This is part three of a series about Jerry, my friend who “sticks closer than a brother.” This series was to be our last “Big Adventure”, but it’s transitioned into my tribute to my departed friend and brother in Christ Jesus, who went home to be with our Lord and Savior on Monday, November 9, 2020. The evening that Jerry departed this world, I placed my hand on Jerry’s chest and told him, “I won’t see you in this world again but I’ll see you back home”. He took his last breath less than five minutes later.
Jerry was an avid hitchhiker back in the late sixties and seventies. One of my earliest memories with Jerry was hitchhiking with Jerry from his childhood home in Ft. Wayne, Indiana to Portsmouth. I’ll never forget walking down the entrance ramp to route 23, south of Sandusky, Ohio. A car pulled over before we even had a chance to stick out our thumbs. The guy rolled down the window and yelled, “Loren Hardin!” It was Dave Hamilton. Dave and I played football against one another in high school. Dave was a premier running back recruited by Marshall and I was a mediocre linebacker who he embarrassed on more than one occasion in the open field. We had a wonderful time reminiscing and talking about the glory days as Dave drove us all the way to the front door of our destination in Portsmouth. Years later I met Dave’s sister who informed me that Dave had passed and that, “He always talked about the time he picked you up hitchhiking.”
Jerry always tried to win over children and was unashamedly proud of himself when he did. He definitely won over all three of our daughters. When our oldest daughter, Mandy, was around three years old I told Jerry, “I don’t think she will come to you. She’s kind of shy”; but when Jerry stretched out his arms, she went right to him. While he was holding Mandy in his arms she said, “Now I have two daddies”. Believe me, Jerry never let me forget it.
Jerry also won over my son-in-law, Shane, or perhaps it was the other way around. Jerry enjoyed going to Shane’s gigs and would frequently ask Shane if he could pray for the band right before they took the stage. Some of Shane’s earliest songs, even though not written about Jerry, could have been. Following is a montage of lyrics that describe Jerry to a T: “Don’t listen to other people go on telling you how to live your life and why, give yourself a try”; “I’m taking off the training wheels to find out how it really feels to lean into the curves that I’ve chose”; “I’m living my life like an old passerby in a hotel”; “I live the kind of livin that I can live the best today, I’d rather have a story than some coin in the bank. Get it while I’ve got it, hold it loose because I know, you can’t take it with you when you go,”(YouTube, “Can’t take it with you”, Shane Runion).
The above lyrics could have been written about Jerry, but the following lyrics were written by Shane about Jerry, “These boots have seen some highway and they carried me back home, they’ve seen me through the hardest miles I’ve known…These old boots have seen me high and strung out on the side of the road; they’ve seen a man with an old pickup truck say the prayer that saved my soul,” (YouTube, “Boots”, by Shane Runion). Jerry recounted, “My friend Shultzie and I were hitchhiking down in Alabama when this man, Carl Vonsutter, pulled over and picked us up. When he pulled over to drop us off, he shared the gospel with me and asked if he could pray for me. I accepted the Lord that day.”
Shane wrote another song a while back titled “Hitchhikers” that I loved and that Jerry and I could both relate to. Perhaps you can relate too; “You wanna go to heaven, well it’s a long way, wish you could follow a map straight to the front gate. Some people try it but it’s no help, cuz the way the map is written son it ain’t quite drawn to scale…We’re all hitchhikers, we’re all just fighters, a half-used pack of smokes without a lighter. We’re all a cold thumb in the air, hoping somehow somewhere a Man will help us get to where we need to go.”
Well, I have some Good News for my fellow hitchhikers out there, there is a Man who can help us get to where we need to go, “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Me,” (John 14:1-6).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected]. You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble .