I Didn’t Know Him, But He Was a Wonderful Man

On Monday, I attended the funeral of a man I did not know. Loyal Hastings was a brother-in-law of Bruce Mendenhall. (Bruce’s sister Janice was married to Loyal.) He was 76 and died unexpectedly. Though I did not know him, it was an honor to learn about his life and example.

Let me share a few things that his daughters said about him.

“There was no service too small or too inconvenient for Dad.” —Deena Hastings

He had been released as High Priest Group Leader just six months ago. His way of supporting the new group leader—who felt Loyal’s shoes were too big to fill—was to volunteer for everything he could, small or great, to help lift that weight off the shoulders of the man who lead him.

“The message of his life rings true…He gave his all. What more was there to give?” —Debra Mitchell

What more could you and I give?

All his children who spoke knew deeply that their father loved them, and expressed as much. It reminds me that a great reassurance to us is that when death separates us, love does not die.

Finally, one of his sons, David, read this poem by Mary Lyman Henrie, entitled “To Any Who Have Watched for a Son’s Returning.” The poem, it seemed, described his father’s constancy and loyalty.

He watched his son gather all the goods
that were his lot,
anxious to be gone from tending flocks,
the dullness of the fields.
He stood by the olive tree gate long
after the caravan disappeared
where the road climbs the hills
on the far side of the valley,
into infinity.
Through changing seasons he spent the light
in a great chair, facing the far country,
and that speck of road on the horizon.
Mocking friends: “He will not come.”
Whispering servants: “The old man has lost his senses.”
A chiding son: “You should not have let him go.”
A grieving wife: “You need rest and sleep.”
She covered his drooping shoulders,
his callused knees,
when east winds blew chill,
until that day …
A form familiar, even at infinity,
in shreds, alone, stumbling over pebbles.
“When he was a great way off,
His father saw him,
and had compassion, and ran,
and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”

May we all likewise sit in “a great chair,” as Loyal Hastings did, “facing a far country,” waiting for the return of our beloved children or spouse or friend, no matter how old they are, or how far they have gone.

One thought on “I Didn’t Know Him, But He Was a Wonderful Man

  1. Deon J June 12, 2009 / 2:33 pm

    A beautiful poem!! A great tribute.
    I would have liked to know him as well. Sounds very much like my dad.
    Deon Cox


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