The Passing of Joe Ballard

They say that the two things in life you can be certain of are ‘death & taxes’.

For as long as I can remember, I would have included a third sure bet- “Joe Ballard would outlive us all”.

Scratch that from the short list. Joe went to be with the Lord this past week, succumbing to a heart attack in his home early Monday morning.

Granted, Joe had his share of ‘physical’ heart problems for the last 15 years. But it never interfered with his genuinely kind heart that he exemplified for about as long as I knew him.

Now don’t get me wrong…(I’m smiling because I remember hear him saying that so often- ‘don’t get me wrong’)…Joe could have a ‘crusty’ personality at times. And he’d be the first to admit, to your face, that he did manifest a cantankerous side on occasion; but to anyone who knew Joe well, there is no denying that Deport, TX lost a rare gem of a man this week.

My oldest daughter, Lisa, summed it up best when she called me later that night after hearing the news of his passing. “Gosh…Joe was just always willing and ready to lend a hand with whatever you needed at any time!”

Joe would not only give you the shirt off his back, he’d give you the keys to his shed, home, or truck and tell you to come and get whatever you needed.

I spent a little time in his home with the family later that day after his passing. And as the custom is around here, friends and neighbors file in to express their condolences and share fond memories. It is a custom I have been privy to witnessing for the last 18 years since I moved up here. Believe me, there is no shortage of funny antidotes that will include Joe Ballard in them.

I could personally write a book full of them.

I had the privilege of being Joe’s pastor for nearly ten years. I saw the turn around that came about in his life when he had his first heart attack and gave his life to the Lord. I’ll never forget the night I baptized him, with his family there celebrating with tears and laughter. Maybe it was my role/position that allowed me to get to spend some of the time I did with Joe.

(Not to mention the countless hours on the phone listening to him talk) But I can honestly say I never met anyone in my life quite like him.

As does for most people when they hear about the passing of someone they’ve known or were close to, certain memories seem to surface that you feel compelled to re-live at least one more time. Some of the more comical ones (they weren’t funny then, to me, at least) included a cold winter night when our sewer pipes broke underneath the old house we lived in there at Deport. Open sewage was collecting under the house and we only had the one bathroom. Joe was able to get the parts I needed from the hardware store in town, hours after it had closed, I might add.

Then, the man who believed he knew how to fix anything, directed me to crawl under the house and with flashlight in hand, instructed me on what I needed to do to make the necessary repairs. I still remember ‘swimming’ around in that god-awful mess griping and wailing only to hear him outside the house trying his hardest to muffle and suppress his uncontrollable laughter. I guess there was something about him seeing his preacher in that predicament that somehow made it seem all was right in his world at that moment in time.

Another incident that stands out, was the evening I was getting ready to drive into Dallas for a dinner meeting. He drove up by my driveway just as I was heading out and made note of a significantly large limb that had just fallen in our back yard from the large pecan tree. I told him I’d have to tend to it later.

It was a late night for me in Dallas…and when I got home, I remember still being wide awake from too much coffee and so I watched a movie in bed. I even remember the video-movie I put on, The Pelican Brief. It was nearly 4:30 before I finally dozed off to sleep. At 6:30 AM, I was ferociously awoken by a raging chain saw in my backyard. I stumbled out my back door in nothing but gym shorts hollering above the din: “JOE –WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT SAW AT THIS HOUR IN THE MORNING??!”

Few would argue that Joe lived in his own time zone. And now, he resides in a place, where ‘time is no more’.

It was raining the morning he passed and continued to rain when I got word a couple of hours later. Sometimes, people will suggest that on days when it’s raining and a loved one departs from this world, that it is God’s tears that mingle with ours that produces the rain. In this case, I’d have to say otherwise.

I’m sure Joe’s reunion with his maker was a joyous one with much laughter. But I have no doubt, the rain was the result of the angels in heaven crying. They KNOW what they are in for with him among their company.

Heaven will never be the same again with the arrival of Joe Ballard.

Rest in peace dear friend .

You fought the fight, and you finished your race.

Now Linda, you can get rid of all those cows. *smile*