Hello Dear Friends:
Hope you don’t mind if I write a few words about the funeral of Valerie’s Father George.
George White’s middle name was “Rison”. He told me one time that his mother and grandmother always called him “Rison”. So I said at his funeral: “Rison has Risen”
On the morning of George White’s funeral, we woke up to find 5 inches of new snow on the ground. The plans for the day were enormous: A graveside service with full military honours, followed by a memorial service clear across town, followed by a luncheon, followed by a large reception back at the retirement community where George has lived for the past 10 years. At 7am in the morning, with 5 inches of snow on the ground and more falling, it looked like we were going to have a very tough time making it happen. But Indianapolis is not Seattle! There are no hills around here, so as we started out into the Arctic blast, we found that getting around was fairly easy. Instead of being a big hassle, the snowfall created a winter wonder- land of photo ops. The Crown Hill Cemetery, one of the oldest and most famous cemeteries in the Midwest, was breathtakingly beautiful. As we arrived at the above ground burial site, the military honour guards were lined up in a row waiting for us; their ears covered with ear-muffs and steam puffing from their mouths, much like Clydesdale horses in the winter. Now I have officiated at a number of funerals where military honours have been given, but George’s ceremony was really something special. The officer in charge visibly showed emotion as he read the soldier’s prayer and made his comments. At the end of his speech he apologized and said “I am especially moved attending this service, since I lost my own father a year ago. He also was a decorated WWII veteran and he was very special to me.” Everything about the military honours was moving; the rifle salute, the folding and presentation of the flag, and the sincere expressions of love and appreciation from the old soldiers present.
All of us were suffering as the bitter cold crept through our shoes and attacked our feet. Before long, we all felt like we were standing on glass, but nonetheless every one of us felt blessed to be a part of George’s internment. George had a special relationship with a sweet elderly pastor named Gary Sobel. George and Gary had taken a special liking to each other 8 years ago when George’s wife, Nancy (Valerie’s Mom) died. Over the past 8 years they have enjoyed special fellowship. Gary is now suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, but he shared one of the sweetest graveside speeches that I have ever heard. I was so touched by it that I asked for a copy of it for my own use in the future.
We left the cemetery for the one hour drive across town to the Radiant Life Christian Church for the memorial service. We needed every minute of the time to thaw out our frozen feet. The crowd was a bit thin due the snow but the memorial service was very special also. So many people shared from their heart about their love for George. Many of them mentioned the fact that George had undergone a major change in his life in the past 10 years. He mellowed out and became verbally expressive of his love for the people in his life. Valerie and I can also testify to this from our own relationship with George. A closer connection with God had a trans-formative effect on his life. “He was transformed by the renewing of his mind” Romans 12:2.
The evening reception back at the Robin Run Senior Center was a packed out event. George’s friends back at the center wanted to attend the funeral services but were turned back by the snow. So they saved it all up for the reception. Valerie and I and all of George’s family spent two solid hours talking to guest about George. George was truly a celebrity at Robin Run. He was a man of a thousand interests. Art Classes, Computer Classes, Cooking Classes, Stained Glass Classes, Book Club, Political Discussions, Museum Committee, Entertainment Committee, Yada Yada Yada! Almost everyone there has a story to tell about how George had made their day, spent time with them, inspired them and blessed them. Wow! Way to go George White!
A truly inspiring and blessed day, celebrating a wonderful man!
My next email will be from Kenya on Tuesday. Tomorrow I head back to Kenya to resume our itinerary. Valerie will join me next Monday. She and the family will stay try to empty out the house and button up George’s estate. It’s a lot of work, so please keep Valerie in your prayers.