Sunday, August 06, 2006

My Uncle Lee Roy

My Uncle Lee Roy closed his eyes in this world this afternoon (08/05) and opened them in the presence of Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. If you have a minute I want to tell you why he was so special to me.
First of all there was an extra familial connection. He is actually my Great Uncle, or, as I like to say, my Great Uncle Squared. He is both the Brother of my Maternal Grandmother and his wife is the Sister of my Maternal Grandfather. The two families of ten plus each lived near one another and the dating pool was limited so the two families ended up having two children marry into the other family. Because of this my Grandparents and My Uncle and Aunt were always very close, even living together for a while as young married couples. Times were often tough after the war. That closeness meant that Lee Roy and Zelma were the kinfolks we saw the most when I was growing up.
Next there was a physical connection. Lee Roy and I always saw eye to eye on everything literally because since the age of about 15 he and I have been the same height. I am roughly 5’4” and before you laugh I have it on good authority that all the doors in heaven are 5’6” and the rest of you better hope that your resurrection bodies get “right sized” on the way to Glory!
Finally there is a spiritual connection. He and Aunt Zelma were some of the earliest and most consistent Christian witnesses that I was around while growing up. During both my college days and my third Pastorate I lived within short driving distance from them. This meant they had the opportunity to be a further great influence on my life. This became particularly important when those days became some of the darkest I have walked through. The self inflicted wounds of living often produce our darkest days.
Even though Uncle Lee knew I had gotten myself into a mess he was never condemning and always patient. He and Zelma loved me and my wife and kids and kept supporting us in prayer and encouragement right through that time. I am so thankful God had him ministering to us in that time!
Some of the memories I have go back to early childhood. Lee was good at making me think he was really mean and tough. He had been teasing me especially hard one day when I needed someone to watch me so I could swim. When Lee offered to watch me he did so with the assurance of, “Don’t worry, I can save you.” My sharp tongued reply was, “I know you can save me but will you?”
Years later when in college I was visiting his house on several acres in Whitehouse, Texas. He had been a little under the weather and his yard needed mowing. I was already going to volunteer to do it when he made a comment about not asking me to do it because he “knew Preachers did not like to work too hard.” He was a master motivator because I remember being mad the whole time I was mowing, edging, raking and everything else I did in order to prove to him that Preachers “certainly did know how to work.”
Lee Roy had made his living in the lumber and construction business. He used those talents in his service to the Lord. He told me one time with just a little pride peeking through that he knew a certain church building was well built because he had measured and cut nearly every board that went into it. There was no selfish pride involved in the way he said it. It was simply the testimony of someone who was proud that they could give their best to something and see the results.
Uncle Lee had lots of “sayings”. He used to say that there were two places a woman did not belong, under the hood of a car or on the golf course. He met my wife Robin, played golf with her and decided there was an exception to the rule. I don’t remember if he ever let her work on his car though!
He also had a great philosophy about work and retirement. He was always frustrated about his lack of length off the tee compared to us “flat bellies”. He used the term “flat belly” for anyone who out drove him as it certainly did not apply to me at any time nor within a decade of any time I played golf with him! His theory was that a man should go to school, graduate and play golf until he turned 65, then go to work. It was sort of a “youth is wasted on the young philosophy”. If he had run for office on that platform I would certainly have voted for him.
One of my funny memories actually involved Uncle Lee and my son, Jonathan. It happened on the golf course and Jonathan was about four or five years old. Lee had insisted that Jonathan ride with him in the golf cart. Jonathan had been watching Uncle Lee operate the golf cart and had quickly figured out that to make the thing “go” you simply mashed on the pedal and turned the wheel. He took the opportunity to demonstrate this when Lee had stepped out of the cart to hit a shot. I was on the other side of the fairway and turned around just in time to see my young son driving Uncle Lee’s cart right toward a pond with my 70 plus year old Uncle chasing him down the fairway.
I honestly am not sure if I could have moved as fast as he did! He caught the cart and hopped in while it was moving and brought the cart to a stop just a foot or two short of the pond. Lee always insisted he was just worried about the cart being lost to Davy Jones’ locker but we all saw right through that. He was teary eyed that evening when Jonathan hugged him goodbye.
I want to tell you one more thing about Uncle Lee and it relates to his devotion to his sweet wife Zelma. Years ago Zelma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She has actually been, to my knowledge, very healthy other than this insidious enemy that has robbed so much of the joy of life in the past few years. Lee told me that he was praying and asking God to let him outlive Zelma so that he could take care of her. Until the last few days of his life here he has done just that. I do not know why the Lord chose to answer Lee Roy’s prayer differently than he wanted. I do know that Uncle Lee had enough faith to know that if God chose to say “yes” that would be great and if God chose another route it is because He has a greater glory planned. It is a good and perfect will that will bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.
The Bible is not completely clear on what people with Jesus now can see or hear of the things on earth. From Jesus’ Lazarus and the rich man story we may gather that people can see us, perhaps hear us but cannot communicate to us. If that is the standard then I hope Uncle Lee can hear this, “I love you and I thank God for you. I thank you for your witness, your friendship and your wisdom. I am glad that you have made it home and I know that you have heard the best words in eternity, Well done my good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of my rest.”