March 1, 1935- Oct. 3, 2020
Rev. Karen Crawford, Pastor
The Presbyterian Church, 142 N. 4th St., Coshocton, OH 43812
I visited with Don Cox when he and Nancy, about a year ago, invited me to their home. He looked well and fit, though I knew he was struggling with a host of health issues that kept him from attending church. We talked some about their life together and we shared Communion– tiny cups of juice and pieces of bread on a tray, I read Scripture, and we prayed. My impression was that he was a quiet man, but his smile was bright and he expressed gratitude for my visit, after I washed the bits of bread and juice from the tray and repacked my bag before going on my way.
It’s hard to get to know a person in the space of a few precious moments, but I treasure those I shared with Don. Especially when I visited him in the hospital in February after he had suffered a stroke. He longed to be home with Nancy and the separation then and later in rehab was hard. He endured months of struggle, even after he went home and had Nancy and some medical professionals assisting with his care. He continued to hope that he would regain his strength and be able to live and move and talk and eat as he had before the stroke.
That was particularly difficult for a man who loved the outdoors, the one who was passionate about hunting. Nancy would fix him hot chocolate and tea, sandwiches and candy bars when he set off early in the morning. He would bring home a deer every year, without fail, and take it to Amish country to be made into bologna, steak and roasts for the family’s dinner table. He was an expert fisherman and skilled at cleaning, boning, and cutting up his catch from local rivers and streams around Coshocton County and salmon when they lived in Washington State. He was athletic and followed professional sports. He cheered for the Browns and the Indians and played some golf. He liked to hunt morel mushrooms that Nancy would soak in salt water, clean and dry, roll in flour and fry in butter. They had a meaty taste. Delicious!
He and Nancy took regular vacations each year, when Don was well. They traveled to Myrtle Beach to stay at a hotel just a short walk from where the water flowed over the sand as they walked and enjoyed the sea air. They visited gift shops and ate seafood in nice restaurants—crab, fish, oysters, clams—any kind of ocean catch.
Don, when he wasn’t enjoying the great outdoors, was an avid reader of fiction; mysteries and spy novels were among his favorites. When he had read all that the Coshocton library offered in his areas of interest, he ordered books from other libraries. Don had mechanical gifts and training, serving in his working years, after his time in the Marines, as the owner and operator of Cox Appliance Service and Antiques. Born in Conesville, raised in Adams Mills, and graduating from Jefferson High in Dresden, he had a love for his community, his “hometown.” He belonged to a number of groups—the Coshocton Sportsman’s Club, the VFW, the American Legion, the Elks, and The Presbyterian Church.
He and Nancy were married by the Rev. Bob Millspaugh here on Oct. 21, 1974. It was Nancy’s church back then, but he joined officially on Feb. 13, 1984. They transferred their membership to a church in Washington State when they left Coshocton for a few years. But shortly after they came back, they rejoined on May 8, 2005.
Although we didn’t have long conversations about faith, I knew that Don believed. He welcomed me and my prayers on that day of home Communion about a year ago, in the hospital last winter, and, when the virus prevented me from visiting him after he came home, over the phone.
Always, I included a request that he would feel the Lord’s presence with him, as we are promised in God’s Word. Never did we give up hope or prayers that his health would be restored, that he would be comforted and healed. We chose to believe in a God of miracles, a God of mercy, grace, and love. A God whose Son, Jesus, was raised from the dead so that we, too may be raised with him.
“I am the resurrection and the life,” our Lord says in our reading in John 11. “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” he asks Martha, grieving the loss of her younger brother, Lazarus. Before Jesus calls him forth—ALIVE again—after 4 days in the tomb, Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
We choose to believe in a God in whom Paul in Romans 8 assures us that nothing, NOTHING, in life or in death can separate us from His love in Christ Jesus. And that when we can’t find the words to pray in our weakness, the Holy Spirit will pray for us, for all the saints, interceding with “sighs too deep for words.” We choose to believe, even when our loved ones are struggling with pain that while all things aren’t good, all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. And that, as the Apostle assures us in Romans 8, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
We never give up hope, for the promise in Isaiah 40 for those who hope in and wait on the Lord will be renewed in strength. “They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
This was a vision for God’s people in exile, longing for home long ago but it is also a vision for us today, when suffering and struggle are very much a part of our world, our daily existence. It is our hope, our trust in the Lord, and the Spirit that lives within us, that gives us strength to overcome all that would defeat us in this world of trials, if not for our faith.
We are assured, today, at the service to bear witness to the resurrection and honor Don’s life, that he has entered the joy that Christ has prepared for all of us—and that he has seen the glory of the Lord. He was a man of faith, who trusted God and loved his family more than anything.
About 20 years ago, Don gave a poem to Nancy, “When Tomorrow Starts Without Me.” He dedicated it to “Nancy, my wife, my love, and my best friend” and signed it, “with all my love, forever—Donnie.” The poem anticipates the day when he would go home to be with God for all eternity—leaving this earthly life and Nancy and the rest of his loved ones behind. In the poem, he assures her that he knew that she loved him. And that they will always be together, though they are apart.
“For every time you think of me, Remember I’m right here in your heart.”