Our friend, Scott, died unexpectedly on Monday. The service was today (Saturday). We were coming to Henderson anyway this weekend and I was honored to be able to offer the eulogy at the service today. Rev. Eric Hoey and Scottâ€™s congregation (my â€œhomeâ€ church) did a beautiful job with his Home-going and it was my privilege to be there with them.
Here are the words I wrote and tried to speak today:
I sincerely wish I didnâ€™t have a reason to be standing here today, but know that itâ€™s my great honor to be able to share some words about my friend, Scott. My name is Becky Durham, and I was the youth director here at this church for 18 years, until we moved to North Carolina last summer.
Scott was a faithful attender of Sunday worship all those years and plenty before that, sitting next to his grandmother, and for most of the time I knew him, sitting in a back pew near his dear friend Willie Ann Brock.Â
After Scott left his job at Evansville ARC, I got to know him well because he started coming to the church on a near daily basis. He was here so much, he became an honorary member of the church staffâ€”but you know, like an intern, because it was an unpaid honorary position. He was even invited to staff birthday celebrations, and we started throwing parties for him each July, too. And any time we were planning on grabbing lunch somewhere, someone usually called â€œSpankyâ€â€™ to see what he wanted. When he was in the building, Scott could usually be found wherever our Custodian, Dave Beshear (Gov) was working. Those two could stir up all kinds of hilarity together, and I could usually find them by just following the laughter, and sometimes the trash talk.
Scott liked movies and he loved fishing. He hated cold weather and he loved UK basketball. If you were friends with him online, you know he commented about both of those things regularly. I mean, sometimes from his comments you werenâ€™t exactly sure that he loved UK basketball, but I believe he was pointing out any flaws because he knew they werenâ€™t always living up to their full potential and he wanted them to be the best they could be.
Thatâ€™s what Scott wanted for anyone actually. He was kind and gentle with people, whether they were family members, friends, church leaders or community leaders, strangers he met along the way, and he wanted them to be the best they could be. If he was frustrated or upset with someone, it was because he knew they could do better or be better.
Sometimes people didnâ€™t take the time to get to know him, and they made assumptions about him, and that frustrated Scott. people often treated him like he was stupid, for example. They would speak loudly or slowly to him. Or they would assume he needed help when he didnâ€™t. Sometimes he would tell me about an interaction with a child, often while he was working at Walmart, and he felt it was obvious adults still werenâ€™t doing enough to teach kids not to stare or make rude comments, or to accept differences in general.Â
Scott was a lot of things, but he was not stupid. He was proud of his education, and how he used it for so many years to help adults with different abilities find jobs. He thought deeply about a lot of things and he was pretty good at pointing out BS when he heard it.
Scott loved his friends. Nothing made him as happy as having an event with friends on his calendar. Some of you here today were part of the group he loved going bowling with. Or maybe you met up with him at Rookies on a Saturday night. Or you were part of the group he did menâ€™s retreats with. Or maybe you were the reason I was wrapping presents with him on a Christmas morning a couple years agoâ€”he was so excited to be invited to a Christmas celebration in your home, that he sheepishly appeared at our door with a shopping bag and roll of wrapping paper. â€œDo you have any tape?â€ He asked. â€œI really want these presents to look good.â€
If you included him, invited him, called him, wrote him a note, he felt really special and that mattered to him. Scott was proud of his friends and he was loyal to them.
Scott never wished anything bad for anyone. He knew relationships are complicated, and he navigated them with hope and assumptions of good intent. If you are here this afternoon, wishing you had done better by Scott or regretting something you did or didnâ€™t do, I know he wouldnâ€™t want you to sit with those feelings any longer. He really believed you always did the best you could.
He loved Wednesday night suppers here at the church. Well, at least he loved them until 6:55, when he would sneak out the door to get home in time for the opening credits of Survivor.
He served on the Session hereâ€”which is the church board for any of you who speak Baptist or whatever. It frustrated him when the process was slow and the meetings were long. Scott was a man of action! Something needs done? Why isnâ€™t someone doing it already, for goodnessâ€™ sake?
He got to the point where he felt comfortable sharing in some of the worship leadership here. He began volunteering to be the liturgist in the service, which meant he had a good deal of reading to do on those Sundays. He would show up early and practice hard. Now if youâ€™ve ever read aloud from the Bible in church, you know that sometimes you hit a tough word. I remember a Sunday morning a few years ago when Scott was tasked with reading the name â€œMelchizedek.â€ During practice, it was not going well. I mean thatâ€™s a hard word. Iâ€™ve been to seminary, and I practiced saying that name before I got up here this afternoon. â€œJust say â€˜Big Papa M,â€™â€ I suggested. He rolled his eyes at me and told me he was going with â€œMickeyâ€ instead. â€œIâ€™m pretty sure his friends didnâ€™t call him â€˜Mel-whatever-it-is,â€™â€ he said. As usual, he had a point.
Scott had a flair for dramaâ€”as in acting, I mean. He loved to be part of a dramatic production here at the church. On a Maundy Thursday night several years ago, he played Peter, while our pastor at the time, John Guthrie washed his feet, pouring water from a pitcher into a basin and then placing Scottâ€™s feet in the water. Iâ€™m not sure whose idea it was to put ice in the water that would be used that nightâ€¦â€¦., it might have been John, or it might have been Gov, but either way Scott was a good sport who loved a good jokeâ€¦and we told that story all the time.
He and Gary Thomas, a good friend, would play the disciples Pete and Andy, putting on two man dramas about different events in Jesusâ€™ ministry with his disciples. Scott would rehearse for hours, determined to hit every line just right. He loved having lines that would get the big laughs, and he was proud to be part of leading worship.
One of Scottâ€™s favorite scriptures was found in Luke 13, when Jesus heals, on the sabbath, a woman who had been bent over without the ability to straighten her back for 18 years. He related to this woman, he said. And sometimes he and I would talk about it and he would wonder why Jesus hadnâ€™t healed him. He wasnâ€™t questioning God…just wondering when his time with a body that didnâ€™t work the way he wished it would might be over and he could be healed too. He wasnâ€™t bitter about it, you understand. I think he just wanted to know someone believed with him that it might happen.Â
I believe heâ€™s been healed completely and freed from the shaking and struggling that he accepted as his daily challenge.Â
He preached a sermon here once. He talked about the joy of belonging, the great feeling of being known and loved. He had such a strong faith in a God who knew him and loved him completely all the days of his life. And he believed his church was like that too.
As part of his sermon, he played the theme song from the sitcom cheers. â€œWhere Everybody knows your nameâ€ by Gary Portnoy. He and I found it together, and it was several years ago, and I donâ€™t remember how we were able to handle that feat technologically. I would guess that we found the song online and burned it to a CD. He was so frustrated, whatever the means we used, that the version we found had more verses than what played as part of the theme song. For example the second verse talks about an unpaid light bill someone being stood up at a wedding, and the third verse references someoneâ€™s husband wanting to be a girl. â€œI just donâ€™t think thatâ€™s necessary,â€ he argued with me.
But The part Scott wanted to play that morning, maybe you know it too. It goes like this:
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you got
Taking a break from all your worries
sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name
You want to go where people know
The people are all the same
You want to go where everybody knows your name
(words by Gary Portnoy)