I have not wept for many men. I have wept for him.
Perhaps I should have left the year and kept the day from then.
We met at HPU in Brownwood, Texas. He was a small town football hero and a future small college All American in Track and Field. I was not.
I was a pencil necked geek from a similar small Texas town. Our first conversation took place in the basement of the Religion building at a BSU meeting I had been conned into attending. BSU was Baptist Student Union, now called Baptist Student Ministry. I often accused Terry of putting the BS in the BSU and he often told me to stop talking.
In fact our first ever conversation went something like this, that night, in the basement of the now defunct Religion building. We were there at a BSU meeting, intended to be a quiet, vesper type time of reflection,.
I was busily talking to the girl I had met in the registration line. She would become my wife. I was already working hard that night, because, well, I was not a handsome, rock-solid college athlete headed to be All American. Pencil necked geeks have to work harder for some attention and I was paddling for all I was worth.
Terry Cosby came over to where I was performing. He was wearing a suit and tie, as we did in those days, and he was on a mission. Other people around us were talking just as much, but he zeroed in on me, since I probably looked the easiest.
He said, “This time was intended to be a quiet, reflective time. Please help us make it that way.”
Yes, it was the probably the nicest way anyone, of the many who have done so, ever found to tell me to Shut Up. I thought of a smart alecky reply, checked the size of his biceps once more and replied, “Quiet and reflective. Gotcha.”
A few days, no, some weeks later, I saw him standing on the bench at a football game in his HPU uniform. He did not start for us that year, but he played some that day. He was in uniform, wrapped in a rain poncho, standing on the bench to see the game and smiling at the field.
He had just been removed from the game and chewed out loudly enough for me to hear from the second row of the stands. The coach who chewed on him handed him off to a Senior lineman, who continued the chewing. In a couple of minutes I learned more about offensive line play in small college football than I had ever known, just listening to Terry Cosby get rolled on by his instructors.
And he stood on the bench, the wind whipping through his poncho, watching the game and smiling. I remember thinking, “This guy is going to be my friend.”
I convinced the girl to marry me. I sold Terry on being my friend. We all stayed together for 45 years, until he died Tuesday. His wife, Pam, and my wife, Joan, became friends, too. They are the kind of friends you might not see awhile, but, upon reuniting, you felt as if you had been with them every day.
Terry called me when he went on to the hospital to start the process from which he would not recover. I was in the hospital with severe head and neck injuries. It was the first day I had my phone back. I told Terry what had happened. He switched from Friend Calling to Update a Friend to Care Giver in a heart beat.
As soon after I was released from the hospital and able to walk again Joan took me, neck brace and all, to see Terry in the hospital in Dallas. I felt certain he would recover and we would have years to get to be older friends together. He was ill, terribly ill, but he was Terry Cosby. He could take a chewing and smile in the rain. He would beat this thing.
We talked two or three times a week for the last two and a half years. On Sunday nights I would call him on my way in from church,. We would talk a half hour, all along my way home. If I did not call on time, he would call me. He always had a story I could use. After he could not preach every Sunday, he still thought of preaching every week. He always had a story I could use to improve my preaching.
Yes, I could say more. Maybe I will say more, at some time in the future.
His sweet family called me before they agreed to remove life support. I got to see him alive one last time.
I told him, long after he could no longer hear, “Keep your phone with you. I am still going to call and get your story. You know how I depend on your stories.”
I told him a few other things, but those were between Terry and me. And, this time, he did not get to tell me to be quiet.
In those days, so very long ago, a half century, nearly, now, there were 250 to 300 of us preacher boys at HPU, back when to be a preacher at HPU was thought to be a good thing. Two hundred and fifty of us? Three hundred of us? I thought then, I have thought all along the way and I think it now.
Terry Cosby was the best of us all.