“Don’t be afraid to love people. Love one another.” These were powerful words I heard from Pastor Franklin Howell of Bethlehem Baptist Church, as he delivered the eulogy of my nephew, 51-year-old Kenny Gaillard at the Ruckersville Cemetery.
He further said, “The truth is plain and simple. We can’t go on hating one another; we can’t survive by tearing one another down; we can’t come up by digging down deeper; and, we can’t go on refusing to forgive one another. Today is our day to turn from hate to love. That is exactly what Kenny would want, for us to love one another.”
Pastor Howell talked about how Kenny loved football and the Dallas Cowboys. Kenny loved driving trucks. He said, “... the last time I saw Kenny, he came by my office to try to get me to quit preaching and take up truck driving.” Then he said, “Kenny loved his daughters and he loved his family.”
I thought about Kenny from my perspective as his aunt. I met him over 30 years ago. He married my niece, Kelli, and they had these beautiful daughters, Kamri and Karli. He was fun to be around. He always offered advice. Kenny genuinely loved people. Then life happened – he and Kelli divorced. That did not stop Kenny from calling me, Aunt Barbara, Aunt Louise or his former in-laws, Pastor Hayes and Valerie. While my boys were growing up, Kenny talked to them all the time about staying out of trouble and offered them sound advice. He stayed in touch with all my relatives. The news of his death affected all of us.
I thought about Pastor Howell’s words, “Love one another.” We can’t pick and choose who we love. We have to love all people regardless of their circumstances; regardless of divorce; and, regardless of color. Kenny could have stopped talking to my family, but he chose not to – he chose to love.
I thought about Mama’s teachings of love and her words of wisdom, “You will love and not hate.” Mama endured mistreatment from people during her life. But she chose to love. She chose to teach us to love all of God’s people.
After visitation and graveside services, Kenny’s brother, Timmy and his wife Judy, invited us into their home and treated us like family. We talked to his sister, Dottie, (whom I met many years ago) and to his father, Elbert. Kenny’s mother died when he was young and he was raised by his grandmother and his aunt, Sarah Prather. We all fellowshipped together. We entreated one another with love, even though we had not seen each other for years.
Pastor Howell further said, “It is laid out for us what we must do from this point on. Be decent, honest, truthful, helpful to one another and useful to God ... Be patient with one another ... always be friendly (you need friends) ... Give generously (giving helps any situation) ... God is willing to help us, and with God’s help, we can do what we need to do. With God’s help we can learn from our mistakes; we can find the course in life that God has laid out for us; we can come to terms with God and be at peace ... we can endure mistreatment and forgive it ... we can sorrow, but not like the others who have no hope ... Love with all you got (love one another, love one another, love one another)...”
As people, can we love one another, in the midst of difficult times? Can we love one another – even if there is divorce? Plain and simple – can we love one another? You be the judge.