It’s All About the Dash

It has been said that when you die, two dates appear on your tombstone. The year you were born and the year you die. In between there is a dash that separates them.  That dash represents what you did with your life. Some people make the most of that dash and some don’t.  This is a word about one who did

Sunday morning, I got the news of the death of a great man, Mr. Buddy Jones.  Mr. Buddy was one of those people I have know almost as far back as I can remember. He was born in Watson in 1935. He died a few days into 2015  While he was a quiet, unassuming, humble man, in many ways. Mr. Buddy  was larger than life. He never lived in  a big house, made a lot of money, ran a big company, wrote a book or held an office.  But he was a great example of how to put a great deal of living into that dash.

From the day he was born, he was both a Jones and an Allen, big families on both sides.  He grew up a poor country kid, like everybody did in those days.  Although he was educated and traveled a lot, he lived his whole life within 100 yards of the spot where he was born. He lived in the same place his whole life, and was the member of the same church til the day he died.  He was married to the same beautiful bride for 54 years.  He lived in the same house for 47 years.  He worked at the same job for 40 years.  There is something to be said for a man who was content with what he had. Mr. Buddy was wise enough to know that when you had been given a blessing, you didn’t need to going looking for something else just because it was new.

I never really thought much about it until yesterday, but my relationship with Mr. Buddy was many fold.  He was an adult and a deacon in the church when I was just a kid.  His oldest son was my childhood and lifelong best friend.  In addition to that, Mr. Buddy and my Daddy became best friends and stayed that way for nearly 30 years until Daddy passed away. When I was younger, our families spent a lot of time together.  We shared meals, special occasions, New Years Eve and the 4th of July.  We took many family vacations together, from the beaches to the mountains.  Later as Calvin and I became more independent, I spent a lot time in Mr. Buddy’s home and was always welcomed with a warm smile, and open heart and the same kind of love and acceptance he showed to  his own sons.  I am not sure whether that was because I was Calvin’s best friend or Robert’s son, but it didn’t matter. It worked for me.

Later, we became sort of peers.  We both served together as deacon’s in our church and served on different committees together.  It meant a lot to me that he let me know, without ever having to say so, that he didn’t see me as a ‘kid’ or one of those young boys, but as a grown man with a contribution to make.  For my part, it did not take me, or anybody else, very long to figure out that while he was soft spoken and didn’t talk just to hear his own voice, when he did speak, you should listen because  what he had to say was always worth listening to.

It is hard to remember way back for someone you have literally known all your life.  My first conscious memory of Mr. Buddy was when I was 7 years old.  It was Calvin’s birthday party, which was in October. It had a Halloween theme. After the cake and ice cream and opening of the presents, none of the 7 year olds noticed Mr. Buddy had disappeared.  Then we were led on a little hike down by the creek.  A pumpkin jack-o-lantern was rolled under the bridge as we approached.  All of a sudden, a ghost jumped out from under the bridge and yelled “BOO”..  Actually it was Mr. Buddy with a sheet over his head.  Scared me so bad I cried.  But when he took the sheet off his head and we found out it was Mr. Buddy, even for a 7 year old I thought it was funny.

He had a big heart and love was a way of life for him.  His world was Mrs. Norma and his two boys. He was soft spoken but firm, passionate but not boisterous. He was patient and always willing to try to do for others.  Both Calvin and Shannon were pretty good baseball pitchers.  They excelled in high school and both started college on a baseball scholarship. Shannon even went on to play professionally for a few years.  If  you had been around their house when they were younger, like I was, you knew that much of their success was due to all the hours Mr. Buddy was willing to spend out in the yard, sitting on an upturned 5 gallon bucket, catching for them and quietly coaching them and honing their skills. Another thing that always impressed me about Mr. Buddy was remembering that while he did not make all of the boys high school baseball or basketball games, he made it a point to make most of them. Even midday tournament games or early afternoon JV games.  I was in high school and I was impressed by that. Mr. Buddy knew that sometimes work or other things could wait, since there would be a day when there would be no more games to go to.

