A Tribute to Henry Hodge.
Adam and Joe asked me to speak to you today about their father. It is an honor that I cannot find the words to describe. After a lengthy and intense discussion on how best we could describe the man, Henry was, one verse kept coming to my mind.
That verse is Ezekial 22:30.
It speaks about the Lord asking who will stand in the gap for him, for Israel. Unfortunately, He could find no one to answer his call.
That was of course because Henry was not yet around.
Now, I could begin by telling you what kind of man and father Henry was, but you see, that would be quite redundant. That is because you already know, as most of you have witnessed it, in one way or another. Very few practice what they preach, especially in today’s culture. Henry was that rarity, a precious and blessed oddity in a world full of the entitled and cynical.
So, how do I describe who Henry was to his two sons, to me, in a way which does him justice? What description can I provide that will express the deep love and admiration his family will forever have for him? In my quest for discernment, a single word kept coming to my mind. A word that kept repeating until I had no choice but to explore it and when I did, in context to Henry, I realize that it did not define him. No, it was Henry who gave this word its significance.
The word is hero.
Now, the word hero gets thrown around a lot. So much so, it has lost much of its potency as a title or designation. Pretty much everything now, no matter how small and silly the accomplishment, quickly falls under the umbrella of hero. In a culture of participation trophies and minuscule expectations, being a hero has lost all of its specialty. So, the world needs someone to provide that word the prowess it once possessed.
You see, for me, a hero is someone who is willing to sacrifice everything, anything for the people they love. There is no doubt Henry did that. Adam and Joe’s first words to describe their father was Great Man. That greatness came from a consistent example of sacrifice and unconditional love demonstrated every day towards his family both immediate and adopted.
In fact, the one thing the three of us came to the quickest agreement on is that idea that if we could grow to become half the man, Henry was, in dignity, humility, clarity, Godliness, and grace. That achievement would be a treasured accomplishment indeed. Adam went as far to say that he was glad, that unlike other children, he and Joe realized how thankful they were for their father, not taking the gift of his presence for granted like so many do, of their parents.
There was an unmistakable and unrelenting gratefulness in their eyes and tone. It was truly humbling. What encapsulated it was a tearful and heartbreaking sentence Adam expressed as he struggled to convey the best way to demonstrate that gratefulness. After pushing pass the grief, he simply looked at me, damp eyes, trembling lips, and said, “Throughout our lives, our dad took care of us, how blessed we were, that when the time came, we were able to finally take care of him.”
But the hero Henry did not stop by simply sacrificing all he is and was for family, but he also did so for strangers, in a uniform of green on foreign soil. He did so for his church and congregation. He did so for the friends who were in need. He did so for a young man he did not know, going through a darkness so thick, it threatened his faith. For that man, he not only stood in the gap, but he did so defiantly, until the light of his and God’s love showed so bright, it shattered both fear and pain.
The last trait of this hero called Henry is something that will not be forgotten. Henry possessed an impossible, implausible joy. No matter what the circumstance, tragedy, or trial, Henry’s unrelenting faith, allowed him to find a solution to sorrow and happiness in hazard. The one thing I will miss most of all was his laugh. Sincere, heartfelt, piercing the most intense situation, Henry’s laugh was a force of its own. If laughter is the best medicine, Henry was the greatest of physicians.
Now we all know that Adam and Joe are the most prompt individuals on the planet. Not many have such a definitive punctuality. Joe spoke about how much he loved attending Family Reunions with his father and how, each year, they seemed to find a new reason to be late. On one occasion, the hood latch of their vehicle was loose, and Henry, thinking himself as good as a mechanic as he was a phone tech, assured the boys that everything would be fine. Half way there, the hood obstructing their windshield begged to differ. Returning all the way home, they picked up the Mustang and ventured back. Of course, they were late, but that was now expected. Henry joked with me, as we returned from the hospital, that the only thing that worried him about staying with the boys is that they might make him late for heaven.
Joe also spoke of how much he appreciated all the family vacations they went on together. From the humble beginnings of a tent and station wagon to cruises with Ryan and Tina, Joe treasured every moment spent with his dad and family. He fought back tears as he thanked the Lord for their last trip together. The chance for his father, for the first time, to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.
As we concluded our talk and finished the last few notes both the boys spoke of the greatest gift their Father had given them. The gift of Legacy. Not memory or sentiment, but a call to arms. To live up to the standard he had set for them, for us all. Adam said he was given his father's name for a reason. Henry didn’t want a third, he wanted a name that carried a heritage but also forged a new path. At first, it seemed so benign but now, it is a blessed challenge. Seldom has a moniker had such meaning and value. Seldom has a son had such a determination to honor that heritage.
Henry was a disciple and apostle of old, living his example and life, in front of us. In fact, I can imagine that grandiose Table of Knowledge he now sits at, with the likes of Paul, Moses, John, David, Solomon, and such. And we all have to believe that Heaven has its own Bojangles, or at least it does now. I also have to believe Henry’s sister Anne has never been happier to know, there is no gloating in heaven. Although knowing God’s sense of humor, he may have allowed a few subtle boasts.
In conclusion, this man, who was son, servant, friend, soldier, husband, father, and hero, is not being laid to rest. He will not become a memorial or mere memory. Although we bury what remains of the flesh, the spirit lives on. Of course, we as Christians understand how that works. But I am not referring to heavenly realms or celestial rebirth. His spirit lives on with his sons. It lives on through his daughter, her husband, and their children. It lives on through his family and friends. A man like Henry is an unassuming pebble dropped in water whose ripples spread out to a near infinity. The effect of his life touching all of us, for the better. He reminds us of what a hero is and that each one of us can be that same hero.
The hero of our own story.
A champion of Christ.
Forging our own legacy.
And how, you might ask.
Because Henry understood who the real hero of his life was; his Savior, Master, God, and because of that, we were all privileged to see that hero live through him.
We love you, Henry.
Thank you, for being the hero we needed.
Thank you for standing boldly, without hesitation, in the gap.