A Life Well Lived
Bill was born in 1919 in Birmingham, Alabama. He passed away in Gulf Breeze in 2009. During those 89 years, Bill, as his family and friends called him, raised himself from a poor, broken home to live an outstanding life.
He was married to the same woman for over 60 years and was the father of four, three daughters and a son. For a time, Bill served as the State’s Chief Marine Biologist, but eventually resigned to work for the EPA because it would keep him closer to his family. He pioneered “clean air and water standards” long before “going green” was hip or cool. And, he championed procedures for protecting the environment long before such processes rooted themselves in our daily lives.
And, Bill loved his family and his God—to love one was to love and be committed to the other he liked to say. Bill spent lots of time with his family long before “the family table” became the next catch phrase, and he learned the importance of serving and caring for the under-resourced at a time when “person salvation” was the prominent theological conversation. Not only did loving “his family” matter, but caring for the family of God was just as important.
Alzheimer’s finally took Bill’s life, but nothing could steal the impressive legacy his left behind. Even during the final days of his life, he would encourage folks to say the Lord’s Prayer with him, even if he was unable to remember their names, and he always, always wished people a “good day”, even if, as his family said, he was having trouble remember “which day” it actually was.
Some things are so ingrained in us, so deep into our souls that even Alzheimer’s can’t take them away. A person’s life is more than the sum of what we can say, or do, or put on a resume. Our character should ooze from us, even when we are unable to define it, proclaim it or even understand it ourselves. Such was the case with Bill.
This week, I had the privilege of officiating at Bill’s funeral. Listening to friends and family describe this now small, frail man, and knowing how we loved life and cared for those people and places that mattered most to him, reminded me that much of what we do in this world outlives even the fragile shell of this body.
I was reminded that what we say and do and care about in this world matters for more than the ways they will measure our fame, place or standing, but for how people, many whom we do not even know, will be watching, and for how this witness we bear, even with those we don’t see looking, will far outpace our titles, positions or accomplishments.
It reminds me of when Jesus, in Matthew 5: 13-16, says to the disciples that they are the “Salt of the earth…” and the “Light of the world”. Neither is meant to set the disciples apart from the world, but, on the contrary, places them “smack dab in the middle of it”. And, best of all, we represent the One who has loved us first and most and best. That is a line on the resume worth having, a title that can’t ever be taken away.
So, over the next days, we would do well to assess our place in this world, but not according to the standards the world so often considers important, but according to the life of the One to whom we witness or at least should. I believe we will find a ‘real legacy” for real life that will outpace and outlive even our years on this planet.
Bill did, and it made all the difference. He lived as “Salt and Light” and it mattered.
Last week, Ruth Knights took us to the river in the close to our Blockbuster Series with “O’ Brother Where Art Thou” and Scott negotiated the danger of the Pirates of the Caribbean. And, of course, Jack provided a wonderful interpretation through the series “How Great Thou Art” with a live artist working as the sermon unfolded.
This week, all three campuses began a new sermon series entitled, “Vacation”. At GBUMC Soundside, Scott addresses the basics of “vacation” and our need for rest. While Jack will discuss the items “we leave behind” when we go on vacation at GBUMC W@W.
And, at GBUMC Fairpoint, I will ask the question “Where do you go to rest?” and will use the wonderful scripture from Matthew 11: 28-30 to discuss Jesus’ desire that all of us find rest and peace in Him. I am very happy to be back you at Fairpoint and look forward to Sunday!
I love you.
Be Salt and Light... You Matter!
Matthew 5: 13-16