· Sheriff Fay F. Brown’s Badge:
Bury Me in My Black Clothes·
It’s Friday, September 23, 1927, in Hutchinson, Kansas, at the Johnson & Sons Funeral Home, 134 Sherman Avenue, east. The funeral service of Harvey E. Albrecht is starting.
As the organ music began, in a subdued voice, Funeral Director William H. Johnson, announced: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be starting the service shortly; please take your seats in the chapel.”
W. T. Luckett, also known as Reverend Luckett, 37, prepared himself with a brief prayer by asking God for strength and for his message to be helpful for those in need.
One secret a minister often kept from his congregation was the amount of personal pressure a religious leader felt due to the responsibilities of the work. Even though it was a spiritual calling and personally rewarding, stress could weaken the best and the strongest of them. Fortunately, Brother Luckett relied on Sadie, his wife, to run the home, including the needs of their two sons, Russell and Gordon, while William was responding to the needs of the Brethren.
During preparation of Harvey Albrecht’s eulogy, William considered how he had failed the Albrecht family by not doing more to help them solve their domestic problems, specifically, Harvey’s uncontrolled anger. After Harvey’s suicide, Brother Luckett met with Mary—a widow—and her two fatherless girls, Jewel, 18, and Pearl, 15. Like a sickness, Harvey’s anger had spread to the survivors. Harvey and his earthly problems were gone, but his family was left behind, sad and agitated.
Along with the help of other church leaders, Reverend Luckett’s job was to support and lead his congregation. When duty called, he participated in a proper goodbye and burial for members of his flock. In the case of Harvey, Luckett, as always, had considered the type of sermon to give for the funeral service. Generally, he chose one of three themes: he would emphasize that the time was late and people must get right with their maker; stress the love of God; or delve into the mystery of the human experience.
But, today, for this sermon, Reverend Luckett decided he would address the needs of the Albrecht family while attempting to understand his own emotions. Simply put, he was feeling guilty and unworthy in his role as pastor. He needed to forgive himself for his own inadequacies.
Luckett had known for a long time that Harvey needed help, a spiritual reawakening, but he had been unable to provide assistance.
Reverend Luckett stepped to the podium and said, “Welcome to today’s service honoring Brother Harvey E. Albrecht. Thank you for participating. ‘Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted,’ Matthew 5:4.
“At today’s service we honor the life of one of our First Church of the Brethren members, Harvey Ephraim Albrecht, 51 years of age, who was a loving and faithful man. Harvey was born November 26, 1875 in Heidelberg Township, York County, PA., and died September 19, 1927 in Hutchinson, Kansas. His parents, John Wesley and Elaranda Juliana, are deceased. His siblings include: Ira Albrecht, Ovia Lefert, Jeremiah Albrecht, John Albrecht, Tempest Albrecht, and Grace Vian.
“Mary Phillips, wife; Jewel and Pearl, children; survive.
“Harvey E. Albrecht and Mary Adella Phillips were married in Abilene, Kansas, on Christmas Day, 1902.
“Harvey was a school teacher, and later, school master in Dickinson County, Kansas.
“In 1915, the Harvey Brown family suffered a devastating loss when two of their children, Olin and Eldon, died in a drowning accident near Abilene, Kansas.
“After relocating to Hutchinson, Harvey became a packer for the Carey Salt Mine.
“Ecclesiastes, 3:1, reminds us why we are here. ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die; . . .’
“Let us pray. We just ask you Lord to help us today as we recall our beloved brother Harvey during his time with us. We know that he is with you now, yet we still desire to hold him, fearful of letting him go. Help us today to redirect our powerful emotions of sadness, anger, and loss, so that we will be free to celebrate his life and our lives on earth without regrets. This and all things are possible because of your forgiveness. We are reminded today of our heavenly journey. In your name, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
“Sister Sadie will now sing, ‘Count Well the Cost’ by Alexander Mack, Sr.”
“Brother Harvey knew God, talked with God, lived with God. He listened. He didn’t just ask God for help when he was weak. He didn’t wait until the last minute to ask for God’s forgiveness. We as a family have lost one of our own, but now he’s part of God’s eternal family. Harvey was a messenger who fought a good fight. We lost a soldier of Christ, but we gained an angel in heaven.
“Harvey is fine. Because he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior, he’s in a safe, loving place. But for others gathered here, I want to share with you about coping with the feeling of not doing enough, blaming yourself, or blaming others. Some of you are angry with God; God understands. Some are unforgiving. God forgives. God is love.
“Why should we forgive?” asked the preacher. “It’s necessary for our own forgiveness. Jesus said, ‘And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you for your trespasses.’ Mark 11:25. And in Matthew 18:21-22, Peter was told by Jesus to forgive another person ‘Until seventy times seven.’
“Many may ask, why would God do this or let this happen?” continued Brother Luckett. “This is a human question. We know that in John 10:10, God said ‘. . . I am that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly.’ Harvey knows God as the Good Shepherd. God knows him as a good sheep, one who is saved and has found pasture and is forever part of Jesus Christ’s eternal love. Praise God!”
In closing the service, Sister Sadie Luckett sang “Breathe Upon Us, Holy Spirit,” as those in attendance said goodbye to Brother Harvey, filing by his open casket at the front of the chapel. Harvey was wearing his dress black clothes.
As Brother Luckett and Mary Adella exchanged words at the conclusion of the service, Mary felt relief amongst her tears. “Thank you,” she said. “Your God’s gift to our congregation. I felt you were talking personally to me, and I felt the Holy Spirit in your words. I’ve forgiven Harvey and I’ve forgiven myself. Thank you, Brother Luckett.”
Pearl was also moved by Brother Luckett’s sermon. Was it the circumstances and the setting of the funeral parlor that caused her to more deeply consider her life and afterlife? Was she weak or strong? She forgave her father for the times he had hit her mother. Pearl even forgave her father for killing himself. Brother Luckett was right, she couldn’t move forward if she didn’t give up the burden of anger and judging others.
After the service, outside in a light rain, Pearl said to Delbert, “Do you think you’d still like me if I didn’t wear lipstick?”
“Of course I’d still like you, Pearl,” replied Delbert. “It’s not your lipstick, but you, the person, I like. Would you stop liking me if all my hair fell out?”
Pearl smiled at Delbert. He was her best friend. She held out her hand and he took it.
Until next time, happy writing and reading.