Note: The following is a transcript of the eulogy I gave at my stepfather’s memorial service on July 24, 2013. I am presenting it here for those who were unable to attend the services:
In a land and time when so many are fatherless, I have been blessed to have two fathers. Thanks to the theological scholarship of these men I learned so much more than the average person about God’s word and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Yesterday, Robin, Michael, Shelby, Kelli, and I were reminiscing about Walter (Dad) over breakfast. I asked then, and have asked many other family members since, if anyone knew why Walter preferred to wear these [holds up one of Walter’s “Newsy” caps] flat caps. The answer appears to simply be because he liked them.
The image of Dad wearing these caps is burned into my mind. Many of you have probably seen Walter Garland wearing a “news boy cap” frequently as he walked to and from these church buildings over the years. I searched online and found that these caps are most often referred to as “Newsboy caps”. I thought: how coincidental is it that Dad’s preferred head covering is named after men who delivered the news in times past.
Walter was a news boy in a spiritual sense. He devoted much of his life to spreading the gospel; the “good news” that salvation is available to all mankind through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 52:7 says:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news; who proclaims peace; who brings glad tidings of good things; who proclaims salvation; who says to Zion: “Your God reigns!”
As many of us know, Walter’s vocation led him to become a leader in Christian education. The thousands of lives and minds he influenced throughout his career will multiply exponentially as his former students live out their lives and in turn teach their children and grandchildren.
Speaking of children and grandchildren, Walter Garland became a devoted step-father and grandfather the day he married my mother. It is a tribute to Walter’s spirit of acceptance that he tolerated certain aspects of the Frazier and Wilemon family cultures.
One of the most commonly told anecdotes regarding Walter’s early shocking discoveries about our somewhat hillbilly style of childcare was his horror when he walked into his San Antonio kitchen to discover his newly acquired grandbaby Justin being bathed by Mom and Shelby in the kitchen sink.
He reacted by exclaiming, “You’re washing that kid in the sink? That’s where we wash our dishes!”
Sometimes we put Walter through trauma in a more physical sense. The Frazier boys have motor oil in their veins. Michael, who is a master mechanic and has a way of coaxing extraordinary horsepower out of internal combustion engines, invited Walter to go for a ride in his Malibu drag racer one day. As Walter buckled into the passenger seat, Michael asked, “This is going to be pretty intense; are you ready?
“I guess.” Walter replied.
Walter was NOT ready.
Michael launched the Chevy dragster and almost immediately attained what us Frazier boys refer to as “extra-legal” speed. Walter went into a g-force induced wail of “Whoop-whoop-whoop…” and capped it off with a shout of “SLOW DOWN!!!”
In the years since Walter has allowed himself to be repeatedly slimed by grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and dogs. He’s been a warm and loving father and grandfather to us all. Those of you who know Walter’s penchant for cleanliness and his constant battle against germs will realize how much of a challenge those sticky hands and faces must have been.
Mother, as I said before, you did a wise and wonderful thing when you married Walter Garland. You brought this family a precious gift in him, and we are forever grateful to you and Walter for your prayers, guidance, and living examples of love, faith, endurance, and loyalty.
George and Judy, I am so glad to finally know you. One day I and/or my siblings will experience the special pain of losing a brother or sister. For now I can only imagine your loss and marvel at the way you have supported us, my mother, and your brother in these last days. George, you truly are a rock, and cut from the same magnificent cloth as your brother Walter.
It is a testament to the quiet humility of Dad that he wanted his memorial service to be centered upon the salvation provided by Jesus Christ, and that we not dwell upon his substantial scholarly and spiritual accomplishments.
I understand that desire, but I know he will forgive me for pointing out that his very wish to take a back seat is worthy of exaltation.
Luke 14:7-11 says:
So he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noted how they chose the best places, saying to them:
“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say, “Give place to this man”, and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.
But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, “Friend, go up higher.” Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit with you.
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Walter Fleming Garland is alive and well today in the presence of God.
Walter, my friend, my dad, “Go higher”, and sit now in a place of honor prepared for you. We long for the day when we shall see you again.
Thank you all for being here to celebrate the life of our beloved husband, stepfather and grandfather, Walter Fleming Garland.