A Eulogy for Daddy Joe

January 28, 2015 — 3 Comments

JaneJoeFather Abraham had many sons
Had many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them
And so are you
So let’s just praise the Lord

Abraham, the father of three of the major streams of faith in the world, is known in scholarly circles as a patriarch. He was, as the dictionary defines that term, a man who was revered by those of his tribe who followed him. Patriarchs are the rulers of a family — sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad — but they are honored for their position in the family, and more often than not they are respected for their wisdom and their management of the household. Their legacy is seen in the many children they leave behind (…many sons) who identify themselves with the tribe of the patriarch.

Joe Sadler (Daddy Joe) was the patriarch in my family. He was not the oldest child, but he was the one that the rest of the family turned to again and again as difficulties arose. He was my mother’s older brother, and throughout my years he was the rock who kept our family sane and functioning in troubling times. When I was a stupid punk of a teenage kid, he bailed me out of the mistakes I made along the way, and I am sure that I would not be the person I am today without his influence in my life.

Last night, my Uncle Joe’s body finally gave out, and he passed from this world into the world to come. Joe had been a walking miracle, for he had survived lung cancer (with the removal of part of a lung), heart disease, and a variety of other ailments in the past many years. The ability to push through those challenges and continue on made him almost appear invincible — and it’s been a struggle over the past couple of years as it became more and more clear that his body was wearing out. It’s hard to know how to respond when a patriarch becomes human and frail, and our family will mourn this loss deeply.

In Genesis 25, the author of the book tells us about the death of Abraham:

Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.

Daddy Joe lived 81 years (his birthday was this past Saturday), and last night he breathed his last. He too was a good man and full of years. And now, we have confidence that he has been gathered to his people in a place with no more sickness, death, and sorrow. He has been reunited with his beloved Evelyn, his brothers Bill, Don, and Ray, and his sister (my mom) Jane.

His legacy will be lived out in those of us left behind. He taught us wisdom and compassion, pragmatism and faith, and the belief that family ties are not easily broken. More than anything, he taught us that we should never give up in the face of adversity. Joe survived and made the best of life . . . and he wanted his “many sons” to do the same.

Good bye Daddy Joe. You are fiercely loved, and will be profoundly missed.

Daddy Joe had many sons
Had many sons had Daddy Joe
I am one of them
And so are you
So let’s just praise the Lord

I think most folks that follow me in any way know that this past July I assumed a new appointment as the lead pastor of a medium size church here in Nashville. In the course of orienting myself to the congregation (as well as letting folks get to know be better) I held 8 meetings of 8-10 folks each in members homes so that I could get their feedback on what we are doing well and what we needed to work on. That is not especially revolutionary — many of you have done similar things and I fully admit that I appropriated that approach from the example of colleagues that I admire. What was different however was how I ended the gatherings, for in the interest of openness and transparency, I needed to update folks on a piece of news about my current family situation — a situation that I felt was better shared in a small group setting.

It wasn’t easy to repeat to 8 different groups (9 actually, when you include the SPRC whom I told in our first meeting) that a marriage of 23 years was ending, that my wife and I had mutually agreed that we had given it a good shot but that it was time to separate and move toward divorce. And honestly, it’s not easy to write those words here, knowing that while many will be supportive, some will be likewise shocked. And yet, after a conversation with Kay, I’ve come to the point where a more public acknowledgement of what’s happening seems necessary given the wide swath of folks that are a part of our lives. And so dear friends, imagine yourselves sitting in a living room, preparing for coffee and dessert, and looking at the guy in the button down shirt and khakis as he says that he was one more thing to share…

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you’ve read any of my stuff on the web or keep up with my Facebook feed, you know that I have generally been a person who is pretty open about what’s going on in my life. However, over the past weeks and months I’ve been less forthcoming about what’s going on with my family situation and it’s time to bring you up to date on what’s happening.

Kay and I have struggled in our marriage for many years. We’ve been through counseling and have worked diligently to keep our family together. For much of that time we’ve attempted to live under the belief that our friendship would be enough to maintain a marriage. And yet our marriage has been missing many things, almost since the beginning — affection, intimacy, and the spark that makes the difficult moments worthwhile. Ten years ago, in conversations with our counselor, we decided to accept the notion that our marriage would have to be “good enough” in our attempt to keep the family together for the sake of the kids. While that helped get us through difficult moments, the fact was however that the relationship simply fell short of what a marriage should be.

Almost 2 years ago, as we were seeing the empty nest in the headlights, and anticipating a likely pastoral move, we had a conversation. We agreed that the strain of living “apart” in the same house had taken its toll, and that we both thought that the scars were too deep for renewal. We also recognized that we were not modeling a healthy relationship to our kids, and agreed at that time that we would start seriously moving toward separation and ultimately divorce. For both financial and family reasons we didn’t do so at that time, but when it became clear that a transition was happening this year we both agreed that it was time to separate, and so this past June we each moved into separate houses in the same neighborhood (more on that in a minute) and a couple of weeks ago, after meeting with a mediator, we filed divorce papers.

We want to say clearly that this was a mutual decision, and we are attempting to carry out this split in an honorable and amicable way. We also need to say clearly that this decision was not precipitated by any sort of sexual or relational impropriety. Kay and I continue as both co-parents and people who believe that while we can remain friends, we cannot be (and haven’t been for a very long time) husband and wife.

Of course, one of our concerns (and the concern of many who love us) is what this means for our soon to be 15 year old daughter Anna. Obviously both Anna and her older sister Grace were sad about our decision, but we’ve been intentional about trying to keep the chaos to a minimum. Knowing that Anna would be entering a high school this year that she was excited about attending, we both found residences in Old Hickory (about 10 blocks away from each other) to better facilitate our co-parenting. We asked Anna for input on her preferred living arrangements, and agreed that alternating weeks seemed to be the best option. So far, Anna has seemed to adjust well, and our remaining in Old Hickory has allowed her to maintain a relationship with the Old Hickory UMC which raised her and allows her to work in the nursery each Sunday. There is, of course, a learning curve in all of this, but so far things seem to be working fairly well.

Divorce is never easy. It represents brokenness, and we are going through our own moments of grief as we make this split. We ask for your prayers during this time of transition.

While we regret the lack of sustaining connection that fuels an effective marriage, we have few regrets about the 23 years we’ve spent together as a family. The relationship brought us two amazing and beautiful daughters. The relationship made us who we are today, and certainly influenced our ministries. We think it’s time to move on, but we do so wishing the best for the other, hoping that each of us will find the love we desire and deserve.

If you have questions about what’s going on, please feel free to drop me an e-mail and let’s talk about it further.

Thanks,

jv