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BUTLER HIGH SCHOOL AND FRENCH CLASS

It is unfortunate that the high school that Jimmy and I attended closed down a couple of years ago. There were a lot of good memories and challenges during that time of our young lives.

Because we were identical twins and people had trouble telling us apart, we were often asked if we ever switched places — Jimmy would take my place and I would take his. Actually, we never really switched places although on the phone some times, I would pretend to be him and vice versa. Of course, when it came to dating girls we didn’t dare switch — that was something special you don’t mess with!

What we actually enjoyed doing was pretending that we had switched places. One day as a senior at Butler High School, a large high school in Huntsville, Alabama, I was in my French class with Mrs. Williams. Right next door in another French class was my brother Jimmy. Shortly after my class had started, Jimmy’s teacher (I don’t remember her name) came storming through the door of Mrs. Williams’ classroom. She said nothing to Mrs. Williams but came straight to my desk standing over me. She looked a bit miffed and said, “Are you Jimmy or are you Mike?” I just smiled and she stormed out.

I knew what Jimmy was up to. He was pretending to be me and giving the impression that we had switched places. He probably was intentionally slow to answer the role call in his class that day and made the teacher wonder.

I have heard of twins who were disgruntled and did not like the fact that they were twins. Jimmy and I never had a second of that feeling as far as I know. It was always special being the “big brother” by five minutes of my little twin brother and spending time with him. Although the Lord in my ministry sent me far away to minister to the Yankees up north while Jimmy stayed down South, distance is not really measured by geographical miles but by the nearness of the heart.

WINN DIXIE — QUIK CHEK GROCERY STORE

The first job my brother Jimmy and I had was keeping score at bowling tournaments back before they had invented scoring machines. We pretty much lived at the bowling alley on weekends. The bowling alley would pay us a free game or a dollar for keeping score for three games of tournament bowling.

But the first real job we had getting a paycheck with tax deductions (unfortunately) was for Winn Dixie — Quik Chek grocery store on Governors Drive in Huntsville, Alabama. It was the major store for that part of town and where my family shopped. It was busy all the time. Jimmy and I bagged groceries, mopped floors, ran cash registers, unloaded trucks including watermelon trucks which liked to break my back, stocked shelves, shucked corn, cleaned out the incinerator — anything but the meat market.

One day (I think before we came to faith in Christ but while we were searching) I was running a cash register early on Saturday morning. Jimmy was bagging groceries. He told me he was going to work that day like Jesus would work. A few hours later he came to my register to bag groceries, sweat on his face and very tired. Then he said, “I’ll never do that again!” He had run himself ragged trying to be like Jesus.

Fortunately, God is a God of grace. We must work as believers as the Bible says while it is day. God does not sanction laziness. But His way is the way of grace. Jimmy and I were soon to learn the marvelous nature of God’s amazing grace. Many of our spiritual discussions in light of Billy Graham’s teaching on television happened during moments at Winn Dixie grocery store, another special place in our lives.

A Thank You to Two Churches

In view of the passing of my brother Jimmy, many people have sent cards, made phone calls or emails, and responded to my posts with words of encouragement and hope as they share a bit in the grief that my family shares. I want to thank all of you. Without your encouragement, the days would be much darker.

But I want to mention two churches that have overwhelmed us with support. It is common to say in our post-Christian America that the church is meaningless and hypocritical at best. There are no perfect churches, of course, since they contain people like me. But I have found that when the chips are down, most Bible-believing churches will give you the shirt off their backs.

Calvary Baptist Church of Smyrna, Georgia is such a church.
It was where Jimmy attended and had a teaching ministry.
The people loved him. They poured food into the house of my sister-in-law Eileen during our worst week. They filled the funeral home during the viewing and brought more food for the family during that time. The stories they shared about Jimmy did more good than they know as they shared with me and others. During the funeral, they filled the entire auditorium. The teenagers sang “Victory in Jesus.” One young lady sang “Ten Thousand Reasons.” These two songs were Jimmy’s favorites — and mine — old and recent songs. The funeral service closed with a trio of brothers doing a blue-grass instrumental that Jimmy loved as they used guitar, fiddle, and banjo to play “I’ll Fly Away.” It was appropriate as Jimmy is a “son of the South.” Then the church fed us one more time. They handled oxygen tanks, sent cards, gave money, and most of all gave of themselves because I know they were grieving also the loss of their brother in Christ.

West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama was the other church of great blessing. It is our home church. It is where Jimmy and I were saved. They arranged the graveside service where Jimmy was buried at the cemetery. They fed us food before our family set off for our homes scattered across America. The words of those who knew us from Huntsville, people from different churches even, continued to help us begin the healing process — which will never entirely be finished until Jesus comes. You see, the great pain we feel for our loss is a sign that our love for Jimmy was not shallow. It was deep, pure, and real. There are many sources to assist us in our grief, but the Church rose to the occasion and has spoken solace into our hearts by word and deed.

My Funeral Message for My Dear Brother Jimmy

For those who might be interested, here is a transcript of the sermon I preached at my brother Jimmy’s funeral.

