by Robert Earl Houston
February 5, 2013
A few hours ago I received a telephone call about a dear friend and someone who I consider like a brother had been called from labor to reward. I have not published his name or information as of yet, because I’ve not received that release from his family or church. My heart is broken.
It’s broken because I just spoke with him last night. He was one of those friends that you could call and just “shoot the breeze with.” I looked forward in speaking to him, running some things by him, sharing a joke with, or getting his insight into some issues. He was my friend and my hero.
I was looking forward to him coming to preach for me this year. I’ve preached for him in the past and was looking to spoil him with our Kentucky hospitality. I wanted him to meet my wife in person – they’ve spoken on the phone – and wanted him to see the splendor of the place called First Baptist Church, one of the oldest African-American congregations in this area, at 180 years.
However, this death has been profoundly personal and sad to me. I look at my contemporaries who pass away suddenly and I wonder why they’re gone and I’m still left here. The words of my pastor, Minister Barton Elliott Harris, ring out in my spirit, “because you have more work to do.” But what troubles me is that when is that barometer reached? Most of those who pass young or in younger ages (we were about the same age), still have goals, agendas, milestones that we want to reach – but unbeknownst to you – you can be working, planning, strategizing while God is looking and saying, “But your work is done.”
In this age of social media, his name, church, etc. are already out there. I’m not going to mention it here in respect to the grieving widow and family, who need at least some time to deal with the impact of his homegoing. They are in my prayers and I hope that if there is a lesson to be learned that it would be that just because we know it, don’t mean we have to tell it.
When my day comes, and I don’t know when it will be, I would hope that if Jessica survives me, that my friends will give her the space to grieve. That it not become “internet chatter” immediately. Nothing is like the pain, I’m sure, of finding out that your loved one has died on the internet vs. hearing it from a concerned loved one. In most cases, I try not to publish the homegoing of someone until I get a green light from somebody who has some authority – otherwise, I wait for the papers or other media to publish.
I’m reminded when Dr. E.V. Hill was in the grasp of his last days on earth and someone posted online that he was dead and it spread like wildfire. The family knew of me and my website through a former church, and asked me to put out a statement that Dr. Hill was still, very much alive. Which I did. He passed about 72 hours later – but it caused the family some much needed relief for a few hours.
Well, my heart is broken. Today I spent three hours in my car – just driving. Nowhere in particular. Stopping to cry. Stopping to laugh at an old joke. Sometimes just to seek solace from the Lord. I plan to be there at his homegoing, Lord willing. My former pastor, Bishop Darryl S. Brister, once said, “in this life, you don’t get more than a handful of true friends that you can count on one hand.”
Today, I lost a finger.
NOTE (FEBRUARY 6, 2013) – This blog is about my dear friend, Bishop Wenzell P. Jackson, senior pastor of the Mount Hermon Baptist Church of Bronx, New York. Please keep his family, relatives, church members, and friends in your prayers.