Saying good bye to friends and family who have passed from among us is a difficult task in life. Early in life, at age 18, I lost my father. This was my first real experience with grief and I must say it was a big mountain for a young man to climb.
As a pastor, I led in countless number of funeral services. Many of these people were close friends, and not all of them were advanced in age. The ministry to the grieving family never became routine to me, because I always retreated to that time when I was dealing with effects of bereavement in my life. This helped me comfort others.
Last fall, I lost another dear friend. Rickey Michael was a fellow minister and one of the equipping pastors at Vaughn Forest Baptist Church where my wife and I are members. Before this time of service, Rickey was the associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa which was my last pastorate before becoming a state missionary.
I first met Rickey when he served on staff at the First Baptist Church of Athens. I was preaching a revival for my friend Fred Lackey. Rickey was Fred’s right hand man, and they made a successful ministry team. This was the main reason I felt the Lord could use Rickey in Tuscaloosa. He proved himself very valuable to that church family as he did all the churches he served.
Rickey died unexpectedly following a severe heart attack. His life was a brief one – living to be just over 50 years of age. He left a wife, Debbie, and two children, Chad and Paige. Rickey and Debbie had just celebrated the birth of their granddaughter, Kennedy.
Kennedy was born into this world with congenital heart problems but, through the expertise of microsurgery, she has made a remarkable recovery. Rickey lived long enough to see his family through this crisis.
Rickey Michael had a defective physical heart, but his real heart was very healthy. He loved the Lord and His people. He was a compassionate person who made everyone feel like someone. He was a capable preacher as well. He enjoyed serving the Lord in and out of the pulpit.
Rickey was my friend, and only now can I write about him. There has not been a day that has passed since he left us that I have not thought about him. I can still see his warm smile. That smile is gone now, but how he smiled on those who knew and loved him! Thanks, Rickey, for being a faithful friend and fellow laborer.