Just before the family of 15-year-old Braxton Caner was seated at the front of New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, the entire Aledo High School Bearcats football team trudged up the center aisle in silence, some holding cowboy hats to their sides.
Braxton was the son of Ergun and Jill Caner, and brother of 9-year-old Drake. A member of the Aledo Bearcats, Braxton’s life ended suddenly and tragically July 29.
The members of the team, town folk, Southern Baptist leaders, and friends of the family, joined the Caners and other family members at an emotional 2-hour memorial service for the teen Aug. 2 at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas. The family’s home church is nearby Willow Park Baptist Church in Aledo.
The memorial service was announced days before in Baptist Press and on the website of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., where Ergun Caner was elected as president in 2013. Brewton-Parker College is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention. He previously served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Arlington (Texas) Baptist College.
Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. and Ergun Caner’s brother and Braxton’s uncle, delivered the eulogy.
“Today can be a confusing day,” Scott Crenshaw, pastor of New River, told hundreds gathered in front of a contemporary podium flooded with a bright display of more than 30 floral tributes on either side of a light oak casket draped with white and blue flowers and a football.
“There is a time for everything,” he said, referencing the hurt and pain that death brings, but also the hope and joy of being present with the Lord. “If today the tears come, that’s OK. It can be confusing.”
Remembering Braxton, Crenshaw said he celebrates that the teen knew God and was a “worshiper.”
Listing some of Braxton’s accomplishments, he marveled at how Braxton, who was born March 8, 1999, was baptized by his father when he was six and was able to do so much because of the ministry of his parents.
And although the young man met many dignitaries and celebrities, including the president of Kenya and Oliver North, and attended chapel with the New England Patriots–he was most impressed by his Latin teacher Prof. Timothy Griffiths.
The professor, whom Braxton nicknamed “Griff” or “Griff the Great,” was his “academic hero,” according to the pastor who said Braxton had no desire to be in the limelight and was instead a “quiet, gentle” young man who preferred behind the scenes.
Only on the football field might he get a little “smile on his face” when he heard his name called after making a tackle, Crenshaw said.
Directing comments at Ergun and Jill Caner, Crenshaw said, “You love your family, you love your son.”
“Only your boys call you Papa,” he told Ergun Caner, reflecting on times he would receive multiple texts all hours of the day of pictures of the popular speaker from faraway places like Greece, Rome and Israel–to remind him to pray.
SOURCE: Joni Hannigan