Written by: Dean Lee
Finding the right words to describe one of your best friends is tough. When that friend just happens to be one of the most talented writers around, the task becomes daunting. But somehow, when I think of James Lee, the words “dignity”, “honour” and “respect” seem appropriate to me . If you were close to James, I’m almost certain you’ve heard him say those words and even if you haven’t, you’ve probably felt them in one way or another.
I’ve personally felt those words in the form of the four finger arm bruise. This was the mark that was left behind after he would grab your arm to make a point in the middle of a passionate conversation. I’ve even felt them around my neck once when I accidentally insulted him during a production.
He was passionate about his beliefs and we loved him for that. We respected him for that.
James described himself as an on/off switch. He would say “you either get all of me or none of me, there is no inbetween.” So, just know that as a friend of James, he gave you his all. Nothing less.
An incredible amount of thought went behind everything he did. Not just in his work but in the smallest of things. Stupid little things. He had an unbelievable way of turning a gift from a dollar store into the most meaningful thing you’ve ever received. There’s a tacky cat clock on the wall of our office that has become an art piece somehow. That was the dignified touch that James put on things.
He was an artist but more importantly to me, James was like a brother. We shared a last name by chance but he really did feel like family. Some people said we were more like a married couple, sometimes finishing each others sentences. He would usually go back and rewrite the sentences I finished but I was never offended. There was even a time when a hotel clerk saw that we shared the same last name at check-in and assumed we wanted the same room.
We took separate rooms at the hotels but I did share a room with him at work for approximately 5-6 years. I’m always surprised when I do the math that it wasn’t longer because I feel like I’ve known James all my life. I will always cherish those years with him. It was an honour to be his partner. He taught me so much and made my time at work not work. We had fun. We laughed. We argued, then we’d laugh some more.
Needless to say, James’ influence runs deep in the people he touched and because of that I like to think that he is alive and well through us in some way. At the very least, he will always be remembered as a true friend to me. One who had dignity in my eyes. One who I still honour and one I will always respect.