James was a giant of a man. It wasn't hard to believe he'd been a policeman in the Sudan. Yet he was as gentle as a teddy bear with a cheeky grin that lit up those around him. I cherished his warm hugs - always guaranteed to cheer me up, no matter how exhausted or how disheartened I felt.
He smiled when I practiced my partially-remembered Dinka and always asked (genuinely) about my family. Family was important to James. Friends were important to James. His home country was important to James. He would often return to North Sudan, to help. This time he won't return.
Yesterday I received the news. James had died. He'd hidden much of his health issues, insisting on helping other. I was in shock. I'd grown to treasure my 'James hugs'. I will miss them.
My heart aches for his family - for Amel, his lovely wife, and his children. James only touched my life; he was a big part of theirs. I grieve with them as they organise their next steps without their husband and father. May God bless and look after them.
Today there is a hole in my heart.
Rest in peace James.