Posts Tagged ‘love’

Eulogy For My Dear Friend, Sonny Hambrick

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.

James D. McCusker – A Great American

Jim McCusker was my friend from the first moment we met back in 1988 as young men trying to forge a career in (at that time) life insurance sales at Mass Mutual. We spent a lot of time together; at the office studying or preparing proposals, on the road making sales calls, or after work unwinding from the day. Through it all, if you were with Jim, there was never a dull moment. Truth be told, we played as hard or harder than we worked, but I will always cherish the laughs and meals we shared, the late nights drinking scotch and playing putt putt in the office, and the many long conversations (OK yes I mostly listened) in which we pondered all manner of problems and opportunities under creation.

Several things immediately struck me when I befriended Jim:

Jim was at all times and in all circumstances, absolutely unflappable. Never at a loss for words, Jim could talk to anyone about anything, and he often would. He never met a stranger. He was inquisitive by nature and genuinely interested in others.

Jim was smart. Really smart. He was without a doubt the greatest thinker I have ever known. Jim never shared with me what his IQ was, but his vast vocabulary was ever expanding, and he literally knew a little something about everything. And if he didn’t know about something, he was such a skilled pontificator that you would never realize it!

Jim and I shared a healthy general disdain for the powers that be and a certain detachment from the standards that supposedly govern our little region of the universe. We soon picked up on that commonality, and I think it was Jim who coined the term “Burgstiner Time” to describe my more European approach to time management.

Finally, and most importantly, Jim had an immense capacity to love. He was a gentle and kind soul, bold yet humble, and always a servant – especially to young people. Jim was a devoted husband, brother and son, but by far his greatest joy was being a Dad.

As his close friend, I was a grateful recipient of the love that overflowed from Jim’s heart, and it was he more so than I who made the consistent effort to stay in touch once our career paths diverged, even when we moved away to Atlanta. Whenever we got together, whether in person or by phone, it was like no time had passed. We delighted in each other’s company and encouraged one another in our struggles.

Like all of us, Jim was not perfect, but he left behind a legacy of love and a willingness to dream that impacted all who were fortunate enough to be loved by him. Jim’s soaring mind and sweet soul were released from the limited confines of his mortal body on March 26, 2014. We all miss him now, but I look forward with great anticipation to being reunited with him in paradise one day, where the answers to the many questions we pondered together will finally be understood.

T Bones and Roses

yellow roses

  I walked into the grocery store not particularly interested in buying groceries. I wasn’t hungry. The pain of losing my husband of 57 years was still too raw. And this grocery store held so many sweet memories.

He often came with me and almost every time he’d pretend to go off and look for something special. I knew what he was up to. I’d always spot him walking down the aisle with the three yellow roses in his hands.

He knew I loved yellow roses. With a heart filled with grief, I only wanted to buy my few items and leave, but even grocery shopping was different since he had passed on. Shopping for one took time, a little more thought than it had for two.

Standing by the meat, I searched for the perfect small steak and remembered how he had loved his steak.

Suddenly a woman came up beside me. She was blonde, slim and lovely in a soft green pantsuit. I watched as she picked up a large package of T-bones, dropped them in her basket, hesitated, and then put them back. She turned to go and once again reached for the pack of steaks.

She saw me watching her and she smiled. “My husband loves T-bones, but honestly, at these prices, I don’t know.”

I swallowed the emotion down my throat and met her pale blue eyes.

“My husband passed away eight days ago,” I told her. Glancing at the package in her hands, I fought to control the tremble in my voice. “Buy him the steaks. And cherish every moment you have together.”

She shook her head and I saw the emotion in her eyes as she placed the package in her basket and wheeled away.

I turned and pushed my cart across the length of the store to the dairy products. There I stood, trying to decide which size milk I should buy. A quart, I finally decided and moved on to the ice cream. If nothing else, I could always fix myself an ice cream cone.

I placed the ice cream in my cart and looked down the aisle toward the front. I saw first the green suit, then recognized the pretty lady coming towards me. In her arms she carried a package. On her face was the brightest smile I had ever seen! I would swear a soft halo encircled her blonde hair as she kept walking toward me, her eyes holding mine.

As she came closer, I saw what she held and tears began misting in my eyes. “These are for you,” she said and placed three beautiful long stemmed yellow roses in my arms. “When you go through the line, they will know these are paid for.” She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on my cheek, then smiled again. I wanted to tell her what she’d done, what the roses meant, but still unable to speak, I watched as she walked away as tears clouded my vision.

I looked down at the beautiful roses nestled in the green tissue wrapping and found it almost unreal. How did she know? Suddenly the answer seemed so clear. I wasn’t alone.

Oh, you haven’t forgotten me, have you? I whispered, with tears in my eyes. He was still with me, and she was his angel.

Every day, be thankful for what you have and who you are: 

“Even though I clutch my blanket and growl when the alarm rings. Thank you, Lord, that I can hear. There are many who are deaf.

Even though I keep my eyes closed against the morning light as long as possible. Thank you, Lord , that I can see. Many are blind.

Even though I huddle in my bed and put off rising. Thank you, Lord, that I have the strength to rise. There are many who are bedridden.

Even though the first hour of my day is hectic, when socks are lost, toast is burned, tempers are short, and my children are so loud.

Thank you, Lord, for my family. There are many who are lonely.

Even though our breakfast table never looks like the picture in magazines and the menu is at times unbalanced.

Thank you, Lord, for the food we have. There are many who are hungry.

Even though the routine of my job often is monotonous. Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to work. There are many who have no job.

Even though I grumble and bemoan my fate from day to day and wish my circumstances were not so modest.

Thank you, Lord, for life. “

A Vanished Friend

fishing

I don’t know who wrote this, but I received it today in an email.  It hit me between the eyes like a ton of bricks.  There are more than a few people who come to mind when I read this.  To all of you I send my love and well wishes.  Let’s get together and catch some fishes!

 

Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end.
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friend’s face;
For life is a swift and terrible race.
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.

And he rang mine – but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game;
Tired of trying to make a name.

"Tomorrow" I say, "I will call on Jim"
Just to show that I’m thinking of him.
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner, yet miles away;
"Here’s a telegram sir": "Jim died today."
And that’s what we get and deserve in the end;
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

Remember to always say what you mean. If you love someone, tell them. Because when you decide that it is the right time, it might be too late…

Seize the day. Never have regrets. And most importantly, stay close to your friends and family, for they have helped make you the person that you are today.

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