A TRIBUTE TO A CHILDHOOD FRIEND

I was stunned and saddened yesterday to learn that one of my childhood friends had been killed in a motorcycle accident. Charles Bailey is his name, but he wanted to be called Chuck. I appreciated that he let me get away with calling him Charlie.

We met in grade school and became close friends. I was at his house in the summer almost every day and stayed all night on many occasions. He had an above ground pool that we played in for hours and hours. He also had a ping pong table in the basement that gave us many more hours of fun, including games we invented.

We played together on the same Knothole baseball team for several years; he was our catcher and I played first base. One day after practice our manager kidded me saying he’d see me in church on Sunday. Knowing it was within walking distance from my house, Charlie invited me to his church. I went that Sunday and my life was changed by that little church and the wonderful people who welcomed my older brother and me.

Charlie and I continued our close friendship through junior high and high school. He played basketball in high school and I tried football, gymnastics, baseball, and wrestling. I wasn’t very good in any of them and he never was a starter in basketball.

Three things I especially remember about high school include playing a lot of poker, teaching the 2nd grade boys Sunday school class at church, and double dating. He had a blue 1964 Ford convertible that contributed greatly to our dating experience.

As we came to the second semester of our senior year we both decided to attend Cincinnati Bible College (now Cincinnati Christian University) to train to be ministers. We were roommates the first year. We both made the basketball team; he was a regular starter, but I started very few games.

Charlie’s first position in ministry was his last. While in college we both became youth ministers. The difference was that my senior minister was supportive and helpful, his was not. Following that experience he never considered going into ministry again.

He got married before I did and I was the best man at his wedding. Three years later I got married and he was the best man at our wedding.

After he married, and after college, our friendship waned. We got together a few times, but I eventually took a church in Philadelphia and after 10 years moved to California. We only saw each other a couple of times and eventually lost touch.

Although we had no contact the last 35 years or so, the news of his death has had a great impact on me. Charlie played a huge part in my life from grade school through college. I wish it would have been easier to stay in touch, but we both went in different directions.

I thank God that Charlie was a part of my life and added so much to it during those early days. I don’t think I ever told him how much our friendship meant to me. Of course it is too late now, but I pray that I will see him again some time and get to revel in our memories of our friendship so many years ago. I am sorry that he is gone.

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