It’s Sunday afternoon, and the weekend has been one that I’ll play over and over in my mind for some time to come. We buried my friend Darold.
He was the biggest kid I believe I ever knew. He was the kind of guy that got excited about everything. It didn’t matter if he was fixing the lawn mower, or if he was grilling chickens on an open fire, he did it with enthusiasm.
One time, on a mission trip way down in southern Mexico, Darold volunteered to kill the chickens and grill up some BBQ for our hosts. I reckon he was tired of tamales. The folks of Linda Vista mostly boiled chicken when they cooked it. Darold was set on grilling.
We didn’t have a grill, but that wasn’t going to stop Darold from figuring out a way to get it done. I heard one person say,
“Darold was the one who taught McGyver everything he knows.” And that’s not far from right.
We scrounged around and came up with a metal barrel and some rebar. Miguel knew somebody with a torch. And we cut the barrel in half longways. We cut the rebar to length and made notches in the edge of the barrel so we could lay the rebar across the opening. Darold slayed 15 chickens and had so much fun doing it, he became a legend in that village. He wanted his picture taken with the knife and his goofy grin. He howled like a wolf. And before long, he was grilling.
I’ve been on three or four mission trips with Darold. Those experiences were the subject in a lot of the stories told at his funeral. Like the big kid that he was, he was prone to wander off on his own in search of adventure, or in search of souvenirs. When he was in Kenya, he disappeared and came back with a tribal arrow that he traded for with one of the guards.
“I have no idea how he pulled that off,” Barry said, “since we all know that Darold doesn’t speak the language in Kenya. He speaks English and Alabamian.” Royal Darold story.
When he was in Guadalajara, he wandered off in search of Chinese food. In Mexico. He wanted a bowl of egg drop soup, and when Darold had his mind set on something, he could not be dissuaded. Roberto found him in a restaurant down the street eating soup.
“What are you doing?”
“Eating egg drop soup.”
“That’s not egg drop soup. That’s pig testicals.”
“Oh. Well, it sure is good.” And Darold would always tell this story while slurping and grinning.
We were in Oaxaca, getting ready to load up in the back of pickup trucks to make the long ride up into the mountains. We couldn’t find Darold. He showed up an hour late. He had walked down to the market by himself to see what he could find. He showed up wearing a new shirt and told us about all the new friends he had met.
Darold was the guy that got stopped by a Customs Officer. The dog sniffed and spotted his suitcase while we were walking through the airport. He had a contraband orange and got carted off to be inspected.
When he had a missing tooth, he was the guy who stuck a chicklet in the gap and grinned at you to see if you would notice.
He wore his ball cap to church with a raccoon tale hanging out the back. He loved to say Roll Tide. He learned one word from every foreign country he visited and greeted me every Sunday for years in the same way.
“Monguananee,” he would say as he shook my hand. I’m gonna miss that.
Darold always bought the local coffee. He bought chocolate with crazy names. He bought wild colored shirts because he wanted to wear something that the locals wore. He didn’t want to miss anything. He wanted to remember everything.
And, Lawd! Give that man a smart phone with a camera. I would take maybe 400 pictures. Darold would take 1500 pictures and full-length videos of everything we did. For weeks he showed everyone at church his videos because he wanted to keep those moments alive and tell the stories behind them.
His childlike passion was evident in more than just his grin, though. He felt his faith deeply. His journey with God moved him. He was a man unafraid to weep. The devotions he gave at the men’s breakfast were often marked by tears. No one ever doubted that he was sincere in what he believed and in how he lived his life.
Darold was the guy who served with a generous heart. He set up tables for meals. He stayed late and took out the trash and vacuumed the floor. He spent hours fixing things and keeping the Lord’s House in order. I’m sitting here wondering who is going to fill his shoes.
As I sat on stage this morning before rehearsal, my guitar on my lap, I looked toward the right side of the sanctuary and Darold was not there. He would grin and wave, but not today. He was not on the back row in my Sunday School class. He did not hug me and say, “Love you brother.”
The most memorable line from his funeral was spoken by our preacher.
“Darold may have lost the battle with cancer, but he has won the victory he’s been dreaming about his whole life.”
When Darold showed up in heaven the other day, they put a ring on his finger. They got him the best robe. And new shoes to match. They killed the fattened calf. Or, maybe chickens. And the party got under way.
And I’m pretty sure the first thing he said was, “Monguananee.” Everyone there knew exactly what he meant.