Junior is what my siblings and I affectionally called our oldest brother. His nieces and nephews would call him Reverend Uncle Jr. He was the firstborn of seven children to Alphonso and Ellora Lyons. While he had his father’s height and build, he had his mother’s looks and heart. Though he dearly loved his mother, a momma’s boy, he was not.
If you knew Rev, you knew he always had an Afro pick. That pick would be stuck in his head, hand, or pocket. On an occasion or two, you might see him in the pulpit picking his hair just before his sermon. Most of his picks had a black power fist. With his glasses forever on his forehead, I’m sure he read somewhere that picks were much more than for combing Afros. They were much more than the political expressions of the 70s. For him, it was his special comfort.
Junior always had a smile and a giving spirit. If you asked for help, his response was often OK. I got you. When do you need it? Let me figure out how to make that happen, or I’m on my way.
Basketball was a sport that he and his mother loved. During the Bulls heyday, between the two of them, they had more statistics than the team manager did. People knew not to bother them when the game was on. They had a heart for basketball. Especially the Chicago Bulls.
He was a person who was active in sports, especially basketball, a person who gave his life to his community and to his church. A person whose heart was always to give was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. The same disease his mother was diagnosed with. A person who always had more giving than he did time, his heart simply stopped working.
Brother, we know you were not ready to stop playing or to leave us so soon. But the Coach said it was time.
I know, Brother, you ran every play you had in your game book and shot every three-point ball you were confident you could make. You didn’t foul out; the Coach said come on home and rest. Brother, you played exceptionally well.
I know there were many days when it would have been easier just to elbow someone and take the foul. Rev, you smiled, prayed and played on.
When the body was dog tired and weary, you dressed, preached and even visited the sick; Pastor, you played on.
When church members stepped on you, gossiped and spoke untruths, you stood and preached truths. Rev, you prayed and played on.
When family members would fight, you came to the rescue; Brother, you played on.
On those days when you would sit with mom, knowing you didn’t have the energy to walk up the stairs to her house, you did it just so your sisters could have a small break; Son, you played on.
Jr, we didn’t know how weary you were. God knew.
On September 21, 2021, Coach Jesus said rest. For 72 years, you played an excellent game, Son. You fought a good fight; you finished the course. You don’t have to live in a fishbowl or carry the world on your shoulders anymore. You don’t have to worry about being winded when you run up and down the basketball court or walk up and down the stairs. The Coach said my good and faithful servant, I’ve got the best seat in the house for you.
Junior, our hearts still mourn, but you left a good print for us to follow. We find comfort in knowing God has given his servant the best seat in the house.
Rest my faithful brother, pastor, and friend. Rest.