Don’t Go Gently: How an Alcoholic Friend’s Death Taught Me How to Live

by Andy Wood on August 19, 2008

in Five LV Laws, Life Currency, Love, Principle of Freedom, Principle of Legacy, Turning Points

(A Turning Point Story)

“Hi, I’m Butch, and I’m an alcoholic.”

He didn’t say it exactly like that the first time I talked to him.  But two minutes into my first conversation with Butch Lowrey, I knew he had been visiting my church, he was a recovering alcoholic, and that he liked what I was preaching.  Butch introduced me to a spiritual program that had changed his life and stopped his drinking forever.  I attended his second A.A. birthday party, and eventually became his sponsor.  No doubt about it, though.  I learned more from him than he ever learned from me.

“Nothing in God’s world happens by mistake.”

Butch believed that, and said it often.  As part of his recovery, there were many other spiritual truths he stood on, and repeated.  Truths such as:  “If all your problems could solved by money, you don’t have a problem,” and, “You’ve just got to let go and let God.”

He also learned a rare and refreshing kind of honesty.  On one occasion he said, “People in [this] county are committed to making everyone else just as miserable as they are.”  Later he told me, “Andy, you preach long because you like to hear yourself talk.  You’re just on an ego trip.”  He was smiling, of course.

“I love you, man.”

I don’t think we ever had a conversation that didn’t end with those words.  Certainly not on the phone.  Butch learned that he didn’t sacrifice his manhood to tell his people that he loved them.  And he always found ways to show it.  It was he who made the phone calls and the visits, not me.  In fact, three days before I left on a mission trip to Korea he called to tell me he was sending some money for the trip.  I returned his call, and found him at Walt’s Gym, working out.  At age 49, Butch had undergone a hip replacement.  He pushed himself hard – as always – to recover from the surgery.  But huffing and puffing, he still found time to call me.

“I just want to do something for God.”

A court reporter by trade, Butch had a growing restlessness with his career.  He knew the Lord had something more for him.  He wanted to serve the Lord and help people.  On the day I arrived in Seoul, Butch found out what the Lord had in store for him.  After a workout and a shower, he stretched out on the couch at his home and went to sleep.

He woke up in Heaven.

Dylan Thomas wrote a famous poem to his father titled, “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”  In it he begged his terminally-ill father not to accept his death, but to fight it with everything he had.  That poem’s title describes the life of my friend, Butch Lowrey.  With all he had, he fought to live, and to live well.

He fought a chemical dependency, and won.

He faced a past filled with pain, and won.

He fought a crippling injury and surgery, and won.

And in his last words to me, he was fighting his toughest enemy yet – complacency.

“I just want to do something for God.”  Butch went peacefully.  But he didn’t go gently.  He went to sleep yearning for life.  And when he woke up, he had found it.

I don’t know why it happened like it did.  Why couldn’t I be there?  Why did I have to wait two weeks to grieve?  Why did Butch die so young?  All I know to do is trust God and believe Butch, because “nothing in His world happens by mistake.”  And I have vowed to God and to Butch that when I see him again, I will not have gone gently.

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