(Terry McBrayer / Photo Courtesy of the Law Firm)

‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
Makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks
Sunday morning coming down…

— Part of the Chorus from “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

The song was written by Kris Kristofferson and sung by the late, great Johnny Cash. It was a Country Classic when it was first released in 1970. It is a Country Classic today, some 50 years later. A song that sits at the top of any chart; at any time; at any period. A song that sits at the top of your brain, just like the vinyl in an old juke box, too.

It still sings in your heart many years after you first heard it. It still stings the heart and never leaves your heart, either.

No matter how you try, though, there isn’t a way to make these words anything but what they are:

Tough. Cold. Sad. A head start on depressing.

Yet, they are words that make you remember. Push you back in time, even if you would rather not go there. Make you think of long ago times, even if you would rather bury them along life’s journey.

And, they were the first words I thought about on this Sunday in October.

When I woke, they were the first words ringing in my ears.

When I went to the phone and checked my messages, I began to understand why.

I saw the news that my longtime compatriot and friend, Terry McBrayer, had finally given sway to the onslaught of the cancer that he had battled off for the past five years.

I dropped my head.

I said my prayer.

I did my goodbye, even if it was just to me.

I hoped that he would soar on wings of eagles, and with all God’s speed.

‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
Makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks
Sunday morning coming down…

I knew then that Terry — a longtime Democrat friend and government ally (sometimes) and foe (often times) — was now facing his greatest lobbying task ever. He had to convince Saint Peter and the “Big Person” upstairs that he not only resembled Moses, which he often times did, but he was like him, too. Good luck, Terry. Hope you make it.

I don’t know much about how this all works, in the end. But I do know this, to be sure.

You will dazzle them with your grace and style.

You will befuddle them with words and ways.

You will drape that arm of yours over their shoulders and hug them tight, just like you would do us all from time to time, and sway with your sway.

And, just like you could always convince your proteges Chuck and Chris and your legions of friends, of which I would like to hope that I was one, you will flash that golden smile and you will win. Again.

Just like you always seemed to do.

Always.

See, Terry McBrayer could always convince people of the merits of his arguments, even when they may have lacked total muster, if not some truth.

Terry McBrayer could always convert people of different ideas and opposing views to see some glimmer of both hope and truth in his words, even though they may have been coached more from a current contract than conviction of either heart or soul.

Terry McBrayer could always control the room, even when he wasn’t invited. Such was the smoothness of his style and the confidence in his stride.

Terry McBrayer was part Billy Graham and part devil-in-disguise.

He had a dash of Frank Sinatra in his stage performance, and, yet, he had a little Elvis mixed in, too.

He may have looked like Joe DiMaggio, who was once married to Marilyn Monroe. But make no mistake. He played just like Pete Rose. Block the plate, like some political Ray Fosse, and see what would happen. Larry Forgy found out. The hard way.

When it seemed as if all was lost, that was when Terry McBrayer was at his absolute best.

I’ve been there. I have seen that. Over and over. Time and time again.

‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
Makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks
Sunday morning coming down…

There were so many times to remember.

The times we would stand in the halls of Frankfort and swap stories about what we had done and what needed to be done. Still. We always left with a slap on the back and a smile on our faces. Always. That’s what planners do.

The times when Terry took on the challenge of turning political neophyte Paul Patton into one of the best Governors to ever walk. We always left those efforts with a slap on the back and a smile on our faces. Always. That’s what winners do.

The times when Terry would call and ask for help getting into see the Leadership of the Kentucky House of Representatives, because he had somehow pissed them off. Again. (Forgiveness was always easier than permission.) We always would tried to help soothe-over another person’s wounds. Always. That’s what friends do for each other.

My fondest memory may have been the time that Terry called and asked to meet me on the steps of the Capitol building that lead up to the Chambers of the Kentucky House of Representatives. He said he had to see me. ASAP.

So, I told him that I would be there.

And, I was.

I could see the white hair flopping two floors below. There was no mistaking. They were the locks of McBrayer.

I could hear him huff and puff, as he took the stairs two at a time. There was no mistaking. That was the way McBrayer tackled life. Two steps at a time.

I was almost laughing aloud when he made his way to the flat just below the Third Floor. He stuck out his hand. Not to shake, by the way. He had an envelope addressed to then Majority Floor Leader Greg Stumbo.

“Will you take this to Greg for me,” McBrayer asked.

Before I could answer or even question, the country lawyer gave his reasoning.

“He won’t meet with me, so I need you to give this to him. It’s important.”

I nodded. Took the envelope. And, headed off on my mission that I like call “Lobbyists Without Borders.”

“Let me know what he says,” McBrayer yelped, as I left. “I know he will read it to you, too.”

As soon as I got to Stumbo’s office, the Majority Leader’s best friend, leading confidant and chief advisor — Charlotte — was waiting for me. “He’s (Stumbo) ready to see you.”

I walked right into the office — past fellow lobbyist Bob Babbage, who had been sitting on the lobby couch for about an hour and waiting for his time. Rep. Stumbo always made Babbage wait longer than most. But that’s another story for another day.

On this day, Rep. Stumbo jumped right into the conversation. No hesitation. We talked about this and that. That and this. And, then he said, “Oh yeah, what does McBrayer want?”

I said that Terry wanted me to give him an envelope as I handed it over. Rep. Stumbo tore into it like a dog who hadn’t been fed in two days. He read it aloud. Just as McBrayer thought he would.

As soon as the last word was uttered, Rep. Stumbo crumbled the piece of paper and tossed it in the can. Just before he could spit a helping mouthful of Beachnut’s finest juice.

Stumbo laughed. And, then silence.

“What do you want me to tell him,” I asked.

Stumbo — a country lawyer ever bit as good as McBrayer and knowing that he owned the winning hand — snapped back.

“Tell him to go…”

Well, let’s leave it at that. This is a family show, after all.

On the way out of the Capitol, I heard my name. Fast on my heels was McBrayer. The old guy could cover some ground in those wing tips.

“What did Stumbo say?” McBrayer inquired.

I looked around and responded with as good a lie as I could foster.

“Oh, Terry. I’ve been looking for you, man. He said for you to come up to his office first thing tomorrow. He is looking forward to seeing you.”

The look on McBrayer’s face was priceless. He didn’t know if I was telling him the truth or not. He didn’t know whether to smile or not. He didn’t know whether he need to go to the potty or go blind. He didn’t have a choice, and McBrayer was rarely in that position. So, he just uttered:

“Ok.”

We parted ways.

The next morning, around 11:30 a.m., (that was about as early as Stumbo ever arose and made it to the office — or “first thing in the morning”), I got a call from Stumbo.

“McLean,” Stumbo started in and not waiting for an answer, “what in the hell did you tell McBrayer?”

I laughed. I told him to come see you first thing this morning.

“Well, hell. He’s been sitting in my office for 2 hours, and Charlotte made me meet with him. Why in the hell did you tell him I wanted to talk? I didn’t walk to talk to him.”

I laughed and I quoted one of Stumbo’s most favorite lines right back to him.

“A wise man once told me, Mr. Leader, that we don’t have enough friends now that we can afford to lose one.”

Silence.

Not a single word of response.

The phone hung up. With authority.

That very afternoon, McBrayer, Stumbo and I shared a cold one in the Capitol office. We laughed. We told stories. Whatever the issue that had come between them was now in the past. Never to be spoken of again, that I know of.

Friends.

Again.

Today, I am reminded of that day. That memory. That story.

And, that line:

“We don’t have enough friends now that we can afford to lose one.”

But today we did.

Until we meet again, McBrayer, go rest high on that mountain. And, I will hire you to lobby Saint Pete and the “Big Person” on my behalf, too. Couldn’t have a better person doing my bidding.

‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday
Makes a body feel alone
And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’
Half as lonesome as the sound
On the sleepin’ city sidewalks
Sunday morning coming down…