On Sunday, I had the honor of speaking and offering prayers at the funeral of a friend of mine. I must admit, it was not the typical memorial I have attended in the past. Gary, or “G” as he was most often called, wasn’t a typical person so I suppose that is why his memorial was not what one would call typical. Let me explain…
Gary was a wonderful man – he had a beautiful smile – a huge heart – he wasn’t afraid to use the word love or show love to his family and friends. He adored his aging mother and took tremendous care of her. He loved his long-time partner, Kelly, and was a father figure to her children who lost their dad at a young age. Gary was a very tall and imposing figure with a long ponytail and chest length beard – Gary was a biker.
When I walked into the funeral home the smell of stale cigarette smoke permeated the air – obviously emanating from the attendants at the memorial. Before me I saw the most leather clad, denim wearing and inked people I have ever seen in one space. There were men and women wearing bandanas in various colors and styles – leather vests or jackets – and 90% of them rode in on their motorcycles to reach their destination.
I have always prided myself that I try not to judge a book by its cover, or, in other words – not to judge a person by the way they look – the color of their skin – or their ethnicity. Although I know I have failed at times, I put my best foot forward and put my vow of celibacy to work and love all people equally. If a person with preconceived notions about “bikers” walked into that funeral home, they would have much fodder for their bias thoughts – they would have been wrong.
My point – take time to get to know people – to learn about them – to listen to them. We can’t keep assuming we know who they are or what they are about merely by what they wear or the color of their skin – or their ethnicity – WE are all more than that and it is more important to learn what is on the inside than what is on the outside. In the times we live in now, we don’t take time to get to know the person – we judge them by the way they look – of the country of origin where they came – or the fact that the color of their skin does not match the color of mine. WE are more than that and more of us need to realize that fact.
Let me finish telling you about yesterday. The funeral home was absolutely packed – I can’t even begin to estimate the number of people who were in attendance. Many big, burly men proudly wearing their leather – were tearful and greatly saddened at the passing of this great man. Women clinging to their own husbands or significant others as their shared in the sadness that filled the room. Many spoke of a man who was giving, caring and a great friend. One who would give you the shirt off his back and who would do anything for anyone any time of the day. He was loved and revered – yet, he was a biker and when people who did not know “G” or any of the others in that room for that fact, would have judged him by what he wore, not what he did.
If anyone took the time to listen to this group they would have heard of the tremendous charitable acts they do – they would have heard, as I did, their faith journeys and their love for our God. They would have heard a group of people who are loyal, dedicated and loving – they would have had their derogatory notions thwarted.
I wondered, as the seemingly limitless number of motorcycles roared out of the drive of the funeral home and drove east on Washington Street– how many people driving by passed judgement on these wonderful people as they rode in honor of their beloved friend – how many people standing on the sidewalks knew that they were just leaving the memorial service and saying goodbye to their friend for the last time. I wondered how many of those looking on, who did not know any of these people, were frightened by their looks or annoyed at the loud sound of their motorcycles or were put out because they had to wait for this mourning group of friends as they filled the street on which they were traveling – I wondered how many people judged them by the way they looked?
I can tell you that it was the most refreshing day I have had in a long time. Although that sounds strange to say a memorial service was refreshing but it was. I was renewed in my efforts to be loving and kind – to be accepting and hospitable – to be open and honest – to never, never, judge a book by its cover. Rest in Peace, “G” – you will be missed.