From the first day I met him, I loved him. You couldn't help but love him. He accepted my family as a part of his family straight off the bat.
Lawrence was one of those guys who, as Southerners like to say, "Never met a stranger." He always had a smile on his face and a story to tell. As years went by, I realized that the light that shone from Lawrence was the light of Christ.
When Lauren was a baby, probably about a year old, she was what my husband liked to call, "mommified." She clung to me and really didn't want anybody to hold her except me, most of the time. Around that time, we took a family vacation to visit my family in South Carolina. During that visit, Lawrence and family came to a family dinner and a miracle happened! My shy baby girl, who would never go to a stranger let Lawrence not only hold her, he carried her around all over my nephew's yard, talking gently to her and making her giggle. She loved him for the rest of her life.
Over the years, she would go straight to him and give him a big hug. He was devastated when she died. The other night, I thought how sweet it must have been when she saw him again.
Lawrence stood strong as a rock through the deaths of my nephew and many other family members. He coached at least 3 generations of Dixie Youth baseball in my home county. He worked as a prison guard for many years, and was even loved by the inmates he served there, primarily because he treated them with respect. He loved the Carolina Gamecocks, so much so, that you rarely ever saw him without a USC hat or shirt on. He served his church faithfully, and loved his wife, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren fiercely.
Saturday morning, I listened to a streaming broadcast of my hometown radio station. They were playing a tribute to Lawrence. I learned a lot about a man I had known for years. I learned that practically everybody in my home county knew him and loved him. I found out that he was a regular on the station's SportsTalk show, and that he had never coached a championship team, but he had coached an All-Star team and that he was in the Dixie Youth (I think) Hall of Fame.
When they signed off, they played the Gamecock Fight song. Perfect.
I talked to Angie the other night after I heard the news. I said to her that there was no telling how many people's lives her dad had touched. I saw a quote from Jack Kerouac that reminds me of Lawrence: "Be in love with your life. Every minute of it." He did, and all who knew him are better because of it.