It was my 13th birthday, and I was just awaking from sleep as my dad pulled our blue Escort into the driveway in Midland, MI, returning from a week of camp. I awoke to find a brand new basketball hoop already set up, and I was stunned. But then, I saw Ron “Captain Patch” Hamilton walk out the back door of my house and say in that deep voice, “Happy birthday, mate!”
The Hamilton family had stopped by for a visit that just happened to coincide with our returning from camp. But as far as I was concerned, the Hamiltons came to my house for my 13th birthday!!
I had met Jonathan “PeeWee Pirate” Hamilton when we were younger, but this time is the first time I remember well. I brought him into my room where I had a makeshift recording studio with several cassette tape recorders. I proceeded to conduct an interview with Jonathan and his sister Tara about what it was like to sail the high seas. I still have that tape somewhere. I hope to find it when I have the time to dig through all the “stuff” one accumulates through the years.
We didn’t keep in touch or anything until after our college days. My family moved the address of our ministry to Greenville, SC, and began attending Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, SC, when we weren’t traveling on the road. It was then I got to reconnect with Jonathan. It was kind of surprising how well we hit it off immediately. Whenever I came back to town, we’d try to get together to talk or “goof off.” As well as talk about some serious things that gnawed at us.
I was greatly saddened when I heard of Jonathan Hamilton’s passing. He had just told me last week that he liked my version of a song he composed, which will remain one of my most treasured comments. I feel like I’ve lost a brother in arms. We are packing to leave Mexico after a 6-month stay, so there is a lot to do, and I’m supposed to stay busy. But I’ve found myself simply sitting somewhere, staring out a window at the sky, lost in thought, remembering some good times with my friend, discouraged that I cannot be at the funeral service to pay tribute to him.
It is a special thing to find a friend you can belly laugh with. Jonathan was that kind of friend to me. We could talk about anything without fear of what the other person thought. That was something special. I travel for a living, so we were never able to just “hang out” all the time. But we would always pick up where we left off, share some music, share some thoughts; share some laughs.
The unfortunate truth is that the more well-known a person becomes, the larger the temptation exists to become a caricature of himself. It becomes easier to be “fake.” Jonathan was never fake with me; we talked openly of many things, including struggles. I really treasured that, and it encouraged me to be around someone who could be real. I try to be that way. Jonathan was that way.
I’m going to miss you my friend; I’ll think of you each time I sing “Shadow of the Cross.” Thanks for the talks, the Sonic cherry limeades, and the shared laughs in spite of burdens.
This life is just a quick cloud of vapor; I will see you soon.
Your friend, Ben Everson