On Saturday, May 16, I received word that a family from our Lafayette church had experienced a house fire the night before, killing the wife and both children, leaving only the husband. This was a family I knew only by sight, but the abrupt, tragic ending of these three lives shook me just the same. As I was still praying for the husband and church family through the following days, pondering the brevity of life and wondering how I would respond in similar circumstances, I learned that a friend from our Louisville church was in the hospital, most likely on his deathbed. On Saturday, May 23, I answered my phone to hear that he had died hours after being released from the hospital. The circumstances in Louisville were very different from those in Lafayette, but both situations have served to sharpen the focus that has been developing in my heart over the past couple of months.
OB Turnbow was 82; he had lived a long and faithful life and, over the past couple years of ever-declining health, had been asking his family when Jesus was going to come to get him. OB and his family knew that the end was near, and they knew that the end was only the beginning for OB, for when he left this earth he would go to live with Jesus (and join up with some old buddies who had beat him there, much to his chagrin). While they are still sad today, as they spent the afternoon in the funeral service and at the cemetary, they are able to celebrate a long life that left a legacy for many.
I was privileged to attend his funeral service this morning, and a couple of things struck me. His daughter spoke of a dad who was faithful to lead his family in prayer and in nightly Bible readings. She gave testimony of a man who loved others and showed it in his actions, opening his home to countless children over twenty years, not to mention visiting missionaries or college students or anyone who just needed a place to stay for awhile. The man she described was a man who impacted lives, a man who left his mark on those who knew him. In a way, I feel like I missed out after hearing his life described today. You see, by the time my path crossed OB’s in the summer of 2003, he bore the lasting effects of a stroke that robbed him of his health. I never knew him in his prime, but from what I did know, I can easily picture the man she described. OB was slower in speech and slower in movements by the time I met him, but his love for others and for God was still very clear. I know because I saw him love my daughter. Abigail was six months old when we came to Beechmont, and OB would seek us out every Sunday to talk to her and play with her. I would sit with him in the nursery rocking chairs, with one or the other of us rocking her, and we would just chat about nothing. You had to listen more closely and pay more attention when he spoke, but he had things to say. I used to feel frustrated for him, because his body was no longer keeping up with his mind and I could imagine how frustrating that must be. Sometimes it seemed like people were in too big a hurry to slow down and match their pace to his, whether walking or talking, but when you took the time to go slowly with OB, you were blessed.
The other thing that struck me this morning was the text for the funeral sermon, chosen by OB’s wife Norma. She asked the pastor to read the passage of Enoch in Genesis. Enoch, the Bible says, walked with God. Norma wanted this read, because, as she said, OB walked with God. The pastor, of course, went on to say more, but my mind stopped here. What an incredible testimony of the faithfulness of a man! It’s probably a pretty safe assumption that Norma knew OB better than anyone else on this earth did, and at the end of his life, she wanted it made clear to everyone that OB walked with God. We all know people who put up a front at church, who put up a front around friends. It could even be possible to put up a front before one’s children, if one tried hard enough. But Norma and OB had a long marriage together. If Norma says OB walked with God, then we can be sure that he did. He wouldn’t be able to fool his wife. That’s the kind of life I want to live. No matter how long or short my life may be, I want to live so that my husband, who knows me inside and out, good days and bad, would say that I walked with God.
OB left a legacy. He left a model for his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to follow, one that they can follow with confidence. OB’s death has served, as I said, to sharpen my on focus on leaving a legacy for my children and any others who may follow. I want to live on purpose, to be intentional, to redeem the time that God has given me so that a testimony of faithfulness can be given of me when I’m gone. Thank you, OB, for your legacy.
And the family from Lafayette, the mom and two children who were so young and who died so tragically? If OB’s death sharpened my focus, then their deaths moved my focus up to a more urgent level. For that mom did not expect, that Friday morning, to be living her last day. That Tuesday, as she went about her daily tasks, she had no clue that the following Tuesday she would be buried. I want to leave a legacy, but I have no idea how much time God will give me to do so. So I have to live today, right now, in such a way as to create a testimony of faithfulness. I can’t put it off for when my kids get older, or when they leave home, or even until our house sells. My legacy is already being built in the choices I am making right now, in the words I say to my kids and the tone in which I say them, in my responses to life’s curve balls, in my relationship with my husband, in my compassion-or lack thereof-for those around me.
I want to walk with God. I want to leave a legacy.