I know you don't know Danny Williams most likely but let me tell you just a little bit about why he was special to me. First of all he was a church member and all of them are special to me but Danny and I had a family like bond. We shared in common the fact that neither of us had family close by.
A year or so ago Danny (who wasn't in great health anyway after a stroke and cancer in his eye causing him to have to have it removed) had what in our small town can only be described as an "episode" at Hardee's (his regular hang out). He ended up at the VA hospital in Nashville. I went to see him regularly (as did a few others from church). Danny was a man of few words, but he always got emotional when I came see him. He would tear up even if he couldn't say much. He was sweet and funny and I loved visiting him.
From the start Danny wanted to come HOME. He never made it back to his house but he did live out his final months at the nursing home here in town. This summer I took teenagers with me to see him and the others in the nursing home once a week. Danny was kind to them, looked them in the eye and was genuinely interested in what they had to say. I really appreciated with that- not everyone gives teenagers that respect.
Somehow Danny and I made a connection enough that he listed me as one of his contacts. So each time he had a major health issue, or they wanted to take him to the county fair or a ballgame, they called me. I saw him on and off (not as much as I would like to have), and I really felt like a daughter or a granddaughter to him. In fact a roommate at the VA hospital told him he had a really pretty daughter once when I visited (we both blushed and smiled).
As I heard a minister say once, Danny "moved his membership to the church eternal" shortly before Christmas. A week ago, I led his memorial service here at the church. It was well attended by friends, and even some family members. Here is what I said about Danny. I am grateful to his good friend Tim Stephens who filled me in on the details of his life before I knew him. This is not the whole service, just my "homily". I also sang "In Christ Alone" at the end of the service.
Thank you all for your remembrances of Danny I want to add to them my own memories of Danny Williams and some of the things I have learned about him over the past few weeks. Danny was a friend of mine. I knew him of course through this church and when he came through the door, no matter how slow he was walking, especially after his stroke, he came through with a smile on his face and his nice blazer on for church. I loved seeing him on Sundays and getting a hug after church. Danny was a loyal friend to those at church. He was a loyal friend to those with whom he solved the problems of the world around a table at Hardee’s. Recently, he was a friend even at the nursing home. Danny was a good friend- never wanted to trouble you for anything- even if you wanted to try to help him with something. I love that Danny was a sensitive guy. He was often overwhelmed with emotion when I visited him and tears would well up in his eyes.
Livingston was Danny’s home. He had lived other places in his life, including New Jersey before his parents moved him down here to get to small town and a more serene way of life. They moved to Livingston when Danny was in about the 5th grade and his father set up a grocery store on the square. Danny grew up on the square. He grew up in an old colonial home near the square where the boys would gather and play football in the front yard. Danny was in the Boy Scout troop led by Lowell Stephens, where he no doubt learned about serving his community and his country. I know he loved the camp trips led by Lowell and the pastor here at First Christian, Brother Tommy Kearns. Danny was involved in this church- this was his place. He enjoyed being in the youth group and attended Sunday School taught first by Mrs. Betty Stephens and then by Mr. Billy Gaw who read our scripture for us today. I’m sure he fervently hoped these teachers would let him out of class a little early so he could race the other students to be the first one to ring the bell indicating that it was time for Sunday School to be over. Then they would all race up to the drugstore for a cherry coke before church started.
Livingston was Danny’s home. He played football for Livingston Academy and he never lost interest in what was going on there. I would often see him sporting his local team apparel when I went to visit him in the nursing home. When I took teenagers with me, Danny was always kind to them- asking what they were interested in and if they played any sports for the school team. He was a Wildcat fan. Not only our Livingston Wildcats, but he kept his eye on the University of Kentucky Wildcats as well. We can’t be too hard on him about that- he did make his home in Lexington for a while as well. He also loved Vanderbilt and the University of Tennessee- so there was always a local team to cheer for.
Danny would leave Livingston for a while. He journey to the Navy where he worked on an aircraft carrier called the USS Antietam. He served as the ship guarded the east coast of our country, and across to New Orleans and even Corpus Christi. His grocery store experience came in handy on the ship and Danny was put in charge of the supply area for the entire ship. He did all the ordering and organizing of supplies for all those on the Antietam.
When he left the military he made his home in Lexington- although he still snuck down to Dale Hollow for his lake time as Fenton mentioned. In Lexington Danny worked for General Electric Supply, a job he was fiercely proud of. He once shared with Tim that as a salesman for General Electric he had sold the University light bulbs for the UK Stadium. Later he moved to Barea Kentucky he continued in the grocery store business running a store next to a hotel. During his years in Kentucky he had a family and his son Mike was born.
The grocery business was a calling for Danny. Eventually he came back here to Overton County and ran a grocery store in Cookeville on Spring Street called the “Get and Go” and one in Allons, TN called Knuckles that David Hunter owned. He made friends in those communities, particularly with the kids who would come into the store. Danny always made sure they got the piece of candy they came into the store looking for from him.
I think you’ve gotten the point that even though Danny traveled from this place in his life, this community was his home. Livingston was his home. This church was his home. Hardee’s was his home. And he made his home here for as long as he could. In the end the Overton County Nursing Home was his home, and he made you all there smile just like he did us. Danny had a home here, he had roots here, but today we can rejoice in the fact that he has a new home.
Shortly before Christmas Danny decided to go on and move himself to his eternal home. When his disciples were grieving in advance of his death, Jesus spoke these comforting words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” He said. He reminded them that he was going to his Father’s house where there are many rooms, and he was going to prepare a place for them. I believe Danny knew that his place was being prepared for him. Even though the last time I spoke to him he was very weak, he would not that admit that to me. When I asked him if he felt weak he said, “no.” He didn’t want me to worry, he didn’t want me to be troubled. He knew what the future held. The future held a home for him, a new home in the Kingdom of God and he has gone on there to his eternal rest.
Danny does not have to inhabit the body that had failed him anymore. He doesn’t have to drink any more of those terrible Ensure shakes they were always trying to get him to drink at the nursing home. His trials are over, he is troubled no more. He now has a peace that passes all understanding. Not the peace that the world gives, but the kind only God can give.
It is my prayer for us today that we can celebrate with Danny his new home. While it is natural to grieve him and to miss him, we can’t forget to rejoice that this child of God has finally gone to his true home, his home in Christ Jesus. It is my hope that we can feel just a portion of the peace that has been given to Danny. Danny would want us to experience Christ’s peace for ourselves and for us to remember that it is in Christ alone that we have our hope.