Funeral Message for Jimmy Stallard
by Mike Stallard
Calvary Baptist Church, Smyrna, Georgia
March 16, 2018

Note: I preached this sermon from an outline except for the opening statement. I have written it here from memory the best I could trying to fill in the details and smoothing things over with a few additions. It was by far the hardest sermon I ever preached. But a young girl raised her hand at the end saying that she had prayed to receive Christ. I know Jimmy is happy about that right now. I am grateful for the large crowd that filled the church that day. The congregation ministered to my family more than they know.

Introduction
They say that I look like Jimmy. Even my mannerisms and voice are like Jimmy’s. I’ll try not to spook you out. I wish I could be anywhere but here. I wish I did not have to do this message. If I could, I would give a kidney and a lung to my brother if only he could be the one standing here instead of me.

Death is obscene. It is a great enemy. Unless the Lord comes back, death will take us all down. BUT, death is a defeated enemy, a defeated foe because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. If you know Christ, you will hug Jimmy’s neck again. So many suggest that the Bible, Jesus, and Christianity are irrelevant for our modern times. They are wrong. At this moment, our faith is the most relevant in this cruel world.

Memories of Jimmy
Stephen, you did a good job of talking about your Dad. I’ll say a few words about Jimmy and then share some Scripture.

As the family was waiting to come in, my Mom reminded me of her Facebook post: “Mike and Jimmy are in a relationship with gravy and biscuits.”

When Jimmy and I were saved at West Huntsville Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, we began to notice a young girl named Eileen. We actually talked to each other about which one of us would ask her out for a date. After things were serious between Jimmy and Eileen (who became his wife), Jimmy and I concocted a humorous story to tell her which we used for a few years from time to time. We told her that Jimmy and I flipped a coin — and Jimmy lost!

I remember a time in Eufaula, Alabama along about the second grade. Jimmy and I played our guitars in front of a filled high-school gym in an elementary school program. Together we sang the old Burl Ives sad love song “A Little Bitty Tear Let Me Down.” The applause was so long that we did not get to do the second song we were scheduled to play and sing. Mom and Dad were proud of their boys that day.

I remember the Stallard Fantasy Baseball League from 1966 to 1970. Jimmy was the American League. I was the National League. We used Strato-Matic Baseball as Stephen mentioned. We played whiffle ball in the driveway and yard to do the league games. We kept meticulous and complete statistics. Hank Aaron led in homeruns in our league as he should have as we tried to make things realistic.

We also loved bowling. What many of you may not know is that Jimmy represented the state of Alabama in 1971 in a bowling for college scholarships in Washington, D. C. I was proud of him and bowling was one of the great joys of our youth.

But not all memories are good. The only person I ever had a fist fight with in the world was my brother Jimmy. One time – I think I was around 11 years old – I got so mad at him that I picked up a pencil to stab him. But in my haste and anger, I picked up the wrong end of the pencil! I stabbed him with the eraser. It did not have the desired effect. I was holding the lead end in my hand. When I stabbed Jimmy, it drove the lead end of the pencil into the palm of my hand. To this day, I have a lead coloration mark in the palm of my hand that reminds me of the dangers of arguing. It also reminds me of Jimmy. Read the rest of this entry »

When Prayers Change Quickly

On the way down to Atlanta from Philadelphia to see my brother Jimmy who was fighting stage 4 kidney cancer that had spread to his lungs, I was praying like I had the last several weeks. Lord, please work a miracle and save my brother from this horrible disease. Remove it from him and give him his ministry back. But when I got there to the hospice facility, I was confronted with Jimmy’s suffering. I was overwhelmed by his physical pain. Immediately, my prayer changed. Lord take him home and stop the suffering. He died about 24 hours later. I have cried more tears this past ten days than perhaps the rest of my adult life combined. It is not a sorrow with no hope. I will hug Jimmy’s neck again. But the power of the reality of physical suffering jerked me to speak to God in a different way even about the most important thing close to my heart at the time. Prayer can change quickly when confronted with reality even if the desires of your heart want to go in a different direction.

Memories of a Kind Heart

One memory I have of my brother Jimmy was in the first year after we came to Christ. We were 21 years old. A bunch of young men, including Jimmy and me, were playing tackle football in a field — something we probably should not have done. One young black man (I don’t remember his name but I’ll call him John) was with the rest of us young white men. In the game, John went down with a wrenched knee. Jimmy had been witnessing to him about Jesus and the gospel of eternal life. When John went down, Jimmy was the first one over to him to put John’s arm around Jimmy’s shoulders so John could be helped to a car. As I was standing there watching, I thought of the kind heart of my brother Jimmy. I believe Jimmy may have loved more deeply than me.

My Twin Brother Jimmy Goes Home

My brother Jimmy was born on October 13, 1953. That was five minutes after I was born. I watched my twin breathe his last breath on this earth around 10:45 am on Monday, March 12, 2018 after battling kidney cancer that had spread to his lungs. His entire family was gathered around him. Sunday and Monday (March 11-12) were probably the hardest days of my life. He was 64. For the first time, I have lived in this universe without him being an email, text, or phone call away.

I have posted memories of him in Facebook but will begin to copy them to my blog for those who do not access to those posts.  As of the original writing of this post, I am trying to keep myself together as I work on the funeral sermon I will preach on Friday, March 16. Jimmy was a great evangelist and a great brother. He is still alive in heaven and is no longer suffering as he was the last few weeks. I look forward to the time when Jesus will come and begin to make all things right.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4