Years ago, I made a phone call at 3 am from Texas to England that would change my life forever.
The details of that phone call are a story for another time, but in the end, I found myself working on a magazine in the UK — with 'JH' as my editor.
My own life would have looked
wildly different if this man hadn't taken that phone call and offered me an internship and later job. Somehow, he saw
something in me that others over the years never did, or would never
admit to. My high school English teacher told me I was the worst writer
he’d ever seen.
JH seemed to think otherwise.
For years, I wrote editorials, columns and sidebars, researched, edited
and proofread stories, all while listening to him tell me how good
everything would look on my resume someday.
But this — this kind of story was never meant to be included on that list.
My former editor, mentor and pseudo-uncle, JH, passed away this evening.
It seems only fitting that I write something in his honor. After all, this is the man who launched me on a writing career. Yet here I sit, staring at a screen that looks a little fuzzy through my tears, somewhat at a loss for words.
However, JH taught me a few tricks over the years. Write — even when you don't want to. And, a lot of writing is simply rewriting. In this case, the following is adapted from a letter I sent to him a few weeks prior to his death.
Years before I ever met JH, I scribbled a few goals and dreams into a journal. One was to work on a magazine overseas. It seemed unlikely based on my high school and even college track record. And yet, I will never forget sitting at my desk in England, watching him jet off for some conference somewhere on the other side of the world. His words to me as he took off for the airport were, “I want to make sure you could run this magazine in case I drop dead.”
Thankfully, he came back very much alive, but he reminded me that he actually believed in me and my generation. And let’s face it, running the magazine didn’t scare me nearly as much as the thought of him not being around to champion the likes of me.
From stuffy offices in England, to sheep fields in Scotland, planning meetings in Germany, non-Christmas dinners in Wales, aboard a ship in West Africa and even in Ukraine (where our paths never actually crossed at the same time, but he understood nonetheless the reasons I loved it there…), somewhere along our travels and work together, he became more than a mentor to me. He became family.
And I have to give him credit for his perhaps unintentional matchmaking skills. Because of my job, I attended a media junket with Mercy Ships in Norway. Because of that trip, I later joined the organization, where I met the Sailor. We got married and we now have the adorable little Peanut.
Over the years, JH edited a lot of my writing. He'd brag about a good article I wrote and then joke that it only became great once he edited it.
During my time onboard the ‘Love Boat’, I remember sending him articles I wrote for Mercy Ships. Usually he’d have a bit of advice — or say things like, “Your writing is coming on.” It was the same as before -- he held back ever so slightly on giving me any bragging rights.
One time though, he actually paid me a genuine compliment — and it meant more to me than a thousand trite ones. He simply wrote: “It is redundant for me to say your writing is ‘coming on’. It has arrived.” I printed out that email and glued it into my journal for both posterity and proof.
Even though JH heard countless tales of how he influenced people over the years in the weeks leading up to his death, I think that was just a glimpse of the impact he made. There's still more to the story. And I suspect that along the way to hear more of the tale, he’ll be receiving a similar compliment to the one he gave me all of those years ago: “Well done, JH. Well done. You have arrived…”