Great One: A Legacy of Love
Memorial Service Reflection for Fred E. Eaker, Sr.
(October 17, 1957 – June 21, 2011)
Yesterday I was honored to offer a short reflection at my father-in-law’s memorial service at Central Carolina Community Church (C4) in Asheboro, NC. His church was filled with family, friends, and co-workers who gathered to remember his legacy of love.
1 John 4:7,11, and 12 (NRSV)
7 Let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 11 Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.
The first time I met Fred Sr., he had just returned home from his annual bass-a-rama at Badin Lake with his Malt-O-Meal buddies. He walked into the house smiling, fresh from fishing– his favorite activity. Then he poured himself a glass of milk–his other favorite activity. And even though he was tired from fishing all day, he offered me sincere hospitality that night.
Over the next few hours, we got to know one another well. Before I knew it, we were laughing together as he showed me home videos of his boys (AJ and Freddy) playing together with their toys on Christmas Day. Fred brought out old photo albums, pointing proudly at portraits of Freddy, AJ, and Sherri. What I noticed most about that first encounter was his kindness and how much he loved his family.
I didn’t call him Mr. Eaker for very long. Shortly after that first evening together, I asked him what he would like for me to call him. “O Great One” he said without hesitation. So, that’s what I called him. Great One. He loved nicknames and jokes.
A year and a half ago, I became a vegetarian. But Great One knew that I would have a difficult time giving up my cheeseburgers. We shared a mutual love for cheeseburgers. Each time I saw him, he’d tease me relentlessly about the burgers. When we rode in his boat, he’d play “Cheeseburger in Paradise” on the stereo. When he grilled, he’d ask me if I wanted him replace my black bean burger with a real burger. He knew that despite my dietary choice, I was a born cheeseburger fanatic.
Great One also loved milk. When Freddy and I told some dairy farmer friends of ours them how much milk Fred Sr consumed per week, they said that even their family didn’t drink that much milk. This week, when they heard the news of his passing, they wrote to us, “I’m sorry we never got to meet your Dad. You both always spoke so sweetly of him—and how could someone who loved milk so much be anything be sweet?”
On Friday evening, a few hours before his cardiac arrest, Great One taught me how to pick a crab. His sister Mickey and Ron brought them Maryland for our Eaker Family Reunion. He was patient with me, showing me step-by-step how to do it. I could barely get through one crab. I gave him what little meat I had been able to salvage and told him I was leaving the rest to him. He told me I’d better wash my hands, and that they may stink for two days. “I forgot to tell you that part,” he said, chuckling.
I had an absentee father for most of my life, so when I met Great One, it was as if God has blessed me with another opportunity to have a father. His sudden death has devastated me, his family, his friends and colleagues.
But, in the midst of that devastation, we are comforted by Fred’s legacy of love. Scripture reminds us, “everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” Fred embodied God’s love through his love for us. His hospitality and generosity was God’s love manifest. He expressed his love to us all through his advice, his warmth, and his big heart.
We honor Great One’s legacy by loving one another.
1 John 4: 7, 11, and 12 (NRSV)
7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.