Two of my beloved brothers served as pastors of wonderful congregations in Birmingham. Gary was assigned to Thirgood CME Church, located across the street from Tabernacle. Ron pastored Bethel AME Church in Ensley but also was on staff at Greater Birmingham Ministries.
I was honored to befriend both these pastors. Both were diagnosed with cancer. Ron came to me in the late 1990s and shared that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was working on a project and asked for my help. I was honored to help review some materials that he wanted to publish. After he had shared about the cancer diagnosis, there was an urgency to complete the project. He knew there was limited time. He needed to get it done. He got it done.
Ron’s funeral was at Bethel in Ensley. It was moving. I still remember the tears that flowed that day. We celebrated his life. We celebrated the work that he accomplished in transforming the community surrounding the church with new housing. Since his death, his son, Ron, Jr., has become a famous basketball player and coach. Ron’s legacy continues to thrive in moving ways.
Gary also was diagnosed with cancer and was hospitalized a couple of times while serving Thirgood. His cancer went into remission, and he was transferred to the Carter CME Church in Orlando, Florida. While hospitalized here in Birmingham, I often would visit and made every effort to be a source of encouragement. Unfortunately, his cancer returned. I received word from a fraternity brother that Gary had passed. It was a sad way to begin a New Year in 2008.
We remember and celebrate the people who touch us in moving ways. Periodically their faces and names, encounters and experiences flash before us. Their memories may produce smiles; they may produce tears. However, we remember them. That is the key. We remember. There is a ritual in many African cultures where when a family member dies, a plate setting remains where they sat. It is a reminder that the person remains a part of the family. As long as the person is remembered, they continue to live and be a part of the family. We continually cultivate ways of remembering our loved ones and friends.
Who are you thinking about? Who are you remembering? Send me an email (email@example.com). I would love to hear your story. May the memory of Gary Collins and Ron Nored continue to be a blessing. Amen.