A Tribute To William Ed Raborn

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Mine was an early morning yesterday. At 3:00 a.m., I was perched in front of my computer with the resolve never to wait until the last minute to write anyone’s eulogy ever again. In addition, having a three-hour deadline to thoughtfully reflect on what I wanted to share at a funeral service later in the day was in essence a little too much pressure. I needed time to think and for all practical purposes, I was out of time. I had made a commitment to my next-door neighbors that we’d travel to West Texas with them by caravan. They were leaving Henly at 6:00 a.m.. I had a deadline to meet.

In addition, I had hoped to be able to share a portion of the eulogy I was crafting to capture the essence of Ed’s life as my morning blog. Time waits for no man. It didn’t wait for me yesterday morning. I printed my final draft of Ed’s funeral service at 5:56 a.m.. It was with a degree of guilt that I turned off my computer and headed out the door without posting my blog. It would simply have to wait.

There are few things I devote as much time to as carefully choosing words with the intent to honor and reflect my perception of the strengths of another’s life. I always try to do a check-and-balance inventory by talking to others closest to the family member who has died. It is always an honor for me to be asked to speak at a funeral service and I am greatly humbled by the invitation. With the acceptance of that task comes the obligation to truthfully and lovingly highlight strengths. In lots of areas of my life, there are many things I don’t get right. This is one area where I never want to mess it up.

Although I first met Ed Raborn several years ago, I had the privilege of really getting to know him over the last four years. He lived just across the fence from me where he resided with his daughter and son-in-law. They are my closest neighbors. In addition to that, we both attended the same church during that period of time.

Everything about Ed was deserving of my respect, admiration and gratitude for the gift of his friendship.   I was both honored and humbled by the opportunity to participate in yesterday’s celebration of his life in his hometown of Snyder.

I guess once a teacher, always a teacher. Ed taught me a lot; not so much in what he articulated, but in how he lived and the things to which he gave importance. He lived simply, and yet, at the same time, he lived purposefully. That wasn’t a new dimension for Ed. It was a defining characteristic of his life.

Ed was part of that generation who saved the world. Tom Brokaw defined it in his book as the “Greatest Generation” – “that WWII generation where values, duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country, and above all, responsibility for oneself, defined one’s approach to life”. All of that set the precedent for who Ed was and the values and courage he represented.

Ed was quiet-spoken and unassuming. He didn’t have the need to be in the limelight. He didn’t desire that spot. He lived with a sense of humility and he lived with a sense of gratitude for all that God provided.

In Mark’s gospel we find James and John seeking Jesus out to offer to do whatever He wanted them to do. Of course, it is fairly obvious that they were hopeful Jesus would realize how important they were and give them prominent high profile responsibilities.

Instead, Jesus gently redirects them by describing the true nature of greatness. “…Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10: 43-45)

I’m not sure how Ed made the discovery of what really was important, but a spirit of servanthood resonated in all that he did. In fact, since 1953, Ed invested his life in a spirit of servanthood in the framework of the family of faith in Snyder. The First Baptist Church of Snyder was his home church, but wherever Ed found himself, he had a servant’s heart. His was an indomitable inner strength that was welcoming and genuine. Everything about him was cloaked in a spirit of humility.

I’m not sure how Ed managed that. Early in his life – Early in his life Ed was in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M. He was a graduate of that university. He was a fighting Texas Aggie. Texas Aggies collectively have an indomitable strength and camaraderie that sets them apart, but that doesn’t always manifest itself in a sense of humility.

Ed wore the ring. Actually, he wore his first senior ring long enough to wear it out. He soon replaced it with another that looked identical the first one. When asked about his experiences at Texas A&M, Ed had stories to tell. But you generally had to ask to get the information.

Like Michael Angelo who had the ability to look at a block of marble and see somewhere hidden inside the statute of David, Ed looked at rocks and saw something most people never see.

Ed was a rock collector, par excellence. He collected rocks wherever he went. You name it, Ed could spot it – agate, garnet, quarts, thunder eggs, tiger’s eye …the list goes on and on. He’d take the rocks home, cut them open, polish them and then anyone could discover the beauty that was hidden inside. Once he had fashioned them into some kind of jewelry, others could then see what only Ed could see initially.

The ability to look at raw material and see the treasure inside – Could that have been the secret or innate ability that Ed possessed that prompted him to be a teacher? He invested his life in teaching students. (I started to describe him as a school-teacher, but that falls short of being accurate). He taught students. He invested his life in young people. He did it with a servant’s heart. He taught them the practical stuff. Some call it Industrial Arts, others call it creative life skills, the unique ability to fashion something of beauty and worth out of raw material. Isn’t that what Ed was doing with his students?

He taught in the Snyder ISD for 35 years, retired from full time teaching and spent the next 15 years in doing the same thing he had done the previous 35 years. He worked as a substitute teacher.

Ed wasn’t a stranger to hard work. Early in his life he developed the work ethic of giving the job everything he had to offer. That approach saw him though-out his life. Perhaps to some degree, his sense of accomplishment and feelings of self-worth were closely tied to his ability to be creative and fashion something of value out of raw material.

One of his sons described him this way: “ My dad always worked hard to provide what we needed. Teaching school, driving a school bus before & after school, painting houses for home builders – He worked hard & he never complained”.

“During the summer we always went to the lake for a couple of weeks & spent time with his parents, brothers & their families.  Dad didn’t even take off work then. He was always working on a project even on vacation”.

Another memory shared revolved around those summer trips to the lake. In the process of traveling, they collected coke bottles. It was a game of “I Spy” played by the kids. Whenever they spotted a coke bottle on the side of the road Ed, would stop and one of the kids would get out & collect bottle. They paid for their trip this way.  Great memory!

One didn’t have to spend much time with Ed before it became immediately clear: He valued family. Perhaps the greatest legacy he contributed to his family was his love and devotion to his wife. Juanita preceded Ed in death by a year and a half. Ed valued family, extended family, church family and friends. He loved the experience of being a part of something greater than himself.

However, the thing I most valued about Ed was his ultimate faith in God’s unconditional love and God’s ultimate plan for life. The last few months of Ed’s life has been marked by difficulty. Yet he refused to give up, or to retreat to bitterness, or to fall prey to lasting depression. He knew that God would take care of the tomorrows, and he was intent on living the todays.

Ed was a teacher. He taught me a lot by example. Hopefully when the time comes, I will pass the test.

All My Best!

Don

 

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