A friend of mine in Texas, Bill Dunaway, died of cancer in December at the age of 57. Bill and I didn’t go to the same church (when I lived there) or even hang out in the same circle of friends, but we spent many hours over a several year span sharing and talking about the Lord. Bill was just one of those guys that you were always glad to see walking toward you. How many people can you say that about?
When I found out the doctors had sent him home because the cancer treatments were no longer effective, I decided to write him a letter to tell him how he had impacted my life and to thank him for the friendship we did have. As I myself get older, I feel even stronger about letting people know how I feel about them before their funeral, especially the ones that inspire you.
Here are some of the qualities Bill had shown me, and just an excerpt of what I wrote to him.
Every time I saw Bill, he was a reflection of Christ to me. His smile, attitude, demeanor, and words always reflected the Lord. There aren’t very many men I can say that about.
Bill was a giver. Taking was not in his vocabulary. From money to things to kind encouragement to physical help, his life was an example of one who gives in any way possible.
Being a little guy, it has always amazed me when a man of Bill’s stature (big, burly, and bearded) can exude strength and “I could crush you if I wanted right now” but then at the same time, show a gentle spirit. Bill’s gentleness only displayed his strength more, through Christ’s power.
Bill had experienced deep heartache in his life through the loss of a son and other tragic events, yet I never saw him when he didn’t show joy. I’m not talking about acting happy, but having joy; the sense that no matter what has happened or what is coming, today, right now, I am content in Christ. He always expressed that—in a brief moment or a long conversation.
Peace is never about the absence of bad things, but the presence of the One Who is good. Bill’s heart always reflected peace, even in the midst of a battle.
In any conversation or encounter, Bill worked to impact the person in the best possible way, whether a good word and a laugh or a handshake to make a deal, he showed the love of God and love for his neighbor. Exactly what Jesus told us was the new and greatest commandment.
No matter what topic Bill and I started a conversation with, we always ended up talking about Jesus and ministry. Man, what else could you ask for in a Christian brother?
Why did I share with you about my experience with this friend today? To use his life as an example to encourage, inspire, and challenge each of us to let Jesus stick out of our lives in 2015. And to use this space to honor great men—like Bill Dunaway.
My friend, who officiated Bill’s funeral, said he passed into Heaven singing “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin. Even in death, Bill was an example of how we can live—right up to the final moment.
I will rise when you call my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagle’s wings
Before my God, fall on my knees
And rise …