My husband, Tim, and I lost a dear friend this month — Dave Henderson. He died Sunday, Jan. 14, just a few days after turning 80. It was a sudden death from a brain aneurysm, and we are still in a state of sad shock.
Even though he was four score in age, he lived as though he was only one score.
“Age is but a number” is a popular saying, and Dave could’ve been its poster child. He wasn’t intimidated by the technical challenges of social media, and he rarely turned down an invitation to a party.
In fact, the night before his death, he and his wife, Eleanor, were out playing cards with friends and didn’t get home until near midnight. That was when he began complaining of a headache, and things went from bad to worse very quickly.
Paramedics arrived and airlifted Dave to Birmingham. He died a few hours later. All of us who got word of it the next morning were stunned.
Dave was the leader of our Small Christian Community group (SCC) at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church. We meet monthly at each other’s homes for lessons and dinner and socializing. As a student of biblical history, Dave shared his wisdom and knowledge at those meetings, and we became better, more spiritual, people for it.
We had a scheduled meeting on the calendar for last Sunday night, which was three days after Dave’s funeral. We weren’t sure if we should keep it or cancel it. Eleanor encouraged us to keep it, and that’s what we did, but there was no lesson. It was just our small group, gathering together to remember Dave and to show our love to Eleanor.
If you take a look at the accompanying photo of Dave, you’ll understand why he was often mistaken for Anniston Star columnist George Smith. As Eleanor told it, people would either stop him to ask, “Are you George Smith?” or they would simply wave and say, “Hi George!”
This past New Year’s Eve, Tim and I hosted a party in our home in which the SCC group was invited. I’m so grateful that Dave and Eleanor were there to ring in 2018 with us. At the stroke of midnight, I poured everyone a shot of Fireball. I can still see Dave holding up his shot glass and asking me, “What is this again?”
“Fireball,” I told him. “Cinnamon whiskey.” (If you’ve never tasted Fireball, imagine Red Hots cinnamon candies melted down into a moonshiney-type liquid.)
I could tell he was trying to decide what to do with it and, like a bad influence, I said, “Go on, shoot it!”
And he did.
The expression on his face was priceless.
That memory will always make me smile.
Dave was an avid reader. An entire wall in his den consists of shelves, overflowing with books of all shapes, sizes and varieties. From Stephen King to “Game of Thrones” to “Harry Potter,” the man read it all.
When I penned a recent column about the books I enjoyed in 2017 and asked for recommendations that Tim and I could tackle in this coming year, I received several good suggestions. Among them was a book entitled “Devotion” by Adam Makos. Dave is the one who recommended it.
It’s the true story of a friendship that formed between two men during the Korean War: one a white New Englander who was part of the country-club set, the other a black sharecropper’s son from Mississippi who was the nation’s first African-American carrier pilot.
This book is next on our list, and we know Dave will be ever present in our minds as we read it. That’s quite appropriate, since it’s a story that emphasizes the value of a good friend.
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.