This is the text of the eulogy that I delivered at the funeral of my uncle Harry “Hoot” Ashwood, published here with the permission of his wife, my aunt Wanda.  His was a godly testimony, which deserves to be remembered and memorialized. 

When asked to deliver the eulogy for uncle Hoot, I was instructed to begin by noting that he and aunt Wanda met on a blind date 65 years ago, and were married for 64 years.  That is in itself, in this day of unfaithfulness and infidelity, a tremendous testimony.  All who knew them saw that their affection and devotion for one another never wavered, but was rather increased with the passing years.  Two weeks before the day he died, sitting next to them at another funeral, I remember noticing that they were holding hands.  That is not something often seen among couples who have been married for very many years at all, let alone longer than six decades.

When I went to visit with Aunt Wanda last Saturday, she pointed out to me two framed Bible verses above the kitchen table, which I think very accurately sum up the life and character of uncle Hoot.  One was Proverbs 20:7: “A just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”  The other, the one uncle Hoot himself much preferred, was from Isaiah 53:5: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities,” etc.  These may serve as something of a rough guideline for our thoughts concerning him.

To have a godly father in this day, or any day, is an inestimable blessing.  Not only his children, but also all those who knew him, and those who worshipped with him at Sovereign Grace Church, can attest that he was a rock of stability, and a wise counsellor.  Above all, he was a man of integrity.  As a deacon, he never gave any cause for concern or complaint about his handling of the church’s business affairs.  If there was any fault at all, it was that he was too generous with people who probably were not deserving of the church’s charity.

From the time I was a little boy, I remember family gatherings where several of the Ashwood men were gathered in a room, loudly and hotly debating some issue, often with enflamed tempers and red faces.  In the midst of these controversies, uncle Hoot was inevitably very quiet, and when he finally had something to say, it was always something so reasonable, so incontestable, that nobody could dispute it.  His ability to keep his own counsel, never to speak recklessly or carelessly, but always with great thoughtfulness and wisdom, is a virtue that I have known very few people to possess.

At the same time, he was also a man unafraid to speak the truth.  It was observed by one of his grandchildren, during a time of reminiscing in the last few days, that “grandpa was always the first to tell you when you were doing a good job, and the first one to tell you when you were being an idiot.”  This makes us smile, but in truth it is a high tribute to his excellent character.  One of the severe lacks we have in this day and age is people who are unwilling to tell others, especially their own children and kinsfolk, the truth about themselves.  None of us likes to be told that we are being an idiot; but sometimes, the greatest blessing we can have from God is to have somebody who will tell us exactly that.

More importantly, there are many in his family who can attest that it was, under God, through uncle Hoot’s prayers, counsel, and example, that they were ultimately turned away from the path of sin and ruin unto faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Many of us can say, without a father or a grandfather who loved us enough to tell us the truth, to bring our names before the throne of grace, to live a life of godliness before us, we do not know where we would be.  This is the greatest legacy any man can leave behind, and it is one that shall endure forever.  Foreseeing the resurrection of the dead, Daniel prophesied (12:3): “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

Above all, uncle Hoot was the man he was because he loved the Lord Jesus Christ.  If there was one thing more than any other which stood out in his conversation, it was that his entire hope and expectation of eternal life was based upon the sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered upon the cross, and upon His obedience, by which sinners are made righteous.  He was a man who knew and believed in the total depravity of sinful men, including himself.  He utterly disdained the notion that men can come to Christ and be saved based upon nothing more than the activity of their own free will.  He knew that the sinful will, left to itself, will never choose God; as Christ said, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44).  He knew that he had trusted in Christ because he was drawn of the Father, born again by the power of the Holy Ghost.  He believed that he was a Christian, not because of his own works or choice, but because God had chosen and elected him in Christ before the world began.  He believed that his sins were forgiven and pardoned because Christ had made an absolutely sufficient offering that perfects forever those who are sanctified.  He believed that the true Christian will persevere unto the end, because the true believer is kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.  To uncle Hoot, salvation was entirely of the free and sovereign grace of God, purchased by the precious blood of Christ.  The reason he was faithful to his wife, faithful in his attendance at worship, faithful to be at every prayer meeting unless absent or providentially hindered, faithful to teach and instruct his children and grandchildren, was because of the work God had done for him and in him by Christ.  Those who observed his conduct in the house of God had reason to know that this was so.  If there was one thing a preacher could do to elicit an “amen” from his lips, it was to say something great about the Lord Jesus Christ, or to extol the greatness and sovereignty of God in all things, especially in salvation.  If there was one line those of us who had the privilege of praying with him heard time and time again, it was what he would say after mentioning the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, “He is our only hope.”

If any of his children, grandchildren, fellow church members, or friends, desire in any way to emulate the character of this good man that we honor today, then we too must believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and rest in Him as our only hope for salvation from the curse of the law and the power of sin.  It is all well and good to put up pictures, to reminisce, to talk over the many wonderful memories we have of his life and legacy.  But the best, and really the only true, way to honor the memory of uncle Hoot, is to follow the simple and unfeigned faith that he had in our Lord and Saviour.  If we do so, it may be said of us when our time comes to be eulogized and buried, as we may forthrightly say today of our dear departed one, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”

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