Forever Joe and I are Brothers in Christ
By Jim Honeycutt
With a smile on his face, hands extended, arms open, Joey warmly embraced me. We laughed for a moment, just gazing into the other’s eyes as the memories of a thousand adventures flashed across our minds. Words seemed unnecessary, though they came to reinforce the emotion of this reunion.
‘It is so good to see you! I have missed you brother,’ We spoke in unison. And as we stood there reflective, yet very present in the moment, it was bittersweet to me. For the hour was late and our time together short.
Standing in the shower after a physically trying day, within a few minutes I started to laugh, thinking back to a time when two little boys, as different as they were, would become forever friends. For a season we were inseparable, more Top Cat and Huckleberry Hound than Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but our adventures were all our own.
Vividly, I remember Joey’s first day at Mart Elementary. Reserved, emotionless, after being introduced to the class, he drug his desk further back, observing from a safe distance. It would be weeks before he was comfortable enough to join the others. As kids do, we checked each other out through a series of questions during recess. He didn’t or wouldn’t answer many of them. I learned in time his answers contained so much pain, he pretended they didn’t exist.
One day I came home from school with a little money in my pocket. When asked by my mother, I told her Joey gave it to me. A few days later I came home drinking a grape soda. Again, when she asked, my reply was Joey bought it.
The very next day when I came home, Joey and his mom were sitting in my living room. Seems that my mother and Joey’s had been talking and we were fixing to have a meeting. (Let me stop for a moment and just praise God for caring Mothers that take an active involvement in all aspects of their children’s maturing.) It was in the safety of this moment that Joey and I became true friends.
Under the care of our loving mothers, hurts revealed where not buried, they were carefully shared and brought into clarification. My heart opened to Joey, as I saw our mutual need. His heart opened to me as he saw my sincerity. Joey Copeland was my friend, not because he gave me money, not because we grew up together, not because our mothers said so, because we chose each other. Fully aware of each other’s past, fully aware of each other’s need, but not yet fully aware of the importance of this choice. Not fully aware friendship would ultimately lead to brotherhood.
On a Saturday morning, Mr. Copeland called and invited me to ride along to Waco. He and Joey were going to pick out a tent. Now, I knew the tent wasn’t for him, but at the time he had us convinced he really needed us to select the right one. That tent would become the sanctuary of so many of our adventures. Occasionally, we would invite another friend to join us, but the best times to me were when we were alone, sharing our thoughts and dreams at the end of the day. Just the two of us lying on the sleeping bags in the tent. Staring off into the sky through the open door, we spoke of the life to come. We both knew somehow our paths would take us in different directions.
So, I gathered my thoughts of Joey and placed them within my heart. Soon life became real. Joey became Joe, Jimmy became Jim and the walk from our childhood became a run. The distance between us became greater and greater. Though regardless how far we physically roamed from our Mart home, Mart remained within our hearts.
Years would pass, but at the sound of his voice my heart would rejoice. In those brief encounters, our hearts would lift and praise for the Goodness of God’s providence upon us would be shared.
Just prior to his passing, Joey answered a letter I had written him where I spoke of the blessings of our friendship. Let me share with you his response, brief and direct, his usual style:
‘Jim, Friends indeed! 51 years since we first met. I treasure our times together and also how welcoming you and your family were to me. Truly showing the love of our Christ and Savior.
Thanks for the note and the memories it evoked. Joe’
Not just friends, Joe and I are brothers in Christ. See ya soon Brother!