I loved Larry Payton.
I can't believe he is gone.
The text came from my hometown just as I walked into a budget meeting Tuesday. I'm sure Mike Hood, Phil Coyle, and Ron DeLap found me absent minded the rest of the afternoon. My dear friend Larry had died. At just 64, he was called home too soon. See story.
Most likely, you've never heard of Larry, although he was well known in Tulsa, Okla. His business, Celebrity Attractions, brought Broadway shows and other entertainment into the city and more recently into Little Rock, Oklahoma City and several Texas cities.
Larry was my friend, one of my few genuine friends. We shared a love for baseball, and he especially loved the Cardinals of his native St. Louis. Larry died just about one month after the death of his hero, Stan "The Man" Musial.
Larry integrated his faith and work. He had the kind of career in which he would sit next to me at a deacon's meeting Sunday night and be on Broadway in New York City the next afternoon. What was a Jesus-loving, Southern Baptist from Oklahoma doing working in the secular and often hostile entertainment industry? Because he wanted to be salt and light...and he was to the very end.
He was the kind of friend courageous enough to look me in the eye and speak words of correction when I was off track. He was humble enough to share that he had made serious mistakes, too. He was comfortable enough to write "I love you" at the end of an email. I fear I'll never have another friend like him. I fear I'll never be the friend that Larry was. Hug your best friend today and tell him or her you love them.