Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fruit That Remains

As a pastor, I have conducted and attended many funerals. As a rule, funerals are sad affairs, particularly when death is unexpected and seems premature. Just over a week ago a dear friend of mine, Gerwayne Taylor, lost his father, George Taylor, unexpectedly . George was also a cousin of Emma Twymon, who along with her husband Ken and Daughter Brianna have blessed us as friends and mighty and active members of Eastside. The funeral for George was held this past Saturday, in Detroit, and my wife Luz and I attended. We arrived at the church not knowing exactly what to expect. When we arrived, we found the atmosphere full of peace and joy! There were tears, of course,but the warm greetings and the confidence of family and friends who knew George Taylor well, bore witness to the fact that these people KNEW that this departed loved one's "house was in order" and we were all going to be treated to a tribute and a celebration of a life well lived.

The service began with powerful songs of praise to the Lord and words of comfort and wisdom from the Parish Pastor. He recounted George's service to others all throughout his life first in the US Army and then in a career that lasted for 31 years as Detroit Police officer. He likened George's service to the community to that of a "good shepherd". George had not just done his duty, but he had served from the heart, willingly facing dangers daily, and encountering some of the most terrifying situations imaginable, but yet, never becoming calloused or cynical. He was the kind of person who once apprehended a man and so affected him with his presence that the man later returned to say this encounter with George had saved his life. The pastor reminded all present of the scores of children George had personally invested in as a mentor, boy scout troop leader, and particularly as a coach. George hadn't just coached youth in sports - he had coached them in life. There were scholarships earned, pitfalls avoided, and potentials realized all because of this man's care and concern for the "sheep" of his community.

Even after all the honors and accolades, George's good shepherding skills shone at their brightest in his family. He had the testimony of almost 36 years of marriage to his beloved wife Glenda. This loving union produced what was the most powerful legacy of George's life - 6 amazing children - 5 boys and 1 girl (You can see them all in the photo on the upper left). The excellence of the shepherding George exerted in their lives was evident in the way the children grieved the loss of their father. They were sorrowful but not pitiful, mournful but not inconsolable, hurt but not hopeless. George's children exhibited a strength and resolve in the midst of their pain that was royal in its dignity and powerful in its purity. I watched as his offspring read, prayed, shared and led the congregants in loving memory of their father. I will never forget the awe that struck everyone present as Gerwayne danced in concert with a ballet group that performed in honor of his father. The see him leap with such love, power, control and artistry at such a moment brought tears streaming down my face. Only people of huge character and heart could rise up to one of life's hardest moments with such beauty and excellence.

As the service concluded,the Pastor reminded everyone of the obvious - the world was a better place because of the way George Taylor had lived. He had crammed 100 years of service into 61 years of life. Not by being busy, but by being present and active and living not for himself, but for others. As I thought about George's legacy, I remembered Jesus' desire for His disciples and for those of us who follow Him today to bear much fruit, good fruit and fruit that remains. George's presence will be missed and he can never be replaced. Nevertheless, he invested himself in others in a such a way that he empowered them to multiply the work he was doing. Every time you meet someone that knew George and was touched by him, you get a little of George too. As I watched his children hug each other, console their mother and lead and direct others as the procession made it's way out of the church, it was evident to me that though George had advanced to his reward, he left behind much fruit, good fruit and fruit that will not only remain, but be multiplied for years to come. What kind of fruit are you going to leave, when your appointment with eternity comes? Until next time...


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