Tuesday, February 17, 2009
“Ryan Richardson didn’t blur racial lines – he erased them.”
Those were the words of Jerry Walls, pastor of Southside Baptist Church of Warner Robins, GA, as he eulogized 19 year old Ryan Kimes-Richardson today in one of the most impressive funeral services I’ve ever attended.
And trust me - I’ve attended more than a few.
I began to get impressed on Monday evening when my wife and I attended the visitation at the church.
Okay, I was more than impressed. I was blown away.
I was blown away because there was at least a two hour wait in a line to get to Ryan’s parents. I was blown away because so many teenagers stood in that two hour line for the opportunity to hug the parents of their obviously beloved friend. I was blown away because I saw so many tears. And I was blown away because of the strength of Ryan’s heartbroken parents.
And I was blown away because about 98% of the hundreds of folks who had gathered were Caucasian.
And Ryan happens to be an African American.
I couldn’t help but wonder where the media was for this one. It seems we hear so much of racial tension and discord, especially in southern places like middle Georgia. I can tell you racial tension was conspicuously absent at the celebration of this young man’s life.
There was also not a dry eye among the 1,000 or so folks who were in attendance at the funeral service today.
My friend and pastor Jerry Walls did a masterful job mixing humor with the heaviness of the moment. Ryan lived life to the fullest and he left many fun memories with all those who knew him and loved him. Jerry also did a masterful job reminding the throngs of teenagers in attendance who were leaning on his every word that none of us are promised our next breath.
On Friday morning, Ryan’s mom sent him to mail a package and find a job. Ryan, in his usual jovial way, danced with his mom in the kitchen before he left.
In a few hours, as our pastor so eloquently said today from the pulpit, “Ryan was dancing before Jesus.”
Among other scriptures, the pastor quoted Proverbs 18:24: “A man that has friends must show himself friendly.”
Ryan Kimes-Richardson made a ton of friends in his short 19 years on earth.
Everyone who attended the funeral service was humbled today as we celebrated this incredible young man’s life. Ryan’s presence and the impact he had on all who knew him were evident to all.
But racial lines were conspicuously absent.