In life, we run across many people. Some greet us and move on. Some spend some time with us through a bit of thick and thin. Then, there are others who truly take the time to not only see what and why we tick but to offer a bit of wisdom. And by doing this, they help shape us. These are the ones who are the most impactful. These are the mentors, the educators, and the heartfelt friends who leave a lasting impression upon our past, present, and future.
Professor Jim Wilcox was someone who fits this description completely. He made everyone feel as if they were worth the time he invested in them. Always patient, he took his time to not only communicate but to listen. His students never felt like a bother or an afterthought. They always felt like family. For this, he will always have a special place in all of our hearts.
Prof. Wilcox's funeral was today. And, as I sat in on the hard pews, I felt his spirit encompass through the room, as a few students got up to share some memories. His twin also had the opportunity to speak, which gave most of us a sense of Deja Vu as he slipped on one of Jim's hats to begin his tale of what it was like to grow up with Jim.
A large photo, which sat at the front of the room on a stand, kept wobbling on the stand like it was waving in greeting. It was slight. You had to be watching for it, but I could almost picture Jim standing behind it and poking it just a bit to let us know he was there. I know he would have gotten a laugh if it had fallen in the middle of a tear jerker moment. It would have been a classic Prof. Wilcox moment to interrupt with a bait and switch - to exchange our tears for laughter.
Through the many stories shared by his students and family, one could easily see the picture that painted of a vibrant, colorful man who was spirit-filled for humankind by the grace of God's teachings. I felt his spirit so strongly that there were times when I looked around expecting to see Jim's grin as he looked down at all of us.
On a personal note, only a few professors made an impact on me to the degree of giving me a reason to change the world. Jim was one of them. In some of my most harrowing and dark moments, he taught me to laugh again. He used humor to get our attention on a daily basis, and when we least expected it, he'd do something so outrageous like jump on the tables in class to shake things up.
He gave a young girl in college a reason to get up from her bed and make it to class. He gave her a reason to do well because his opinion mattered. He gave her a reason to appreciate life again. And in essence, he gave me what I needed to find my joy again so that I may share it with those around me.
Thank you, Prof. Wilcox. You are a compass to which many followed and there couldn't be a better example of Christ's love. Thank you for giving me something to hold on to. Thank you for bringing joy and light into my world when all I felt was darkness and pain. Thank you for allowing God to use you so that I saw Jesus at work in my life.
You are a stellar example of what one person can do to change the world - to be the light in the world. And if you did it for me, I can only imagine how many hundreds more you impacted to the point to where they were able to pay it forward.
This week, heaven gained a comedian, a mentor, and a soulful spirit, which can do great things from up there just like he did down here. Only, those guardian angels better watch out. I can only image what kind of mischief they have in store for them.