Monday, July 11, 2011

I miss him every day.

{Originally posted July 13, 2009. Two years have passed, but every word still rings true...}

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?

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.

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.

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.”

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