Eulogy, and the simple witness of good people living faith out loud

Yesterday's program and the closing hymn

Yesterday afternoon a huge crowd of people completely filled up the sanctuary at the Church of the Trinity in Sarasota for my brother Geoff’s memorial service. It was a beautiful day, clear, bright and breezy, with a spirit of celebration animating the proceedings. This was an affirmation of life, and faith, and the promise of God’s eternal covenant. It was grief and sadness overlaid with thanksgiving and peace.

My niece Hannah – Geoff’s only child – sang He Raised Me Up and spoke beautifully from the heart. I was so impressed by her poise and her clear grasp of what her dad’s life meant, not only for her but for the family and everyone who loves him.

The crowd present included not only Geoff’s family and friends but many representatives from Hannah’s mom’s family, our mum and dad’s church, some of the wonderful members of First Presbyterian here in Brandon, and ministers from the Presbytery of Tampa Bay. I am truly grateful for the rich and abiding witness of good people simply loving out loud.

EULOGY: For today’s post, I’m simply going to paste the remarks I offered when it was my turn to speak. Yes, I struggled a little (we all know I’m a cry-baby!), but the people were patient and gracious.

MY BROTHER GEOFF:

First, as a preface to my remarks, my niece Hannah has asked me to offer a brief biographic sketch. A kind of time-line of Geoff.

  • Geoff was born March 28, 1954, in the beautiful seaside town of Folkestone on the south coast of England. Kudos to his parents, David and Grace Maul.
  • He only has the one sibling – me. He said that was all he needed.
  • Growing up, Geoff was always the fastest runner in his class, but abandoned sports as a teenager because he was too cool for sports.
  • He was also a very good student, but at the same time managed to annoy school administrators as a committed non-conformist… He was serious about his non-conformity.
  • Geoff was active at Folkestone Baptist Church, where our family worshipped, and was a real leader among the youth.
  • He caught the travel bug early. He stayed with a family in France, crewed on a three-mast Tall-ship that circumnavigated the British Isles, lived a full year on a remote Scottish Island, and travelled to Africa… all while still a teen.
  • At 20 he joined Youth With A Mission’s Bible-school on a whim. It was there he travelled Europe and the Middle East, met Hannah’s mom, Rosalene, and launched a creative Pizza-restaurant ministry in the south of England.
  • Geoff’s young family moved to the States around 1979. He worked a variety of jobs, helped launch a local church, did ministry in Maine for a year, moved to California, became a respiratory therapist, settled back in Sarasota, and moved into the travel industry that was his life-long passion.
  • He was always learning, always reinventing himself, always searching, and always falling back into the arms of God.
  • Geoff has been a wonderful brother-in-law to Rebekah, an awesome uncle to Andrew Maul and Naomi Campbell… and Craig too, and he was looking forward to enjoying his role as great-uncle to David.
  • But Geoff’s proudest achievement is his daughter, Hannah… his son – not “son-in-law”, Andrew Roberts… and his grandchildren, Haley and Hudson….

AND SO NOW FOR SOME REFLECTIONS…

Where to begin?

I asked Geoff that very question back in October, when we started a series of conversations designed to get to the heart of what I like to call “THE GEOFF PHENONENON.”

You know what I mean. My brother Geoff spent his 58 years less being a run-of-the-mill human being and more being a Force of Nature. You didn’t just meet my brother, you experienced him!

So I asked him late last year where the story should begin. “If we made a movie of your life,” I said, “Or if I were penning a novel based on Geoff, then what would be the opening scene?”

“That’s a great question,” he said. “You ask the best questions.” Geoff was good like that, always affirming and building up. He honestly believed that I was the best writer he ever read.

The beginning: We ended up starting at 2004 – with Hannah and Drew’s wedding. I mean, really, it had everything.

  • Glamour
  • Wonderful food
  • Fancy dress
  • The best people
  • The Great Hymns – he love his hymns…
  • Dancing
  • All of his friends and family
  • Faith
  • Jesus…
  • Shoot, there was even a parade….

But it’s interesting how our conversation over the past five months so often came back to Jesus.

And so we took that thread and we traced it through Geoff’s life. We talked about the fact that there never was a time when we didn’t know the depth, and the breadth, and the clarity of God’s love. Because we grew up in a home where Jesus was a member of the family.

And – no surprise – it’s been a roller-coaster ride, this journey that Geoff has taken with God.

  • Up; down.
  • On-again; off-again.
  • Down the line; off the tracks.

COMING HOME: But this long and sometimes difficult path eventually led here, to this particular community of faith, and to a church full of good people who stand with arms open wide.

And you know what? We all need a place, sometimes, where God’s “YES” is louder than the world’s “NO.

And you know what? We all need a place, sometimes, where God’s “YES” is louder than the world’s “NO.

Too many voices in the world of faith seem to be defined more by what they are against than what they are for. But my brother Geoff knew without a doubt that what he was for was JESUS… and Geoff knew without a doubt that GOD – in JESUS – was for him.

We talked about this at length. And one day he asked me what I thought Jesus had to say on the subject.

“Good timing,” I said. “I just finished writing a book on the last few chapters of John’s Gospel.”

This is what Jesus said in chapter 13:

 “My children, I will be with you for a little while longer. Then you will look for me, but you won’t find me. I tell you just as I told the people, ‘You cannot go where I am going.’ But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

How elegant. The critical question when it comes to identifying disciples – and this is according to Jesus – is not tied up in doctrine so much as it is in love.

My brother Geoff understood this as well as anyone I know.

ENTHUSIASM! And, was he ever enthusiastic!

I mentioned this just last week in conversation.

“It didn’t matter what Geoff was up to,” I said, “you could always count on his enthusiasm.

