Rusty SnyderMy friend Rusty passed away a week ago today. The shock is still palpable, and there still hasn’t been a day yet when I haven’t at least misted up when thinking about him. As I wrote a week ago through tears, on the evening of Rusty’s death, he was a true friend. The events of the past week have borne that out, that Rusty Snyder was a friend to, what, thousands of people? Not everybody who was Rusty’s friend had it in their power to attend the viewing/funeral, and there were probably 1500 people who attended one or the other, probably more. I want in this final post (well, at least for now) to try to encapsulate some things that I’ve learned over the past week. Again, I’m going for truth, not perfect verbiage, so forgive whatever comes off as rambling.

Never, ever, underestimate the power of a quiet life well-lived.
This has to be the first thing that jumps out at me. Rusty was a guy who was always content to be in the background. Oh yeah, I know, he was a coach, so he was a leader, but it was never about Rusty. Never. He wasn’t a public speaker, though I’m sure if he had to do it, he could soldier through, but he never sought the limelight. In that respect, he was just about the polar opposite of me; many of my friends would testify that it’s hard to shut me up (if any of you post a comment agreeing with that, consider yourself an ex-friend). But Rusty, he just lived his life and did all sorts of stuff that doesn’t make the headlines (well, actually, he did make headlines). And the proof was in the people that came out, and all the things that they’ve said. We’re tempted to sometimes confuse the headline-grabbing with the important. Rusty’s life was lived for the important things. Which leads me to my second point:

Love God. Love people. Everything else is just details.
That’s what Jesus said (Matthew 22:34-40). Now look: Rusty was a sinner just like the rest of us. He didn’t always get it right, and he’d be the first to admit that. And so this isn’t meant as a “glorify Rusty” session here; let’s glorify the Jesus that said those words, that Rusty quietly but so effectively served. But you know, we get all busy doing stuff, working jobs and pursuing hobbies and taking care of business and weeding gardens and…and we let our devotion to God grow cold amid all of our business, and we forget the most important things. Rusty didn’t forget those things. He wasn’t just sitting in his accustomed spot at Shenandoah Baptist, or driving a shuttle bus for the Passion Play, or letting little kids recite Bible verses to him, or teaching adolescent girls to box out on the boards, or laughing at stupid jokes with friends, or talking about UVa sports (another trait I acquired from him, or at least along with him). He was loving God and loving people. How many times did I hear Rusty tell me he loved me? He might have; I don’t remember if I ever heard him say it in those words, but he didn’t have to. Then again, he might wish, if he had it to do over again, that he’d have done the next thing:

We’ve got to tell people we love ‘em. More often. Stop reading this blog and go do it now.
I don’t think I need to explain this any further. I don’t care if you’re not given to saying those words, particularly to friends, for fear it’ll come off as awkward. Grow up, get over it, and tell ’em. I’d like to live my life with as few regrets as possible. How about you?

I’d give everything I own to bring him back, but if I could choose between bringing Rusty back, and our friends coming to faith in Christ, I’d choose the latter.

The first thought hit me almost as soon as I heard of Rusty’s death. The second thought just occurred to me a few minutes ago. We react with such emotion to Rusty’s passing because it was so unexpected, because it was “before his time”, because we look at our own lives and think, “wow, it coulda been me.” But in reality, Rusty reached the inevitable a few decades early, sure, but the older I get, and the more time flies, the more it seems like it’ll be no time until “my time” will come. I’d love to have Rusty back for a thousand reasons, and if I had that power, to somehow pull that off, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But more than that, I’d desire for all of Rusty’s friends who aren’t followers of Christ to come to Him. That’s a hard thing to say, because of my love for Rusty and his family, and I know how much his loss impacts them. But it’s certainly not meant in a cruel way against them (see the first clause), but rather to stress the fact that this “vapor” of a life will soon be over for all of us, and then we’ll all stand before God to give account of our lives, and the only right answer to the question, “why should I let you into Heaven” that we can give to God is the answer Rusty gave: Jesus’ death and resurrection paid the price for all my sins, and my faith is fully in Him. And while eternity with Jesus will be sweeter with all the friends who are His followers there, it’ll be made less sweet with the knowledge that there are some who won’t be there. Rusty wouldn’t trade where he is right now for anything; he won’t have any more pain or suffering or anything for the rest of eternity. And my final word is that more than anything else, I want that to be the future of every single one of our friends. Desperately. And your future too, dear reader, whoever you are.

Want to talk about it?

3 responses »

  1. Barbara Shelor says:


    As always, you have such a wonderful way of expressing the life of Rusty. Everything you have said is so true of him. It was so good to see Sherry and the girls at Shenandoah today. Ashley came to Passion Play rehearsal, while Sherry picked up her duties of beginning to prepare for the care of the children in the cast. This was the job that she and Rusty led each year. Of course, they recruited many helpers – best friend John Kessler being one of those, along with Bert Galop and others. I admire Sherry and her strong faith.

    You’ve always been a special friend to our family Byron – keep in touch.

    I love you and consider you a great family friend,

    Barbara Shelor

  2. Byron says:

    And you know the feeling is mutual, “Barbecue”. Thanks for posting, and it’s great to hear that Sherry and the girls are beginning to move ahead. I spoke with Jessica Saturday evening, and she sounded pretty good, said that her sisters were moving forward as well. Thanks again.

  3. Gina Holmes says:

    Beautiful post. Thanks for that.

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