A Tribute to Raleigh Seward Gray

Weekly Reflection, Friday, July 30

By: Eleanor Wellford

“And the Lord said; ‘I have found a man after my own heart’” Although the Lord was referring to David, King of the Israelites, there’s no doubt in my mind that he could have also been referring to Seward Gray. God and Seward were that close; and you knew it by his prayer life. There wasn’t a day that went by that Seward wasn’t praying for all the people he loved in his life – which must have taken him the better part of an hour each night before he went to sleep. He once asked me how long I prayed and I confessed that if I could last a few minutes before falling asleep, then I was doing well. He told me not to worry, because he was praying for me. That’s just the kind of man he was.

Seward was a faithful member of the 9:00 o’clock service. He would come perfectly turned out in something that would bring out the pale blue of his eyes. His expression was always pleasant and he would greet you in a way that made you feel special. Then, at the end of every service, he would take a left at the bottom of the steps and walk over to the Memorial Garden to pay his respects to his beloved Connie and their daughter, Marie. Nothing would have prevented him from doing that. That’s just the way he was.

And during one of those Sunday mornings, David Knight and I greeted him on the sidewalk where he told us that he wanted to become an Episcopalian. So, we stopped him right then and there, laid hands on him, and said a prayer; and he believed for all the world that we had made an Episcopalian out of him. He cherished that moment and would recount it in the same way he would recount other stories – with more clarity and detail than people much younger than he was. His mind and memory were just that astonishing.

Although Seward rarely complained, he actually did during the last few months of his almost 100 year-long life. He couldn’t understand why he was still alive when he was praying so hard to finally be with God. When I visited Seward at his home for the last time before he died, he finally seemed at peace as if he knew the end was finally near. I was also struck by the way he looked. If skin gets thinner the older we get, then what I saw was the Holy Spirit shining through him with a radiance that I will never forget.

“And the Lord said: ‘I have found a man after my own heart’”. And so did we. Farewell to you, good and faithful servant.