Fulcrum Ruminations

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Still We Remember

Generik was kind enough to pass along the eulogy delivered at Bert Tilley's funeral. I repost it here in further remembrance of a man taken too soon from us.

According to a legend, the exact circumstances surrounding the death of the 11th century Spanish Hebrew poet Ibn Tabirol are unknown. One version relates that a Muslim peasant, jealous of Ibn Tabirol's genius, killed him and buried his body beneath a tree. Some time after, people began to notice that a fig tree in the garden of the Muslim was bearing a particularly large, luscious fruit, unlike anything that had ever been seen in the encircling area. Curiosity was aroused, and the tree was dug up in order to discover the secret of its remarkable fertility. Then it was discovered that Ibn Tabirol was buried there.

All life grows riper and fuller when rooted in the lives of upright men and women, when its soil is enriched by deeds of loving kindness and mercy. All life becomes lovelier when it is watered by streams of memory and fed by the cool springs of recollection and remembrance. Our assembly today, to commemorate the life of a truly fabulous person, Bert Tilley, breaks through the crust of the present and preoccupation with the present and revives the past. It stirs half-forgotten memories of childhood, of innocence, of happy, unconscious acceptance of life as good. Such memories are a blessing when they are woven into the fabric of life. In all likelihood the recollections that each of you possess of your dear son, uncle, cousin and friend, Bert Tilley, are mostly joyous ones; memories of a life distinguished by goodness, memories of a wonderful person who not only accepted life as fulfilling and worthwhile, but also strove earnestly to make it better.

Another Jewish legend mentions that the world exists by reason of 36 gentle people who live in withdrawn areas, who are not known to the great multitudes, and who are themselves unaware that they are among those who, by reason of their tenderness, sustain the entire world.

I have often believed that Bert Tilley belonged to this rarefied company of spirits who helped to sustain the world. One often wonders how, through its history of convulsions and revolutions, mankind has managed to survive. Quite possibly it must be that in quiet places unrecognized, unknown, frequently uncelebrated, there live centers of tenderness that preserve the human image even in time of worldwide sturm und drang ("storm and stress"). Bert Tilley walked in the light of purity, pleasantness and performance. Those of us who were privileged to come closer and pierce the wall of reticence behind which he lived knew that we were in the presence of a vital and significant personality.

Verily a tribute to Bert Tilley comes readily, because his life was beneficent even as his character was worthy and benign. His nature combined strength and sweetness -- the strength derived from inner stamina, from intellectual honesty, from loyalty to familial duty and a following of the voice of conscience. His sweetness was the result of innate kindliness, thoughtfulness and considerateness -- a genuine friendliness to people as people, and a real sense to be helpful to them.

Bert Tilley was a warm, devoted and loving son. Jean and Burrow, Fayette, Peggy were so blessed to have such a caring and loving son as Bert. Other family members, including LeaAnn and Derwin, Scotty and Jessica, Aunt Sandra and Uncle Jimmy and cousins -- all were profoundly impacted by Bert Tilley's loving spirit and presence.

Indeed, what was there NOT to love about Bert Tilley? He ingratiated himself easily to others. This is not surprising. By nature he was outward and gregarious. His persona, his temperament, his indomitable spirit exuded his joie de vivre, his buoyant enjoyment of life. Bert Tilley was an avowed partisan of the funnybone and could always find (or create) humor even in the most serious seriousness.

Bert Tilley was exceptionally well-read. He was conversant in history, politics, science, the world of entertainment (actors, movies, radio, television, Broadway, directors, etc.). He was knowledgeable of airplanes and transportation. His was an eclectic taste for the aesthetics, including classical music, blues and jazz. Bert Tilley was an exceptionally gifted photographer. He enjoyed art and in a real sense of his life resembled an artist's brush stroke of many pastels. No wonder he was admired by those who were acquainted with him -- his life reflected the Biblical injunction of "loving one's fellow human being as oneself." (Leviticus 19:18)

Another aspect of this most worthy person's life was his volunteer work. Bert Tilley rightfully recognized his responsibility to his surrounding society; when one lives in a community long enough, one needs to pay a form of civic rent. For well over a decade, Bert Tilley offered his talents and service to our area's Gadsden State Community College. Bert donated long hours on a weekly basis as a tutor for blind students. In addition, he devoted enormous time to the college's radio station in production and broadcasting to ensure quality programming. Bert Tilley was generous without measure. He would always do the right thing.

Bert Tilley was a sensitive, loving, kind and compassionate human being. Despite some hardships, he never complained about anything. His infectious smile brightened our darkened society. Bert Tilley was a person of initiative, courage, vision and integrity. His word was his bond. Of such an individual, the scriptures remark, "The righteous shall live by his faith." (Habakkuk 2:4)

Actually, what is life? Is it not, in the main, memory? The present passes even as I mention it. The future is an unknown factor. It is the past that is factual and historic, and that past we keep alive through memory. And when we are fortunate enough to have memories such as Bert Tilley leaves behind, we can say of him, "Blessed was his coming into the world!" Bert learned how to live significantly. He made every day count for himself and for all who knew him. A blessing, indeed, were the days of his life. As the Bible teaches, "The memory of the righteous shall be for a blessing" (Proverbs 10:7). Memories fashioned by Bert Tilley will indeed remain an everlasting blessing, and in them, you, his loving family and friends -- all of us -- will find a true source of solace and comfort. May the memory of Bert Tilley always be recalled lovingly for abiding blessing.

Amen.

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