Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Tribute to an Old Friend

Friday afternoon I went to a funeral for a black brother. Reverend Matthew Oglesby was a faithful minister of the gospel. He and I worked together on several important projects while I was Pastor at Clemson. His last few years were hard because he had Alzheimer’s. I saw him a couple of times—but his family kept him at home and took care of him until his death. He was 86 years old. He is survived by his wife Beatrice. They were married 64 years. She is one of my favorites. They had seven children. Cedric who now lives in London, England spoke at the service for the family.

He began in a beautiful way: “The story I tell today has already been written.” And so it is with all of us. We write our own stories—for better or for worse. And if the truth were known—most of our stories in one way or another would be the same: the hopes and dreams we have carried all our lives, the struggles we have faced, the times we rejoiced and the occasions when our hearts were broken. For those of us who have lived a long time our stories are just about competed. But I remember the story one of my good friends tells about his mother. She was in her nineties and was very sick and was in the hospital again and again. So one day her son went into the room and whispered, “Mama, I know you are tired...but it will be OK if you decide to go...” And she opened her eyes and smiled and said: “Not yet.” And so, we too can say—our stories are not over—not yet. Thank God for that. 

Cedric Oglesby ended his remarks at the funeral by telling a personal story. When he was a little boy he would write out a reminder every week for his father: “I need $2.00 for my lunch money...” No name. Just that request. He put the note next to his father’s billfold week after week. The money was always there when he needed it.

Cedric came home from England one Thanksgiving not too long ago. He stayed in the Guest Room which had once been his bedroom. He said when he got there his father was asleep. But he heard someone shuffling down the hall about an hour later. It was his father. He looked into the room and just stared at Cedric. Then he turned around and shuffled back down the hall. In a few minutes he heard his father again. He came into Cedric’s room and opened his hand and gave his son a piece of paper. It was one of the notes the boy had written over forty years before asking for $2.00. Dementia is a strange and sad disease—but even after all those years when the old father knew and could say little—he remembered. And so this son ended his remarks to a packed group of mourners with these words: “The story, you see, I have told today has already been written.”

In memory of Reverend Matthew Oglesby

December 24, 1928 - August 2, 2014

“Into paradise  may the angels lead him; at his coming may the martyrs take him up into eternal rest, and may the chorus of angels lead him to that holy city, and the place of perpetual light.” Amen.

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