Yesterday, my friend Bob Buford, passed away. Bob was like a spiritual father to me.
I have many stories to tell about Bob and his Halftime organization, but I thought I would share this one, very personal story, as a tribute to Bob.
Bob helped guide me through the most traumatic incident in my life.
Yes, Bob cared about the BIG IDEA of transforming the latent energy in the church into active energy. But just as important, Bob mentored individual men, who he invested his time and soul into.
I was one of those fortunate individuals to receive Bob’s mentoring.
On June 30, 2002, my 17-year old daughter, Malori Aslan Smith, was killed (along with 2 others) in a 15-passenger van accident in Monterrey, Mexico while Malori was on a missions trip.
While the rest of my life was good—family, career, faith, friends—Malori’s death left me in a full-blown mid-life crisis—mildly depressed and lacking direction.
What I supposed to do now? Go on with the rest of my life as if nothing has happened?
I felt a bit stuck in grief. Not sure how to move to the next phase of my life.
On the back cover Halftime, Bob promised that the second half of my life could be better than the first.
I thought, “That’s easy for him to say.”
But as I flipped through the pages of the book, I found a chapter curiously titled, “Adios Ross.”
I quickly found out that Bob had lost his only son, Ross, in a drowning accident in Mexico (of all places).
This author, Bob Buford, knows exactly what I’m going through,” I thought.
I read Halftime that night and was really encouraged. It was exactly what I needed to hear. My first half was pretty successful. Now I wanted my second half to be significant.
I wasn’t in a midlife crisis. I was in Halftime.
You and I are part of a club nobody wants to join. ~Bob Buford
When I met Bob for the first time, he said, “You and I are part of a club nobody wants to join.”
I told Bob I knew exactly what he meant. We discussed experiencing a peace that passes all understanding, right after the death of our kids. Plus discovering an eternal perspective that helped us through the death of our children.
In 2004, I compiled my daughter’s journals into a book called The New Lion.
I sent Bob a copy of Malori’s book. I got a quick note of thanks, but no reaction to what he thought of the book.
A couple years later, I went to Halftime Institute, a 2-day event designed to help you define the direction for the second half of your life.
When I arrived at the Institute, Bob greeted me and said, “Mark, I’m glad you’re here. I have something for you, but I’m hesitating to give it to you.”
“Ok. You’ve got me curious,” I said.
The next morning, Bob invited me into his private office. Bob started the conversation:
“OK, I’ve decided to just tell you this story and see what happens.
Reading Malori’s book was like getting inside the head and heart of a 17-year old girl. Not having a daughter myself, it was nothing like I’ve ever experienced.
While reading Malori’s book, I imagined her dancing, twirling, full of joy.
Then, the most amazing thing happened.
I started imagining my son Ross dancing with your daughter in Heaven. Up till this point, I’ve never imagined Ross more than a disembodied spirit in Heaven. But now, I see Ross full of life, dancing, twirling, with unexplainable joy.”
“Bob, that is an amazing story. I love it,” I said.
Bob (relieved and pleased), said, “OK, then I have something for you.”
He walked over to a well-lit display in his office where an Edgar Degas “Ballerina” statue was standing on a pedestal.
Then Bob said,
“After I read Malori’s book, I grabbed a copy of a Norton Simon museum book on my bookshelf with a picture of Edgar Degass ballerina. I ripped out the page with the statue and told Linda (Bob’s wife), to get me a copy of that statue.
Anyway, this statue reminds me of Malori. And, it reminds me of Ross, full of joy, dancing in Heaven.”
Then, Bob picked up the statue and handed it to me and said, “I want you to have this.”
“What?” I said in disbelief.
“Yes, take it. I’m going to buy another one. Then, we’ll both have this statue to remind us that our kids are dancing, full of joy, in Heaven. And, we’ll be there together with them some day.”
So, Bob. I know you’re in Heaven.
I know you’re hanging out with Ross and catching up on all of the time and memories you’ve missed together on this side of eternity. You now have the rest of eternity to spend together.
So, Bob, if you can hear me, say Hi to Malori for me.
Tell her I miss her and look forward to seeing her (and you) again. And of course, meeting your son, Ross.