The funeral of my dad, Dr. Rev. Lloyd E. Marcus, was June 7, 2018. My sister told everyone she was wearing a yellow dress to Dad’s funeral because we wanted it to be a celebration of Dad’s extraordinary life and homecoming. Yellow represents bright sunshine. She also chose it to represent God’s “Son.” My sister’s idea caught like wildfire. Surprisingly, several women showed up at Dad’s funeral wearing yellow. I was able to gather only a handful of the beautiful ladies for a photo.
God’s grace and timing for Dad’s passing were perfect. Although he was 90, had Dad passed two months earlier, my three brothers, my sister, and I would have been devastated. Dad was placed into home hospice. Dad outlived two wives. His second wife died in March. As Dad’s health rapidly declined, each of his five kids took shifts taking care of him. The hospice nurse said typically only one child shows up to care for his dying parent.
The day before Dad died, all five of us gathered around his bed. Dad appeared unconscious, with his eyes closed. Earlier, the hospice nurse had told my sister that hearing is the last to go, and Dad would be able to hear us. Each of us spoke so Dad could hear our voices. We told Dad he did a great job raising us, we loved him, and we would be okay. Dad appeared to give a sigh of relief. From that moment, and I sensed that my siblings felt the same, I was at peace with Dad going home. God had graciously prepared us.
The warm, united vibe in Dad’s bedroom was amazing. My brother David is not big on making touchy-feely statements. He blurted out, “Thank y’all for being who you are.” I knew what David meant. We were united in love for our father and each other, committed to sending Dad peacefully home.
Around 7 A.M. the next morning, my sister calmly yelled down to me sleeping in the basement, “Hey Peanut, Daddy is gone.” I replied, “Okay.”
When Dad’s health began declining, I knew that if we, his five kids, did not handle the process correctly, it would haunt us for the rest of our lives. Each of us stepped up and did his part.
Dad’s funeral was a wonderful celebration. Citations were read from Baltimore’s mayor and the Baltimore Fire Department. Pastors and community leaders spoke of how Dad impacted their lives, congregations, and communities.
About a year ago, I felt compelled to get video of Dad on YouTube for future generations to see and hear him. Grandkids barely remember my mom, who passed 25 years ago. I took Dad and my four siblings into a recording studio to record an up-tempo version of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The music producer and engineer were stunned that our 89-year-old Dad recorded his vocals in one take. We produced a music video of the song using family photos. The music video was a huge hit at Dad’s funeral.
Dad was a man of several firsts: Baltimore’s first black paramedic and first black chaplain. The fire department chaplain who spoke at the funeral said Dad was also the first firefighter to become a chaplain, which paved the way for other firefighters to become chaplains.
When I spoke at the funeral, I shared how Dad strove to be excellent and walk in biblical principles despite horrific racist working conditions at Engine 6. Dad could not pour himself a cup of coffee from the same coffeepot as the white firefighters. I said no special concessions (lowered standards) were made because Dad was black. And yet Dad won “Firefighter of the Year” two times. The audience erupted with applause.
At the reception with food, called “the Repass,” one of Dad’s grandsons told me he had no idea of the humiliating racism his grandfather had endured as a civil rights trailblazer. He wasn’t sure he could have taken it. The twenty-something-year-old said the information gave him an insight into where he came from and who he is as a Marcus.
Black firefighters at the funeral said Dad corralled, encouraged, and mentored them to take the test to become firefighters.
A private conversation I had with a gentleman at the funeral epitomized Dad. The gentleman said several years ago, he was going through a severe crisis. He knocked on my parents’ front door at 3 A.M. Rev. Marcus opened the door, invited him in, listened, and ministered to him. That’s my Dad.
Years ago, a book was popular, titled Passages. I never read it, but I feel as though I have entered a new passage of my life. With Dad gone, I am the patriarch of our family. Like my four siblings, I want to continue making Dad proud.
While in Baltimore for Dad’s funeral, my wife Mary and I stayed at his home. I noticed Dad’s slippers on the floor and put them on my feet. I told Mary, “Wow, I have literally stepped into Dad’s shoes.” God has prepared me for such a time as this.