It's been an eventful week. Some friends I met in Israel had to brave rocket attacks in Gaza City. I found out that another friend and his family are relocating rather unexpectedly. And, my former pastor died.
Did I bury the lead?
My former pastor, Dr. J.H. Flakes Jr., died Monday. The memorial service just ended. It was a great celebration of his life.
We have all been busy this week making preparations for the service, so I am just starting to sort through my feelings on this new reality. Reverend Flakes is no longer sick. He no longer requires someone to push him in a wheelchair. He is no longer an old man that used to be the pastor of Fourth Street. He is now, for lack of a better word, an angel.
I last saw and talked with Dr. Flakes at the Boy Scouts' Whitney Young Dinner a few weeks ago. I tried not to let it show, but when his son brought him into the room in a wheelchair, it made me sad. When two men had to help him up the stairs on stage, I felt even sadder.
All my life, the J.H. Flakes I knew was a strong man by all measures, physically, mentally and spiritually. He was a warrior. He did not just know the love of God; he knew the power of God. And he knew that God was on his side, so there was no need for him to ever cower or be afraid.
Not that he didn't understand the importance of humility. He absolutely did. Dr. Flakes could be the most diplomatic, soft-spoken person at times. Not because he was weak, but rather because he was strong. He was never afraid to defer if it could help the situation; if it would move the cause forward. He understood that Proverbs 15:1 defined the power of humility and Christ demonstrated that power throughout his ministry. Because he sought to be Christ-like, Reverend Flakes always sought to remain humble.
When I heard on Monday that Rev. Flakes passed, the sadness that I felt after seeing him at the Boy Scout dinner went away. In my mind, he immediately became the strong man that I had known all my life again. The image of the frail man in the wheelchair was replaced with the image of the strong man who put me under water so I could be baptized. Instead of remembering him being helped onto the stage, I remembered him pronouncing Tonya and me husband and wife. In the single moment of that phone call, every vision, every image, every thought of him as frail and weak was replaced by an image of the strong Dr. Flakes who faced every challenge as a man empowered by God.
And I was happy.
And today as we closed a three and a half hour homegoing service for a man who deserved every single minute that was spent and accolade that was given, I was elated. Rev. Flakes was himself again. Dressed to the nines, filling a room and causing the gospel to be spread among all nations. That's a memory worth cherishing.
Karl Douglass, Columbus native and resident, is a frequent commenter on local, state and federal politics. Follow him on Twitter@KarlDouglass or facebook.com/karldouglass.