Yet another Loyd patriarch has passed. My uncle Melvin, the last of the surviving brothers, died recently at the age of 95. Now only my Aunt Mildred remains, the last of Grace ‘Ma’ Loyd’s five children. Louis L’Amour wrote in his book Education of a Wandering Man; “Living as we do in the present, we do not realize that there is no present, only a shifting scene that is not two days the same, and that all we know today may be and will be gone tomorrow.” This is certainly true. The reality that this life is limited by the boundaries of birth on one end and death on the other is an uncomfortable truth that all of us must reckon with, and come to some sort of peace with through faith or acceptance, and on the good days with hope. Uncle Melvin had that kind of hope that was informed by his faith in Jesus. He was surrounded by his children as he crossed the threshold into that everlasting hope, and by all reports it was a beautiful passing.
Uncle Melvin was slightly shorter than his brothers, but he was tall in influence. Like a towering tree that found a growth spurt in the warmth of spring, Melvin’s legacy now provides a nurturing shade for generations that are just beginning to bud. When tall trees fall, they do so with tremendous power impacting a large swath of ground. But even when they fall their passing serves a greater purpose. Their height and girth serve to nourish every part of the environment touched by their limbs. The trunk provides shelter to a variety of creatures, large and small, that find refuge beneath its bark and fading leaves. So it is with Melvin, in one sense he has departed and his time here among us is over, but in another sense he is ever present. His words and work continue to provide refuge for generations yet unborn. Even those who will be removed from memories of him will carry on his legacy in their physical features, attitudes, mannerisms. Melvin’s influence is inescapable to all those who trace their lineage through him, and this by God’s design serves to perpetuate family and culture. In this way, Melvin’s good example will continue in ways he could’ve never imagined.
My memories of Melvin are most closely associated with his youngest daughter Judy, who is closer to my age than my other cousins on my Father’s side. I distinctly remember when she would visit, she always had an interesting game to play or would concoct an interesting mystery for us to investigate and solve together. Her presence sparked my fertile imagination and I was always happy to see her, although I often lacked the capacity or vocabulary to express it.
Uncle Melvin’s presence was always marked by lots of laughter and interesting stories that captivated my attention, as Melvin, unlike my Dad, was outgoing and talkative. I remember that when I was in my twenties, I was traveling in the Houston area and reached out to Uncle Melvin, who kindly opened his home to me. We talked a lot about politics, a subject that I really enjoyed. At the time, Melvin was the only family member who resonated with my Republican, right wing perspectives. I remember finding his perspective interesting as both of my brothers and dad vehemently disagreed with my opposition to one of Arkansas’ favorite sons, Bill Clinton, who was President of the United States. Melvin waxed downright eloquent in detailing why Clinton was so bad for the Nation, much to my approval.
But an even more important subject than politics to Melvin, was his faith in Jesus. During my visit, he was especially fond of the Spanish language services he attended at his local church. Melvin’s wife was a native of Mexico, and these services designed to communicate the gospel in her native language were very important to him. I remember sitting in the Spanish service, not understanding a word that was spoken, but Melvin was enjoying the worship and preaching and shared with me what he was picking up of the content along the way.
It is interesting the moments one remembers and the moments one forgets. The Loyd family, for as long as I have been a part of it, has been characterized by hospitality and kindness. I’m sure there are a few of us who are ‘rascals’ and probably a few of us have all had ‘rascully’ moments, but generally we are the sort of clan that will open our doors and take you in and give you something to eat, especially if you are family. Of course, you might have to endure a sermon, political opinion, or piece of unsolicited advice in return, but you’ll always receive more than you expected. Melvin did this for me, as the bed he offered was comfortable, the food that he served was delicious, and the conversation was always entertaining. What more could a sojourner ask for?
In the end we are all sojourners. We are just passing through this life in route to the next. Melvin traveled in style and with many companions, not the least of which were his family. A family who continues his legacy of jovial hospitality and kindness, often in the midst of great challenges and hardship. I have viewed the pictures and read the loving words of his children and extended family, and am in awe of the power of these images and ideas at such a profound moment. We all remember and will cherish the life and legacy of Melvin. Before he died, Melvin requested that he be taken home, a request his family honored. Shortly after arriving to that home, he died. But he made it home…he really made it home.
Godspeed Uncle Melvin. As you arrive at your destination our journey continues, may it be as blessed as yours has been.