I have been in pastoral ministry for over 20 years. In my experiences, the toughest part of being a pastor involves death. What’s strange is that the people with whom I have the strongest connection are those with whom I have walked through the death of a loved one. Strange how that works.
I called Darald Richardson the “patriarch” of First Baptist Church of Fort Dodge, IA. As far as I knew, he was the longest tenured living male member of this church. He was one of the treasures of this congregation.
I have been by the bedside of many individuals who were beginning the dying process; it is something that I have come to recognize when I see it. Darald has not been well physically for quite a while, but when I visited with him early last week, I saw the beginning of the process. I even told Mary Jo later that day that I wouldn’t be surprised if I was doing Darald’s funeral in the not-too-distant future. Little did I know how accurate that statement was.
I have done more funerals than I care to remember, but there are those that are tougher than others. Darald’s will be in that tough group. There have been funerals which I have struggled to get through emotionally. Darald’s will be in that group.
There is a very good reason why I place it in that group. I was proud when Darald called me, “pastor.” But I was even more proud that Darald called me “friend.” I loved hearing him say to me, “Pastor Jim, how’s my friend today?” Darald always had the ability to lift me up.
There have been different men in my life who have been very important to me. I think of Dr. Carl B. Hoch, Jr., my advisor in seminary, Rev. Dr. Fred Moore, my mentor in ministry, and Dale Redfield, my wife’s maternal grandfather, with whom I had a very strong relationship, a man who taught me what was most important in life: relationships and stewardship of what God has given to us. All three of these men have been called home. Because of my relationship with Darald, I include him in this small group of men.
The words of the Apostle Paul concerning himself are appropriate also for Darald; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” Darald, rest in your reward from our Lord.
Until I see you again, my friend.