Editor's Note: Everett, about whom Rubel writes, is not only a special friend to many, he led one of my very best friends from atheism to a dynamic and profound faith in Jesus. Not only is Everett a hero, he is also the father of friends and the deeply respected friend of friends. Thanks, Everett, for using your influence to bless others, grow the kingdom, and honor Jesus.

It has been my good fortune to know Dr. Everett Blanton and to be counted among his friends. Come to think of it, that doesn't make me all that special. His circle of friends is pretty large. And I don't know anyone in his still-larger circle of acquaintances that didn't like him and respect him.

This is how his booming voice greeted those of us fortunate enough to be his friends: "Has anyone told you today that he loves you?"

The first time he posed the question to you, you may have tried to answer it. You would try to remember if your wife or children said "I love you" before they left for school or when you left for work. Or perhaps you would simply be stunned by such a question — and stand a bit wide-eyed and not know how to respond.

His handsome face would break into a broad grin, and he would say something on this order: "Well, I do! And I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you. You are special to me, and I am grateful to have you in my life."

Now that might sound mushy — if not downright suspicious — if Everett's hair had not been completely white and his face marked with the signs of age. Coming from him, both males and females heard the genuine affirmation of a godly man who wanted to tell the people in his life how he valued them.

When a move to another state put distance between us, we would occasionally speak by phone. It was always important for me to begin the conversation. As soon as he picked up, I would say, "Everett, has anybody told you today how loved you are?" He would laugh, call my name, and tell me how special I was to him. There was no way to get ahead of him!

Everett Blanton died last Saturday. Loved and supported by children and grandchildren, he had battled cancer courageously — and tried to keep his family from worrying too much about it. The battle had become hard.

His closest ally, best friend, and devoted wife through all his life adventures, Peggy, mourns his loss — but smiles at the treasure trove of sweet memories they made together. She tells me how fortunate she was to have had all those years with him. He would tell you he was the lucky one.

Learn to affirm the people who are important in your life.
You don't have to know Everett to learn from him. Learn to affirm the people who are important in your life. Tell them you love them. Then tell them again. Once more for good measure. Be remembered for it when it comes your time to go home. As Joe Bain said, Everett was "a man with the kindest heart I've ever known." Wouldn't that be a wonderful way for people to remember you?

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones (Psalm 116:15).

Even so, his death is a painful loss from the point of view of many.