I'm sure that I will write more later, but at midday Tuesday we arrived back from 2 1/2 days, about 1250 miles and two memorial services for my cousin Gary.
On Sunday afternoon, Gary's earthly body was buried in a small family cemetery at least twenty miles from nowhere and very close to home. Nestled among the graves of his ancestors, they are surrounded by a beautiful while fence that Gary himself erected not long ago with the help of his daughter Brette.
He was buried in a simple pine casket crafted by one of his dear friends and covered with the brands of family and other close friends. With his casket sitting on the ground near the grave, well over 100 people gathered in close for the service as a gentle breeze blew through the scrub cedar that covers that mountain.
I shared that God is the God of all comfort, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. I then invited those whose brands adorned the casket to, if they would like, offer some of their own experiences with Gary. What happened next is unique among the many funerals I have performed. One man after another stood forward and told stories, mostly of how Gary had helped them when they needed him. Here's a sampling...
"When my son died, Gary came (a 150-mile drive) and stayed three days. He didn't try to say much; he was just there for us."
"When my little boy was killed, I wanted to build a concrete slab as a surface for kids to play on (this man lives in a rural area). Gary showed up and helped me until we got it done."
"When our family needed help at our ranch, Gary just came."
One after another, men (and at least one or two ladies) talked about the way he had invested in their lives with kindness, care and hard work. A few told funny stories. Mostly, people talked about how much it meant to them to have known him. And how much they will miss him.
Gary wasn't much of a "churchy-type" guy. As I stood there Sunday afternoon, though, a thought hit me...
For many years I have been preaching sermons. All the while he was living one.