I was buying groceries the last time I talked to Sonny Frisbie. I had just put a bottle of Heinz Ketchup in my cart, and there he was coming down the aisle. We had a really nice chat. I don’t recall what we discussed, but I do remember his signature question. He looked me straight in the eye and asked: “And how are you doing?” I never had an encounter with Sonny when he didn’t pause long enough to ask that question phrased in those precise terms. “And how you are doing?”
In 2005, I responded to a call from the sheriff’s office where a man with younger children had committed suicide at his home. At that point, I had been a law enforcement chaplain for nearly 15 years. I thought I actually knew something…. Think again. I knew very little.
When I arrived at that home on that Sunday evening, the patrol deputy quickly briefed me on what had occurred. And then this older gentleman with a badge hanging around his neck appeared out of nowhere. He was checking me out to make sure I at least appeared legitimate. And I was checking him out too. I wondering what a guy his age was doing working a scene like that. Didn’t he know that such work was for younger guys. He should be home in bed! I shook my head internally! (He may have been shaking his head too!)
In subsequent months, I was called out to provide chaplaincy services in similar circumstances. Unfortunately, there were more suicides. And there were other unattended deaths in homes and other locations. At each of those calls, there was a definite need for a chaplain. The common element in each of them was the presence of that older gentleman with the badge hanging around his neck. I learned his name was Sonny. I soon stopped worrying about his age. I realized very quickly that I was working with the consummate professional.
Sonny was exceedingly skilled in the technical aspects of investigative work. I didn’t really get to interface directly with him on such matters, because the care of families was my task. I was so impressed with his gentle demeanor with people who had been impacted by unexpected, and violent death in their family. He spoke softly and listened intently. He was never impatient with people’s unpredictable reactions to sudden grief. His calm demeanor reduced the anxiety of everyone present, including myself!
Over time we became better acquainted. He would tell families at a scene: “I am going to entrust you to Chaplain Knox. He will take good care of you.” I did NOT want to disappoint! Before we would part ways, Sonny would ask me: “And, how you are doing?” I still remember that night in 2005. We were checking each other out with eyes of caution. Over the years, I learned a lot from Sonny about serving people who are facing an unexpected and life changing crisis. He blessed my ministry in untold ways.
As a new year gets underway, I am going to recommit to “taking good care” of people directly impacted by traumatic events. And, I will make sure I pose this question to those I interact with regularly: “And how are you doing?” Thank you, Sonny. Your legacy lives on.