This was the eulogy/homily I gave at the service of death and resurrection for my PaPa, Ernest Carter Stanley. Some of the stories you may have heard in a sermon or at a youth retreat, or read here on this blog. I read Revelation 21:1-7 from the small, pocket Bible that a chaplain gave him during World War II.
I had spent most of this warm, summer day helping my Momma clean, which is exactly what every middle school boy wants to do on his summer vacation, right? I managed to do what I think every middle school boy would do, escape under the phantom excuse of needing to take a walk. To my surprise, I actually did take a walk.
With the rural Virginia dirt under my bare feet, I set out on the longer of the paths that led through the woods behind the house, over the creek, and around the goat lot to the back field.
As I walked, I came upon the first creek to cross. I jumped over – well, really just stepped over – being careful of the barbed wire attached to the tree to my right. I stepped over the barbwire, with one foot on the ground and the other foot in the air when I heard it. It was a sound I had never heard in the woods before. I froze, listening intently to discern where the sound was coming from.
“Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” -Nathaniel Hawthrone
As I was preparing worship and a sermon for what would be my last Sunday at Peakland United Methodist as their Associate Minister, the communications coordinator, Kim, shared with me the bulletin cover she designed. It had a key verse from one of the scriptures I was using and a picture of a butterfly. It was perfect on all sorts of levels.
I hesitated to ask her to change anything. Finally, I asked if it would be possible to make the orange butterfly a yellow butterfly. She gave me one of those, “that’s an odd request” look, and then said, “Sure.”
A few weeks ago my grandparents went to a local Wal-Mart to pick up a few things. As they entered the store, my grandfather told my grandmother to go and get what she needed, he was going to walk through the store and meet her in the middle.
As my grandfather came down the center aisle of Wal-Mart, he saw a boy who was afflicted. His father was sitting on a bench with his head in his hands. As my grandfather walked pass the boy, the boy asked my grandfather to sit on the bench with him.
So my grandfather did. And he proceeded to have a conversation with this young man. Everytime the boy spoke, his father elbowed him, as if to say, “Be quiet!”. Despite that, my grandfather kept talking with this boy. Eventually, the boy begin rubbing my grandfather’s head as they talked and patting his hand.
After some time, my grandfather stood to go and explained that he needed to go find his wife, but that he would be back before he left. After he found my grandmother, he took her to meet the boy he met on the Wal-Mart bench. The boy saw my grandfather coming and became very excited. He had a grin that filled his face! The father, who earlier didn’t want his son speaking, approached my grandfather and expressed his thanks for my grandfather taking the time to sit on a bench in Wal-Mart with his son.
It turns out that this boy was around the age of 30 and had a mental disability. While many others had passed over this young man, my grandfather stopped and took a few moments to wit with this young man on a Wal-Mart bench.