I attended a funeral last week. It was a nice service, a fitting memorial to a man who deserved all that and more. I’ve been to lots of funerals, but this one was a little different. This one was a milestone that marked a significant point in life, much like getting your drivers license or graduating from high school.
The man we were laying to rest was a pastor friend that had been part of my life for more than forty years. When I was just a boy, he delivered a sermon in our church that still preaches to me. (It was Is This Your Present Address? just in case you were wondering). And when I felt the call to the ministry as a young man, he was one of the first to graciously invite me to preach in his pulpit. And more telling than that, after hearing my first attempt, he still invited me back occasionally.
Not only did I hear this man’s sermons, but for forty years our life stories unfolded in easy view of each others. I watched his children grow up and his congregation ebb and flow. While the twenty years that made him my elder kept us from being close confidants, he was not given to pretense and made no attempt to make things appear anything other than what they were. So I knew a few of his disappointments and some of the battles he fought. And, he mine. In those forty years, I can’t recall one time when he ended a conversation on a negative note or theme.
A few years after I moved away, I bumped into him in a restaurant in a city where we were both attending the same conference. After we chatted for a few minutes, he started to move away, but turned back to me and thanked me for something I had done for his children many years before. It was a small thing that benefited me as much as it did them, but this dad never forgot someone who was kind to his children, and he didn’t hesitate to express his gratitude.
His name was C. Larry Grissom. Having known him for all those years, you would think that I would know what the “C” stood for. I know his nickname. I know some of his favorite pastimes. But I never thought to ask what name that “C” represents. So, I’ll assign my own word that represents what he was. Class. C.Larry Grissom was a first-class guy, a class act.
The wide range of responsibilities that he bore were all carried out with class. He led his congregation with class, he treated his wife with class, and he served as President of the local Board of Education with class. (If you collect trivia, he was the one who handed Troy Aikman his high school diploma on graduation night).
His passing marks the end of an era for me; one of those reminders that time moves on whether we are ready or not. But I couldn’t let the moment slip by without saying thank you to a man whose life was an open book that reflected what he believed and preached. Thanks for doing it with class.
One of the joys of growing older is watching the next generation develop. The world will not lack for class at the passing of my friend, for he and his wife have three children, all grown up now, who are carrying on what their daddy did so well: living life and serving God with class.