On Remembering Legacy... by Storey Wilkes Cook
Sunday, June 2, 2013, served as a beautiful tribute to my father on his last day as Senior Pastor of Legacy Church after 26 years. I was four years old when my daddy stepped into the position, I have witnessed changes, stretching, and growth of this body throughout my life from a front row seat. A constant I have observed through the years is the unwavering character and dedication of Gene Wilkes, my remarkable father, and his steadfast and supportive partner, my mom. Thank you, Greg Sankey for dubbing my daddy as ‘remarkable’. It is a befitting and well- earned title.
Kendall Brown is a man who has weathered storm upon storm with my dad and has remained by his side. It is fitting that Kendall opened our final worship service with an arranged tribute of music and familiar faces. After beginning solo on his drum, he paused mid-beat admitting it would probably be better for him to have some accompaniment. He invites old friend, Daniel Fermaint, to the stage. As the two played a familiar tune, a familiar voice was heard. Kristin, Kendall’s daughter, made her way through the crowd, microphone in hand, to join the stage. Slowly, more familiar faces joined the stage, each creating deeper emotions and requiring more Kleenex. Just when I thought my sentimental being could not handle any more nostalgia, Kris Koenigsberg appeared on the stage, her presence receiving immediate applause. Seeing Kris at the piano brought a flood of memories of many nights spent at the Koenigsberg house, an unnatural love of the Simpsons, and a hilarious red-headed boy whose life was cut short by cancer. Not to mention, Kris was the only musician I wanted at my wedding. Kendall and the all-star team had assembled a ‘mash-up’ of sorts of songs sung at Legacy throughout the years, including songs from both Wilkes girls’ weddings. In that moment, I tried with all of my might to permanently etch the experience in my mind- the sounds, the tears, the sight of my parents holding tight to each other while simultaneously singing and sobbing.
The service was filled with many more touching moments such as this, honoring my dad’s service to Legacy and even granting him the title of Pastor Emeritus. A couple of videos were shown, allowing members and friends new and old to share how they have been touched by my dad’s service as pastor. It was beautiful to hear others recognize what I as his daughter have always known. But then—in the middle of the meaningful sentiments came the best 4 minutes of possibly my entire life—the greatest, most accurate roast/parody/satire of my father by his executive team. They nailed it all- from his posture and use of his hands, to his affinity for sneaking sweets and love of all things Greek. As I mentioned before, Gene Wilkes is a remarkable man. Any reminder that he is in fact, human, is welcomed. The group led by Markus Lloyd gave us just that- swimmingly, I might add.
A reception was waiting for us after the close of the service, where hugs were given and goodbyes were said. Just when I would think I had it together, another face would catch my eye, and the mascara would once again be smeared. I should have known not to wear make-up that morning in the first place. My sweet mother had a line separating her blush into two distinct sections on each cheek. I stood in the sanctuary, soaking in the final moments of this chapter of my family’s life in a place I grew close to my husband, wept at funerals of individuals who left us too soon, and remembering notes written with Sharpie on the beams hidden within the walls as the lights were dimmed into darkness. Step one was to exit the darkened sanctuary. Leaving the actual building was a whole other story. I could not hold back my tears or what could only be described as extreme emotions.
This place has been a constant in my life as far back as my some of first memories, only after getting in trouble for getting too cozy with a boy at FBC Richardson Preschool and learning to cope as my sister destroyed whatever I was playing with at our house on Barclay Drive. My childhood was shaped at Legacy. My most awkward years were spent at Legacy. My hormone-tainted years were made less miserable because of Legacy. I never found a church that filled Legacy’s void while in college. This church supported our family as my parents gave away two daughters and welcomed first grandchildren. I have enjoyed bringing my children to “Lolli and Pop’s church” and watching the pride Cambell Grace feels about her Pop being pastor.
My dad moved through our last moments of this chapter with an unacceptable lack of emotion, according to his overly sentimental firstborn. He loves it when I make him stop and really feel the moment. Did I say loves? I meant tolerates, sometimes rather impatiently. I
forcedencouraged him to walk to his office with my mom and savor their final exit from Legacy as pastor and wife after more than a quarter of a century. But- we all know this is not really the end. He is Pastor Gene, Pastor Emeritus, and his influence on the church that is Legacy is a legacy (pun intended) that will be felt indefinitely.
I am thankful to call Legacy home and for the family of its members who have helped to shape me through their wisdom and stability. I’m so thankful to have grown up at Legacy and look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for their next chapter.