When I was a young teenager, a neighbor of mine was tragically killed. My parents supported the grieving wife by handling much of the details, chores, and food for visitors.
I was probably only about 13, and recall asking my father, “Do I have to go to the funeral?”
He looked at me and said, “Have to go? No, you don’t have to go. No one ever has to go. But you will go.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because you always go to a funeral if you at all can. You go to pay your last respects to the person who died.”
Paying last respects. That’s an odd term, when you think about it.
But in another sense, it is a perfect term. Because that is what we do. We show our respect or affection for that person by honoring and remembering their life in a ceremony that gives them back to God.
And “respect” is the right word. We respect their life and what they did with it.
On Saturday, August 5, roughly 500 people came to Bethel Lutheran Church in Springfield to pay their last respects to Bootsie Lindsey, well-known for his dedication to this community.
From his service as a county commissioner to his tireless work on the Effingham Hospital Auxilliary, if there was a job that needed doing, Mr. Bootsie would simply get it done. No fanfare. Just quiet service.
People came from “all over” to Mr. Bootsie’s funeral because he touched the lives of people from “all over.” It would be hard to be involved in any aspect of Effingham County and not cross paths with this selfless man.
Even community leaders and State Representatives Jon Burns, Bill Hitchens and Jack Hill were there – not one or two of them, but all of them – to pay their last respects to a man who was the epitome of a community servant. They deserve every bit of the “Honorable” before their name.
Mr. Bootsie’s response to life was to serve, and to do so in a humble, quiet way. He was a good man – a good, Christian man. And today this community is less than what it was when Mr. Bootsie was alive.
What we often forget is that Mr. Bootsie had not just been Mr. Bootsie for the past 61 years. Mr. Bootsie was tied at the hip to his loving wife, Emmie; it was always “Bootsie and Emmie.” And together they raised a family of people of integrity and service, a family who loves each other dearly, modeling the love they saw in Bootsie and Emmie.
And that point is important. Would Mr. Bootsie have been able to serve God and others the way he did had he not had a loving wife by his side? Would Mr. Bootsie have been able to be the kind of servant leader to this community had he not a devoted wife who also loved to serve others?
I would argue that Ms. Emmie helped make Mr. Bootsie the man he came to be, who so many came to remember.
Therefore, when we go to pay our last respects, we do so not only for the deceased, but for those who enabled that person to become that which God created them to be.
So, to the 500 people who got dressed up and came out on a hot August day, thank you. Mr. Bootsie deserved it, and Ms. Emmie deserved it as well.
That’s paying last respects. And it is a good and right thing.
My father taught me that.