By Portia Williams
On Sept. 28, 2015, I received some news that saddened my heart. Gregory Saunders, 70, of Portsmouth had passed away, or as we say in Christendom, “gone on to be with the Lord.” Mr. Saunders was not only a fellow church member at Pleasant Green Baptist Church, but he was also like a brother to me, and I cherished the wonderful friendship that I was blessed by God to share with him. Gregory is the younger brother of Minister Andrea Young, and their other brother Dick Saunders who, unfortunately, passed away in 2011. My nickname for Gregory and Dick was, ‘The Smothers Brothers,’ and my nickname for the three of them was, ‘The Saunders Triplets,’ because they were all so very close, and the loved they had for one another was both exemplary, and very touching to observe, and I love them all so very much. At one time, Gregory and I sang in the church choir, I believe that is where I first got to know him.
Undoubtedly, just to mention the name Gregory Saunders to those who knew him invokes both a smile and warm thoughts, because of the quality of life that Gregory lived. His loving spirit, radiated peace, joy, and most importantly, the love of God. A devout Christian, one who loved God, and worshiped God with all of his heart is just who Greg was. Suffering with illnesses for many years that his body would succumb to on that day of Sept. 28, 2015, I never heard him complain, not even once. Barraged by countless hospital stays, dialysis treatments, blood transfusions and other areas of medical issues, Greg’s faith in God never waned.
In fact, Greg also dedicated an incredible amount of time to service, in the church and in the local community. He deeply believed that Christians should “serve,” to be active, to give of their time, their talent, and their treasure. No matter when I would go to visit him, when he was unable to make it to our church services, he always had that glorious smile on his face, one that he is known for. Sometimes I would come with my Bible in hand, to read him a scripture to encourage him, but by the time I left his room, I received more encouragement than I’d dispensed, because Greg always talked about the Lord, and how much he trusted in God, and God’s word, which is the holy Bible. A funny thing happened on one of my last visits with Greg.
My husband Mark and I went to his room, at a local nursing home facility at the time. As we usually do, as we were about to depart, reached out to touch Greg to pray for him. As we proceeded to pray, Greg asked us, “Where is the oil, you did bring some oil didn’t you?” Somewhat startled, because we forgot to bring the oil, my husband and I looked at one another, and I said to him, “No, unfortunately, we forgot it, I am sorry,” I said. Now, just in case you are not familiar with the scripture in James 5:14 which addresses the need to anoint the sick with oil, and to pray for them, this is what Greg was referring to. He looked at both of us, and said with a smile, now you all don’t want to be like those virgins in the Bible who didn’t come prepared, and failed to bring their oil do you?” He asked us, making reference to another scripture found in Matthew 25:3.
We told him no, and promised that we would not forget the oil on our next visit with him, and we proceeded with prayer. That was brother Greg. Always teaching, always encouraging others to put God’s word into practice. At Pleasant Green Baptist Church, our custom is to acknowledge men who turn 70 years of age as ‘Fathers’ of the church, and women who are 70 years or more as, ‘Mothers’ of the church. On July 7, 2015, Greg turned 70, making him a ‘Father.’ I will truly miss Father Greg, one of the most loving, and committed Christians that I have ever known. I take comfort in knowing that he is no longer suffering in agony and pain, and that his soul is resting with our Lord. May his beautiful legacy of trust, faith, and love for God and others, live on.
Reach Portia Williams at 740-353-3101, ext. 1929, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.