  • If he was being good…. Or not so good.
  •  If he was at work… or at play…
  • at church… or at a party…
  •  on the upswing… or on the downswing…

Regardless, My brother was going to be “Mr. Enthusiastic.”

This is what I was getting at when I said that Geoff was a phenomenon. No matter what, like it or not, you got all of Geoff – absolutely nothing held back.

  • When they passed out volume controls, Geoff didn’t get one.
  • My brother simply wasn’t equipped with a brake, a mute button, an “edit before publishing,” a switch that said, “pause”….
  • “Tone it down a little” just didn’t compute.

What Geoff really could have used sometimes was a rewind button. But life doesn’t work that way.

It was this irrepressible enthusiasm that endeared Geoff to so many people.

“Hi, my name is Geoff! What have you got going on? Whatever it is, I’m all in….”

FINAL WORD: And that’s the final word I want to share about my brother. For 58 years, Geoff has been one of the Great Examples of what I like to call “Living Faith Out Loud”  – or “Living like we mean it… because God most certainly meant it when God created us!”

Geoff didn’t feel there was any excuse for not experiencing the fullness of life – his gift was to shine… And our responsibility is to allow his enthusiasm to pick us up a bit… and to shine too.

“Shine like stars in the universe,” the apostle Paul said to his friends in Philippi, “as you hold out the Word of Life. It is by your holding fast to the Word of Life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

So let’s make Geoff proud! Make it easy for him to boast! Let’s go out there and Shine – like stars in the universe – as we hold out the Living Word of Life….

Amen

16 comments

  1. If this represents the tone of the service (I bet it does), we can all learn from his enthusiasm for life as well as the way his family chose to conduct his memorial–through sadness, truly celebrating his life! I suspect he was watching with pride as his dgt sang and laughing with you all as memories/ stories were shared! Thank you for sharing him with those who have yet to meet him! I look forward to meeting Geoff when I join him with our Father

    Like

  2. Beautiful tribute and summation of your brother’s life, Derek. A celebration of life and love and faith! Thank you for sharing it with us. God bless you, Rebekah, and your family with honest therepeutic grief that restores you to faith and trust and thankful celebration of life in God’s care on earth and in heaven! Hugh

    Like

  3. Geoff is definitely one whom I look forward to knowing in Heaven. Thanks for capturing his essence so succinctly! Yes, he will definitely be missed, but all whom he touched are far, far richer for ‘experiencing’ Geoff — and perhaps even some of us who are only privileged to touch second or third-hand. What a legacy God has given through Geoff Maul!

    Like

  4. Derek,
    What a celebration of life ‘lived like he meant it’ it must have been! Great words. I must share with you the only conversation that Geoff and I had. I wrote him via Facebook back on Feb 8th to tell him of the many prayers coming his way. This is what he responded with:

    “Thank you Ray. I am blessed to feel the comfort of prayers. Most of all I want to be a blessing to others during this journey! Love and Peace to you, your family and your ministry!”

    Wow! “…I want to be a blessing to others during this journey!” He certainly was an ‘all in’ kind of guy…the enthusiasm of wanting to be a blessing to others was there even in the darkest hours.

    Peace be with you and the family. I feel honored to have shared that very brief, but very meaningful conversation with him.

    -Ray

    Like

  5. Derek,

    I wish I could have come to Geoff’s service. It sounds like it was wonderful, and a perfect reflection of one of God’s beloved. Although as Christians, we really can’t be too sad when someone passes from this life, our human side experiences the depth of the void, and it IS sad. I am thankful that you have been able to hold such a positive attitude, knowing that your (and Geoff’s) faith is well placed. In the end, it’s all about love, and love NEVER ends.

    God bless you and all of your family as you miss Geoff, and reflect on the joy he brought into your lives.

    Debi

    Like

  6. Hi Derek,

    I tried to come. I had intended to. Somehow I did not get the message on the where. I just assumed it was at FPCB. Truly dumb of me. I wasn’t even sure when, which is why when I overheard you talking about it on Sunday, I asked. And I got there at 3:45 to an empty parking lot! Gil Evens shared with me that he was there – in Sarasota. Sorry.

    My heart, my prayers go out to you and your family.

    RevEarl

    Like

  7. Derek,
    My eyes are filled with tears as I read today’s post. Hannah sounds like quite an awesome daughter, and your words about your brother painted quite a beautiful picture. I wish I knew him!! I first thought how much Andrew sounded like Geoff; but then I guess that comes from you both being so closely wound together. What an interesting life you both managed to have, and that’s a credit to your parents. You ALL are an outstanding and awesome family, and I appreciate your willingness to share your life with us, both the joys and the sorrows, which is life itself.
    I think it’s your birthday today, so Happy Celebration of your birth! Your brother was born exactly 3 years to the day before me, and now I understand why we all are a bit different than the norm, and passionate about what we believe….we all have the fire of an Aries! God bless you and your family!

    Like

  8. Geoff came from a truly remarkable family of faith (and faith actually put into most productive action–actions speaking louder than words) and that showed. If more families were as functional as the Mauls at both physical and spiritual levels this world would be a far better place. Showing that a firm spirituality does not immunize people from physical pain is a lesson we all need to learn. The Mauls are great teachers, including Geoff. Requiescat in pace, Geoff. Rest and Sleep in Heavenly peace.

    Like

  9. Geoff
    Sorry I missed your tribute. I so wanted to be there. I hope your doing your spirit work up in heave and keeping your hands on all of us here! Miss you brother and god rest your soul

    Like

  10. Beautiful! I can’t see for tears. This is so meaningful for me…
    And you know what? We all need a place, sometimes, where God’s “YES” is louder than the world’s “NO.

    We all do indeed need that place…so happy that Geoff had that place!
    Lot’s of love to you and your family, Ronda and Bob

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s