He was himself

Published 7:47 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2019

He’s a private person, so he doesn’t really want to talk about himself.

He’ll tell you the essentials — his name, what he does for a living, that he likes his coffee black, thanks — but anything more than that he feels is unnecessary. It’s not that he wants to be mysterious, or that he’s hiding anything. He simply thinks more information about himself is excess.

He’s interested in you, though.

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He doesn’t ask questions, but he listens to every story you share with a genuine smile on his wrinkled face. When you talk about your son’s broken arm or your daughter’s ballgame, you can see the concern or celebration in his sparkling eyes.

You don’t know much about him except that you like him. He’s easy to talk to, and you always feel better after you see him.

And then one day, you don’t.

He doesn’t come around anymore and no one seems to know where he’s gone.

Then you see it in the paper — his obituary. When you catch your breath, you read. There’s more information in these few paragraphs than you’ve garnered from the man himself in the last couple of years.

He was an honors student and a community college athlete. He got a master’s degree and was teaching when he joined the military. He returned home wounded and was given a chest full of medals and ribbons.

He married a widow and her children never felt they were not his from the beginning. He cared for and loved them long after their mother died and they had gone on to raise families of their own.

It was one of these grandchildren who had submitted the obituary, and praised her pawpaw as the greatest man she’d ever known. He was the rock of their family, and a godly man.

Through tears for his family, and yourself, you thank God for the brief time you knew him. And you wonder if you’d have been more impressed with him, more drawn to him, if you’d known his story.

But then you realize — his worth would not have changed. He could not have become more or less based on what knowledge you held.

He was himself.

And the greatest thing about him were those last few words of his granddaughter’s written testimony in the newspaper — “a godly man.”

To the ones we knew, but never really “knew” — go rest high on that mountain with your Savior, and God bless the ones who knew you better.

Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.