My Father’s Friend

Several years ago, I heard Dr. Mark Rasmussen, vice president of West Coast Baptist College, preach a sermon on the text “Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not” (Proverbs 27:10). My mind immediately went to David Graybeal who, apart from my mother, for multiple decades served as my father’s best friend. On January 9, Dave left this world and entered the presence of His Lord who he had served so faithfully.

David was a sailor, having served our country during the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam War. Dave was a worker, having labored for years at the General Motors plant in our hometown.   And David was a leader, having started his own locksmith business after retirement. In addition, he coached little league, served as Sunday School Superintendent and head of security at several churches in Ohio. But more than anything else, David was a friend. Dave and his lovely wife Janice (Aunt Dean) are closer than family to the Amsbaugh clan. I trust that I will be able to be the kind of friend to others that David was to my father and my family. Permit me to share a couple of items that made my father’s friend such a great man.

David’s friendship was not conditional. There was a time when I was a child that my pastor had some cruel and hurtful things to say about my father – things that were blatantly false. These painful barbs drove my father into a state of depression, and it was it arguably the lowest point of his Christian journey. David did not lecture my dad about “getting over it.” He simply listened as he and his wife Janice played Rook with my mom and dad. Those Rook games at the kitchen table were very instrumental in helping my father to heal. David did not distance himself from my dad in those days of darkness but rather recognized how much dad needed him in those hours. Only eternity will reveal how therapeutic those games of Rook were. Thanks, Dave, for being there when dad needed you.

David’s disposition was not volatile. I have watched through the years as David poured hours and dollars into the work of God, and at times I saw it greatly under-appreciated. The church of which Dave was a member when I was a child was very political, and sometimes Dave got the short straw of those political decisions. Great ideas that Dave had were often left unheeded simply because he was not “in” with the power brokers. But this ill-treatment never diminished David’s walk with God. He never responded “in kind” to people who treated him dirty. I have heard him on numerous occasions refer to his vicious detractors as “the dead men.” In other words, David was dead to their maliciousness. He responded as if it never happened.

David’s humor was helpful. When Art Modell moved the Browns out of Cleveland under the cover of darkness, people were burning him in effigy in our sports town. Dave, however, responded with humor and presented me with a blank piece of paper captioned “The 1996 Cleveland Browns.” Vintage Dave Graybeal!   He always knew how to lighten the mood and diffuse a volatile situation with just the right amount of humor.

When Dave and I parted, my native West Virginia friend would always say, “Jeff, if you’re ever down by the river, drop in.” This past Tuesday, my dear friend (and my father’s friend) took his place among those dearly departed saints along the river of life. I will miss his unconditional friendship, his non-volatile disposition, and his helpful humor. One day, I will see him again when we gather together around the throne of God. One day, I’ll be by that river and drop in! Till then, goodbye, my friend! You will be missed. Our prayers are with your wife and kids (Mitzi and David). Thanks so much for modeling your Savior in being that friend that sticks closer than a brother.

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