Always On Others, Seldom On Self. Click To Tweet

Selflessness is a rare commodity these days.

Just like my rare relationship with Jim.

I Miss Him.

 

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31 comments

  1. There are no words I can say to you…

    This is a great tribute article to your friends. It passes a lot of his wisdom to your readers. My take aways are
    1- foster the relationship, especially when there are kids.
    2- it is not mandatory to retire. It is a personal thing.

    Stay strong

  2. Such a beautiful post in honor of a wonderful friend! I’m sure Jim felt good when he hit send. He was doing what he enjoyed most – putting others first. And I definitely agree with Jim and feel that it needs to be said more, your relationship with your partner is incredibly important and cannot take a “back seat” to children. The kids will always be OK when their parents are happy and engaged partners in life. And I love Q8 – what can you still learn. We will be all about this in retirement! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Cuz, it is clear to me why Jim and you were friends. You are very much like this great man you admire. It is clear from your friends final words that he was as proud of you as you were of him. Your greatest tribute to Jim is following his path of selflessness and mentoring those around you (which I have already benefited from greatly). I hope you are able to manage a smile today realizing that YOU are other peoples Jim. ❤️

  4. I’m so sorry you lost a good friend. Jim sounds like a once in a lifetime friend…I had a once in a lifetime friend named Jim when I was younger (20s) who was older (60s). He always said, “You are where you’re supposed to be.” Your Jim was always where he was supposed to be and even at the end he made a difference. I wish we all could have such a legacy.

  5. What an awesome man. And what a fitting tribute. Thank you for sharing your friend’s terribly sad passing, Fritz. This post is both sobering and inspiring. I hope when all is said and done and I leave this spinning rock, I’m half the man Jim was.

  6. Tears. 🙁 So sorry to hear about the loss of your good friend, Fritz. That pic of you and your daughter is beautiful and I am quite confident Jim can see it. You are blessed to have had such a wonderful mentor, and I am certain he and his wife are equally blessed to know you guys.

  7. Sorry for your loss. It is good that he was doing what he loved and able to carry out his mission work until his last days. Life is truly precious and a loss reminds us to appreciate the days we have with the people we care about.

  8. Fritz, I’m 13 years into retirement and this article really inspires me. It makes me realize it’s never to late to engage or reengage. Friends like Jim are truly a blessing and I believe your following his lead. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Touched by this article Fritz. I’m sorry you’ve lost a good friend. Losing people we care about hurts. I take much comfort in losing Fred in knowing where he is, and loving the memories he has left. Like Jim, Fred cared about others. I pray for his family, life has changed forever. We never know when our time is up. It makes me think that we all should try to live like Jim. Think of others before ourselves. Enjoy each and every day we are given, call the people you care about, visit with the people that can no longer get out and enjoy the sunshine. There are lots of ways to show love to others. While all of us are not missionary’s in the sense of the word as Jim and his wife, we all can be missionary’s in our own part of the world. My parting words, “may your beautiful memories bring you joy, and help to ease the pain of your loss.”

  10. Fritz, very sorry to hear about your loss, it’s sounds like Jim was an incredible man. This is a great tribute to him. Selflessness is such a rare and often overlooked quality these days, but SO important. We all should strive to be more like that. Thanks for sharing about your friendship and the impact Jim made on your life!

  11. Fritz, A deserving tribute I am sure. The loss of a dear friend strikes even deeper than that of family. True friendship is selfless, unchanging and beyond any expectations. I am sure you will cherish such a friendship you had with Jim and I think he will cherish that as well. How old was he when he passed, may I ask?

    In our family, there is a saying that only the truly blessed people in this world pass away in their sleep – that’s really the best way to leave this world. He must have had a really blessed life serving others to have such a peaceful end.

  12. So sorry for your loss, thinks like this force us to reevaluate what is really important and in the end, our “stuff” just isn’t. You may have seen I had a nasty bicycle accident this last weekend too, could have been much worse, but like your recent fall off the roof, we continually get these reminders of “do we have our priorities straight!” Sounds like your friend Jim did and will be sorely missed, I hope that I am permitted to pass on some of my wisdom to ears that are able to hear at some point, I really appreciate your blog and that you are trying to pay it forward, and honoring Jim with this pay-it-forward article as well. I am sure this was probably one of your more difficult articles to pen, so many memories. Many Blessings my friend and you have honored Jim well!

  13. What a wonderful tribute to your friend. It sounds like he was a wonderful giving person and a great friend. Your heartfelt post is a reminder to all of us to be the best friend we can be to others –and we can only hope our own last words are as selfless as your dear friend’s. Thank you for sharing. I, like Jim, am so glad that we are friends. (And we need to get that dinner soon!) Miss you and Jackie. Talk soon.

    Sorry for your loss, Fritz.

  14. Thanks, all, for your kind words. Afraid I’ve been tied up on Business in Switzerland all week and unable to response. I sincerely appreciate each and every comment. Thanks for understanding, and for your loyalty. Jim would be proud to read your words. Thank you!

  15. I’m so sorry for your loss Fritz. What a blessing to have your paths connect in this journey of life!

    What gets me Fritz is just what your readers are posting. “YOU are other peoples Jim.” Since I am your older sister, I can say this with all sincerity – YOU have always been a natural at caring for, engaging with, and connecting with people of all walks and ages – EVEN AS A TODDLER! I’ve been “nudged” by a particular follower of yours to “weave some childhood stories of Fritz” into this blog. So, as I was saying, even as a toddler, you had that way of connecting. Remember our elderly neighbors? You would spend time over there playing Skittles, mainly because you had a sense they needed you. Truth be told, they did. AND SO IT BEGAN …… Love ya brother!

  16. Fritz, I am so sorry for your loss.
    It is always hard to lose a friend, but harder still, if you weren’t expecting it. Jim sounds like he was a lovely person. Over the next few weeks and months, lots of things will remind you of Jim. You will smile gently and recall him with fondness, I am sure.

  17. What an incredible post based on an equally fantastic friendship. The loss is hard, but Jim died doing what he loved, and he obviously continued to give back throughout his life right up to the end. Many lessons to learn from Jim. He offers us all the challenge to look at later chapters in our lives to see what impact we can have on others. I think his message should resonate even more within the FIRE community, because many of us will have the resources to be finanacially independent, and thus the freedom to do many things that others not as financially secure cannot do. I think Jim was challenging us to consider what we will do with our freedom, he certainly has me thinking.

  18. Fritz – I’m so sorry to hear this news. I can tell from your post the deep respect and admiration you had for him and I can totally understand it from what you share about him here. He’s obviously had an amazing impact on you and by sharing your relationship with him here, now he’s got a chance to have that impact on others as well.

    My prayers are with you, your wife, and Cheryl – hoping that God grants you all strength and comfort.

  19. Beautiful tribute to your special frind Fritz. My houghts and prayers are with you and Jim’s family. I agree with MM above, that you are doing for others what Jim did for you. I hope I can do the same in my life!

    Take Care Fritz. You inspire me.

    Heartfelt from Wshington state.

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