Aging Well: A tribute to a veteran and servant of God

AgingWell

Ed Frazier AF band Nov. 2013

Ed Frazier

Every Friday morning you can find ninety-three year-old Ed Frazier at the Helping Hands food pantry in his hometown of Rockwall, Texas.  The former Air Force pilot is on another mission in the late years of his life. Instead of flying a Thunderbolt or an F-86, he is organizing food donations so that area families in crisis can receive food to last five to seven days.

After a thirty-year stint in the military, Ed retired as a Colonel and later settled in Rockwall’s lakeside community with his devoted wife, Maggie. During this season of life, Ed enjoyed relaxing days of golfing with friends and fishing with Maggie. An active member of First United Methodist Church of Rockwall, Ed served as a Sunday school teacher and in many leadership positions. But as the years passed, Maggie’s health declined. When she died at Christmas time in 2005, just two months shy of their sixty-fourth wedding anniversary, Ed found himself mired in a deep pit of grief.

“I was despondent, discouraged and depressed,” Ed confesses. “I was just miserable and so, so very lonely.”  He credits prayer, Bible study and his church family for helping him slog through those dark days of loss.

In earlier years, Ed and Maggie had completed all of the Disciple Bible Study  programs, but during this difficult period of grief, Ed chose to repeat Disciple Two, Three and Four. He also found new purpose in serving people in need through the church’s Society of St. Stephen, a ministry role which eventually led to his volunteering at the Helping Hands food pantry and distributing Thanksgiving and Christmas packages for the American Legion. Ed also began to exercise regularly at the local senior center. Even now in his late age, he still reaches out to aging neighbors and friends to offer support and encouragement.

Ed Frazier at WWII Memorial Nov 2013_redA few months ago, Ed was invited to participate in the Honor Flight to Washington DC to view the new World War II Memorial along with other WWII veterans. The Honor Flight was originated in 2004 by Earl Morse, a physician’s assistant and retired Air Force Captain who wanted to honor the veterans he had cared for in a small clinic in Ohio by ensuring that they had an opportunity to visit the memorial created in their honor. Morse’s dream grew into a network of volunteers around the nation whose primary purpose is to provide an all-expenses paid trip to Washington for as many WWII veterans as possible. With most WW II veterans well into in their eighties and nineties, time is critical.

For Ed the Honor Flight was an opportunity to connect with other World War II veterans as they toured the military memorials in the nation’s capital.  “We did not know one another before the trip. We represented all the branches of the Armed Forces and our rank did not apply. Everyone was treated equally with an overwhelming sense of love and friendship,” he adds with more than a hint of emotion.

As a writer and speaker on issues of aging and faith, I often hold up my dear friend and fellow church member, Ed, as a model for aging faithfully. Our senior pastor at FUMC Rockwall, Dr. Joe Pool, describes him well.  “Ed is an example for all of us as a true disciple of Jesus Christ. With humility, a servant heart, and compassion, he embraces his calling to be engaged and active in every context of his life.”

On Sunday mornings, I often glimpse at Ed’s opened Bible marked with handwritten notes and highlighted passages. He is still learning, still leaning forward in life. By fully embracing his role as a mature elder, he is teaching the rest of us what it is to finish the race well.

Missy Buchanan, UMR Columnist

Missy Buchanan is a sought-after speaker on topics of older adult ministry and spiritual creativity, she brings passion and humor to many events for churches, organizations, and women’s groups. She has appeared on Good Morning America with co-host Robin Roberts and is the author of books including Living with Purpose in a Worn-Out Body: Spiritual Encouragement for Older Adults, Talking with God in Old Age: Meditations and Psalms, and Don’t Write My Obituary Just Yet: Inspiring Faith Stories for Older Adults. She has written for many publications including Presbyterians Today, Mature Years, Christian Association Serving Adults Ministries, Entrepreneur, and The Dallas Morning News.

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