Monday, August 28, 2017

Thank you Installment #1
Years ago, when I was working as a reporter for a local newspaper, I covered a city council meeting at which they were discussing funeral processions within the city limits of Huntsville. I don’t remember a lot of the details as to why this was even in discussion, but I think it had something to do with using police officers as the escorts. Mostly what stuck in my head was something a citizen said to the council. He was concerned that he might be showing respect to someone that doesn’t deserve it when he pulls his car over to the side. I remember him saying something like, “What if this guy was a scumbag drunk, I don’t want to honor someone like that.” I thought then how odd that this was a concern, because why did it matter, or what if he wasn’t. The “What If” game runs in a circle, so that is always a loosing strategy to prove any point. Besides, I don’t believe it is law in Alabama to pull over, only to obey the traffic direction of the officer, so he didn’t have to if he didn’t want to.
Within the book of Romans, Paul writes about how Christians should act on a daily basis, and how we should treat each other. In Romans 12 verse 10 Paul gives the instruction to Christians to “Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is from the English Standard translation. Looking at some of the other more common translations, the verse means to look for ways to honor others instead of seeking out honor for yourself. But, I like the translation “Outdo” because so many people “outdid” themselves in honoring Eli for his memorial service Friday, and for the entire week of preparation after his death. The effort and thought put into the details of the service were done with no motivation other than to show honor to a young boy out of respect for his example in handling catastrophic adversity.
The Alabama State Troopers that gave of their time to bring the ashes to the front table in such a respectful manner was just overwhelmingly touching for me. As Eli’s mom, witnessing the physical journey that he endured, he deserved that respect. The “End of Watch” or “Last Radio Call” by the Georgia State Patrol out of an Atlanta patrol post could not have been more perfect. I didn’t know until after it played how incomplete the service would have been without it. On face value alone it was befitting. Eli has always loved law enforcement, as you can probably guess, because of the vehicles mostly. But, as with any little boy, he loved the uniform, the shiny badges, the gun, and the idea of good stopping evil. After he spoke at the Motor Vehicle Criminal Interdiction Association (MVCI) convention exactly one year ago from the night of his memorial service, he certainly became a bigger fan. Eli often reminded me about the invitation extended to him by Lanny Bergeron, Executive Officer/Deputy Commander for Louisiana State Police, at the convention to join the academy when he was 17. Lanny is responsible for having the Atlanta post make the call. He recorded it, then sent it to my friend who was at the service, who in turn ran it upstairs to our digital media guy. All of this starting at about 3:50 p.m….. yes, 10 minutes or less from the start of the service. But, how perfect that the “Last Call” was made from Atlanta, where Eli was last enrolled as a patient.
On another level, the “End of Watch” was stunningly appropriate because of how God took Eli’s little evil-inflicted life, tossed aside by Satan, and fashioned it so beautifully with a purpose to affect the lives of others. At the end of the recording (which you can hear if you watch the service recording, or play the clip link, both found on this page), the dispatcher says, “Rest in peace, we’ve got your watch now.” Eli was a watchman, someone positioned in a way that can alert those around him. God uses the watchman metaphor in the Old Testament as a kind of job description for being a prophet, those through which he spoke to His people. He told the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 3 verse 17, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman to the house of Israel (God’s people): therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them (God’s people) warning from me.”
Eli’s life provided warnings for us to consider in our own lives. How many times because of Eli’s journey did you heed the warning to hug your kids more? How many times because of Eli’s journey did you heed the warning to grow closer to God? How many times because of Eli’s journey did you heed the warning to be sympathetic to others’ needs? How many times because of Eli’s journey did you heed the warning to appreciate your own health, and complain less about ailments? How many times because of Eli’s journey did you heed the warning to learn about this Jesus stuff that Kristie is always writing about?
The watchmen of ancient times were used for more than just warnings. They stood alert at their posts on a wall or in a tower ready to communicate to others. The prophet Isaiah, in his message to Israel writes in chapter 52 verse 8 “Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together.” The watchmen also deliver good news. How many times because of Eli’s journey did you smile more at the beauty of God’s creation? How many times because of Eli’s journey did you feel the joy of giving? How many times because of Eli’s journey did you thank our Creator for the home He built for us as an escape from sickness and pain?
In verse 17 of the Ezekiel passage, God is very clear that Ezekiel is delivering His message from His mouth. Ezekiel was just the messenger, the vessel, the watchman that sounds the trumpets to cause the people to take notice of God’s message. Eli was no prophet, and God speaks to us through His words in the Bible now, but God’s hand was clear throughout Eli’s journey, shaping it in a way that would serve as a message to appreciate your kids, appreciate your health, appreciate your home, appreciate your spouse, appreciate Him. Eli’s journey was a message for all us, both a warning and a call to celebrate. Eli was a watchman. His shift on earth is over, and as the dispatcher challenged us at the close of the call “We’ve got your watch now,” it is our responsibility to pick up the trumpet, and continue sharing the message. The message of our Creator’s love and power, and the message of awareness to childhood cancer.
Thank you to Lanny, Amy Vining, and The Legend, Joan Vining, for making that tribute to Eli happen for the service. And, for getting the troopers to the service to honor Eli in a way that he deserved.