I had to say goodbye to a dear friend this week. Sometimes life is just hard. At other times, it’s bitter. Then there are those days when life is sad. Really sad.
I met Billie on a mission trip. Oh, I’d shaken his hand at church, listened to his sermons, and bowed my head while he prayed. But, on that mission trip is where I got to know the man. That’s where he revealed his values, his thoughts and what he really wanted to do. We went to St. Croix to rebuild houses for those in need.
The door to our friendship opened during those two weeks. He gave me reasons to give back to others.
When we got back, he invited me to drink coffee with him. That’s when we started building what I’m missing today.
First, I noticed that Billie had different hands than most preachers. They were working man’s hands. Scarred, thickened by bumps, cuts, scrapes and whatever it is that a man picks up at work and never loses. My Dad had hands like that, my Father-in-law also. They worked for a living. Billie had worked for a living once also.
I liked that about him.
Second, he knew what to do, whether we were playing with miter saws, skill saws, ratchet drivers, electric drills, speed squares and levels. Or, tinkering with the conflicts we keep inner most in our minds.
You didn’t have to tell him what to do, he knew. He had learned that somewhere other than the ministry. He showed me his shop, his barn, the tractors he dreamed of rebuilding. We talked about our dreams.
One day, I asked him, “Billie, how did you get in the ministry?”
“I was a lawyer.” He said.
I took a moment to think about that. I wanted to say something about lawyering and preaching.
He said, “The Lord made me pull over and get off the road one day. He gave me a good talking to. I surrendered right there, sitting in my car, on the side of the road. I went home and quit my lawyering.”
He started preaching, became a minister, a helper for mankind. He smiled as he told me his story. The ministry made him a happy man.
Then he got sick. He’d been sick before. One heart operation twenty years ago. A second heart operation last year. A heart that couldn’t be fixed or didn’t want to be fixed. We’ll never know. There were some other problems. I think everything he had just wore out his heart. He wanted to talk to Jesus again.
I got the call Monday. We buried him Thursday. It was the coldest day of the year. I sat there in the church. I shivered. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I went to the graveside service. I shed my tear. It was so cold, I think it froze before it hit the ground. I said goodbye.
He’s got two grandchildren. They will never know what all they missed. They will never see the sparkle he had and hear the laughter he shared. They were cheated and didn’t know they were even in the game.
Some days are sad. Really sad.
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