A Good Kind of Funeral

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,

Todd Linn

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15 Responses to A Good Kind of Funeral

  1. Paul Brantley says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I pray that I can attend “good kind of funerals” for my friends and family.

  2. Bill Patterson says:

    What an awesome pastor and friend to share so unselfishly and so clearly about a man’s life. It is obvious that not only Bill recalled person, place, time, and sights but his pastor friend did, too. You honor the man by recalling his life so clearly.

  3. Todd Linn says:

    Thanks Bill and Paul. Bill Parker was one-of-a-kind.
    Blessings to you both

  4. Dan Merry says:

    I was given your blog by Ron Parker, Bills son. Thank you for making a Good Funeral such a lasting memory for Ron and his family. Though never meeting Bill, I am grateful for his life in Christ Jesus and what that means to Ron. Thank you for being his Pastor and his friend.

  5. Linda Snow says:

    WOW what an awesome story! From reading it I feel like I knew Mr. Parker – I really wish that I had met him, he sounds like a wonderful man. I am so glad that you got to minister to him and his family, I know they were blessed. We are truly blessed to have you and your family with us at First Baptist – thank you so much for everything!

  6. Roy Brown says:

    Thank you Pastor Linn. Ronnie passed this on to me, thanks Ron. I had the privilege of meeting Bill (or “Willie J” as he was know to us federal game wardens) back in 1986. It was a great visit I had with him at the retirement of another federal game warden in Nashville. His books are hard to come by these days, but I was blessed with having him sign all of my copies. He has been held in high regard by us younger agents and was definitely a man of character. As a Christian it is comforting to know that Bill had a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. I will look forward to seeing him again someday and once more revel in his stories as only he can tell them.

  7. Tommy Cunningham says:

    AS A FEDERAL GAME WARDEN, I HAD THE GREAT PREVILEGE OF WORKING WITH RON PARKER FOR MANY YEARS.I LEARNED TO LOVE AND RESPECT HIM, AND WE STILL STAY IN TOUCH AFTER WE BOTH RETIRED. I NEVER MET HIS DAD, BUT FELT I KNEW HIM THRU READING HIS BOOKS, AND RON’S RECOUNTING EXPERIENCES. THERE IS A VOID IN RON’S LIFE NOW,BUT IS WILL BE FILLED SOMEDAY. I’M THANKFUL FOR MEN LIKE THE PARKERS.

    TOMMY CUNNINGHAM

  8. Ron Parker says:

    Yes, Pastor Todd Linn is an awesome pastor and friend, and we will never forget his encouragement, kindness, love and support during the last year of my father’s life. Brother Todd came into our lives at an important time – a perfect time – and filled a void that had developed. He shared the Word of God and prayed with my father when he needed it most. My father looked forward to his visits and was encouraged and strengthened by their time together. My pastor recently reminded me that this perfect timing is evidence that God truly is our good shepherd (John 10) who cares for His sheep. Yes, it was a “Good Kind of Funeral” and we never forget it, nor will we forget the man God brought into our lives to help us through a sad and difficult time.
    Brother Todd, on behalf of my family, I thank you (and Michelle) for everything you have done for us. Yes, you have honored my father with your kind words, but more importantly you have honored God by your faithful service to Him and His people.

    • Todd Linn says:

      Thank you, Ron, for your kind and encouraging words. I was so blessed to have known your dad and am grateful for the providential way in which God worked to bring us together. I love you all and will continue to pray for you. May our Lord continue to richly bless you and strengthen you with His amazing grace.
      In Christ Jesus,
      Todd

  9. Bill Armstrong says:

    Ron and Todd….
    Thank you both for sharing your words with me. Although I never had the opportunity to actually meet your father, I always felt like that one day I would turn the corner and there he’d be. As a game warden on the Chesapeake Bay I followed in his footsteps for the better part of 42 years. He was a legend and a gentleman….and it was truly an honor to be associated with him and his work.

    The Good Lord needed someone to look after his critters and he picked Willie to show the rest of us how to do it. He was a good man.

    May he rest in peace…..

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