This blog posting is much more personal than most, but perhaps you will let me use this opportunity to share with you about the passing of three dear friends this month.
On April 5 we received the news that Norma Young, 77, our friend and longtime missionary associate in Japan had passed away. We were not particularly surprised at the news, for she had been battling brain tumors for quite some time, and recently we had received word than she was in hospice care. Still, it was sad to hear of her passing, and our prayers are with her husband, Hugh.
Then on April 11 we received this shocking email message: “The family of Clyde and Nancy Tilley wish to inform you of their passing. They died one day apart on April 9 and 10 of natural causes. Their funeral service is 7:30 pm Friday evening, April 12th at Smith Mortuary in Maryville, TN.”
Like Norma, Nancy, 76, had been in poor health for some time, so her passing was not completely unexpected. But we didn’t know that Clyde, 78, had been seriously ill, and he was the one who passed first. Perhaps it was more than Nancy’s weak heart could stand when she heard of Clyde’s passing, for she died the next day.
Among other things, Norma was a cartoonist, and a number of her cartoons were published in “The Commission,” the SBC missions magazine. Later, her cartoons were more widely used in “The Baptist Peacemaker,” the publication of the Baptist Peacemakers Fellowship of North America (BPFNA).
My friend Ken Sehested, who was the founding (in 1984) Executive Director of the BPFNA, sent me the following cartoon, which was Norma’s first one to be published in “The Baptist Peacemaker.”
Clyde was a university professor for much of his adult life and a pastor before, during, and after his years on a university faculty. He was also an author, his main book being “The Surpassing Righteousness: Evangelism and Ethics in the Sermon on the Mount” (1992). His main teaching position was at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
In addition, Clyde also served on the board of directors of Habitat for Humanity International (from 1980 to 1991) and was a supporter of BPFNA. Perhaps it was in 1986 that I flew to Tennessee to visit him and Nancy, and he and I then drove to Virginia to attend that summer’s BPFNA “peace camp.”
Nancy’s sphere of influence was more local, but she was one of the most caring persons I have ever known, greatly concerned about the well-being of not only her children and, later, her grandchildren, but of all people, local and far away, who were in spiritual and/or material need.
All of us who knew Norma, Nancy, and/or Clyde miss them greatly. But we are thankful for their influential lives and for the blessing of knowing them personally.
Reflecting on the passing of these dear friends, all of whom were born in the same decade as I, leads me to appreciate even more the words of Henri Amiel (1821-81), the Swiss philosopher: “Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be quick to love and make haste to be kind.”