A 50th Birthday Memorial- John Gregory Brantley

The picture in this old newspaper clipping is from the fall of 1988, my senior year in high school in Frostproof, Florida. Greg Brantley my cousin, #82 on the left, is pursuing Willie English the All-State running back with the Avon Park Red Devils. English went on to star at the University of Central Florida and later signed with the Bengals for a short time.

The reason I am writing this is in memory of Greg, who would have turned 50 years old today. He succumbed to depression and left us way too soon in 2010, not long after his 40th birthday. I remember where I was standing when a mutual friend of ours called me and told me of his death. I was devastated. I was honored to preach Greg’s funeral to an overflowing church, but I still don’t know how I got through it other than the Lord gave me the strength. Not many days go by that I don’t think of Greg. There are many things we cannot understand on this side of eternity, so we entrust them to God who sees from the beginning to the end. 

Greg loved the Lord and his family and was a hard worker and friend to so many people. Greg and I grew up like brothers, and were classmates all the way through school, being just under 7 months difference in age. We ran around together, played sports, and hunted and fished together. The majority of my childhood memories including birthdays and other major events included him in one way or the other.

Adulthood eventually separated us by a lot of miles and responsibilities. Even so, I could pick up the phone, or see him in person, and it was like I had just seen him the day before. There are few people in life who are genuine friends.

One of the things that stood out about Greg to others was his kindness. People liked him because he was genuinely a good person. When he comes to mind I think of him going all out like he is in this picture, or making a play at first base, or unloading the dogs to run in the woods, or climbing a tree to wait for a deer, or dropping a line in the water, or steadily working and taking care of his responsibilities. In my mind’s eye, he will be forever young and strong.

As long as those of us who know and love him are around, Greg may be gone but he will never be forgotten. I can’t wait to see you again someday my family and friend, in the presence of the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5:7-9 For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.