Dear God, we are grateful that we have the desire this evening to come to you with thanksgiving for the life of James Alexander “Jim” Bryan, II. What an appropriate place – Montreat – to lift up our hearts in celebration for the life of this dear friend and family member.
Oh God, even here, in this quiet place of rest and reflection, we have neither the sufficient time nor the words to do justice to our man, Jim.
We thank you for the family that raised him and surrounded him – his parents, Harry and Peggy, his brother, Ned, and his sister, Mary. We thank you for the early years that formed him, for the God-given gifts that his family helped him to discover, to nurture, and to build upon.
We thank you for the bonds he made that sustained him – none more valuable than the bond to his dear wife, Betsy, whom he met in Montreat and with whom he forged a life together – 64 years of marriage!
We thank you for Jamie, Russell, Clayton, and Elizabeth and their families. We thank you for the nine grandchildren and other blessings they all bestowed in their presence on our dear friend.
We thank you for Jim’s life here in Montreat, and lifelong bonds and relationships formed here, where Jim was gregarious, hearty, and happy company, a leader and follower, a companion and a friend. We thank you for that characteristic twinkle he shared in conversation. We saw much good in him – much of your goodness in him.
We thank you for Jim’s work as a healer and teacher, for his commitment to the provision of health care to all, for his stewardship of generations of students that he helped to welcome into medicine.
Oh God, only you can truly quantify the impact – the ways in which Jim’s wisdom, his enthusiasm and encouragement, his humor, his kindness, and his many other gifts influenced the thousands of medical professionals he taught and trained, and the countless thousands of patients and their families who benefit to this day from his care and his charges’ care.
We can’t truly measure it all, oh God, and yet, Jim’s life does call up for us the words of the playwright:
“This is the joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one, the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances…” Jim was a force of nature. He was unbound for the most part from the little ailments and grievances of life.
If in fact that “life is no ‘brief candle’” but is instead “a sort of splendid torch that we have hold of for a moment,” then Jim Bryan held his torch out front, and it burned very brightly indeed. From our vantage point, oh God, he used the eighty eight years you gave him and he used them entirely.
And so we lift our hearts and prayers in gratitude for Jim tonight, and we will do so in the years to come as our memories of him remain among us. As the pain of missing him continues to carry his loss into our minds and hearts, we ask for the strength we need to entrust Jim wholly to your care.
We ask, oh God, as we seek to live by Jim’s example of deep Christian faith. We ask that the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ – the promise of the gospel! – we ask that the promise ring out to us… so that we, like Jim, can hear it clearly.
With gratitude and in sorrow, with hope and in comfort, we pray all these things in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
(All quotes attributed to George Bernard Shaw)