Let’s “fess” up! Who among us has not attended memorial services that stretched toward eternity? Given advance warning of lengthy services, we might opt to be absent.
Or to concoct an exit strategy triggered by a coughing spell.
A tribute recently held in Fort Worth was to memorial services what Lawrence of Arabia was to movies: long, but worth every second…
The tribute was to Kyle Ogle of Texas, a real-life hero to the thousand-plus mourners who crowded into McKinney Memorial Bible Church to honor the life of this 38-year-old hero.
A bold Christian who battled cancer for a dozen years, Kyle met the disease head-on with dogged determination, deep faith and a trademark smile.
Honoring Kyle’s detailed directives for the service, eulogist Tommy Saxon set the tone: “Keep it light. Keep it fun. Keep it real.”
Saxon and fellow eulogist Jeff Turner were “thick and thin” buddies who forged friendships from life’s deepest waters. Their bonds began in childhood days of neighborhood scrapes, bicycles and BB guns.
Reflections ran the gamut, with laughter and tears in equal measure.
“Kyle died young but lived old,” observed minister friend Dr. Tommy Nelson. Powerful words, videos and music stirred mourners. More than two hours passed, but no one noticed. “More,” collective souls seemed to plea, “more.” Wanting to glean more lessons from this magnificent life, fully half of the crowd lingered in the foyer for the better part of another hour. “Kyle stories” abounded….
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And there are many. Though cancer was a backdrop for a dozen of his 14 years of marriage to the former Darla Ward, Kyle and his bride refused to let his disease dominate their lives--until recent days.
They “lived large,” building their dream home overlooking a lake on acreage near Weatherford. They worked hard, her at home with son Turner, 9, and daughter Katherine, 7, while Kyle earned #1 sales status for a world-wide medical equipment firm. The family was the picture of perseverance.
He rarely flinched in his slugfest with synovial cell sarcoma. Known far and wide for his self-effacing humor, he “laughed off” much of the grimness that typically is “part and parcel” of cancer. Intimate friends gathered for his 2002 “Farewell to Arm” party that preceded the surgery that took his shoulder and right arm…
It was one of many surgeries. Immediately “left-handed,” he soon was driving again. To the sporting world so important in his life, he introduced a new bow-hunting technique. Pulling back arrows with his teeth, he claimed deer, wild hogs, bear, elk and turkeys.
Kyle was always “at the ready” to share his testimony. And he was featured on TV hunting shows. He reached the hearts of tens of thousands with the message of Christ just as certainly as his arrows felled prey on Texas ranches, the mountains of Colorado and the wilds of Canada.
His witness never wavered. He “leaned into life’s struggles,” friend Jeff said, “never asking ‘why me?’ Instead, he asked ‘why not me?’”…
Kyle was loving, giving, selling and joking, even during those final 10 days at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. He closed deals on medical equipment from his hospital bed, all the while greeting loved ones and friends who visited.
During some lucid moments on Sunday, three days before his death, he led son Turner to Christ. Fighting kidney poison that was having its way, he struggled to utter a prayer for his son. Darla finished it.
Though not a mystic, Kyle hearkened back to a vision that seemed so real to him eight months earlier when he had neurotoxicity from chemo poisoning. He told Darla about a black coat, a train, a bright figure and a voice requesting his coat. He told her how the bright figure took his coat (covered with his sin, Kyle insisted), and how he heard the words “it’s not your time yet” as the train pulled away….
A dozen hours before his death, Kyle said, “The train’s coming and I’m getting on it.”
At 1 a.m. on October 29, he was restrained when he tried to get out of bed.
Who knows? Maybe he heard a train whistle. And maybe he was determined to get on board. Perhaps a bright figure handed him a coat as white as snow, in case of a chill in the morning air….
His one-way ticket punched, Kyle leaves a legacy of a man who squeezed life to extract the very last drop.
His stories will be re-told across the years. Hearers will smile, weep and marvel.
Sounds of the service will echo for a long time. Still resonating are Dr. Nelson’s reminder: “We can dry our tears on the memory of this man’s life.” And Saxon’s summation: “Kyle could do everything well except quit.”…
(I was in Kyle’s presence just twice. I took him parasailing at Lake Brownwood just prior to his initial diagnosis. Soon after the radical surgery that took his arm, I enjoyed a two-hour lunch with him. He spoke of God’s powerful words: “I am.” If you’d like to re-visit an earlier column about Kyle, it is on the home page of my web site, www.speakerdoc.com, until November 16. Also there is his wife’s touching poem of tribute. Other accounts and pictures at: http://caringbridge.org/visit/kyleogle.)