Crossing the Bridge

What remains of the "Iron Bridge."  Perhaps it doesn't look so inviting, but this shot was made after the usual spring flash floods.  By summer, it is clear, rippling, and beautiful.

What remains of the “Iron Bridge.” Perhaps it doesn’t look so inviting, but this shot was made in early spring in 2009 after the usual spring flash floods. By summer, it is clear, rippling, and beautiful and the woods and banks green and lovely. We drank from it, and it was delicious.

Text of the eulogy edited for these purposes that I was privileged to be asked by my friend Paul Robins to deliver at his funeral.

1030AM, 19 October, 2013, East Funeral Home, Texarkana, USA 

Prelude to the service, Pete Fountain’s New Orleans LP, recorded about 1965.  Paul listened to it incessantly and played along with it to the point one could not tell Pete from Paul. 

 Gathering Prayer

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,who has blessed us all with the gift of this earthly life
and has given to our brother Paul Robins
his span of years and gifts of character.
God our Father, we thank you now for all his life,
for every memory of love and joy,
for every good deed done by him,
and every sorrow shared with us.
We thank you for his life and for his death,
we thank you for the rest in Christ he now enjoys,
we thank you for giving him to us,
we thank you for the glory we shall share together.
Hear our prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

PoundPaul

Paul in front of the Shelter, with Queenie.

Eulogy
I first heard the music you just listened to on Paul’s little record player in the apartment he and Ms. Vivian lived in at the Texarkana Animal Shelter.  He played the beautiful Selmer Paris clarinet his mother purchased for him, the finest money could buy, to that record and did so incredibly well.  Today, Paul Robins, who was born to this life the second day of June, 1947 and was born to eternal life 15 October, 2013, is playing that tune on an even finer horn provided by his heavenly Father.

Paul leaves behind, for a short while, his brother, Noel Wesley Cooper; son and daughter-in-law, John Paul Robins and Carmen; daughters Stephanie and Emily and his beloved mother, Vivian; grandchildren, Lauren, Will, Payton, Heidi, Fatima, and Colton.

Paul told me he’d love a New Orleans funeral.  If it were in my power, I’d have provided a Dixieland band today so we could march him out to Macedonia with St. James Infirmary wailing in style.    Paul and I surrendered our lives to Christ on the same night at Hickory Street Baptist Church, and were buried with Him in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever a few weeks later.  Paul served his country well as a Navy medical corps man and was honorably discharged.  For those grieving his departure, and perhaps wondering why at only 66, I offer these words from my own mother when I asked that question:  “David,” she said, “God never calls anyone home until their mission is complete.”  I have yet, even when I lost my beloved daughter at only 13, to find those words not to be true.

Paul’s home was a place of sanctuary.  When I visited I could never keep up with who was family and who was a temporary resident he was helping out.  Actually, there was no real way to tell as he treated all comers with respect and support.  I could go on speaking with you all about his love of animals, his joys and sorrows, and the incredible richness and depth of his life, but at this time I’d like to talk to my old friend personally.  While Paul was a very private person, I don’t think he’ll mind this time if you listen.

Addressing the casket
Yeah, Paul, you just crossed that noisy old iron bridge with its rattling timbers and creaking girders to that eternal campground.  We been to that river, ain’t we, that place where crystal clear waters run eternally accompanied by the sound of the timeless symphony of God’s creation.  That shining place where his innocent children know no pain, disappointment, or sorrow and where each dawn brings another perfect day of bliss.

Every day we spent there as children was a perfect day spent in gratitude for the boundless love and blessings from our Father.  We were perfect then, God’s pure innocent children.  You weren’t yet Sharky, and I wasn’t the fallen creature in need of grace I am today.  We didn’t know about sin, or death, or disappointment, we only knew the eternal moment of perfection and free will.

Well, you’re back there now, beloved friend.  I’m sure Diane already had the fire going and a pot of beans cooking when you arrived.  It will seem to you guys only a moment before you hear my Dad’s ol’ pickup truck coming, and you’ll see us waving as you look up at the old iron bridge.  We’ll scarcely have had time to greet each other before all the rest arrive.

Danny’s folks won’t mind his being there this time Emmett will finally tell my dad “Well, Mr. Mallett, I guess I understand now why you always said they were safer here than in town.”  That’ll be something, won’t it, old friend?

And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we hear sounds emerging from those gentle woods, and see ol Mickey bounding towards us.  He’ll likely be followed by Boz, Jinxy, Pat, Shorty, and Queenie.  Frito will probably show up as well, and maybe even Spunky won’t embarrass me anymore by getting hung up in everything trying to keep up with us.  Then we’ll sit around the fire and eat toast and Karo, and never run out of bread, and our Lord will be within us and surround us, as He always was, and always will be, and His love will fill us with eternal joy.

Bud, I know it was a long, rough road getting there.  After our first visit to that beautiful river, we wound up on different roads.  You had much pain, disappointment, and loss.  But you also had great joy and touched many lives on the way.  Diane got there before us, and you could hardly bear it.  You watched her waste away and probably wondered why your Father in heaven would allow one of his beloved saints to suffer so much.  I tried to help you with that by assuring you that while she appeared to be suffering, in fact, the intense love of Jesus she carried deep in her soul protected her against all things.  You heard her singing God’s praise in her final hours.  She didn’t want to leave you, and her children, but she knew you’d all understand when you joined her by that beautiful river, and that all things are in His hands, and we cannot fully understand that until we cross that ol’ iron bridge for the last time.

