This cool dude is Mr. Cooper. Some of us call him Al. Last Sunday while I was getting ready for Easter Sunday worship at my church, I got a message from one of our friends from our old church, that Al went home to be with the Lord the day before Easter. I was saddened to hear about the loss of one of the coolest guys I’ve ever known. Al was a loved person of the church, he was a dear friend to many, and his family loved him deeply.
Although I was devastated, I knew it was Easter morning. I knew it was a day to give thanks for resurrection life and it was my charge that morning to proclaim the good news of God’s kept promise that Jesus conquered death, the tomb was emptied, and that we’re to be Easter people. It was still a sad day and I was sad that I had not followed up on my friend Al. My last conversation with Al was toward the end of last year. I had shared with him the news that I had accepted a new call to my current church in Los Angeles. Al was a dear friend and loved me and my family very much. Al loved the Lord. He loved Jesus with all of his heart. He loved serving as a leader in the church. He loved the mission of the church. Most of all, he loved people.
Al was as an old retired World War II US Marine. He’d tell story after story about his experience serving and living overseas. Al joined the Marines in 1943. He was a Master Sargent. There were a couple of funerals I officiated where Al would sometimes help with the honor guard detail. He would proudly wear his uniform whenever he could and would even joke about how it was growing a little tight around his waist. He’d wear it to church on special occasions like on Memorial Day weekend. The picture above was taken after church by one of his friends. Al loved his country and was never afraid to talk about politics. Al also worked with the young Marines in the community. It was the way he gave back to the community. It was his kingdom ministry.
You see? Guys like Al are the real deal. He was part of a generation of men that had a deep love for God, country, and family. Al was indeed part of the greatest generation. Al has a powerful testimony too. Several years ago Al’s wife passed away. Al would often talk about his bride and how he missed her every single day. He would always let us know when her birthday was. The loss of his wife hit his family as well as the church pretty hard. It literally changed Al’s life. Al loved his family with all of his heart. He especially loved his grandkids and how God was working in their lives.
Al was an honest man and wasn’t afraid to tell you how he felt about something. Al often shared a prayer of praise or concern during the worship service. It was always something about his family and about his grandkids. Al would also remind the church to continue to pray for our country and for the leadership of our country. Al would even encourage everyone to go out and vote.
Al would always ask me how I was doing. He cared about those who served as pastors. Al treated everyone with respect and care. He always encouraged me and my family. There were some days we’d disagree about church stuff, but at the end of the day, I knew Al and I were on the same page when it came to the mission of the church, that mission being loving God’s people.
Al over the last few years had some health issues. There were some moments I thought Al would go home to be with the Lord. Al was like the energizer bunny and the little engine that could, all rolled up in one. Maybe it was the Marine in Al that kept him going.
I got to spend some time with Al off and on over the last couple of years. We’d have some fun talks. He’d ask me how things were going. He was always still interested in what I was doing. I learned more about pastoral care and being a pastor with Al than I ever did in seminary. In some ways, Al pastored me.
I’ll miss Al. What Al leaves behind is a legacy of faith and an example of what it means to have a love for God, country, and for his family. I know for me and some of Al’s friends, we will continue to grieve his loss and we will celebrate that Al was a faithful Christ-follower until the end.
I’m not surprised that Al was called home to be with Jesus during Easter weekend.
It was really not the end of Al’s life on April 4th, 2015.
It was only the beginning.