We buried Harlie Fewell yesterday. His funeral was in the afternoon at the San Jacinto Church of Christ in Amarillo, a congregation where Harlie once served as a elder, and where he had been a member for at least fifty years. He and his wife, Lerline, were married for sixty-one years.
I didn't meet Harlie until January of 2006. By then, age and sickness had already reduced him to a shell of what he had been in his prime. Even so, his spirit shined through so that most anytime I talked with him, I would walk away thinking, "What a man."
Not long after we first met, Harlie mentioned to me that I could easily remember his name by imagining what you might put into a motorcycle: Harley fuel. That was him.
There's a certain species of Christian you might call salt-of-the-earth West Texan. Harlie personified that. He was a little guy with a huge heart whose phrases and gestures would make you smile and sometimes laugh out loud.
Behind all of the good-natured joking, however, there was this earnestness, this seriousness about life that would have led Harlie to die trying to do the right thing.
One of Paul Faulkner's standard lines is, "Act better than you feel." Harlie had mastered that. The last time I ever saw him alive, he was wearing the neck brace that held up his head and was carrying the oxygen bottle he needed for breath. He had come to the nursing home to (get this) help conduct the Wednesday-afternoon devotional for those old folks.
At the end of the devotional, like a sideshow barker, Harlie stood up, opened his arms, and raised his voice: "Everything's been great today! The singing was good. And Leonard gave us a good message. And we're glad you came out." Then, with gusto, he led the group in his trademark song:
Wonderful, wonderful, Jesus is to me
Counselor, Prince of Peace, Mighty God is he
Saving me, keeping me, from my sin and shame
Wonderful is my redeemer, Praise his name
We sang it through twice, as always.
During the funeral one of Harlie's sons, Glen, remarked that his dad never thought himself worthy, that he sometimes doubted his commitment, whether he was acceptable to the Lord. Glen had reminded his father that Jesus Christ had already taken care of all that. Harlie agrees today. May his memory be for a blessing.
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." --Revelation 14:13