A EULOGY TO MY FATHER
In 2Sam1vs17to27 is recorded David's eulogy to Saul and Jonathan. This is my eulogy to my father, Pastor F.C.M. Reed. I wrote it whilst he was dying and immediately following his death.
I have always admired my father - he was so capable. When I walk through the Bury St Edmund's cemetery I often stop to chat with Bertie. He and my father once worked together for a local farmer. He always asks how my father is. He tells me how well my father could build a wall and lay out a tennis court - both jobs he did for the farmer. My father also pruned the village shopkeeper's apple trees, made wonderful holly wreathes, built me a wooden fort as a Christmas present, defeated the village blacksmith at arm wrestling, carried effortlessly three young sons aloft in his arms, and, on one never to be forgotten summer's afternoon, smote Bury's finest bowler for a series of gigantic sixes. I marvel still at my father's ability to drive his little, old, Ford anywhere and, without the use of a map, arrive at the correct destination. He could play most musical instruments by ear, stir the blood with his fine tenor singing and grip a congregation's attention with his pithy preaching. He was an indefatigable worker: preaching twice on Sundays, taking a Sunday School class in the afternoon, conducting two mid-week services as well as supplementing his meagre income with farm or gardening work. He worked too hard - but I never heard him complain of stress!
I loved my father. I loved him for the loyalty he showed his church. Unlike some pastors he always attended the youth activities to have fellowship with his young people. It paid dividends because many of them became Christians and now serve God in a number of different churches. I loved him for the appreciation he showed my mother. He knew how to make her feel good. I loved him because he was gentle with his boys. I loved him for his submissiveness and dry wit. My father had geat natural dignity. He very, very, rarely lost his temper. He wasn't dogmatic, except on the errors of Roman Catholicism - a legacy from his days with the Protestant Truth Society. He wasn't argumentative, boastful, or assertive - although he didn't like my mother criticising his sermons! I loved him for the comfort he could administer. As I sat hunched in bed afflicted with asthma how I longed to hear his footsteps on the stairs. This was his greatest gift. It was almost the supernatural gift of what Paul called, 'helps'. He was able to go to the chronically sick, bereaved and dying and bring peace and consolation. The village shopkeeper often told me of how my father used to sit on the bed of his mother as she lay dying and sing to her, 'The Old Rugged Cross'.
I owe my father a great debt of gratitude. He showed me that Christianity works. He was a Christian gentleman in the home. I am not claiming that he was perfect. He tended to be wise after the event! He feared change. My father worried too much about the future. He wondered what would become of him in retirement with no house of his own and only the old age pension to live on. He was over sensitive. Once he gave me out lbw at cricket - a dubious decision that I took badly. Father never umpired again! No, he wasn't perfect but he often displayed a Christ like spirit. He wasn't possessive - even of the things he loved the most. I can remember him loaning his car to the village publican to go joy riding on Sundays. One afternoon he went to visit Alice who lived in an old, clay lump, cottage. He found her with a mixture of cement powder and dirt trying to block up the rat holes in the foundations of her dilapidated home. My father said, "That's no job for a women." He got down on his knees and finished the work himself. When I left home to go to University my father could not do much for me. He was by then too poor to run a car - so he carried my heavy case to the bus stop. He did what he could. My father was tender hearted - he had compassion for, and took pains with, the suffering. Like his master, he enjoyed God's gifts: my mother, his sons, a good meal, a trip to the seaside, rousing singing and a good fire. My father had none of the spirit of the elder brother who refused to go in and enjoy the feast. Both my parents brought me to Jesus by the way they lived. I can pay no higher tribute to them both than that.
Nineteen years ago I took my father to the Hartest doctor's surgery. I shall never forget the look on Dr Wilkerson's face as he stared at my father. He was a family friend and was shocked at what he saw - the classic symptoms of Parkinson's disease. After he told me of his diagnosis I said, "Well we are Christians; God will help us through." The doctor shook his head sadly and just said, "It is a hell of a complaint."
It is. I look at my father now, nineteen years on, as he sits like a little gnome dying of the disease. His worries about retirement came to nought. He has been comfortable. He lives with me in a warm, well furnished, house in a nice residential area of Bury St Edmunds. But Parkinson's disease has inexorably taken its toll. He cannot walk, talk, eat or drink. I wonder what the effects of dehydration are going to be? Perhaps it won't be too bad - after two years of dementia father no longer knows what is happening to him. He just sleeps now.
Let no one say that such a malady is in any way improving to the sufferer. There is nothing to gain from the final years of Parkinson's disease. The personality changes. Prayer becomes an inaudible, disjointed, crazed ramble. There remains no consolation in the Bible when it cannot be read. Sermons are slept through.
My father is past complaining now but he never complained when he could. He was never resentful or bitter about his sickness. In this, for years, he has displayed grace. But what a price to pay for the opportunity to exhibit an uncomplaining spirit!
Little has stirred my father for the last couple of months. However he showed animation on two occasions. Once when, 'Onward Christian soldiers', was being sung during the morning service on the radio. He tried to join in. It was appropriate that he should. For many years he was in voluntary service and he proved a good soldier of Jesus Christ as pastor of the Baptist churches in the Suffolk villages of Grundinsburg and Brockley. Latterly he has been a conscript - chosen to suffer involuntarily for his Master's sake. The last terrible years have been as much in the service of God as his earlier vigorous, vibrant, ministry; in some respects, perhaps, more so. God is not just concerned for the welfare of the individual but for the good of mankind. In ways we cannot fully understand the suffering of a minority benefits mankind as whole. We must not shrink from the dark side of human experience. It was because Jesus was prepared to embrace suffering that God is able to redeem sinners ruined by the fall.
My father's involuntary ministry has helped me. It has been hard but essential to remind myself frequently of that. It has helped me. It has taught me the correct response to suffering. The people who help the sufferer the most are not those who can provide an explanation for it but those who show kindness. Jesus did not address the problem of suffering philosophically but practically. He was moved with compassion. The Christians at Brockley chapel have shown my father much kindness and so, in some measure, at the end of his life he has reaped what he sowed.
The second time my father roused from his torpor was when I played him a record of Burl Ives singing the old Sankey hymn, 'There is power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the lamb.' I was glad of that. He never preached better than when he spoke on the cross. It fired his soul. It was his great certainty - the wonder working power of the precious blood of the lamb.
My father is at rest now. He only lingered another three days. Finally the disease got to his lungs and he had difficulty breathing. He did not experience any pain. In this God showed mercy.
My father had gone to claim his inheritance, an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that fadeth not away.
Father attended Brockley chapel almost to the end of his life. He would always raise his cheek for his lady friends to kiss. It was a small sign of his deeply affectionate nature. At the resurrection of the dead to life I shall recognise him by this gesture.
My first reaction on discovering his death this morning was to thank God for helping us through.