Keith Welty passed away this last Saturday. We had the funeral at the church Wednesday June 10th. He died of heart failure. I met Keith when he came into church last August for a pot luck following a baptism. We baptized his ex-wife, current live-in and mother of his two daughters Brooke and Taylor. He began to come to church, he and Chris remarried and life went on. He was on medication as the government gave him about 700 dollars a month to survive and take his medicine. I am sure the side effects of high blood pressure and obesity due to his meds didn’t help his heart condition. He would normally try and follow a sermon through, but usually the head was drooping by the time the sermon ended.
One Sunday, something in the sermon must have caught his ear, as he attentively listened and responded at the end of the service to ask Jesus into his heart. Before that he always insisted that he was a good guy, which he was, and that was really all that was important. He began to change after that. I helped with some forms; he couldn’t read and write well, but was as intelligent as a guy could be. We talked about being a man of God and being a good father and husband. The institutional pull was working against the family as Chris needed her meds and small check and their daughter Taylor needed her meds and the family needed the small check that came to them because she was on the meds.
My attitudes about our medicated nation bleed out in my sermons. Nothing drastic, but it is tough to take responsibility for your life in a good way when reality is always cloudy because of the meds you are on. Keith knew that someday this would be the direction he would have to take, but there is no hurry. Keith had become an expert at the little electronic games that Taylor and the other kids in church play. Chris had the makings of a great parent and church was a good place for them to be.
Keith started the new year off at our church testifying to the church that he wanted God to help him to be the best Christian husband and father that he could be. It was after that when Keith’s step dad, who was living with them, passed away. I had visited him in the hospital. Terry from church had been doing bible studies with him and Chris and would always ask him if he wanted to get saved and he would respond by saying not now. He looked healthy to me but maybe in his spirit he knew something I didn’t. We prayed a salvation prayer together in the hospital and the next day he died. Chris, who had grown real close to him, flipped out. One thing led to another as the whirlwind of demonic activity engulfed her life she ran off with the kids claiming that Keith was the kind of man who shouldn’t be around his own girls, the girls he had raised by himself for the last 10 years before getting back together with Chris.
I am not sure if words can describe the feeling a man must have when he comes home to find that everyone is gone and his investigation leads him to find out that his wife and children have left him. We spent time together believing for things to work out. It seemed to only get worse. He couldn’t even see his children until the accusations made their way through the legal process. They would come to be unfounded and he was given the children each weekend. He came to church as a family man, then a single man and now as a single parent with his two kids. We always kept praying for Chris and Keith kept his heart free from bitterness and hatred. They went through a mediation process and it looked like the decision about who would have custody of the children would be established the Monday following his death on Saturday.
I was honored to do his funeral. He was a man of good reputation with all who knew him. We filled the church with church folks, family and many friends. We had some testimonies and one relative sang the full version of “Jesus Loves You”. It was the first time I had ever heard it sung with all of the choruses. I preached, recapping his life from my standpoint, much as I have written above, asked for heads to bow and eyes to close, and asked folks to raise their hand if they wanted to get saved or get their heart right with God. We had 12 hands go up including Chris’.
What the future holds I do not know. To know that somehow and in someway Keith’s untimely death will “work together to good” is all that I can believe.