So, here's a slight diversion before I get back into writing about my Lent study. Because of who it is about, it is best read sitting on a deck drinking a glass of wine - you see, this was one of our favorite ways to have a conversation.
One year ago today, my dear friend and spiritual mentor passed away. His name was Bill Traylor and he was a Texas man through and through. He wore boots and western cut blazers, a straw hat in the summer and a felt hat in the winter. More than being a Texan, Bill was a son of God and a follower of Jesus. He's one of those people that I wish every one else I know could have known him.
It's been incredibly busy these past few weeks as the term is coming to an end and I'm pretty tired. Today was one of those days that I wondered if I was too old to be here doing what I'm doing and the heaviness of missing Bill has made me move just than much slower today. I was thinking about how a year ago I was getting ready to get on a plane to go to Bill's funeral and do the eulogy and so I found the text I prepared for it and read it and I could hear Bill telling me to hang in there and not give up. And, I thought it just might bring encouragement to someone else, whether you knew Bill or not, so here it is:
Eulogy for Bill Traylor
March 27, 2010
St. Thomas Episcopal Church, San Antonio
By: Nancy Springer
We’ve all got many, many Bill stories to tell and I’m honored and humbled to be asked to speak of what he means to me and to all of us. As I began to play through my head what I would say today, I thought there would be no way to fit all that was Bill into just a few words. Everyone here has special memories of him and the way he dedicated himself to taking care of all of us:
• He loved unconditionally and had a great capacity for forgiveness.
• He spent his time serving God by helping those he cared about tirelessly.
• He corrected when necessary and scolded with compassion and love.
• He could see the best in everyone and when our worst came out, he was willing to tell us so we could get back to working at being our best.
I first got to know Bill through the St. Thomas world mission group and we went on a mission trip to Bosnia together. Then we were in EFM together and the healing ministry and lay reading and on the vestry. Like all of you, I can’t imagine St. Thomas without him … and besides who’s going to pass out the peppermints? I’d like to share with you, especially, the role Bill has played in my process to get to seminary and I’m pretty certain that in the things he did for me and taught me each of you can relate to your own memories of him.
Bill was one of the first people I began to talk to about God’s call for my life. He was always willing to listen to my fears and my excitement of things to come and he had a way of helping me draw out my deepest thoughts that I struggled to express. Through all of the bumps and road blocks along the way, when I was ready to give up, he would look me square in the eye and say “you can’t give up on what God has called you to do.”
The day before I left for seminary Bill and I were sitting on his deck talking about what were my biggest fears of what lie ahead. I appreciated that he wanted me to prepare for, or at least think about, both the good and the not so good. I shared with him that I was feeling like everything I was going to say about faith and belief was going to be under scrutiny and what if I say the wrong thing simply because I was working something through. He told me that whenever I was uncertain about what I was learning or thinking to call and talk it through with him, knowing that he would place no judgment on what I said. He reassured me that if I was heading down a heretical path, he’d definitely let me know. We agreed that he would be my spiritual “patron”, supporting me in the formation that was and is to come. So, I have to say, I’m a bit mad at him right now, and, you know what, I’m pretty sure he’s okay with that.
It’s hard not to be selfish and say how much I need Bill, how much we all depended on his faithfulness, but that’s not what Bill taught us. We have all been blessed beyond measure by his presence in our lives and we can honor his memory best by living out the things he taught us. For me, that’s pushing forward with seminary, even when I’m tired and overwhelmed and thinking I can’t do it. Although I can’t call him anymore for a “hi, Darlin’” followed by a good old fashioned pep talk, I can still hear his voice in my own head telling me not to give up on what God has called me to do. And I know each one of you has your own voice of Bill that will always be with you.
Bill and I shared a favorite verse, Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O Mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I can only hope that I live out that verse as beautifully as Bill did.
Thanks for letting me share it - and if you don't know and want to ask me, I'll explain about the peppermints. ;-)
God's peace, my friends,