Once in a blue moon I write a story just for myself.
It’s rare. Even when I launch into a long, winding, seemingly endless blurb about my old dog or a precious grandchild, mostly I’m just trying to touch a nerve about your favorite animal friend or possibly call to your remembrance a special moment with a special relationship.
Not so today. This is personal.
Mr. Cecil Harrison died.
We live sometimes in an upside down world. A noted Hollywood actor or actress passes away and we mourn. Like we knew them or something! A famous sports figure that hasn’t performed in years dies, and again we weep, hold vigils and pay homage to their glory days.
And there is nothing wrong with that. I do it myself at times.
But way too often the Cecil Harrisons of this world fall through the cracks. And that is not right!
Oh, the family mourns. And his church folks. And a few close neighbors and friends. But the world moves on……
And misses the opportunity to experience the goodness, the humility, the integrity, the righteousness….the very essence of a life well lived.
Cecil Harrison got up and went to work everyday. He provided for his family. He loved Miss Mary. And Tony and Ewell Gene. He was a good neighbor. And friend. He wished no ill toward anyone. He tried with all his might every single day to live according to the laws of God and man.
He saw the best in everybody. His concern for people, young and old, was genuine and from the heart. If you knew Mr. Cecil, you didn’t have to keep reading and studying on that story about the Good Samaritan…..
I met him at the football field. He’d come to watch Tony practice. He was smiling when he introduced himself. It was a smile I would learn over the next forty-seven years that rarely left his face.
I met him again the second day I moved from Overstreet into town. He was knocking on the door, inviting Cathy and me to church.
I really got to know him as a deacon at Long Avenue Baptist Church. I listened to him pray. I felt his love, saw his concern and, as a very young deacon, realized it was no accident that he had been placed in my path.
Usually fairly quiet at our meetings, he would speak up quickly if he thought some discord was arising. Mr. Cecil was always the peacemaker. He’d remind us gently where we were, what we were and whose we were.
Nothing in the service of the Lord was too mundane for him. For years he unlocked the church before every meeting; and waited patiently—without fanfare—after the benediction and the last person had left before making sure everything was secure again.
He would tell you about Jesus at the drop of a hat. Lovingly and caringly. He absolutely was not embarrassed before men to claim the good news of the gospel. He was always conscious of God’s presence in his life.
I’d see his old beat up mill truck at the church on a Tuesday afternoon and feel better about myself and life in general.
That doesn’t sound like a guy that ought to fall through any cracks.
As Sunday School Director (a position he held for over 3 decades) he would stand up from the back row in the choir and announce the morning’s Sunday School attendance. If we were anywhere north of 200……that beautiful smile would widen.
When I called Jesse to give him the news, after a pause where I know he was thinking about the times Cecil bent down to talk Florida football with him, he said, “Dad, the title of your story has got to be 191, 198, 203…”
“Son, what are you talking about?”
“Mr. Cecil’s Sunday School report! Remember how we would try to guess how many were in Sunday School BEFORE he told us. What a special memory! He was one of the good grown-ups.”
“Jess, do you mean we had some bad ones?”
“No Daddy, but Mr. Cecil always had time for me; and he was always happy.”
Josh was my next call. There was another long, respectful, reflective pause. Let me tell you something, you can’t get that pause by being unethical, selfish, phony, hypocritical, proud, insincere, egotistical, artificial or anything else short of the real deal!
“Dad,” he found his voice, “Mr. Cecil was always so happy.”
What a legacy!
And talk about a perfect ending!
I’m telling you, angels in Heaven stood to welcome that faithful soul into the Kingdom.