Another memory about Mr. Buddy was the way he was always cheerfully willing to help others or do something for them. It didn’t matter who you were or where you were.  If he could help you, he would. I remember when my Dad was in the hospital the last time.  Mr. Buddy spent two nights literally sleeping on the floor of the critical car waiting area, not because he could do anything for my Daddy, but because he was not going to leave my Mom, my sisters and me there alone.

Most impressive to those who knew him was the way Mr. Buddy lived a quiet but very real Christian faith throughout his life.  He had the “living” kind of faith, not the talking kind.  His testimony was powerful and real, but it came through not in the things he said but in the way he lived his life day in and day out. Mr. Buddy was a perfect example of the admonition in James 1:22 “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only…”  He was never ‘in your face’ about religion, but was not hesitant to tell you what he believed.  He was not preachy, but was always willing to share with you how to find the same peace he had if you were interested. I thought it was fitting that when I went to his house Sunday night with some food and to check on Mrs. Norma, I found a clipping on the refrigerator with the 7 points of the plan of Salvation, the old Roman Road.

Mr. Buddy was a faithful Christian. Even in the years shortly before his death, when he had much difficulty getting around, he was always in church, pushing his walker down the aisle to the pew he usually sat in. He was still an active Deacon at the age of 79 and was attending Deacon’s meetings into 2014. And speaking of deacons, Mr. Buddy served as a deacon for some 50 years,and at the time of his death, Mr. Buddy was the oldest and longest serving deacon at Amite Baptist Church. Many times over the years, myself and others had sought him out for counsel, both spiritual and otherwise. The New Testament gives us the qualifications for Deacons. A deacon should be a man worthy of respect, sincere, sober, not greedy, holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience, a dedicated husband who rules his children and his own house well.  The Apostle Paul wrote those words 2000 years ago. But he could not have written a more accurate description of Buddy Jones if he had know him all his life.

Mr. Buddy studied the Word and knew it well.  He was a man of prayer. In fact, at time he was so sincere in his prayer life that it was not just a spiritual exercise for him, it was also a physical experience as well.  At deacon’s meetings and other occasions, I observed Mr. Buddy praying, on his knees or on his face, so deep in pleading with the Lord on behalf of someone that he had tears in his eyes, his body quaked and you could hear him groan. And, although I never saw it in person, I know that there were times when he even prayed for me like that.

He also lived by the advice in 1Thesolonians 4:11 – “and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you”.  Mr. Buddy was quiet but not shy. He was friendly but not a busybody.  I saw him get frustrated, angry and just plain flabbergasted at times, but I don’t really recall ever hearing him raise his voice.  He guarded his speech.

I could go on and on, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll share this.  I came across this article on 9 Tips for Living A Christian Life:
http://www.klove.com/ministry/tips.aspx
Mr. Buddy was always 9 for 9.

Over the past few years, Mr. Buddy’s health declined. But, true to form, he took it in stride. He didn’t complain, kept doing what he could do and was thankful for those who loved and took care of him. Last week he was hospitalized with complications from liver failure and a slight infection. The doctors informed him that they were going to recommend sending him home with hospice care. His race was nearly over. But he met this news the same way he he had always lived: with faith, hope, courage, compassion, kindness and, most of all, a pure and genuine love of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He did not make it home from the hospital. The Lord called him home in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Maybe that was appropriate. It would soon be time for church after all. He took his last breath with one hand holding Mrs. Norma’s and the other raised to the Lord. Just like someone said about a famous man, Hubert Humphrey, Mr. Buddy ” not only showed us how to live, he showed us how to die.”

Mr. Buddy’s family and friends are sad that we are no longer going to enjoy our earthly fellowship with him.  But we also know that this is not good-bye, it is just farewell. If he could still give us advice and counsel, I believe Mr. Buddy would tell us that this is not the end of the road, but is his victory. And he would point us to the Scriptures, where 1 Corinthians 15 tells us:

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ “

As Mr. Buddy himself would have said “Ain’t that the truth.”

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