Deck Cheatham

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton.

“I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11-12).

I don’t know where or when it began, maybe Orangeburg or before. Perhaps it was my buddies inviting me to play golf after discovering my affinity for the game. Maybe there was no beginning at all. Maybe it just always was, like some predestined meant-to-be thing. But my singular desire to ride my bike to the club to pursue the game gave me the impetus to overcome my innate reticence.

And somewhere in those years, while becoming a golfer, Daniel entered my innocence. Could it be he was waiting for me?

Orangeburg holds memories of barbeque, mini-bikes, pigeons, Ferse’s Five and Dime and platform shoes. Vague and buried these memories are forgotten until my friend, Buck, triggered them into the present. For that moment they are savored for the occasion, then forgotten again as if they were acquaintances walking by, waving to say hello, then moving on to their destination as my attention turns elsewhere. There’s no accountability in a passing memory because acquaintances offer us safe harbor from entanglement.

My time with Daniel, brief when measured against eternity, remained. Even though I rarely thought about him, his memory, his persona, his impression, his essence, whatever describes the totality of a man, found its destination in me. When I distill the years, attempting to make sense from senselessness, Daniel’s spirit, rooted deep in my soul, ministered to my every thought and perception to come.

If my parents taught me right from wrong, Daniel allowed me to see it. When life presented doubts and walls and insecurities and detachments, Daniel’s spirit gave me the strength to endure the worst of these. His presence in my perspective cemented a leaning toward empathy. It may be true we go to church to be fed by God’s spirit. For much of my life, my intersection with Daniel’s spirit fed me. Maybe they are one and the same.

The sermon echoing from my friend is simple — seeking wisdom before want is the foundation of love. I do not always remember this. Like all, I stray and forget. But in my repose, I remember and am renewed by Daniel’s gift. I can only hope he gleaned some mutual encouragement from me, who gave him nothing but innocence.

There are many ways to kill a mockingbird like Daniel. As long as I remember and honor and pass along our brief exchange, Daniel’s spirit sustains me. If there is a meaning to Easter, to the Cross, to the Resurrection, this is it. Christ seeks to live in us as more than an acquaintance, to find a destination in our hearts, to minister and strengthen us through our entanglements, as Daniel did for me. Maybe they are one and the same.

“Those who have ears to hear, let them hear” (Matthew 11:15).

Deck Cheatham has been a golf professional for more than 40 years. He lives with his family in Dalton. Contact him at pgadeacon@gmail.com.