Monday

Tribute To A Great Man

My mother and I were alone for much of my childhood until A. B. “Will” Williams came into our lives as a husband and father. The following is the eulogy I wrote to this great man.


Will and I met in the fall and spring of our lives, respectively. For me he was an answer to the first personal prayer I ever remember praying. It was a very simple prayer. As I stood in front of our little house in that dusty west Texas town I asked God to give my mother a good man to care for her. I didn’t think about asking for a Dad, but that very year He gave us a good man who has loved and cared for Mom all these years, and a very special Dad for a wandering boy who desperately needed one.


When he entered my life over half his life was already past. Those years were only visible to me in Will’s character. I was specially blessed to be a witness to the man he had become, not the struggle he went through to become that man. As a child “born out of due time” I was a partaker of his maturing wisdom gained through the many battles, difficulties, and blessings in his life: the poverty and lessons of the great depression, the special care and then the untimely loss of his beloved mother, Neva , and his wife, Margaret, the training for and then the bitterness and discipline of war, the experience of reckoning all this while discovering what it means to be a husband and father. Then woven into all that were the many complexities that life brings whether we are prepared or not.


My vantage point to Dad was unique, and it is from that vantage point that I speak in his memory today. Mine is not only the vantage point of my relationship with Dad, but also my present place in life, having lived on this earth now for 49 years. I see him much clearer now, and I am sure my vision will continue to sharpen until the day I walk alone through the dark winter valley he has journeyed through these last few months.


I could speak of the dignity and honor of this man, but since such dignity and honor is only the effect of another more basic attribute, it is this attribute of which I must now speak. I don’t quite know what to call this in our modern language, and that's probably best, because it is better observed and described than spoken in a word.


It is that heart that causes a battle-fatigued soldier to stand up and move forward. It is that human spirit that presses some men, overwhelmed by grief, to stand up and rebuild what is broken in their lives without any visible hint of bitterness… It is that inscrutable strength, dwelling someplace in the soul of a special person who is overcome by the waves of life, to swim to the top instead of drown in the current. It is that force of life in some people which causes them to go on, looking ever forward, while others stand confused... living in the past without hope of changing their future.


For much of Dad’s life, as I knew him, he spoke little of his past… until these last few years when with each glimpse of his past I found strong support for what I see in him now, what we now know to be true of this man. And what is true is that over and again, against what seemed to be insurmountable forces, he stood up… he took another step… he made what was left of his life count.


In the times of my life when I have wanted to quit it was often the gift of the image of this man calling me forward that kept me going. Early on he encouraged me to make my life count --to make a difference in this world-- and the difference he made in my life gave practical meaning to his words.


For we who hold his memory dear there is no struggle in life, short of death, that cannot be overcome… while breath remains we will never be down so far that we cannot rise again… just stand up… just step forward…


This is one aspect, of many, in Dad’s life that I consider a legacy. To his Grandchildren it is this attribute and lesson of your Grandfather’s life that I lift up before you on this day. No matter what difficult circumstances surround you in life, whether of your own making or the making of others… standup… take another step… keep moving forward… don’t stop… make what’s left of your life count.


And for those who observe the children of this man --never count us out -- never say we are finished until the day we walk down that valley, for working within us is this legacy, the heritage of this man, and, God willing, by the same grace that worked in him we will rise and press on.


There is nothing I have said in this that Dad did not hear from me. I told him clearly what I thought of him and he denied his worthiness of such judgment just as clearly… and his denial made it all the more true. I love you Dad, and we, your children and grandchildren, love you. I thank God for the day He brought you into our lives. And Nora will know you as will your other children yet to be born --we will tell them of you-- but our stories of you will already have a familiar sound, because they will see you everyday in us.


The picture: Dad seated, Left To Right: me, our son Nathan (Dad's oldest grandchild), Carol, our daughter Betsy with Nora (Dad's first great-grandchild), Nate's wife Heather, and mom. Not pictured are Dad's three children: Craig, Pam, and Cinda. Pam has three sons: Wesley, Erik, and Craig. Since Dad's death three great-grandsons have come into the world: Collin, Tyler, and Cory.

4 comments:

  1. http://www.christinalangella.comMay 31, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Pastor Larry, this beautiful tribute has moved me to tears.  What a gift from God your Dad was. 

    I thank God for the grace on His life.  I thank God for the perseverance of a saint who left an eternal legacy of faith in Christ.  

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute!

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  2. Thank you Christina for such kind words. I have nothing but thanksgiving to God for the Grace He has given me in the gift of such a father. Thanks for reading.

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  3. Moving and well written!!! Thanks for turning something so personal into a blessing for many more who read it. Got me thinking about a book, "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller that Darrell recommended to me recently.

    Rom 5:20 was the center of my message Sunday. Sometimes, there are just no words... “Thanks [be] unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Corinthians 9:15)  ¡Un abrazo!

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  4. Thanks my friend. Haven't heard of the book, I'll have to pick it up.

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