Sonny’s Story . . .

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Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.” (Matthew 11:25-26)

I’m not the only around here who has faced serious challenges this year. One of my friends from work and CLA, Linda Hill, has had more than her share of life-and-death crises over the last two years. While I was in the rehab center recovering from my auto accident, she was out on Family Leave, taking care of her twin brother, Sonny, in Sophia, West Virginia. He has has several bouts with cancer, but this latest one proved to be his final journey.

Linda had been traveling back and forth for months, until Sonny’s condition worsened, and he needed full-time care. So she took a block of unpaid time off to care for him herself. Linda’s devotion is awesome. As traumatic as events in her life have been, she’s fought her way through all of them, trusting God and holding on tightly to His power to heal and deliver. Each of her testimonies are awesome all by themselves, but her brother Sonny–well the story of his victories over life ‘s challenges is enough to make the rest of us stop whining!

Sonny and Linda were born into a family of 12 children, in a dirt-poor coal-mining town in West Virginia. Linda joked with me at work one day that she never even  knew she was poor, until one of the kids at school told her she was! When she told one of her sisters what that kid had said, her sister stormed over there and beat him up! Sonny had that same fiery temper. Linda told me that at the funeral, one of the speakers joked that Sonny had quit over 800 times last year! He would get irritated by something or someone and storm  into the office, throw his keys on the desk and say “I’m quitting.” Haven’t we all felt like doing that?!

According to Linda, it happened so often that his boss put a basket under the desk for Sonny’s keys, and when Sonny cooled down, he would come back and pick them up again.  Isn’t it an awesome testimony of his colleagues’ love and respect for him, that they accepted his shortcomings, accommodated them, and loved him through everything!?

Linda also shared with me that Sonny had a speech impediment and was mentally challenged. Folks used to call that ‘retarded’. But the testimonies from Sonny’s employers, friends, fellow firefighters, and family bear witness to what the power of God can do in a life fully surrendered to Him. Sonny worked all his adult life in his community, as a volunteer firefighter, and at a local funeral home. His positive influence on those he worked with, and cared for over 30 years led his fire department to make him chief!

The local funeral director, where he also worked for over 30 years, gave him his own rent-free apartment, close to the funeral home, so he could be near his job and available. This town and its people loved Sonny, and went out of their way to help him when he got sick. Dozens of volunteers from the firefighters, church, school, and community spent hours with him at the Hospice Center whenever Linda traveled the 300 mile, one-way journey back home to take care of her husband and other family issues. When he died, the Fire company gave him a full firefighters funeral.

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When was the last time you saw a funeral procession with this many grieving participants?

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Sonny’s Fire Company, carrying his body to it’s final resting place.

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Firefighters stand at attention and salute as a fire department honor guard marches to the gravesite. In the background, firefighters remove the casket of Louis Dale “Sonny” Farthing from the top of a fire engine, preparing to carry him to his final resting place.
Caption and photos courtesy of W. Dayton Whittle / The Register-Herald

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me–watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.  Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:27-30)

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One response to “Sonny’s Story . . .

  1. Tom Fornerette

    Annamaria, thank you very much for your blog update re Sonny Farthing…. He truly was a remarkable, magnanimus, and inspirational man…. It was a privilege to attend his funeral…. It was the the most stirring tribute I’ve ever witnessed firsthand…. I am honored to have met Sonny…. and was humbled by the adulation given him at the viewing, around the town of Sophia, and during the funeral procession… It was especially impressive seeing young adults as much as highly ranked government officials paying their sincere, heartfelt respect to this truly fine human being….. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life….. May his soul rest in peace…. May God ever bless Sonny…..