17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
— John 20:17-18 (KJV), post entitled The Empty Tomb by Alton Foley
Former Bearing Drift contributor and longstanding Old Dominion Blog Alliance co-founder Alton Foley passed away early this morning, falling to complications after a serious heart attack before winning a long struggle with cancer .
“Alton was a good man. A great man. Of course, y’all on social media wouldn’t know much about the man himself… or maybe you did.”
“There’s one thing Alton loved sharing, and that was his opinion. More like his thoughts. And he offered them up to just about anyone who wanted to listen. Wasn’t preachy, either. Just stood up and told you what was.”
Clyde took a sip of what I can only assume to be coffee on the other end of the line. I asked him how Alton was, how he felt over the last week. Whether his loved ones and relations were doing well and all that variable small talk. Clyde piqued and offered his morning thoughts in much the same way Alton would have received them in many a kitchen table or diner setting.
“You know something, the great thing about being a writer is that you never really lose yourself. I mean, it’s all over. Alton wrote this, Alton wrote that… a great way to meet an old friend again is to just pick up where you left off.”
I asked Clyde about Alton’s faith, how much it meant to him.
“Some years ago I was a member at a small country church, you know, little white wooden building, even had a porch and some rockers out front.
“We had just taken in a new preacher. He was a young guy, not married yet, but he really impressed the board.”
“Well, Easter morning was a bright and sunshiny, a perfect Spring morning. As the church began to fill it soon became obvious that the preacher was going to be late.”
“The head Deacon tried to stall for time by leading a few hymns, even went so far as to pass the collection plate.”
“Then all eyes, (and ears), turned toward the door to see if they could determine what all the tire squealing out on the road was about. That squealing turned into the sound of gravel spraying from under spinning tires, then a car door slamming and fast running footsteps up the porch steps.”
“Slam! The doors opened and in ran the new Preacher. He ran, sort of wild-like down the aisle and turned around just in front of the pulpit.”
“Jesus!” He yelled, “Is alive!!!”
“He turned and ran out the back door. That was the sermon.”
Clyde paused, and you could hear him beaming on the other end of the line: “I’ll bet you a cup of coffee and a boneless chicken breakfast that’s how Alton met God this morning!”
For a man who had such unshakable faith and devotion in Christ, such a meeting had to have had all the thrill, spontaneity, and excitement of that first moment when Mary Magdalene saw the Risen Christ.
I laughed. That would be Alton all over.
Clyde knew we had all lost a dear friend today. Virginia’s political environment was a better place because of Alton Foley’s strong voice, his wit and humor, his kindness and faith in the public square. I can remember long conversations at the Homestead with Alton about politics, faith, and family. ODBA and Jeffersoniad, Blogs United, his long standing contributions here as a Bearing Drift contributor, and his ready wit and charm.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Requiescant in pace.
Alton will be sorely missed… and I’m sure there will be plenty to laugh about when we all pile in and see one another again.