On the morning of November 8, my dad suddenly died. He had left behind an outline of the funeral service he would like, which included having me do the eulogy. I knew it would be the hardest sermon I ever had to give, but I wanted the words to pay tribute to my father. I will be grieving him for some time, but with the grief there is also profound gratitude for the legacy that his family and the countless people whose lives he touched will be blessed with forever.
I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). These are the words of Jesus in the garden, but they also apply to his faithful servants.
From the most important to the little child, we were all special to my dad. So many people have used the word “encourager” when they talk about him. We had a president who was called the “Great Communicator”; we could certainly call my father “The Great Encourager.”
Someone said to me, “Your family must have felt jealous; so many of us had a piece of your mom and dad.” No, they always had plenty of love for us and amazed us with their love for others. I was amazed again, in these last few days, how my dad and mom touched so many people, and so deeply. Where did they find the time? What a blessing for our family and for many others.
Jim Wallis Sr. was vital until the end. Even near the end of his life, he became a favorite friend to so many—to a young woman who worked at the coffee shop he liked: “We’re really getting to know each other pretty well,” he would say. Or the nurse: “She’s so nice.” And the doctors: “How do they know so much?” When everybody thinks someone was his or her best friend, it says a lot about that person.
But what kind of man was Jim Wallis Sr., and how did he become the man we knew?