Richard Exley Ministries

Missed Opportunities
Posted on June 16, 2009

Like some of you, I have now reached that point in life when it is not unusual for yet another friend, or family member, to depart this life. The past four years have been especially difficult for Brenda and me, as we have lost both her father and mine, as well as my mother, and a special friend. Still, I was shocked when I received a telephone call informing me that Larry Dalton had died suddenly.

He was barely sixty-three years old and appeared to be the picture of health. We had reconnected in February, at Christian Chapel’s 35th anniversary. As we chatted, he informed me that he was leaving Nashville and moving back to Tulsa. I complimented him on the Christmas music he had done for Reader’s Digest and told him the Christmas concerts he had performed at Christian Chapel were still the highlight of my Christmas memories.

The service was about to begin, so he excused himself and made his way toward the platform. As I watched him walk toward the piano, I couldn’t help marveling at his youthful appearance and fitness. He worked out regularly and was an avid bicyclist. Involuntarily, I found myself trying to suck in my sagging stomach, but to no avail. 

I knew Larry was a musician of international renown, but I was not prepared for the outpouring of love and admiration that was expressed at his memorial service. It was unlike anything I had ever attended, and in my forty-three years of ministry I’ve taken part in an untold number of funeral services. Friends from all over the country packed the 1600 seat auditorium at the VanTrease Performing Arts Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The service featured a chorus made up of Tulsa church choirs, vocalists, and friends from around the country who were blessed to work with Larry throughout his career, as well as the Signature Symphony directed by Dr. Barry Epperly. All the music was arranged or composed by Larry Dalton.

Larry was a Steinway Piano Artist, concertizing in over 40 countries, as well as arranging for many popular artists, both secular and Christian. His repertoire included arrangements and compositions for gospel music, chamber orchestra, big band, and full symphonies. He recorded for Integrity Music, Pianodisc Music Systems, Reader’s Digest, and Ralph Carmichael’s Light Records.
Steve Alley, Larry’s life-long friend, shared tributes from such notable people as Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn, Charles Green, and Ralph Carmichael. Several other friends shared personal stories about Larry, causing us to laugh and cry and give praise to God. As I listened to their outpouring of love, I realized that although Larry had ministered at Christian Chapel many times during my 12 year tenure as senior pastor, I had never really gotten to know him. Now it was too late and I had no one to blame but myself.

There were a number of reasons why I hadn’t made a special effort to get to know Larry better, but they seemed trite now. When he ministered at Christian Chapel he was always accompanied by a number of musicians and friends, and I had used that as an excuse. I didn’t want to intrude or so I told myself. Thinking about it now, I’m sure Larry would have been more than happy to share a cup of coffee or a meal with me, but I never bothered to ask. The truth is, I don’t even know if he drank coffee. We both led full lives but that’s no excuse. Larry always had time for his friends. I wish the same could be said for me.

Leaving the memorial service, I couldn’t help thinking of the opportunity I had missed. I may not have been able to contribute much to Larry’s life and ministry but he certainly would have enriched mine. I’m tempted to say, “If only I could relive those years things would be different,” but I don’t. “If only,” focuses on the past and I can’t change that. What’s done is done. Instead I say, “Next time.” Next time I will be more sensitive, more open, more embracing. Next time I’ll seize the moment and live it to the fullest.

As I look back over my life, I realize that I have missed a number of opportunities – opportunities to be forgiving, to speak a word of apology, to lend a helping hand, or to offer the gift of friendship. Some opportunities are gone forever. Others linger still, giving me another chance, a chance I am determined to make the most of. With God’s help I will not let a single expression of love go unspoken; I won’t leave a single act of kindness undone, a single friendship unpursued.  I dare not for life is too fleeting and I may never get another chance.

You may not either, so seize the moment!

This is Richard Exley straight from the heart.

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Category: Friends