One morning, while taking a walk, a friend cheerily greeted him, “Good morning, Bro. Nichol, I see that you’re still in the land of the living.”
Without missing a beat, he quickly quipped as he walk on, “No. I’m in the land of the dying. But I hope one day to go to the land of the living.”
Indeed, we are in “the land of dying.” And some days we are reminded of that more than usual.
Yesterday, I received an early morning e-mail, that one of our elderly members had passed away after a brief illness. Then I received another message that the mother of another member had succumbed to her long battle with cancer.
As I checked my facebook page, I learned that Harry Pickup, Jr. had passed away the same morning. I thought about 3 different families in two different states, none of which know each other, sharing the sorrow that death brings.
The passing of each of these, reminds us of the truth of the Preacher from 3,000 years ago, there is a “time to be born and a time to die.” They have each kept that inevitable appointment with death (Heb. 9:27).
This morning many memories have flooded my mind as I reflect on the passing of Bro. Pickup. My friendship began with him during my Sophomore year at Florida College when he came to work with his father, Harry Sr, in the Office of Public Relations. Harry soon became a favorite of us “preacher boys.” We loved to go to his office and seek counsel, listen to his words of wisdom and laugh at his funny stories.
I can still hear him bellow, with a wide grin on his face, “Come on in boys! Come on in boys! What I can do for you?”
It seemed amazing that after listening to our problem with a look of empathy, he always had a 3 point solution to the challenge we faced. Then would finish with balancing a pencil on his finger and urged us have balance in our lives.
Once I remember Bro. Pickup warning that young preachers are susceptible to two extremes: (1) Accepting everything the older preachers believe without studying it for themselves; and (2) rejecting everything the older preachers taught without studying it for themselves. He urged us to engage in study, develop a personal faith, and know what we believed and why we believed it. His advice has served me well these past 50 years.
Harry was also responsible for my first venture into foreign evangelism. He arranged for me to spend the summer in Iberia, Missouri, preaching for several small, rural churches. Well, it was pretty foreign to a 20 year old kid from Indiana! Harry arranged for my support for the summer and helped prepare me for the challenges I would face.
Prior to leaving Florida, he asked to see the car I was driving to Missouri. A quick inspection revealed to him that my 4 tires were tread challenged. Without hesitation, he called a tire store in Temple Terrace and set up an anointment to have a new set of tires put on my Oldsmobile. I’m pretty sure he paid for the tires out of his own pocket.
At the end of the summer, Bro. Pickup came to hold a meeting in Iberia. Hanging out with him for a week and running around with his friend from Rolla, Luther Martin, was an incredible learning experience for this young preacher.
Through the years our paths have crossed many times. I have been the recipient of his kindness, encouragement, and wise counsel. Three years ago I received a very complimentary letter from Harry thanking me for my lesson on the final night of the Florida College Lectures. In part he wrote, “(Your lecture was) true, clear and helpful to all of us who struggle with our own mortality. The promise of our own resurrection helps us…keep up the good work.” I was both honored and humbled by his thoughtfulness and kindness. I treasure that letter.
If you knew Harry Pickup, Jr, you know he a was unique man. A gentleman. And an impeccable dresser. He possessed a sharp mind and warm sense of humor. He was a thoughtful Bible student. A powerful preacher. A faithful husband. A loving father. And a good friend to young preachers.
His legacy lives on through his family, friends, preachers that he’s equipped and the lives he impacted through the preaching of the Word and the friendships he fostered.
Harry Pickup Jr. kept the faith, finished the course and now awaits the crown of life. He epitomizes the passage, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). Harry has left the land of the dying and gone home to the land of the living.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman