Farewell, My Friend

Wally ReedOne of the difficult things about living over seas is how things change back home. It’s not surprising or unexpected because we too are changing, it’s just that some of the changes are harder to deal with than others.

Today, we received our home church’s weekly bulletin from December 11, 2005 and saw the following:

Dr. and Mrs. Griffin Jones and our Church family extend their deepest sympathy to Mrs. Melba Reed, and Mr. Guy Reed in the loss of husband and father, Wally Reed.

In other words, things at home had changed in a way that was sad for me: Wally Reed died on Saturday, December 3, 2005.

However, to say that Wally died can easily give the wrong impression. Wally didn’t die in the sense that he ceased to exist. Rather, Wally was transformed from a well worn, even broken body into the glorious presence of his Lord, Jesus Christ.

Though we had previously met in Israel, my first real opportunity to get to know Wally was on a mission trip to Mexico in 1994. Our church, Temple Baptist, in partnership with a Mexican Bible college, was sponsoring the construction of a church building in a small sugar cane farming village. For a few reasons I counted it my privilege to end up bunking next to Wally and his son Jon. Not only did Wally have a footlocker overflowing with snack goodies, which he freely gave away, but he was a genuinely nice man who was very enjoyable to be around.

Wally laughed easily and had an ability to infect others with the humor of a situation, even if he was the victim of the funny mishap. For example, one of my favorite stories was of Wally getting lost in the Vatican. On their church tour to Israel, the group had a stopover in Rome and during the tour of the Vatican Wally mistakenly got in line behind the wrong group and followed them to the upper levels of the Vatican. Though he admitted to being a bit frightened when he realized his mistake, while re-telling the story he could still laugh about the predicament he had gotten himself in: He couldn’t speak Italian, he didn’t know anyone he found himself surrounded by and, more importantly, the long, narrow, steep staircase he had climbed was starting to take it’s toll on his ability to breathe. As he sat down to rest, he said that he started to think, “I’m going to die at the top of the Vatican, and no one is going to know who I am or what to do with me.”

After his colon surgery, Wally laughingly told me, “Well, I came in here with a colon, now I’m going home with a semi-colon.” He was taking his situation in stride and making a witty, play on words, which revealed not only his sense of humor, but his love of word games as well. Every time I visited Wally, he made sure to show me the puzzle he was currently working on and to tell me the books he had recently read.

The last time I dropped in on Wally and Melba, he was sitting in his recliner, creatively remodeled to accommodate his long frame, wearing an oxygen tube working a crossword puzzle. His mobility had been restricted, though He and Melba were still getting out as much as possible, carrying a portable oxygen tank, but he didn’t complain about the restrictions. He simply took it in stride, apparently realizing that it was simply the result of a lifetime of hard work in a hard industry, and that given all the things he had experienced in life, this was a much better situation than it could have been.

Wally was modest, intelligent, and easy for me to be around; I’m richer for having known him. Thanks for the memories, Wally; I’ll miss you, my friend.

Wally’s obituary can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

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