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Fully Known and Fully Loved – a eulogy

The Rev. Canon Frank Logue gave this eulogy during a graveside burial office 
at Lott Cemetery in Waycross, Georgia on March 29, 2017

 

Fully Known and Fully Loved
A Eulogy for Al Trogdon
John 10:11-16

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

These words from the opening anthems of the Burial Office in the Book of Common Prayer have comforted untold millions of mourners. My redeemer lives. He will raise me up. I shall see him who is my friend and not a stranger.

I sat in Al and Anne Trogdon’s living room in the week’s leading to Anne’s death in 2008. As the three of us talked about death, dying, and the hope of eternal life we have in Jesus, Anne brought out a book of questions she was pondering. The book was Ever Wonder: Ask questions and live into the answers. A short, wide book with a single question on every two-page spread, and no answers anywhere but within the reader. Al, Anne and I talked about thought-provoking questions like:

If you think life is hard, what are you comparing it to?

Do you realize that nothing is too good to be true?

If you had five minutes to live, who would you call and why are you waiting?

The one that intrigued Anne the most was, “How would you introduce yourself to God?”

Al had no use for that question. For Al, the whole point was that God already fully knew and fully loved Anne. The roles have changed now. We will commit Anne’s ashes to the earth today, but we are here to remember Al Trogdon.

Al was born in Middletown, New York, but he got to the South soon enough that would not have been your first guess. His good friend David Vogel said of Al’s way of talking, “Good God almighty, I met people from Alabama who didn’t talk that slow!” The two met when David worked for an investment company that hired Al’s company as general contractor in the 70s in Orlando. Al came with the deal. David said, “I would accuse him of talking so slow that people would go to sleep between sentences.” Or as Jimmy Joyce, Al’s football buddy from high school here in Waycross put it, “It would take Al three minutes to just say hello.”

Jimmy recalls Al from years back as a good football player and a good friend with a knack for making good money. Jimmy went off to Georgia Tech when Al headed to Southern Tech in Chamblee, Georgia. Al and Jimmy liked going to Georgia Tech’s home football games. Al owned a car and would show up with money ready to have fun. Jimmy’s roommate would leave on the weekends, so Al had a bed. On the weekends when Tech wasn’t playing at home, Al would work as a brick mason to earn money to pay for their fun. It wasn’t all perfect though because Al was never on time. Jimmy says when they double dated in high school, “About the time, he was supposed to pick me up, Al would just be getting in the shower.” Jimmy said Al was a good fellow and you could depend on him once he got somewhere, then added, “I bet if you would check around he was two or three days late on his funeral.”

Al was not slow on everything. Jimmy recalls that Al and Louise married before most of his high school friends. She had just graduated from nursing school and was going to work for the VA Hospital in Atlanta. Al was finished his degree in Civil Engineering. Together they would have three children, Marie, Will, and Sandra. But many marriages begun young fail to sustain over the long haul, and the kids ended up here in Waycross, while Al found a steady stream of projects in Florida.

David Vogel remembers those years in the 70s and 80s when they were building up Orlando with a host of commercial buildings, including one project that anchored the north end of the city. He said, “You slept well at night because you knew Al Trogdon would make it work. Al was absolutely a workaholic. Whatever he told you, you could take it to the bank. If you got Al Trogdon, you knew it was going to get done on time and on budget or better. You just knew that.”

David met a lot of people through work, but in Al, he found a loyal friend. To David’s delight he noted, “When our work relationship subsided, our friendship remained.” Al and David had a lot of fun together and truth be told David had a number of stories that might not be appropriate for this particular gathering.

This won’t surprise his oldest child, Marie. She and her Dad would meet up in Atlanta for some good times as she learned to enjoy letting him be who he was. The there was the Georgia – Florida Game, which they enjoyed together across a number of years. She found she and her dad who she knew little from her childhood shared a real connection, which is why she came to understand him as well as anyone.

Then there was his wife Anne. Al finally found his match in her. Anne pulled me up close in her hospital room one day to tell me about Al. I should note that she had a gleam in her eye. She told me how they had been junior high sweethearts who had not stayed together. They met up again at their 35th high school reunion and talked the night away. They were married five months later and became a great gift to one another since. Al told me that spring now nine years gone that Anne saved him from a life of working hard and playing hard.

Neighbors Harriett and Virgil Dixon remember Anne and Al as great neighbors on the Bluff. Virgil and Al enjoyed fishing and shrimping together and sitting out and talking while they smoked butts. Al and Anne had a good life together, even if it didn’t last as long as anyone might have liked. When Anne discovered she had pancreatic cancer, Al was a rock. Anne’s daughter Nancy told me then, in speaking of Al, “Poppy has been the epitome of ‘for better for worse.’” Nancy was right, of course. I watched first hand as Al was a pillar of strength in Anne’s illness and death.

When Anne’s cousin Frank died, Al helped his widow, Carol Norton, through the bewildering decisions that follow any death. He went with her to the funeral home and helping her get through it. Carol heard more about Al’s life, which was filled with fun, interesting experiences. She bought a plaque for him that she thought summed it up, “All men die, but few men have truly lived.”

“That is Al,” she told me.

But the years take their toll on all of us in our very mortal bodies. In these last two years of his life as his health deteriorated in ways he tried not to let on to others, his daughter Marie told me he said many times, “I am wearing out. I am ready to go.”

Al knew that his redeemer lives and at the last, he would see him. There would be no introducing himself to God. That happened long ago. Al grew up in church as one did in the 1930s and 40s. He found his way into the Episcopal Church and as Marie put it, “Through thick and thin and regardless of what he was doing, he was an Episcopalian.” In varying degrees he remained quite active. I met Al as a faithful member of the Episcopal Church that met at Honey Creek, not far from their place on the Bluff. I am not surprised that when he went into the hospital recently, what he wanted his Prayer Book, with its long familiar words of both challenge and comfort woven from scripture.

In our Gospel reading we hear of Jesus speak of himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep and then says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Jesus knew and loved Al, as he was. I have yet to bury a saint and we are not burying one today. That’s fine. The folks I have eulogized were not buried by a saint either. But we bury a man who with the same sort of flaws we all contend with was a loyal friend and a good man who placed his trust in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, to forgive him of his sins and receive him into life eternal. Al could be a bit impatient that day when we Anne pondered the question, “How would you introduce yourself to God?” because he knew God fully knew and fully loved Anne. And now as roles have changed, we gather to recall a full life, and to celebrate that Al did not arrive in heaven to spend his first three minutes trying to say hello. And Jesus did not need to try to stay awake between the sentences as Al introduced himself. For Al has passed from life to death to the life eternal. And in that place where God wipes every tear from our eyes, Al too is already fully known and fully loved.

Amen.

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