I learned about death at an early age, while “Growing Up On Dump Ground Road.” My paternal grandfather died when I was an infant, so I only knew of him through pictures. My Great-Uncle Joe, who lived next door with my father’s mother, was the first person to die that I actually knew. I remember the ambulance coming to pick up the body, so he must have died before I started school. My maternal grandfather, Jack Muston, died when I was ten. His death impacted me greatly because afterwards my maternal grandmother came to live with us. Not long after that, my 12-year-old cousin, Ricky, was killed in an accident by a train.
There were several uncles and aunts who died during my high school and college days. I lost both grandmothers during that same time period. As a young pastor, I was well acquainted with the reality of death and the suffering and sorrow accompanying it. I can’t even remember the first funeral that I preached, but I know that my experiences with family members helped to prepare me more than any college or seminary class.
In more than 40 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve preached a lot of funeral messages. When I first came to serve at Cordova Baptist Church, I was preaching them with regularity. I have always said: “The two hardest funerals to preach are those for people you do not know and those for people who you know very well.” After speaking at my father and mother’s services, I came to the realization that the hardest funerals are those for your own family members.
As you probably know, last Sunday I had the privilege of speaking at the funeral of my sister, Bonnie Kelley. It was one of the hardest and happiest moments of my life. I would have preferred to sit with my family and mourn the loss of my dear sister, but I was happy to be able to fulfill her request and, hopefully, to help some of the people who I love most deal with the pain of death. I am grateful for the beautiful flowers sent by my CBC family; the Cordova Korean Baptist Church family; and my friends, Ron and Joyce Tate. I appreciate Mitch Martin preaching in my absence. I am thankful for our Deacon Chairman, Rusty Edwards, who helped with announcements. For everyprayer offered up on our behalf and kind word extended to us, I am eternally grateful.
Serving in love,