Wednesday, December 6, 2023



December 6, 2023

My little brother died December 6, 1977. That was 46 years ago today. He was nine, I was twelve, my sister was days from turning seven. I thought I had heard all the stories about Vince since then. Yet yesterday my father surprised me with one I had never heard of before.

In his final days at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, my brother was moved to a floor separate from where the regular treatment took place. In today’s terminology, I expect this would be referred to as a Hospice floor or Palliative Care. He was in a great deal of pain, “bone pain” I have heard it called. His entire body hurt, and no one could get an IV started for pain medication. Taking any orally was not an option at this point either. Numerous nurses and technicians could not find a viable vein and my brother continued to suffer.

Finally, my father asked them to go get Nurse Betty who had been the one who administered his chemotherapy over the last year. The people in the room exchanged looks and told my dad that Betty did not ever come up to that floor. He replied, “Tell her it’s Vince.” Within minutes Nurse Betty was at Vince’s side and was able to start an IV and get him some relief as hoped.

Nurse Betty and my father stepped out into the hallway, and she said to him, “You know… I have been at St. Just since they opened the doors in 1962 and I have never been up here before… but there’s never been a kid like Vince before either.”

We all tend to canonize loved ones when we lose them. We bring the best memories to the forefront of our minds and push the bad ones back. But in the case of my brother Vince, anyone who ever actually knew him would agree he was an exceptional boy. He had such a generous and loving spirit about him. He was courageous and kind. Just a few years ago, on this same anniversary I wrote about how his death has shaped my life in ways I cannot fully grasp. Now I prefer to frame it differently. His life is what has truly helped shape me into the person I am today.  His death hurt us deeply because he had such a beautiful soul, but I choose to not focus on just that loss anymore. I was so blessed to have Thomas Vincent Doyal as my brother even for a mere nine years. The words of the Don McLean song echo in my mind, "Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."

Saturday, September 2, 2023

A Dreamer of Dreams and a Travelin' Man


It is always a strange thing to mourn the loss of a celebrity you may have never actually met or known, but Jimmy Buffett has been a part of most of my life. My congregations have sometimes been surprised to learn I am a Parrothead (for those even familiar with that terminology). My love for his art extends much farther into my past than being a minister. As a 9-year-old I was enraptured hearing “Come Monday” on the radio in my dad’s Corvair. This was a few years before the ubiquitous hit "Margaritaville" made him a household name. 

I’ve seen Buffett in concert 5 ½ times. The “half” was being on site for a concert in Atlanta, but having to leave for reasons involving Margaritas. I saw him in Colorado, Nashville (twice), Knoxville and Chattanooga. The only one that was not a blast was in Knoxville which I blame on the indoor venue. 

By his own admission, Jimmy was “not a great singer, and I'm only a so-so guitar player.” But the music was infectious, fun, transportive and often touching. His lyrics are sometimes punny, sometimes deep and always a tad more complex than most pop music. His song, “Bigger Than The Both of Us” was featured at my wedding reception as it was very special to my wife and me. A side trip to Key West and the Margaritaville restaurant there was a part of our honeymoon.

Not many of us were able to live his laid back, beach bum life, but we loved the vibe and lived vicariously through him. I didn’t often have the time or money to head to the tropics, but I could pop “Son of a Son of a Sailor” in my cassette player and at least take a brief mental vacation. It could change my attitude if not my literal latitude. I have been known to sprinkle tidbits of his philosophical lyrics into both sermons and conversations.

The closest I came to truly living the Buffett life was a trip taken with my best friend Jay Adams back in 1990. We took off from Tennessee after work and drove all night long to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We then worked our way down the coast via AIA as much as possible all the way to the Fiesta Key KOA. There we strung hammocks from his Suzuki Samurai to palm trees. We ate the freshest shrimp I’ve ever had while listening to “Doc” warble his way through some Jimmy Buffett songs at the camp pub.

I have a trip planned to the Outer Banks in a little over a week where I plan to “cram lost years into five or six days.” It’s a place where “Salt air it ain't thin, It can stick right to your skin, and make you feel fine. Makes you feel fine.”

Manning the blender at my "Pirate Looks at 40" birthday party