For Talmadge…

Gentleness is listed among the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians chapter nine, where the Apostle Paul contrast these growing fruits with the cultivated works of the flesh. Over the years, I’ve continued to contemplate the Apostle’s inspiration in differentiating between works and growth, those characteristics produced in us by willful intention and the other by careful cultivation. If ever there was a man who cultivated the soil of his soul to produce gentleness in abundance it was Talmadge Ray Lloyd.

This gentle soul stepped beyond the tethers of his body this week. Talmadge was 85 and he leaves a posterity who embody his quiet strength and demeanor. When the stalwarts disappear from our lives it leaves us with feelings of sorrow and grief, and with memories that we cherish for the sake of having the opportunity to experience their influence repeatedly. In this way, people don’t die but they evolve, becoming a part of us that is communicated to future generations.

My memories of Talmadge are ever present, especially in my youth. Although I always must be reminded of the exact connections, I know that we were related. Cousin always worked, he was fond of saying “howdy Cuz” and was always quick to point out that my hands were cold, as were his, proving the axiom “cold hands, warm heart.” Our family connections were further confused by the way some of us in the family chose to omit an “L” from Lloyd, others keeping the conventional spelling. I see that Talmadge’s obituary continued the tradition of simplicity going with “Loyd.” I was always under the impression that he spelled it “Lloyd,” but however he chose to spell his name, I’m grateful that we are connected to one another.

Like most who go by that last name, Talmadge was quiet and private, mysterious in a way that invited questions but deflected answers, preferring to talk about the weather, food, other family members, their health, and their children. Church was a priority, with a propensity for the Pentecostal variety although this would have never been guessed by his outward demeanor. Never one to draw attention to himself, I do remember a distinctive clap to upbeat hymns and a stylistic raising of one hand with eyes opened surveying the room of worshipers. Talmadge was always serving as an usher, smiling as he would pass the plate as he shuffled his feet from one pew to the next, smiling and shaking hands with others.

Friendly and gentle, Talmadge was like the walls of a beloved home, strong and dependable but often invisible. Like those load bearing walls, his presence was necessary and important, but often overlooked in favor of more decorative pieces that clamored for attention. Every family would be blessed to have a Talmadge, because as beautiful and fun as the decorative features may be, if the walls aren’t sturdy, the house will collapse.

His friends and coworkers called him “Cadillac.” I’m not sure as to how this nickname came to be, but I love it! Perhaps, if my memory serves, he drove one, or maybe because his personality was so smooth and easygoing, he was like riding in a Caddy, for whatever reason, it works, and he will be missed.

There is an adage “you don’t know what you’ve got until its gone.” I wish this wasn’t true with people, but it is especially true with people. There is never enough time to get to know people, to understand the mysteries that fill them, the experiences that define them, or the unrequited desires that escaped them. And in some instances, if you and I had all the time in the world together, some people just don’t open themselves up or it doesn’t occur to them to do so. My dad was like that, and from what I experienced so was Talmadge. Maybe it is a generational thing?

Among a generation of John Wayne wannabes, Talmadge went against that stereotype. He wore the cowboy hat but refused the swagger, opting for a gentler gait, a purposeful stride clearing a path for others to follow. A path that led him to peaceful pastures, that we all hope to one day tread.

Rest in peace Cuz.

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