By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
It’s long been said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.
After writing checks for my property taxes in 2020 and learning of the deaths of two dear friends and a family member in just the past two weeks, I tend to agree with that statement.
But, there is a third certainty that far outweighs the first two: Jesus Christ is still on His throne.
As to taxes, even Jesus said, “… Give, then, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
As to death, Jesus conquered that certainty of life with His death on the cross. I must add that certainty is only available to all who confess their sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The three men that I knew who died in the past two weeks were faithful followers of Jesus Christ. That has made it easier to accept their deaths though I will miss each one of them.
The death that impacted me the most was my last remaining uncle, Bill Wilkey, who died Jan. 4 at the age of 83. He was far more than an uncle, at least in my eyes. After my mother (his sister) died and both of my grandparents, Bill and his wife, Lynn, were there for me. That really was not a surprise because they have been there my entire life.
About four years ago, I wrote a column that described my misuse of the word “hero.” For years, I had used the term for athletes.
Then, I finally came to the conclusion they were not “heroes,” but rather men and women who excelled at their God-given talents. In that particular column, I used “heroes” to describe our military veterans and I mentioned two by name, one of them who was my uncle.
This is what I wrote then:
“Bill served in the United States Air Force for 20 years, much of it during the Vietnam War. He truly is one of my heroes. He is one of the most solid men I have ever known. He is quiet and unassuming (and he will not like that I wrote about him), but in this case, I would rather ask his forgiveness rather than his permission.
“Bill is the kind of man who prefers to remain in the background. He has never sought the limelight. While in the Air Force he was a ground maintenance mechanic. Though he never piloted a plane, he did things behind the scenes that had to be done.
“Over the years I have learned a lot from my uncle just by watching and observing. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever known. After his Air Force career, he worked for many years on third shift in a textile mill. He would come home and work around his house and garden (during the summer), then sleep some, and begin the process again at midnight. I never saw him show disrespect for anyone, especially women and older adults. “Yes sir or no sir” was not an option for him. It was a way of life and it still comes naturally. He loves his family but he knows how to discipline when necessary (and that extended at times to his nephew who needed it). Hopefully, I have learned from him and those characteristics are engrained in me as well.”
If anything, those words have become even more applicable in the last four years. I can now add courage to the list. He dealt with several health-related issues over the past few years that limited what he could do, but I never heard him complain.
We laid Bill to rest last week in Traveler’s Rest, S.C., near the graves of his parents and his sister and brother. I will miss him deeply because of what he meant to me and my family, but I take comfort in knowing that he is in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Hugh X. Lewis: Little did I know that in 2006 when I first met and wrote a feature story about this former country music singer and writer that we would begin a friendship that lasted until his death at the age of 90 on Dec. 29.
Hugh X., or “the Colonel” as he was known, was a prolific writer of both country songs and poetry. For nearly 14 years we ran his poems, as space allowed, under the headings of “Ain’t It the Truth?” or “A Way with Words.” These poems were well received by many of our readers and they garnered the Colonel many opportunities to speak to Baptist senior adult groups across the state.
Wherever he went, Hugh X. was an ambassador for the Baptist and Reflector and he was always looking for ways to help promote the paper. He was a dear friend and I will miss him greatly. See article on page 12.
Horace Brown: Bro. Horace was a longtime pastor in Tennessee and South Carolina and for the last 11 years served as director of missions for East Tennessee Baptist Association in Cocke County and Newport. Bro. Horace was a true Christian gentleman and servant. He loved the churches that he served in the association and they loved him. He will be missed by all who knew him. See obituary on page 12.
Death and taxes are certainties, but the salvation available by faith in Jesus Christ is eternal. Even though I will miss my uncle and friends greatly in the meantime, I know we will be together in heaven one day.