James Winnes: A Life Well Lived

Silver everywhere. The wind is a sorrowful, tinkling silver. The rain is a wet, heavy silver. Tears running down faces are a slippery, transparent silver. It is a color of profound sadness, but it is also the color of deepest joy.

Just four short days ago, a precious friend took Jesus’ hand and walked into eternity with him. James Winnes was the kind of person everyone should have in their lives. He had a never-ending smile, a laugh that came from deeper places than his face, but a seriousness that complemented his joy perfectly. James loved life to the fullest and remarked last summer, “You know, I feel like I’m just starting to grow up and really experience life. It’s like I’m finally becoming a real adult.”

James loved Jesus and listened to him. His trust in Jesus as Savior was so entwined with his everyday life that the space of the one ending and other beginning didn’t exist. He had plans of becoming a missionary and we chatted about the importance of mechanics on the mission field. He played on the worship team and found fulfillment in using one of his gifts to help others worship God. James prayed from his heart and knew Jesus as a friend. His prayers were the outflow of this relationship with him—genuine.

But he was also deeply relational with people. He enjoyed “chatting it up” at Pneo, welcoming people as they came for Pneo, and visiting with strangers. Time didn’t restrain him, if he were in a conversation with someone. People came before projects—every time. No matter if he’d just come back to town after a long day at work, he would still have a regular conversation with me at Kwik Trip.

James was also a servant. Nothing was beneath him. Whether he was helping set up the tables for the Pagel’s wedding—airy pink and orange tulle and all, or cleaning at church, he was happy to help in any way he could. He never failed to ask, “What can I do to help you?” or “What would you like me to do?” Ever.

He was also extremely generous. One time it was 7-8 packages of different Oreos that he brought to our game night. Another time it was paying for our drinks at Coldstone. Or paying way more than his share for the pizza. Or always offering to go pick it up.

James was far, far too kind. When we played the card game Spoons, he would see that someone didn’t have a spoon and would offer them the one he had. No matter how many times the game was explained to him, he was always so gracious and would rather lose points than take a spoon.

These are just a few of the hundreds of thousands of things so many of us are going to miss about James Winnes. We will never be the same with him gone. But we will also never be the same for him having been here. Our lives are richer, brighter, and far more memorable because he was in them. We are covered in silver—the glitter of a million sun sparkles from a life well-lived. Silver is reflected in our eyes every time we remember James and the tears glisten from the bittersweet memories of everything he was for all of us. And silver blinds our eyes as we stare into the hazy, silvery sky and tell Jesus, “One day, King Jesus, You will return or take us to be with You.”

And we will see James coming to meet us with his huge grin, saying, “Well, hey there! How’s it going?”

Better. So much better.

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