Monday, March 05, 2007

Maurice Wilbur Evans August 12 1914 - October 27 1991

I have been thinking about my father lately, and last night I found my typewritten talk at his funeral at the Rushville New York Methodist Church in 1991. Not long ago, I thought I had misplaced this paper permanently. I'm posting it on my blog in part because it's the best way I can think of to keep track of it. As a tribute, it falls short of what he deserves, but these were the words that came to me then. Dad was a wonderful human being - a fact that I'm glad I lived long enough to realize, because it wasn't as clear to me as it ought to have been when I was very young.

The hospital nurses described him as a “sweet guy” and as “a gentleman”. He was. Even while suffering with cancer, pneumonia, shingles, bed sores and fever he seemed to be trying to make things easier for people around him. He was courteous and thoughtful to the last.

But there was also more to him than the nice old guy the nurses saw. He was a good man in all seasons of his life. He was a father, a husband, a worker, a neighbor, and a man of faith. And always he was himself,never vain, never pretentious.

If you knew him at all you know that he was modest and shy almost to a fault. He tried not to attract attention. He avoided crowds when he could. He never put himself forward as a leader, was never on the church board or union executive committee, never gave speeches and never preached. If you had asked him he might have claimed he wasn’t very religious. Even when I told him what a good father he was during one of our last visiits, he waved away the compliment with a gesture of his hand. He didn’t think of himself as especially good.

Yet he was. He was a kind and loving husband and father and grandfather. Not the kind of father who threw his weight around and demanded respect, but the kind who spreads his care around and earned respect. He and my mother raised their family in an atmosphere of love, which I know has helped us in our lives. He was a loyal church member and a deep believer, though he didn’t talk about this much. He began a practice of daily devotions and Bible reading almost thirty years ago – originally in order to encourage his children – and continued the practice as long as he was able to live at home. Knowing this about him and knowing that so few other people did always reminded me of Jesus’ advice that we should pray in a closet rather than in a showsy public place.

As for kindness toward others, this came naturally to him. He and my mother were doing things for neighbors and relatives as long as I can remember. I think of an older man who used to live alone on our street and who was always welcome to come over for visits and sometimes for meals. I’m sure there are people in this room who can recall times in recent years when Dad offered a ride to the hospital or clinic, or brought a meal to someone who was shut in. Most of you know that he and my mother opened their home to a grandson who was very ill for many weeks just a few years ago. To hear him tell it, though, these were never good deeds - - just a kind of trade he was making with others who had been or would be good to h im. He was more aware of what he received from others than of what he gave to them.

And, of course, others did do things for him. He was grateful, and we in his family are grateful for all the love and support we received during his illness: the neighbors, friends and relatives who visited, helped us to visit, sent cards, sent prayers, or just said a word or two of comfort when it was needed.

When Jesus was trying to tell his disciples about the way it will be in the Kingdom of God, he warned them not to be like a man who went to a banquet and sat down uninvited beside the master of the feast. He said it was better to sit at the lower end of the table and wait to be invited to a better seat. I can picture of my father at the Great Banquet not even taking a seat at all, but sort of standing near the edges, back near the door. I picture the Lord taking him by the arm and guiding him to the head of the table and telling him to sit in the place of honor.

Finally – I want to mention the fact that Dad had the same name as a certain famous actor. Once in a while when I have filled in “father’s name” on an application blank or official document, I’ve been asked if I am the son of the Maurice Evans. If I am ever asked that again, I will say that “Yes, I am.” And if I am asked what it is like to be the son of an actor, then I will explain that the Maurice Evans was not an actor but a farm hand, a truck driver, and a construction worker. It was the other Maurice Evans who was an actor.

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