Not many people ever knew how you completely subordinated your own life to caring for her, because you didn’t talk about such things.  Some of her friends shunned you, because they did not understand that the mark of a Christian is not judged by their attendance record in Sunday School, or the fervency of their public prayers, but by such silent, devoted service to others.

James, the brother of Jesus tells us “What doeth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?  Can faith save him?” (Jas. 2: 14).

Those who judged you on this earth did not hear these words of James and were blind.  But you didn’t care.  You did what you did willingly, without complaint, and without yielding to the tempters taunt of

“Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die” as hissed at Job.  (Job 2:9).”

You told me so many times during and after this period what a fine Christian she was, and what an unworthy wretch you were.  My God, Paul, of all the saintly people I ever knew in my life, you stand alone as an example of everything our Lord asked of us as His servants.  You just laughed when I said that, but our Lord Jesus said:

“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40).

I, for one, choose to believe what He said over the pulpit rantings of those who choose not to understand the true message of faith.

Our Lord also said: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

How many times did you give a friend, or even just a Samaritan by the side of the road, a “loan” you knew you’d never get back just because you knew it was the right thing to do?  And you never told a soul.  While others laid up treasure on earth, you quietly laid up treasures in heaven.  I am not sure you ever expected to see those heavenly treasures anymore than you expected those earthly “loans” to be repaid.  Now you know the eternal truth: It is those who do the right thing and expect absolutely nothing in return that our Savior prizes above all.

Your seeking of God’s will was deeply personal.  I always knew when my Dad was about to pull out his bible and preach to us, and that it would be followed by a seemingly endless prayer.  I’d warn you, and exhort you to go home and save yourself, but you’d often just look at me and hang around.  I suffered and wished mightily I was elsewhere.  I had no idea why you stuck it out.  But you stayed in the temple and listened.  Many times over the last few years you told me with tears in your eyes how much those ministries meant to you, and how my dad touched your life.  You also told me of the hours you spent with Fr. Richard C. Allen down at St. James Church, whom you found on your own, and how his saintliness and sacrifice touched your heart.  Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that God led us separately to that great man of God, and that his example impacted both our lives.

Well, old friend, I’ve got to wrap this up.  I am going to miss our long phone conversations and our discussions over a few beers at your table.  But it won’t be long until we continue them down on that sparkling shore that lies across that ol’ iron bridge where you are now gathered with all our friends and family who’ve gone before.

Crossing that ol’ iron bridge was always scary, and I ‘m sure it was no different this time.  When it is my time, I hope you hear me crossing those rattling old boards, and I see you waiting for me at the other side.  The example of your faith has made my journey at lot easier, and knowing that you will be there to help me cross that chasm brings me joy.

Closing Prayer
Father of all mercies and God of all consolation,
you pursue us with untiring love
and dispel the shadow of death
with the bright dawn of life.
Give courage to this family in their loss and sorrow.
Be their refuge and strength, O Lord,
reassure them of your continuing love
and lift them from the depths of grief
into the peace and light of your presence.]
Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
by dying has destroyed our death,
and by rising, restored our life.
Your Holy Spirit, our comforter,
speaks for us in groans too deep for words.
Come alongside your people,
remind them of your eternal presence
and give them your comfort and strength.Now we ask that light perpetual shine upon our brother Paul,

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Please join me in singing one of Paul’s favorite hymns, “Shall We Gather at the River.”

“Shall We Gather at the River?
Based on Rev. 22:1-2            Robert Lowry, 1864

  1. Shall we gather at the river,
    Where bright angel feet have trod,
    With its crystal tide forever
    Flowing by the throne of God?

Refrain

Yes, we’ll gather at the river, The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.

2. On the margin of the river,
Washing up its silver spray,
We will talk and worship ever,
All the happy golden day.

(Refrain)

3. Soon we’ll reach the silver river,
Soon our pilgrimage will cease;
Soon our happy hearts will quiver
With the melody of peace.

(Refrain)

Graveside, Macedonia Baptist Church

Under a perfect fall Arkansas sky, a unit of sailors in immaculate uniform rendered military honors to one of their own.  Taps was sounded flawlessly and lingered across the rolling hills as it faded into the woods beyond.  With all the respect and polished perfection that would be rendered unto a fallen President, the sailors folded the flag and presented it with a salute to John Paul Robins, Paul’s eldest son.

Closing Prayer

Unto Almighty God we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the earth and the sea shall give up their dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his own glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

Now let Thy servants depart in peace, according to Thy word.

Amen.

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About malletteblog

If folks respond and push back, I will continue this blog. I do this to learn, not to teach. While I will defend my positions vigorously I will change them immediately upon evidence they are incorrect. This is how I learn, and I appreciate all efforts to help me not be a fool who learns only by experience.
Aside | This entry was posted in Theology and Faith. Bookmark the permalink.

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