Thirty years ago, on All Saints Day 1992, St. Francis Church was overflowing. I heard God’s angel voices as the choir sang hymns in the loft above me in the back of the church. Parishioners, Mary and Otis Coulson, had each served on the Vestry. They were committed choir members. But, today, they were both chalice bearers to serve the cup of salvation to the congregation.
During communion, I and others gathered around the altar rail. Father Stuart Hoke gave us the bread, the body of Christ. Then, Mary or Otis served us the cup of salvation, the sacramental wine which represents the blood of Christ. Blood given in sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Sacrifice that you and me and Otis and Mary could have eternal life when life ends on Earth.
Mary smiled as she placed the chalice on my lips. That day in church, Mary and Otis seemed to glow, to be filled with God’s holy light and love. I remember Mary and Otis walking past me with faces so full of joy and happiness as they, the clergy, communion participants, and the choir walked down the center aisle during the recession.
I joined a throng of parishioners and moved through the breezeway to the Wheatcroft Parish Hall. In the Parish Hall Mary and Otis and their daughter, Robin, and her husband, Richard, walked up to me to say hello. Robin was a few months away from having their grandchild. Mary and Otis beamed with joy at the forthcoming birth of another child in God’s Kingdom. A child who would soon be baptized at St. Francis.
Saints serve. Saints suffer. Saints die. Saints are martyred. There are Saints in Heaven. There are living Saints on Earth. God’s love and light are given to others through the prism of their service to others in God’s name.
Just a few days later, on Friday, November 13, 1992, the living Saints on Earth, Mary and Otis, were taken from us by evil. It was as evil as what killed some of the Saints we celebrate on All Saints Day. For on that night of Friday the 13th in a sweet modest home on Westview Drive their adopted son, Bob, horrifically murdered his mother and father, Mary and Otis, his sister, Sarah, his sister, Robin, and her husband, Richard. To Bob, even the life of Robin’s unborn child had no value.
The next morning, I was asked by the police to come to the home. As Mary and Otis’ family attorney, at the police’s request, I identified the five bodies. How do these images no longer interrupt my sleep? God only knows. Prayers summoned for me whatever power God had to erase the gravity of such images from my mind. A power far greater than evil and hate. Bob, their son, former Sunday school student, and former acolyte, deprived these saintly people of God of their earthly lives. Yet, God’s love prevails over hate. God’s goodness conquers evil. God’s supreme power does what no human can. Raise the dead. Give eternal life to you and me, Mary and Otis, and all servants and saints of God.
God has spoken in scripture of His saints.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.
Let us pray together.
Dear God, I give thanks to You for all Your Saints, for through their works and sacrifice in service unto You, I have seen the Light of Christ.
God, may my body be used as Your vessel to pour on others Your love, kindness, and healing light.
God, may my service to others in Your name be the prism through which they see Your light and love in good times and bad.
God, I may not ever be a true saint. However, please guide me to be as saintly as possible in all my thoughts, my words, and my deeds. Amen
Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas. He is Board-Certified in both Family Law and Civil Trial Law and is a Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Professional Divorce Attorney.
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