On Friday Cheryl and I made a quick trip to Wyoming to visit with an old friend. The trip was short and had a specific focus: to visit with an old friend who has recently been placed in hospice. Our friend is Marion.
Marion and his wife Violet were older members in the congregation in Cody, Wyoming when we moved there to preach in 1990. Cheryl and I were both 30, had two kids, and were a long way from our homes. My parents lived in Tennessee and Cheryl’s in Florida. With two little kids, another one arriving two years later, and living over 40 hours away from family support, we welcomed the nuturing care provided by this couple.
Marion and Violet’s home became our home as well. We were welcomed there at any time for visits and meals. My kids knew where Violet kept the candy.
Marion was an avid hunter, and he taught me some of the skills needed to successfully navigate (and survive) the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. Many times we returned to his home after spending hours in below zero weather to a hot pot of stew and coffee that Violet had prepared for us.
But we shared more than just simple fun times. Marion and Violet had decades of wisdom about marriage, surviving health crises, raising children, figuring out problems, and working with churches that they shared with us over the years. And Marion, an old Arkansas boy transplanted to Wyoming, was a storehouse of old-time southern wisdom.
Marion was very big on living with honor and integrity. You did the right thing simply because it was the right thing, not because you hoped for any reward. He shared with me that one of his greatest accomplishments in life was living with integrity in a situation that was stressful to him.
Truth was a big part of his honor and integrity system. He told me, "I used to have employees steal my construction equipment and materials. I didn’t like it, but I understood it. They may have been low on money and needed the tools or wood to work a job on the side. It was wrong to steal from me, but there was a rationale to it. But lying? There is no rationale to lying. It is the same as stealing, except you really don’t get anything for it. If you steal from me and get caught, you can give back what you stole. But if you lie to me or about me, how does that benefit you? And if you are caught, what can you return to make restitution or repair the relationship? Lying is just stupid and wrong. You can understand a thief; but a liar you can never trust again."
One more thing: Marion honored Violet. They had been married for 40 years or more when I first met them. Together they had raised two children and had four grandchildren. They survived health problems, financial stresses, church leadership pressures, and two major moves. In their 60s they moved miles from their home to spend their later years enjoying the mountains together and helping a small church. And through it all, they remained best friends. During our long drives over mountains and through valleys exploring the wonders of the Rocky Mountains, Marion and I would talk about life. And when the subject of marriage or wives came up, Marion always talked about Violet in appreciative terms, and praised her. Violet went to be with the Lord on Nov. 7, 2008. To the end, after 60+ years of marriage, they remained best friends.
Cheryl and I drove to Wyoming on Friday to visit with Marion. Gathered around him was his daughter, her son and daughter-in-law, his son and his wife, and numerous friends from his church. He was receiving the honor due a man who spent his life living with Christian character and living for his family, friends and church.
Our trip was short. We had to leave on Saturday. But I drove off thinking, "I hope my life counts for something worthwhile, like Marion’s has." We pay tribute to a good person when we sit by his/her side and ask, "Do you remember when ...?" But we pay even greater tribute when we try to emulate their lives.