I found out that a very old dear friend died of cancer just hours before I left for Williamsburg. My friend's wife asked me to be a pall bearer. She also said I could present a eulogy if I felt up to it. This is what I came up with and presented this afternoon at the funeral.
Grady Terrell 1952-2010
I love the English language, both the written as well as the spoken word. However on occasions like today, I fully understand it’s limitations. How feeble words are when we are confronted with this kind of loss and sorrow.
Mr. and Mrs. Terrell, Ricky, Cheryl, Geryl, Rose Ann, Chris, Jennifer, Angela and Amy, I know that nothing I can say or do here will take the pain or sense of loss from your hearts. If I could, I would do anything in my power to do so. I do hope however that by speaking to you about my memories of Grady that it might make the pain more bearable for both you and those others of us that are left behind.
A small consolation that I have is a quote from Queen Elizabeth II . She once said that grief was the price we have to pay for loving someone. Granted, on days like today it seems like a very high price to pay. But just consider how drab and pointless the world would be without love.
I first met Grady back in the mid to late 1970s. My dad wasn’t around much, and I didn’t have much direction and was just drifting. I was on the cutting edge of getting into trouble, starting to break minor laws and just generally being a nuisance. I remember the first time I spoke to Grady. He was a Sergeant with the Carrboro Police at the time and he picked me up in his patrol car just as I was figuring out how to break into a coca cola machine that happened to be nearby. I don’t know why he did that at that particular time, maybe he knew what I was up to, or maybe he was just curious, but we just rode around for a hour or so and just talked. It was the first time that anyone seemed to have a particular interest in me that didn‘t involve my being blamed for doing something wrong. We spent more time together, established trust with each other and became friends. It got to the point that whenever Grady worked night shift, I would come in and ride with him when I could. For the longest time I couldn’t understand why Grady took the time and effort to spend that kind of time with me. Then it dawned on me that it was just his nature to try to help his fellow man. Even a hoodlum like me.
On those long nights we would talk about everything and anything, love, life, women, guns, history, the afterlife, not to mention solving the all world’s problems if we were just put in charge. I was reminded of one of those discussions we had when I spoke to Rose Ann last week. You see, Grady was firmly convinced that God was a southerner. He told me that when you died and heard God’s voice that he wouldn’t sound like he was from Boston, New York or any other “foreign” place like that. And when you ended up at the pearly gates that St. Peter would say something like “ Boy, hop on up in the truck and I will run you up to the big house” So when Rose Ann told me that the Lord called Grady home because he needed another angel, I told her, I didn’t think that was the case. You see, I just can’t see Grady as a angel. I would think of him as more of a consultant. I can very easily see him beside the throne, holding that big mug of sweet tea of his, telling the Lord, “Hey boss, you know Roy Williams and the boys had a real rough time last year and it sure would be a good thing if you could help them out a bit”
If you didn’t know it, Grady was a rabid Carolina fan and if you cut him, he bled Carolina blue. As a matter of fact, the closest I ever came to being run off by Grady was when I once said something good about that University that happens to be over in Durham which shall remain nameless.
As our friendship grew Grady taught me a lot about life and how to be a man. I was invited into his family circle and grew to love his youngsters as if they were part of my family. The kids were Grady’s pride and joy and he showed me by his example how to be a good father. Grady was the first person to take me camping and to show me his love of the mountains and wilderness. I will tell you that you have just not lived until you have ridden in a car with Grady driving, rolling down the Blue Ridge Parkway while Grady was singing at the top of his lungs, off key mind you, the song “This is God’s Country”
Grady also introduced me to hunting. Every Labor Day we would be out in some cornfield trying to get our limit of doves. We did pretty good too until we figured out that we could get sirloin steak cheaper per pound than what those doves were costing us.
Grady also taught me a appreciation for various other things. Good food, fellowship, strong drink and John Wayne movies for example. Whenever there was a John Wayne film festival on television to Grady’s thinking it was if there had been a national holiday declared. He couldn’t think of anything better than to be able to sit back and watch the Duke. This rubbed off on me because my nickname for Jennifer, Grady’s eldest daughter was Baby Sister after a character in the movie, “True Grit” To this day, I can not watch True Grit without thinking about Grady but I am STILL trying to figure out whether Grady was trying to act like John Wayne or John Wayne was acting like Grady.
We also shared a mutual love of history which led to many weekend road trips to various historic sites all over the area. Grady and I put in a lot of miles both on foot and by car to see the spots where America was created.
My affection and respect for Grady grew to the point that when I got married, Grady was my best man since I couldn’t think of anyone better for the job.
Grady fell into some hard times later. My wife Beverly and myself tried to be supportive as we could be when Grady moved to get a new start. Eventually, Grady found the lovely Rose Ann and fell in love with her. I had the pleasure of being at their wedding and figured that it was a perfect fairy tale ending for Grady after all he had been through.
It was about this time that Grady and I started drifting apart. It wasn’t as if we had a falling out, we just had different interest and I always figured that we could always get together sometime later. Even when he got sick and I heard about it, I just thought he would whip it just like he had whipped other things. After all, Grady was like the mountains he loved so much, he would always be there. Last Thursday I found out just how wrong I was in thinking that.
I have a good number of regrets in my life. One of my greatest today is that I never got the chance to tell Grady how much his being a part of my life meant to me. The man I am today is the result of his influence and teachings. I hope someday that I can be as good of a teacher, mentor and friend to someone who needs it, as Grady was to me.
Grady was my friend, and I shall miss him very much.