Yesterday we said goodbye to our friend, Aubrey Walden. In the year and a half that I knew Aubrey I knew him as “the man who is almost 100-years-old.” He died Sunday at the age of 99.
When we told our oldest son, age 11, that Mr. Aubrey had passed away he expressed his feeling of loss by saying, “I really thought he would make it to 100! He was really looking forward to that.” We were all looking forward to that. You can say what you like about the appropriateness of recognizing birthdays during Sunday worship, but Aubrey’s birthday was one that demanded to be recognized not merely for his longevity but also because his many years became his way of expressing the goodness of God. Aubrey was an evangelist simply by being himself. I too had hoped for the Sunday closest to November 16 when we would all cheer and applaud because Aubrey had celebrated his 100th birthday. I had hoped to see the children gawk at one another as they pondered such an astronomical age and then boast that they knew a real honest-to-goodness centenarian – which I am sure they would pronounce as “hunnert’yurolman.”
Yesterday at the funeral, Dale Brown spoke so well about Aubrey and urged us to let the memories of our 99-year-old friend flow. It is a blessing to experience this wave of memory. Brad Pistole sent out an email sharing some of Aubrey’s reflections on life. Our crowd in Peak of the Week shared stories on how Aubrey brought kindness and joy to their lives. In Dale’s eulogy and in all the stories and reflections there is one theme I have noticed: Aubrey took an interest in other people. He was complimentary and caring. I experienced that myself. On more than one occasion, Aubrey praised me for my preaching. He said much more than “good sermon, young man.” His words recognized that the talent to preach is a gift of God. I do not think I can write what he said to me because I wouldn’t do justice to the sacred blessing he shared. I can tell you that when Aubrey gave me such a “compliment” I did not get an ego boost, rather I felt a sacred charge and holy responsibility to preach the word of the Lord.
Aubrey Walden was indeed caring and complimentary and I think he modeled a characteristic that we would all do well to imitate. For the entire time that many of us knew Aubrey, he was a senior citizen. (In fact, when men first walked on the moon, Aubrey was a senior citizen). Perhaps because of his age, any of us would have forgiven him for being curmudgeonly, worried, anxious, or self-absorbed. Yet, he was not. He often thought of us. He didn’t demand “respect for one’s elders,” but he gained respect that was based on more than the fact that he was our oldest member.
I take some consolation in the fact that this was Aubrey’s 100th year. The fact that he did not make it to his 100th birthday only means that some of his plans changed. Aubrey worked at Golden Corral until very recently. He once told me that he planned to work until he was 100, retire for two years, and then come back to work. I had every reason to believe that he would do just that. His plans may have changed, but the eternal life that we witnessed in our 99-year-old friend continues.