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A good man, a tragic end

POSTED: December 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.

If there was ever a picture of a nice guy, it was Frank Harris. He was short, fairly thin and one of those people who always looked neat. His black hair, with a sprinkling of gray, was always in place and his clothes looked like they had just been ironed.

  

While love is an invisible thing, you could tell by the way he interacted with his family that they loved one another.

  

When I first met Frank, he was working in the men’s department at Belk in Gainesville’s Lakeshore Mall.

  

An ordained preacher, he had been working as a chaplain for a hospice. From all indications, Frank had found his rightful place in helping folks with terminal illness and facing almost certain death.

  

His passion was helping people. He was a comforter to the dying.

  

It’s a shame that a man who devoted what would be the final days of his life to helping others was not afforded the same courtesy.

  

The senseless, brutal murder of Frank Harris in Cleveland has left me in a conundrum in my Christian faith. My faith tells me that I should have some compassion for the souls of the people who did this horrible thing.

  

At this point, I do not.

  

We should hope that everyone finds forgiveness and mercy, but don’t ask me to do it today.

  

It’s the kind of crime that isn’t supposed to happen here. It’s the kind of thing that you’re warned about. This took place in the rural South, where folks have a reputation of being neighborly and kind. Frank Harris was that kind of person.

  

His killers were not.

  

If you indeed did this to this good man, then damn you.

  

How could anybody be so mean? I can’t think of any motive that gives any measure of rationality.

  

Most of the time when we report on murders, it involves a domestic incident or is gang or drug related. This is just a vicious, heinous, brutal murder that is without any kind of explanation.

  

This is a sad moment for White County and I hope that community will send a message that it is not going to tolerate an act like this.

  

Frank Harris leaves behind a wife and three children, ages 17, 15, and 11.

  

His daughter will graduate high school this year and her dad won’t be there. He won’t walk her down the aisle or do any of the other things that are milestone moments for fathers.

  

I can’t get out of my mind the picture of Frank Harris, who had prayed at many bedsides of the dying as they left this life for Heaven.

  

He was one of the willing. One of his favorite Bible verses was from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

  

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me.’”

  

As life ebbed from his body, I hope God sent angels, a dozen or a thousand, to remind Frank that the faith that he preached was real and would carry him to the other side.

  

That’s the part of this I can really believe.

  

Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is harrisb@forsythnews.com.

 

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