Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Memories of an Old Friend

A little over an hour before I wrote this, I was sitting at my desk with a painful crick in my neck trying to figure out what needs to be done this evening to prepare the Sanctuary Choir and First Light for worship leadership this Sunday and for the next few Sundays to come. The call came from the church office over the intercom letting me know that Buddy had passed away this morning. Automatically we know some things that have to happen in the next few days. The church will come together to love and support Buddy’s children and grandchildren as they work out the final details … and we will share stories of how Buddy’s life impacted our lives.

As a church staff, we called on Buddy often … more often than the average congregation member would know. We had just done so late Yesterday afternoon. The people he knew and the situations he dealt with when he was County Magistrate gave him a wisdom that we relied on to help us decide which benevolence cases were legitimate and which were people just “working the system” to get easy cash. There are a couple of stories there that I can’t tell near as well as Buddy did, so I won’t attempt. There is one story that comes to my mind, though, that gives a picture of my friend that I want to keep for the rest of my life. Buddy told the story again to me just last week.

One of the people mentioned in one of those stories (the ones that I can’t tell like he did) was a local version of the fictional Otis Campbell character from the old Andy Griffith Show. As Magistrate, Buddy knew this person well because of frequent appearances in his court. Because those appearances often resulted in fines and/or jail time, you can imagine that he didn’t like Buddy too well – a fact that one of those stories confirms. When he passed away a few years ago, Buddy sent flowers to the funeral home. Surprised at this, someone who knew both men asked Buddy if they were related. “No,” Buddy replied, with a twinkle in his eye, “We’re just old friends.”

When you watch the old Andy Griffith Show, you know that Otis’s recidivism frustrated Sheriff Taylor. I imagine this guy frustrated Buddy, too. But the twinkle in Buddy’s eye and the tone in his voice as he told that story confirmed the truth. Not condoning his self-destructive and illegal behavior, but respecting his dignity as a human being … a person created in the image of God … Buddy showed the love of Christ.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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