It was my privilege to conduct a funeral today for a godly man named Bill Parker. I came to know Bill and his wife Faye about a year ago when I was told this couple lived in my neighborhood and would love a visit. Little did I know at the time that I would end up going over to the Parker’s home about once a week to talk with, pray with, and be encouraged by this wonderful man.
I have often said that I would rather officiate a funeral than a wedding any day. Weddings are like big parties. The minister is there to “get the job done” and that’s about it. Funerals, however, afford the minister a greater opportunity to actually share the Gospel and be among people who really need the love of Christ. And it is a special blessing when a minister can officiate in what I could only call a “good kind of funeral,” where the departed actually knew Jesus Christ and lived-out his faith. Bill was one such man.
Bill seemed interested in my having been a parole officer before entering the ministry. I learned that he had been a federal game warden. So we shared the fact that we both often carried a gun and ran into the same kinds of people. There are other similarities. Both jobs require three things: a growing trust in the Lord, a great wife, and a great sense of humor. Like me, Bill enjoyed all three things.
When I read his first book, Halt I’m a Federal Game Warden, I found it very difficult to put down. I tried to explain to others what Bill’s job was like. I was sharing with my boys and I found myself saying, “Well, he was kind of like, sort of like, Clint Eastwood!” Well they liked that and were blessed to meet Bill around Thanksgiving of last year. And I am sure that if Bill’s health were better they would have enjoyed some great times with him.
Bill was a master story teller. I enjoyed just sitting there listening to him tell of experiences he had had. His sharp memory enabled him to recall with precision exact details: people’s names, the day of the week, the precise time, an exact amount of money to the penny, the weather that day, the particular shape and color of a tree on a river seen at a certain time. Bill was uniquely gifted to recall events and retell them in a most interesting and engaging manner.
Nearly every week I visited and I listened as Bill shared his many loves. Of course he loved the outdoors. He loved fishing and hunting and told me about farm life and of people he met in his work. He described the landscape and the waters of Tennessee, and Maryland, and of his experiences in Henderson County. He shared about birds—and the thousands of humming birds that visited his home and the massive quantities of sugary stuff necessary to purchase and feed them.
He shared his love for people, all people. There was no one Bill didn’t love and no one for whom he would not pray. Especially as Bill’s health declined in these last couple years Bill spent hours a day in his bed praying for all kinds of people. He would just go through the list in his mind, praying for one after another.
There is a passage of Scripture that seems tailored for Bill Parker. I thought of it almost immediately as it describes the life of someone who took seriously his faith in the Lord and was ready to die. It is found in the Apostle Paul’s second letter that he wrote to Timothy. It is often regarded as the Apostle’s “swan song.” It is the last letter he wrote. The aged Apostle Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy and he speaks of his being ready to face death.
2 Timothy 4:6-8:
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Faye shared with me that as Bill was nearing his departure he said pointedly, “I’m dying.” She said, “Yes, you are, but just remember when you take your last breath you won’t be sick anymore.” She added, “You go on ahead and wait for me.” He said, “I will.” And he has.
I thank God for Bill Parker and, thanks to our common Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, I look forward to seeing him again.
In Christ Jesus,