Monday, July 13, 2009

I love you, I believe in you…you are worth it.

On Saturday night, my best friend Stuart called me to tell me the worst news I could ever imagine. The man who dubbed himself my “stunt dad” had unexpectedly died.
I am heartbroken.
I met Paul and Lynn Barclay when I became involved with Young Life as a high school student in Winston-Salem, NC. Lynn was the Area Director and Paul filled a million different roles in Young Life as well. Paul was a big and rowdy man who loved wholeheartedly and unabashedly. Their home was open to us twenty-four/seven and we took full advantage of that. Especially in the summers, most nights you could find me over at the Barclay’s hanging out with my core group of friends. Even if Paul, Lynn and their sons, John and P.J., weren’t there, we were. It was enough just to be in their home, the love was that strong.
Paul stepped into my life and stepped up for me in ways that I never knew I needed and that certainly weren’t required of him. “Stunt dad” is the best term I could ever think of because that’s exactly what he did- he stepped into the places of my life, emotionally and spiritually, that were messy and dangerous and where my own dad just wasn’t equipped to go.
me and Paul{Paul and I at Stewart and Elizabeth Welch’s wedding rehearsal, 2000}
In 2000, after my parents divorced, he really stepped it up. He left me a message on the answering machine at the E-Ranch and I left it on there for months, listening to it over and over and over again. I finally wrote it down, word for word…
I was just checkin’ in on you, honey. Hope you’re doing well. You know, I love you and I believe in you and I count it a privilege to be your stunt dad. And I would kill to have a daughter like you. And it’s even cooler that out of all the women in the world, that I chose you to be my stunt daughter.
Hope you’re doing well, I love you dearly. I’m sorry you went through all that stuff yesterday. I wish I could be around…I just wanted you to know I was thinking about you, praying about you.
Guard your heart. I pray that you would continue to seek the Lord’s face. I know it’s hard to feel loved sometimes but you are and you’re a special gal.
Be strong, be courageous, you are worth it. Be good.
I’m weepy too, be quiet. You’re special, see ya…
I have never forgotten those words. They were truth, they were balm to my hurting heart. You see, I know the love of God as my father because of who Paul Barclay was in my life. And I’m not the only one. As I’ve read what folks have written on his Facebook wall, I’m realizing that I have hundreds of brothers and sisters because he was a stunt dad to so many of us. He loved us all fiercely, like one of his own. He couldn’t help it. It was just the way his heart worked.
Paul wasn’t just loving, he was funny. Really, really funny. And irreverent in the most awful ways that somehow made you love him even more. He loved music and I just learned that back in the day, he stepped in for the band Hot Chocolate to drum for their recording of “{I believe in miracles, where’d you come from} You Sexy Thing”. Crazy, right?
paul in the 70's{Paul in the 70’s}
He gave the best hugs. The last time I saw him, we were meeting for breakfast at Bruegger’s as I passed through W-S on my back to TN. He walked in, hollered, “Oooonga!” {my high school nickname, a play on my maiden name, Unger}, wrapped me in a giant hug and kissed the top of my head.
barclay fam{The Barclay family, Thanksgiving, 2008}
He adored Lynn. He always said that he married well beyond his means, that he didn’t know how he managed to get a woman like her. I learned what a healthy marriage looked like in part from being around Lynn and Paul for all those years.
Paul and the boys {Paul with John and P.J. at Stewart and Elizabeth’s wedding, 2000}
He loved his boys, John and P.J. He was so proud of them. All they had to do was walk into the room and Paul’s face would light up. I loved watching him being a dad and it made me feel so lucky that he included me in that.
I will miss him more than anything.
From Paul’s Facebook wall…
After God made you he threw out the mold. That he unleashed a man of your stature onto the world shows, to me, how wild and wonderful a God we have! Satan trembled. He still trembles, for we are the men and the women who are still in your wake. I love you, PB. You are a true saint - rough edges to be sure - but a saint nonetheless.”
“Thanks for showing us how much fun it is to love the Lord. I wonder if you are sharing some kind of farting story with the apostles right now.. perhaps you are just getting a hug from Jesus who is telling you "well done my good and faithful servant." In my selfishness I am so sorry you are not here..somehow the world is a little less funny and loving this morning.”
“I have never met someone in my life who was a better pursuer of people in an effort to love them the way Jesus might love them. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself. You challenged me to be more of the woman that God made me to be and to love others and Jesus better.”
“Pauly B, so many memories. You changed my life and I would not be who or where I am without you. You showed me what it means to be a man of God--emphasis on man--in a world where guys so often need that. Your example taught me so much.”
“Thank you, Paul, for being an early influence on our marriage. My husband often tells of how you advised him during college, “Instead of looking for Mrs. Right, focus on becoming Mr. Right.” I’m convinced that seeing your devotion to Lynn and the boys has encouraged his dedication to me and our boys. Thank you for the example you gave in the way you loved the Lord, loved your family, and loved life!”
“I remember when a bad leader "kicked a kid out of cabin time" and I walked into Paul sharing the Gospel with him out in the lobby of the cabin. Thank the Lord for Paul Barclay.”
A service for Paul will be held Thursday, July 19 at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, NC with a reception following. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested for donations to be made to Young Life.
By Internet:
Step 1: Click on this link for Young Life Tar Heel Region Giving
Step 2: Fill in your Donor Information
Step 3: In the "Gift Designation" section, select Campership
Step 4: Click the box "This gift is in honor or memory of someone special." A box will pop up for you to insert "Paul Barclay" in the box.
By Phone:
Step 1: For the TarHeel Region (AF32)
Step 2: For Campership
Step 3: In Memory of Paul Barclay
By Mail:
Young Life Tar Heel Region
1008 Brookstown Ave Suite D3
Winston-Salem, NC 27101


  1. Hugs and prayers from N Ireland.

  2. How interesting, I've been reading your blog for a few months and now here's some common ground. I didn't know Paul well, but our paths crossed during the praise team rehearsals at my church. This is a beautiful tribute, and you'll be in my prayers, as will his family.

  3. i'm so sorry for your loss, and the barclay's loss. i can't imagine what you all are going through right now, but you are all in my prayres.

    i have heard of paul's death from so many blogs, and around town (i live in winston), so i can only imagine what an amazing godly man he was.

    be strong, and i'll continue to pray for you!

    thank you so much for sharing your story with us!

  4. A beautiful tribute to Paul. Although I was not nearly as close to him as many of my friends, I will always remember him, and the love and light he brought to so many lives. I feel blessed to have known him. He will truly be missed.

    Stephanie Hudson

  5. How ironic, I got the call about Paul's death too this weekend. My daughter has been involved in Young Life in NC, so she knew Paul's wife. I had heard great things about Paul, but had never met him. What a wonderful tribute to a man who loved the Lord and also loved youth as well. I know Paul touched many lives. I'm sure the service will be such a celebration of this special man and his life!
    Praying for you in this time of loss. Love & blessings from NC!

  6. Sounds like a truly special soul left this world...

    sending sympathies to you & all who knew him..

  7. Oh- I am so sorry to hear this. We're back online (hopefully for good this time) after a week. What do you have going on in the next couple of weeks? We so need to get together! E-mail me-

  8. Well said. I'm so sorry for your loss and the Barclays'. I know how much he meant to you.

  9. I'm so sorry, Leslie.

  10. What a sweet, meaningful post - I will be praying for you and everyone else affected by it. What an encouragement, also, to know what a difference we can make in others' lives even when they are not "our" children . . .

  11. Hey Leslie. i am a slacker blog reader, but I've just spent a while on yours and I love it. It's really pretty too, by the way.

    Thanks for your words about Paul. i have felt so far away in Florida and have hated to miss surrounding Lynn right now. Hope you are doing ok. I know you're grieving.


  12. Guess the good Lord had a job for Paul in Heaven. I can't help but wonder when he calls the good ones home and leaves those who steal, cheat and kill among us. Paul was no doubt a very special soul and your love and respect for him was most evident in your writing.
    Happy Twirls


Love me some comments! If you don't have a Google/Gmail ID, please make sure you leave your name and/or email. Also, I moderate my comments so don't be alarmed if it doesn't show up right away. Thanks, y'all!