“A day late, and a dollar short”
It was October when Lynwood Smith passed away in a hospital bed in his hometown. I was one of the fortunate ones able to make the trip to Brookhaven, MS for the funeral; something I’ll never forget. I’m thankful I was able to be there. At the time, I suppose no one ever imagined such a man would leave us. No one realizes your full impact until you’re gone. And that’s probably the case with us all.
Now, some seven months later, I find myself in Ardmore, OK on a Saturday night. A crowd (perhaps larger than that Friday afternoon back in October) have gathered for a singing and tribute to the man who meant so much to our brotherhood. He meant so much not only for the work, energy, and effort he put into what he did for the Church of Christ, but by his own story and almost mythical status he held in so many young people’s minds.
(Memorial Day at Ardmore, OK – 2006, L to R: Ben Bonnett, Myself, Stephen Elmore, Lynwood Smith, Jonathan Elmore, Clay Elmore)
Our generation can’t relate to a man who never owned a drivers license, yet manged to preach everywhere there was a faithful church. It’s hard to imagine being born, and living out your entire life in the same small house. We can’t relate to man so dedicted to his work that he never married.
As a kid, I grew up hearing stories about Lynwood “calling people out” who weren’t paying attention, or acting up during services. My dad told me his biggest fear at the Sulpher, OK meeting was sitting around someone who wanted to try and talk, for fear they’d be “called down” by Lynwood. Services were a serious time, and there were things you did, and didn’t do during worship to God. Lynwood indirectly taught me that lesson.
This past Saturday, members of the Church of Christ in surrounding states drove to sing songs out of Lynwood’s “Last Book”. They drove out of respect. They came to listen, to watch, and remember the man that meant so much to them. Many, I believe, came to show their young children just a glimpse of the man they’d never get to meet. That may be what fuels my emotions most…that my own children (however off in the future they may be) will never know the man I knew growing up. I’ll share with them that he baptized me back in 1992, that I was able to drive him to and from a few meetings in my “younger days”. I already lament that I didn’t take advantage of more conversation on those trips.
Just the story, background, and life of Lynwood Smith is what gave him that almost mythical status, placing him at a certain level all his own. No, he wasn’t perfect. No, he doesn’t deserve a life-sized statue. But he DID give us some of the best lessons we’ve ever heard with stories from the Old Testament. He DID leave us with phrases like the one above (perhaps not his own, but who’s the wiser?). “People always think muddy water is deep” or, “He’s off, grazing with the goats” have been brought back to my attention within the last week. He DID compile the song books we grew up on and established himself as one of the greatest gospel song-writers (not just w/i our brotherhood) in the U.S.
He left an example and life no one in 2008 can relate to. A simple, studied, and lonely life compared to the likes of Paul. He loved songs. He loved young Christians. He loved to tell stories. He loved to preach. But most importantly, he loved the Lord’s Church and defended it till the end!