George F. Hambrick Jr.
(May 4, 1961 – September 7, 2015)
I can think of a thousand places I would rather be today than speaking at a funeral service, especially one for my cherished friend, Sonny Hambrick. At the same time, there is no place that I would rather be than right here, right now. You see, we cannot truly appreciate the joy and ecstasy of life until we experience the agony and separation of death.
Yes, there is a time for everything under heaven, even grief. Despite our culture of immediate gratification and the avoidance of anything difficult or painful, we all find ourselves compelled to be here to honor the memory of Sonny Hambrick because of one reason: we loved him or someone in his immediate family.
I am honored to be here today to speak on behalf of Sonny and his family. When Rhonda asked me if I would be willing to share some stories about Sonny with you, I began to think about which words I would use to describe him:
Sonny was Bold and Fearless – When we were young and full of vim and vigor, if you found yourself in an unpleasant situation where you needed someone to have your back, there was no one better than Sonny. He was not afraid of anyone or anything, and he was always ready to “throw down” if he had the opportunity. Sonny would have made a great NFL football player or a terrific soldier… except for the fact that Sonny didn’t particularly care for people telling him what to do.
Sonny was Loving and Kind – If you talk to others about Sonny or read what has been written about him by friends, family and coworkers since his untimely death, a common theme begins to emerge of his humility and kindness. I knew this side of Sonny even when he was young and full of bravado, but life has a way of softening even the toughest among us if we will allow it to. Sonny loved people and he loved animals, especially dogs.
Sonny was Spontaneous and Fun Loving – Sonny enjoyed life to its fullest, and I think that is what attracted us to each other when I first came to Savannah Christian for my junior year of high school. It didn’t take us long to become running mates. He was always ready for an adventure, whether it be a road trip, or a midnight sailing excursion.
Sonny loved the University of Georgia and his Bulldogs. We attended UGA together as room mates in the Fall of 1980 during the glory years of UGA football, when Hershel Walker ran over anyone in his path, when Erk Russell stalked the sidelines with blood all over his face from head butting his defenders, when James Brown thrilled Sanford Stadium with his song, “Dooley’s Junkyard Dawgs”. We soaked up every moment of that incredible year when UGA won the National Championship. We were together when Larry Munson screamed “Run Lindsay! Run Lindsay!” and “Look at the sugar falling from the sky!”.
We had no idea how blessed we were and how special those times were. It was fun to win and fun to learn. Fun to work and fun to play. The legal drinking age was 18 when Sonny and I arrived in Athens, and lets just say we took maximum advantage of that fact. I’m not going to get too far into what we did in those days, other than to say two things:
1. Thank you Lord for looking after us in our stupidity.
2. I’m so glad we didn’t have cell phones and YouTube!
I remember one frigid night in February, Sonny and I got into a silly disagreement and got separated at a fraternity party. I ended up catching a ride back to our dorm, which for those of you who know Athens, was on the first floor of Milledge Hall. I didn’t have my room key so I knocked on the door. No answer. “So this is how its gonna be.” “I said I’m sorry, you blankety blank! Let me in!” Still no answer. After banging on the door for a few more minutes, it was obvious that he was determined to ignore me, so I did what any responsible, level headed young man would do in that situation. I went outside and kicked one of the window panes in – only to find that Sonny was not in there. When he showed up a short time later, I told him the story and we nearly died that night of laughter and the sub freezing temperature in our room.
Sonny and I both married our high school sweethearts. Unfortunately, my dear wife Jahn could not be here with us today because of unavoidable conflicts, but trust me, she is here in spirit. She and Rhonda used to burn up the highways together between here and Athens every weekend. When I asked Jahn what her favorite memory of Sonny was, she said “Walking into your dorm room to the sound of Sonny singing Kenny Rogers love songs to Rhonda”.
I hate to admit it, but Sonny and I were both kind of free flowing in our love of the ladies when we were young. You might have even called us “Lady’s men”. However, when Sonny fell for Rhonda, he fell hard. Rhonda put a spell on Sonny that no one saw coming. He didn’t care that people said he was robbing the cradle. He was madly in love, and the fact that she was barely a teenager was irrelevant. Rhonda has stayed by his side through thick and thin ever since, and I can’t imagine how lost she must feel at this moment. Rhonda, I pray that God will comfort you in your temporary separation from Sonny, and He will fill your mind with all the many sweet memories you have together.
Sonny cherished his family – all of them. From his sweet mom Miss Ann who I affectionately called Mom too, to his lovable Dad George who tried his best to keep us out of trouble, to sweet Pam who he adored, Deborah and all the extended family. But most of all, he loved Rhonda and his precious children Trey and Macy. He loved to call and tell me all about how they were doing. He called me and asked for prayer when Rhonda lost her job, and called to let me know when she got a better one. He was incredibly proud of you Trey and Macy, and he will remain your greatest fan as you embrace an uncertain future without him. I pledge to each of you today – as do many people in this room – to be there for you should you need me.
I will miss getting those phone calls out of the blue when I answer my phone and all he says is “Hey”, and instantly I am transported back in time to our magical days of college and of starting our families together. With Sonny and me, time was irrelevant. We always picked up where we left off without missing a beat. Frankly, he did a better job than I did of staying in touch, but what a sweet friendship we had. He knew me as well as anyone on this earth – and loved me anyway.
Today we celebrate Sonny’s life and his legacy of love. His light burned brightly, and his departure from this earth leaves us feeling the stinging pain of grief. Grief as they say, is the price of love. However, even as we grieve, there is a celebration of homecoming for Sonny in heaven.
Its funny; You would never have voted either of us “Most likely to become Sunday School Teachers”, but God’s amazing grace and loving protection covered us in our youthful exuberance, and He used every experience, every choice – good and bad – and every precious relationship to grow and mold us.
Don’t get me wrong… neither of us are saints, and neither of us are evangelists, but if Sonny were able to stand before you today after meeting His savior face to face, he would remind you all of your mortality, and he would implore you to settle in your mind and in your heart the most critically important question you will ever be confronted with: That is “Who is Jesus Christ, and how does the answer to that question affect me?”
For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of righteousness. The wages of our sin is death, or separation from God. But God demonstrates his love for us in this: while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Sonny has left the prison of his flesh and entered into eternity in the presence of and in direct fellowship with God. He no longer suffers from compromised liver or kidney function, and the weaknesses that kept him keenly aware of his dependence on God no longer hinder him. Sonny has been rewarded for his faith, and now he is at perfect peace.
I take great comfort in that, and I sincerely hope that you do too.
God Bless you all.