Posted by: Jim Black | July 6, 2010

Uncle Bob

If you’ll indulge me once again… on my mind tonight is my Uncle Bob.  He passed away on Friday and I’m traveling back to Chattanooga in the morning to conduct his graveside service.  I’ve been thinking about what words might be comforting to our family.  He and my aunt, BeBe, have always been very close to me.  I was always over at their house growing up (they had a pool!)  They spoiled me as if I was their own… no, actually they spoiled me as if I was a grandkid!  I definitely had it better than Bobby & Kim, my cousins.  When their own grandkids came along… they doted on and spoiled them, too!  My uncle Bob was a larger than life kind of fellow… a big teddy bear that was constantly having fun with people… finding out what got on their nerves and then using that information to constantly get on their nerves!  He loved that and he loved life!  As I think about what I’ll say tomorrow… I also want to speak a word for the Lord.  The last couple of years have been rough on Bob, as he battled cancer with increasing difficulty.  I want my words to be encouraging and light-hearted as we remember Bob as a fun-loving sort, but I also feel the need to speak to the unfairness of it all.  Cancer… heartache… sickness and death are all a part of where we are in our fallen creation.  But the Scriptures give us hope that this life is not all that there is!  Here’s what I’m working on:

 We are not really here for Uncle Bob this morning…   Oh, all of us have loved him and he’s been a big part of all of our lives… as a husband, a father, a Poppa, a brother, a son-in-law, and as a friend and an uncle… but its not really Bob we’ve come to see this morning.  We’re here because we’re family… and our family is hurting.  Uncle Bob’s sudden passing last Friday has left a hole in our family… and our hearts are low because he is SO going to be missed.   I hope that this time will be a time you look back on as one that brought some comfort and a measure of healing.

And I say that we’re not really here for Bob this morning because he is going to be just fine… he has gone home to be with the Lord… to receive his reward… something he looked forward to for SO long… and especially after the battle he has fought these last few years- and particularly the last couple of months… what a comfort that is!

At the end of his life Paul wrote these words…  7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:7-8 NIV

 Couldn’t Bob have said that?  Uncle Bob has gone on to receive his reward… and we sure wouldn’t begrudge him that… even though selfishly we would have loved to have kept him around here for much longer.  I know that with confidence this morning, NOT because Bob was a perfect man (none of us are) – a good man, yes, BUT because Jesus was… Bob put his trust in the Lord… the blood of Jesus assured him a place in Heaven.

Robert Hiram Smith…

•           Born Feb. 10, 1939 departed this life on Friday, July 2, 2010

•           He was the son of the late James Bart Smith and Martha Jo Smith Park, whom I knew as Granny.

•           He is survived by his wife of 51 ½ yrs… Bettye Crowe Smith.  By his children Bobby & Kim… and by his grandchildren, Travis & Kylie whom he talked about ALL the time and doted over as a proud Poppa!  Also by his Father-in-Law… Boyd Crowe.

•           Bob served his country in the US Navy and worked for TVA, but his real love was for his family and for his church, whom he served as an Elder for over 20 years.

•           He loved singing… and loved to lead the congregation in worship as a way of serving the Lord.  I know he also sang in Barbershop quartets and I have this strange memory of him on stage at the Memorial Auditorium in a wig & a dress but I have NO idea what that was about!

•           Unexplainably, he was also a die-hard UT Fan… a source of all kinds of family bonding experiences, right Bobby?  Tragically, I believe he is responsible for Travis’ first words being “Touchdown TN!”

•           But, in his living room you can tell what Bob loved the most… because all over his walls are pictures of his kids & grandkids (& the TN Titans cheerleaders)

•           And also, his heartfelt desire is found by the door on the porch… a reference to Joshua 24… “Choose you this day who you will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I bet we could go around the room, each of us sharing our favorite “Bob” memories and we would be here all day!

Whether it be the “mis-adventures” of his many hunting trips… that Dad could tell us… those stories alone would fill an afternoon!   Or all the pilgrimages to Neyland Stadium often bringing along Kim & Travis… and occasionally Bobby when UT played Notre Dame.  But no matter who won, my Uncle Bob and cousin Bobby always handled it with the utmost maturity and respect.  Memories of catching Bob in the drive-thru at Wendy’s… knowing BeBe would have a fit if she had known he was sneaking a frosty!   BeBe told me of the time she came home to find the kids with a new puppy, MAX… she got a dozen roses that afternoon.

I’ll remember my Uncle Bob as the uncle who always wore out the batteries on the new arcade games I’d get at Christmas… the uncle who loved the latest gadgets & gizmos and computers… the uncle who introduced me to James Bond movies when I was probably too young to watch them… and the uncle who plotted revenge against my mom by bringing me and Debbie a pair of baby ducks one Easter!  Donald & Daisy.   Bob loved that!

 Its those memories of a man who loved life… that I hope we’ll all always carry with us.

 I don’t know if my Uncle Bob knew who Bon Jovi was, but surely he’d agree with the sentiment in one of his songs… “Everybody’s broken in this life.”  I look around in our world and I see so much brokenness!  Your neighbor who came over on Friday to give you a hug, BeBe is herself battling cancer.  We’ve got a good friend whose Mother has been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  On Saturday night we heard of a 16 yr old girl killed in a car accident not far from our house… it seems that everywhere we look we see brokenness!  Relationships get broken, lives get broken and bodies get broken… because we live in a fallen world.

 I don’t know why things happen the way they do… why people get sick… why there’s such a thing as cancer… it seems horribly unfair… but it’s a part of the broken world we live in.  The Bible tells us it’s a fallen world… characterized by sin, by sickness, by death & decay.   I have found that the only way to make sense of this crazy world in which we live is to believe that there is a God who is ultimately in control of it all… a God who is working in our world to bring about what he would have it to be.

I think that’s the message of Romans 8… as it tells us of a day…

21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 God never promises us that our lives will be free of heartache and pain… but he does promise us that WHATEVER happens… he can work it out for good to accomplish His good purposes.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. NIV

To me its also comforting to look at the wonderful picture of that day given to us in Revelation…

Revelation 21:1-5

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” NIV

What a wonderful picture!  No more death… or mourning or crying or pain!  No more doctors or needles or pills… no more diets or rehab therapy!    Those things will be things of the past!  God will make everything new!

 And that includes my Uncle Bob!  He will be made new… in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye…

“Where o death is your victory?  Where o death is your sting?  … Thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 Until then we wait… in eager expectation… but we wait… and we remember…



  1. Jim, I think I would have liked your Uncle Bob… a lot. Your words rang so true to me as I thought back to the time of my daddy’s fight with cancer and the time of his death. When I didn’t want to let him go, but knew what was waiting on him was so much better than what he was going through here. He too was an elder for 20 years, and was such a wonderful example to so many. He was the primary song leader in our small congregation. Words that were spoken during his service that have remained with me more than any others spoken that day almost 18 years ago. When we ask why him? Why someone who does so much to serve our Lord. Why is his life over when he did so much good?

    His work here was done.

    It was time for him to receive his reward just as it was your Uncle Bob’s time to receive his reward. My thoughts and prayers are with your family.

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