Friday, January 3, 2014

Uncle Leslie

Words seem woefully inadequate to describe a man who lived his life in the actions of love. How do you tell with your lips what you have felt in an embrace, a smile, a helping hand or a friendly word? But in moments like this, we rely on words to somehow capture what we experience in our relationships. So, here are a few of my words about Leslie Taylor.

On Christmas Eve I called Uncle Leslie and asked him if he wanted to grab coffee with me. He said he didn’t drink “that stuff,” but I should stop by and see him. I drove into town, grabbed my coffee, came back and sat down with him. It took me a while to pick up that he was getting ready for his kids and grandkids to come by for Christmas festivities. But Les was always like that; he was always welcoming. Whoever you were, you were certainly not an inconvenience. We talked for a while, but more than the words I remember looking into and at his face. I don’t know why. That is not a normal thing for me. I don’t typically notice the contours and lines of people’s faces, but as we talked, I noticed things I hadn’t really seen before.

A day or two later I went to see my cousin Emily, to get her to cut my hair. One of the first things she said to me was, “Wow! You are starting to look a lot like the Taylor men.” I shared with her my experience of looking at Les’ face. When I looked in his face I saw things I had forgotten, I saw people who have been gone for a while, namely my grandfather. I think losing someone like your grandfather at a youngish age you don’t take notice of things like what he looked like. He simply was. I remember him being tall. I remember that he kissed me every time he saw me. I remember that he farmed and ran a gas station/automotive shop, but I could not remember something as simple as what his face looked like. I have these vague pictures of what I seem to recall him looking like, but Christmas Eve with Les I remembered. I saw his face like I haven’t been able to do in quite some time, it was right there in those lines on Les’ face.

I was reading yesterday and came across something I have read many times over, but never jumped out at me like it did in that sitting. I found it appropriate to share this morning. Psalm 17:15 says:

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness;
I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake.

I think when Uncle Les awoke to the face of God there were these vague recollections of something. He knew he recognized something familiar, but as Paul so cleverly penned, until that moment he had only seen through a glass rather dimly, but now he sees face-to-face. If I were to venture a guess that recognition gave way to understanding of a love that until now he could never fully comprehend; that which still holds deep mystery for you and me, is now his ever-living reality. The veil has been lifted, the glass has been removed and Uncle Leslie has seen the One who has whispered his name his whole life.

As I thought about Uncle Les and how I remember him several thoughts came to mind, but on Wednesday night as I spent time with family four characteristics in particular seemed best to share today. First, is he was so welcoming, and Sandy amidst everything she is going through continued that. She invited us into her home. She welcomed people in the midst of the chaos of everything going on around her just as Leslie did.

And then I thought about his determination as I looked in Tina’s face. Leslie accomplished whatever he set about doing. Tina is the same way. She is a fighter and will make a way even where there is no way just like her father did. There is not one thing that will slow her down when she determines what needs to be done.

And then I thought about how Leslie approached and viewed people. As I stood in the kitchen with Alan and heard about the way he engaged workers that he supervised I saw Uncle Les. Like Les, Alan accepts people as they are, not as they should be or even the way he would like them to be. He simply accepts you as you are in this moment.

And finally I thought about a trait that is often overlooked in today’s culture…kindness. Uncle Les has always been exceedingly kind. And whenever you see Mark with Parker and Bradyn you see that same kind look in his eyes that you saw in his father’s. I always remembered Mark being a sweet and sensitive kid, and seeing that turn into his father’s kindness is such an amazing legacy.

As I wrap up my part of the morning, I want to share a Scripture that immediately came to mind when I heard I would get to share. The Psalms have become a refuge for me in the past few years and this Psalm particularly always catches my attention because of a sentiment that we don’t think about often. Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” We often talk about God comforting us in our grief. I think we sometimes limit God to that action in regards to the one’s who are left behind, but here in this Psalm we are reminded that God continues to love us through the transition of our passing. He abides with us as the end of our earthly days becomes the first of our heavenly ones, because even in death we are precious to Him.

Though I can’t begin to imagine what it looks like, or how it happens, I believe there exists this moment between God and His saints of dim recognition becoming clear reality. The God that Leslie sought all of His life cares enough to take notice of His passing and seeks him in return, or as Eugene Peterson translated this same Scripture:
When they arrive at the gates of death,
    God welcomes those who love him.

And He has and that gives me great peace.

Let us pray: