It took a while, but I finally joined the ranks of those with COVID. Thankfully, it came during a time when most cases don’t have severe consequences. My bout shouldn’t have any major implications, unless I pass it on to my wife.         

Lauren, a wonderful nurse practitioner in Dr. Ricky Stevens’ office, gave me a good report after a curbside checkup. As a bonus she agreed that yard work is out of the question until cool weather comes. I was glad to get a positive health assessment, especially since Willie Nelson had just reminded me of life’s uncertainty. “Live every day like it was your last one,” sang Willie, “and one day you’re gonna be right.”   

My longtime friend and neighbor, Jimmy Langford, was the first COVID casualty I heard about in Dooly County. That was early in the pandemic, before much was known about diagnosis or treatment. Jimmy’s sudden and unexpected death was a shock to his family and friends. Statistics are more sobering when they have a familiar face. Numbers aren’t as important until you start counting tears.  

I’ve written about Jimmy before, so I’ll try not to be too repetitive. We began first grade together at Pinehurst Elementary, grew up two miles apart, worshiped at the same church as adults, and lived within sight of each other when COVID took him away. 

There’s an old saying, not often heard or deserved, which perfectly describes him: “He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.” For most of us that would be an exaggeration, but Jimmy personified a gentle spirit. He lived the way he was raised, to love others like Jesus loves us.

A childhood memory I’ve long cherished is of a very informal Sunday afternoon sing-along at his parents’ home. Jimmy was the youngest of five children which included some gifted singers. He never claimed to be musically inclined, but enjoyed being surrounded by those who were.

It was the summer after eighth grade, I believe, when a group of young people met at the Langford home. I was there with The Harmony Gospel Singers, five teenagers from our church plus me on piano. Elaine Mashburn and Tony Lewis were four grades ahead of me. June Prince, Diane Dunaway, and Michael Sullivan were two years my senior.   

Because I was the youngest member, Diane nicknamed me Baby. When three gorgeous young ladies called me Baby in public it was flattering. Most people realized it was said in humor, but I figured a few might assume it had romantic connotations. A skinny kid with freckles needed all the help he could get.   

We spent a couple of hours in a jam-packed den with folks gathered around the piano. It’s probably for the best that no one had a tape recorder. Time tends to enhance sweet memories which evidence sometimes brutally contradicts.

I can’t attest to the quality of the music as I really don’t remember, but the atmosphere was exceptional. Toes were tapping and hands were clapping as songs and laughter bounced off the wooden walls. A good time was had by all.    

Larry Langford, one of Jimmy’s older brothers, led the singing with contagious enthusiasm. Their sister, Brenda, played piano and some others probably did too. When Larry invited me to take a turn on the bench I was hesitant, but secretly glad the masses pushed me forward. It wasn’t like being on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Those rambling thoughts of yesterday don’t have much to do with COVID, I suppose. But when I tested positive it reminded me of an old friend who left us too soon, a man whose humble faith and good nature inspire me each time I pass his house. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body.       

COVID is still around and there’s no telling what the future holds. A lot of people think some form of it is here to stay. I have no idea where we’re headed or how we’ll get there. It may be a bumpy ride for a while and that’s concerning. But my confidence in the long term comes through knowing where I’m going when the ride is over. 

Meanwhile I’ll keep remembering JImmy’s good example and singing along with Willie on a song which ends just like it begins. “Live every day like it was your last one, and one day you’re gonna be right.”       

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12 Responses to COVID

  1. ab says:

    For sure ” just sing along with Willie and ab”


  2. Cynthia Couch says:

    I hope you are feeling better!


  3. Judy says:

    Praying for you to have a light case and speedy recovery.


  4. staceycwall says:

    What a sweet tribute to a man who hung the sun, moon, stars and fluffy white clouds to me. I love the memory you shared of Nanny and Papa’s house; I can just see your group singing and playing, including Mr. Larry and Mrs. Brenda. Thank you for remembering my sweet Uncle Jim. It brought a smile to my face and maybe a few tears too and also reminded me of how blessed I am by God that he placed such good, Godly men as influences in my life. Men like my Uncle Jim, my Daddy and my youth Sunday School teacher. Take care of yourself. I hope Ms. Jane stays well. Lots of love. Stacey


  5. smittydennard says:

    I didn’t realize you had covid!!! Praying for you and your family!!!!!!!! Love you my friend!!!!!! ” Funny how times slip away”


  6. Jimmy McAdams says:

    A moving tribute to a truly good man. Take care of yourself; you are in the best position to provide this needed care.

    Jimmy McAdams

    Sent from my iPad



  7. Shirley harrison says:

    Covid is going around my family too , hope you feel better soon

    Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone Get Outlook for Android ________________________________


  8. George says:

    Neil, I hope that you get over COVID very soon and back as good as new. Enjoyed your article even though I did not know the gentleman you spoke about. I did learn that you play the piano. That is great in itself. Keep up the good work.


  9. laker8750 says:

    Neil, this was one of your best columns ever. Jimmy was a wonderful and kind man. I was best friends with Brenda in elementary school and loved her whole family. I still remember spending the night with her and eating the great cooking of either Big Mama or Little Mama, her grandmothers. She and I reconnected a few years back. We had both traveled far from Dooly County and lost track of each other. I owe her a phone call so, Brenda, if you see this, expect a call from me soon!! Diane Dunaway Lake


  10. Brenda Langford Steedley says:

    Thank you, Neil, for painting such a beautiful word picture of my brother, Jimmy. The joyful noise we made around the old piano was fun then and the memories are even more precious today. And yes, Diane, I am looking forward to chatting with you soon!


  11. Ellen Hunsucker says:

    Too many good people have left this earth because of COVID! So sorry about your friend-he sounds like a wonderful guy! Great article!


  12. Clay Harrell says:

    What a wonderful and well written article !! Nope neither Jimmy or his brother Larry had a mean bone in their body !! Two fine Christian Men. And their Sister Brenda is a great Christian Lady as well. I was Very Blessed ( I Am Very Blessed) to meet and end up marrying their Cousin, Felicia Langford this Sept. will be 38 years. Brenda is also married to a fine Christian man, Kerry Steedly. He and Larry served our country Honorably & Faithfully as Chaplains in the U.S. Army. I’ve been SO Blessed, Honored, & Privileged to be a part of this wonderful family. My Only regret is that I didn’t spend much more time with these great people !! My Hope is that maybe people will see the Lord Jesus in Me as they have this Langford family, and be drawn to want to Know the Lord Jesus because of what they see with how I live My life !! Thank You Neal So Much for writing this article !! It is a Great tribute to a Great Christian Man and his Great Christian Family. That is the kind of legacy we should All aspire to leave !! P.S. And it’s not Really a P.S. but I can’t close my comment without mentioning him. The world lost another Great Christian Man almost 2 years ago now, Covie Langford. Covie definitely Walked the Walk of a devout Christian along with Talking the Talk !! I hope I can be like him to !!


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