A Faith and Work Eulogy
The term ‘eulogy’ means good words. The etymology of the word is Greek, eu for good and logos for words. Good words are spoken at a funeral about the life of the deceased as a way to appropriate the goodness, truth, and beauty, in the classical sense, they brought to the community.
Today’s blog feature is a special request of mine of my colleague and faithful leader in The Collaborative, Crosland Stuart. I was honored to attend the funeral of her father, Bill Stuart, this past week in Bartow, Florida, at the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Her well written, carefully constructed reflection on her father’s life moved me, and I know will do the same for you.
As you read it, watch for how a daughter’s good words about her father is a dialogue between God’s Word, the Christian tradition, and the events of his robust and generous life. Recognize the integration of both this man’s life and this daughter's regard for his life, how both demonstrate service to God and one’s neighbor, and how both give God glory in his earthly call and her proclamation.
A Eulogy for Bill Stuart
By Crosland Stuart
Delivered Tuesday, February 26, 2019 at the ARP Church, Bartow, Florida
As I begin, you should know that Daddy had a love/hate relationship with eulogies. On the love side: he was always humbled and eager to deliver the eulogies of dear friends when asked. On the hate side: he was always fearful that eulogies unwittingly misappropriated credit of one’s accomplishments to the individual rather than to God.
As I have thought about my comments today and Daddy’s love/hate view of eulogies, I was reminded of a quote that may help to mitigate my father’s concerns and set a context for us. Matthew Henry, a theologian of the late 1600s, said this:
“Death is not only a conquered enemy but a reconciled friend to the people of God, not sent to hurt the soul or separate it from the love of God, but to put an end to all their grievances and complaints, and to give them a passage to eternal life and blessedness; so that to them death is not now in the hand of Satan but in the hand of Christ. Death is not Satan’s servant but Christ’s servant, and has not hell following it but heaven to all who are in Christ.”
One of the ways that Christ “makes death his servant” is by perpetuating virtue from one generation to the next. I know that as I anticipate the days, months, and years ahead, there are virtues of my dad that I will carry with me forever. These are the gifts that my father left me. This is my inheritance. While the list of his virtues is long, there is one that seems to stand out above the rest and that was his magnanimity. That is a million-dollar word for the big heartedness of my dad. This was not something regularly discussed nor was there any verbal instruction about it, but rather, his whole life displayed a greatness of heart and soul that has forever shaped me.
This greatness of soul found expression in all kinds of ways, both big and small. It showed up in how he greeted people with energy and enthusiasm. This level of engagement conveyed a dignity to whomever he was encountering because he was glad to see them. He loved people.
It showed up in his lifelong pursuit of giving himself away in time, talent, and treasure. He thought of service as an expression of gratitude. He used to say that serving was “the rent we gladly pay for the space we occupy on this earth.” From Rotary (locally and internationally) to the Heart of Florida Girls Scouts to Erskine College to the Florida Chamber of Commerce to even this very church we are sitting in, his lifetime of service was a beautiful picture of what it means to love your neighbor, your church, and your community.
Scripture tells us to “not grow weary of doing well.” Over the past several months, I particularly saw my father growing weary of NOT being able to do well, of NOT being able to serve like he once had. There was one afternoon where this weariness and resignation surfaced, and I had the privilege of reminding him that though his physical body was failing, he should not worry because he had already established a legacy of faith, service, generosity, and thoughtfulness. Greatness of soul is his legacy.
Daddy’s big heartedness also showed up through visionary ideas. One of his favorite mantras was that “people often do not think big enough.” He was always encouraging people to open up their thinking as to what might be possible. But ideas alone were not enough, for him; they needed to be coupled with effective execution because without execution, ideas are only daydreams. My father was not bound by the status quo. If there was a need and the answer was something that did not yet exist, he did not hesitate to dive in and create it. I had a front row seat to watch this my entire life. Whether it was creating a nationally recognized scholarship program or creating the first of its kind reference book, Florida Lures and Their Makers, (and nine volumes later this project is still going), Daddy was about doing things that not only contributed something significant at the moment, but that would also provide value for years to come.
Daddy was a visionary, and part of that was also about lifting the gazes of others—he believed that big ideas are dependent upon a big God and on getting your eyes off of yourself. C.S. Lewis’ Weight of Glory speaks to this when it says:
“We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink…and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Daddy was not content with mud pies; rather, he lived a life that anticipated the holiday at the sea.
Today we are grieving, and our hearts are heavy, but as I reflect back upon the life of my father, it is the words of the Doxology that come to mind, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Some ten days ago when Daddy received the devastating diagnosis, his response was, “I am not without hope.” My father is now experiencing the full measure of an eternal “holiday at the sea,” and those of us in Christ are not without hope either.