To the general population, he was a nobody. He was unnoticed. He was now just a very old man in a very weak body. But to so many of us at different times and in different ways he was everything. He was rich in Spirit. He was utterly fair and unbiased. And he had a wonderful sense of humor.
In the fall of 1996, our baby girl died after three days of fighting for life. We called him. He was soon coming to shepherd our field, but he needed to finish up one privilege in Minnesota. He kindly took our call. He kindly shared sympathy. And he said with certainty, that a funeral was very necessary even though this baby hadn't met anyone outside of the hospital. To this moment, I am thankful for his wisdom. Although it was a hard experience at the time to stand there accepting sympathy from our multitude of friends and family, it was a balm that still soothes. He told us at the funeral that Amara was in heaven because she did not sin. Because of that thought, heaven has always seemed closer to us. And we're thankful.
Throughout that year, he came often. He said little gems at our table that have been a guide for us these past sixteen years. One that I will share. He looked at the Chairman and I. He said, "I am sharing this not because I think you need the correction, but I am sharing this because I think it is good advice. When you make friends with others, do not get too thick with just one other couple your age group. Reach out to the old. Help and encourage the young. Invite all age groups to your home for meals. It will help them and it will help you and unity can be strengthened." We have never forgotten that. And yes indeed, it is wonderful to share life with all generations.
We had the incredible privilege at being at his funeral. The timing was no accident. Everything about it was perfect. I overheard one of the funeral people that was assisting say, "this is unbelievable". Well maybe to her it was. But to us it was very real.
For those of you that couldn't be with us, I will say just a few things. The messages shared by the brothers was so right. The hymns sung were lovely. And the utter quietness of the thousand was such a tribute to a gentle man that loved quiet. We all filed past at the end. We all stood outside in a large group in utter silence. The sisters and brothers filed out last. The brothers that were pallbearers placed him gently in the rear of the white hearse. And in the continued quiet, the hearse slowly drove away. One of the older brothers slumped. One of the middle-aged ones grabbed him and gave him a hug and strength to bear. It was such a beautiful picture.
There is a huge gap. But the beauty is that gaps are filled. More rise up to fill those gaps. But the very sweet and special influence will permeate this state for years to come.