Robert Reed Kessler: An Officer and a Gentle/Man
Born: October 22, 1920 / Died: July 18, 2007
"Goodnight Sweet Prince" July 18th, 2007
I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD [is] the death of his saints. Psa 116: 12-15
What does a man possess that is payment enough for all of God’s kindness towards us? To sip of the cup that has been filled with our salvation and to cry out to the Holy One is beyond any rhyme and reason. To be called children of the King and to reign with Him as princes, can our finite minds comprehend such a royal concept. Dad, how does a son say goodbye? Maybe with an Irish blessings to an jolly ole Irishman such as yourself.
"May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand."
Or maybe goodbye can be said better in this manner.
"Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight sweet prince, may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." Wellington Mara
Yet a heart made noble by your righteousness Lord breaks within me as the angels rejoice in the sight of Almighty God as you leave us this night. So I will softly whisper, goodnight sweet prince, goodnight dad, I will miss you for a little while until my journey has also ended. I now understand clearly that if you hadn’t said goodbye tonight, I would have never been able to say hello when we meet again. Hello is such an awesome gift and promise and for this I say thanks. Thank you dad.
USN Kelly: The Story Behind His Pencil Sketch
Many years ago I was visiting my parent’s house when I came across an old folded up picture in a drawer. It was a drawing of my dad drawn during World War II. He was in the United States Naval Reserve and stationed in the Philadelphia ship yards at the time. A young naval officer approached him and explained he was an aspiring artist and he wanted to draw his portrait. My dad told me his first thought was this guy must be sort of "odd." Bob Kessler wasn’t the "art lover" type of guy. A mans man so to speak who wasn’t schooled in the fine arts but on the streets of hard knocks. You know, the same streets he used to walk five miles to school on and where he would find his endless supply of chewing gum :-) Yet life has a funny way of showing you who you really are inside and teaching you how to love what’s different even when you don’t totally understand it.
Life is about moments or snapshots that are sometimes captured in time. In either our memories or captured in art or photographs, it is these rare moments that capture our own mortality. On October 6th, 1944, this is what that young officer did for USNR Bob Kessler. He captured a moment in time that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. That is until 50 years later when it was discovered in a kitchen drawer. I carefully unfolded it and showed it to him and he just smiled and said, "look at you, you’re just like that man who drew my picture that day." I could tell by the tone of his voice that he realized that "art" seemed different to him now because his own son was now an aspiring artist. How ironic life is at times. It had come full circle because he now better understood that artist because he thought he understood me. Now that’s ironic!!!
My dad is now Eighty seven years old. He has been in a total care home for the past three years and that is a long time to fight the good fight. Dad, I know soon you'll find your journey’s end and the treasure that awaits you. Yet, you have already found it. It is in the treasure that Christ has promised you through the cross you believed upon and honored with your faith. You have lived quite the life. Through the roaring twenties, the Great Depression, World War II until even today, in your lifetime you have seen it all. That timeless drawing is a testimony and witness not only to you but to all of us of our own mortality. So while the breath of God still sustains you, I will honor you the best way I know how. To be God’s in all I do and to finally agree with you that I am also sort of "odd" not by your idealized definition’s in 1944, but I am my father’s son. Created in the image of God and a completed masterpiece because of the grace and cross of Jesus Christ.
Yet life is still predictable when it comes to death. So, as he slips away in the darkness that is his current rest, I say good bye to the young Naval reservist with the Clack Gable mustache and slicked back hair. Until we can again properly say hello, I would like to quote a line from Juba the slave to his heroic friend Maximus from the movie, Gladiator.
"I will see you again... but not yet. Not yet!"
In the end we are all slaves to something. Be it circumstance or our own experiences. I chose to serve a King who calls me friend. That makes men like my dad and myself the best kind of slave, one’s who are called free.
John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Art helps me understand this concept of freedom a little better. My dad has helped me live it.
James Robert Kessler
Because of Him Art Ministry 2009