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Darrell Huckaby: Memory of beloved friend brings Easter inspiration

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

I always think about Wayne Doster on Easter. It's not because his daughter Paige is one of my favorite human beings, either. I think about Paige whether bunnies and colored eggs are part of the motif or not.

Wayne Doster was a Porterdale boy, although I am not sure his son, Jud, admits that. He and I were raised in the same church -- Julia A. Porter Methodist. Although "memorial" and "united" and maybe even a few designations I have forgotten about were attached to the title at one time or another, we usually just referred to it as Julia A. Porter.

Wayne was about a half-a-generation older than me. Y'all know how that is. When you are 8 years old a person who is 15 seems like a grown man, so I have no idea exactly how much older than me he actually was. I do know that his wife, Glenda, was my lovely wife Lisa's second-grade teacher. Everyone knows that I robbed the cradle, however, so that sheds little light on the subject.

The point is, when I was growing up Wayne Doster was somebody I looked up to. He was smart and funny and good-looking -- he was everything an impressionable and ambitious young person could ever hope to emulate. Except for being a Tech man that is. I don't know what got into Wayne and his brother Doug, another of my childhood heroes, when it came to choosing collegiate allegiance.

Wayne grew up and left home and I seldom saw him -- except at Homecoming every October and camp meeting every August -- for a decade or so. Then I grew up -- some would debate that -- and moved to Conyers, where Wayne and Glenda resided, and we were once again united in church membership -- at Conyers First United Methodist.

It turns out that nothing had really changed. Wayne Doster was still a person that I could look up to. He was a pillar of the local community, had a beautiful wife and a great family and he worked for Coca-Cola. Who wouldn't want to work for Coca-Cola?

Of course, he was still a Tech man, but nobody's perfect.

I taught the young married Sunday school class back then, when all the members were young and recently married. That was a quarter-of-a-century ago, understand -- and from time to time I would ask Wayne to come in and lead a monthlong series for us. I learned at an early age about killing two birds with one stone -- my apologies to the PETA people and the environmentalists for my insensitivity. When Wayne came in to teach, I got a break and the class got a much better teacher. Win-win.

None of the above has anything to do with why I think about Wayne Doster every Easter morning. No, that goes back to a hot August night, the last summer that Wayne was alive. Camp meeting at Salem had begun on the Friday after the second Sunday that year, the way God and Bishop Arthur Moore intended.

Wayne was a trustee and was there every night, as always, but this particular year was different. He was sick, with a rare blood disease for which the doctors had no answer. It was whispered, up on the porches of the tents and behind closed doors, that Wayne's illness might be terminal -- which it turned out to be.

But no one would ever have known it by their conversations with him that week. Every time I saw him he was upbeat and positive and his radiant smile was just as quick to split his handsome face as ever. On the last Friday night of camp meeting Wayne sang a solo -- "Because He Lives."

It was one of the most beautiful renditions of that song I have ever heard, not just because the performer had such a great voice -- which he did -- but because he sang it with so much feeling and emotion. I won't assume that everyone knows the words to the song. The last verse contains these words.

"And then one day, I'll cross the river. I'll fight life's final war with pain; And then, as death gives way to vict'ry, I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives."

The first line of the chorus goes like this:

"Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone."

And that's why I think of Wayne Doster every Easter. Every Easter, when I hear or sing "Because He Lives," I can see his face, as he was singing that same song. I could tell at the time, and am just as certain today, that he believed every word he sang, and that all his fear was, indeed, gone -- and had been for 2,000 years before he was even born. Wayne Doster still inspires me.

Happy Easter, y'all. Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.