(Continued from yesterday.)
“Ellsworth Bowden and I were respectful combatants on the battle field of theological differences. But he was a phony.”
There was a gasp from the audience. I looked at Mrs. Bowden. She didn’t blink an eye. In fact, she even gave a slight smile of approval.”
“Ellsworth Bowden strutted about like some intellectual snob, but at heart he was a farmer. Until this day I thought it was the discussions he enjoyed with me. It wasn’t, he liked being on the farm. I think all along he wanted me to ask him to plow a field or hoist some hay, or even shovel manure.”
“Ellsworth Bowden could walk the campus and hallways of Princeton and speak the language of the elite, but at heart he was a farm boy.”
“I don’t know how Ellsworth wanted to be remembered. I think he would leave that to each of us to figure for ourselves, but the only one in this room that it matters to is
Mrs. Bowden; it’s how she remembers him. And I look at her today, right now, she smiles. That is all we need to know about Ellsworth Bowden; he left his wife with a smile.”
“That’s what I’m going to do from now on when I think about him; I’m going to smile.”
Dad smiled at Mrs. Bowden than looked at everyone. Dad nodded to the funeral director and he began to show everyone out.
Dad politely grasp Mrs. Bowden’s hand. “Will you be having supper with us this evening?”
“Sure,” Mrs. Bowden said. “Do you have the apple cider that Ellie went on about?”
“We have some fresh squeezed,” Mom said.
Mom went with Mrs. Bowden and Dad and I headed to the car alone. Everyone who attended the funeral remained in the parking lot. Dad received handshakes from everyone.
He was about to get into our car when a short man in a blue suit called out, “Tenny!”
Dad turned around.
“Jim Turner,” the man said. “We used to run around together in our wayward youth.”
“Shhh,” Dad said and smiled. “My wife and son.”
“Nice of you to honor Pastor Bowden in that way,” Turner said.
“Thanks,” Dad said. “He was a good man.”
“We were advised not to come by the church board,” Turner said.
“I figured as much,” Dad said.
“But everyone got a letter from Pastor Bowden,” Turner said. “It appears he wrote, addressed, and stamped letters to everyone and left them with his lawyer to mail at his death.”
“That’s interesting,” Dad said. “Thanks for passing that on.” Dad shook his hand. “We’ll talk some other time, Jim. I got some things to do on the farm.”
Dad and I pulled from the parking lot and turned toward home.
“An old friend,” Dad said. “Good man.”
“You did a good job today, Dad,” I said. “Bowden knew you wouldn’t speak in the church. He wrote everyone to come to the funeral home.”
“Seems like he knew me better than I knew him,” Dad said. “All this time he was sizing me up. That’s amazing and I thought I knew him.”
“You really liked him, didn’t you?” I said.
“Oh yeah!” Dad said. “Just because we raised our voices a bit and he stormed away without a goodbye only means our convictions are tested beyond our restraint for civility.”
“But you always managed to remain cool,” I said.
“Well,” Dad smiled, “Bowden left in time.”
We drove for a while and were nearly home. “What have you learned?” Dad said.
“You said something a little while back,” I said. “You seemed disappointed that Bowden knew you better than you knew him.”
“It seems like I missed all the clues,” Dad said.
“But didn’t you tell me once that a man of principle is predictable, because he always does the right thing?” I said.
Dad paused. We turned in the driveway to our home. He turned off the car and just as I was about to open the car door Dad rested his hand on my arm. “Thanks, son.”