The Gatlinburg Story Timeline
The Reverend Ed Taylor lived 89 years. When his family last heard from him, he told them he was at home, and had been told there was no need to evacuate.
But when they were unable to contact him again, they knew that something was wrong–and when his teacup poodle was located at a veterinarian’s office, they knew that he was in all likelihood, dead.
Reverend Taylor probably had all of the usual ups and downs in his ministry that happen to any man of God–after all, not everyone who turns to a Reverend does so for GOOD reasons. But Rev. Taylor also can be noted for something else–in his long service to God, he officiated at 80,000 weddings.
What an amazing, and wonderful, thing to try and imagine–in this man’s life, he had 80,000 couples, all ages and walks of life, come to him to share what is one of the most profound moments in the lives of two people–the moment they stand together in the sight of God, to pledge their lives to each other. To pledge to stand together, in sickness and in health, not to part until death.
While we all have probably hears the statistics concerning marriage–especially the sad fact that almost half end in divorce–that doesn’t change the impact that Reverend Taylor and other men and women like him are participating in something that is profound, something meaningful, something central to a person’s life.
This man worked in a part of the world that doesn’t typically take marriage lightly, either. Having watched this story develop, one of the striking things about the people of Gatlinburg, and the many people in the USA and internationally that are showing up on the news sites to follow the story, is the deep level of faith they exhibit–which is for the next article.
But even if we take basic statistics from the USA, this man touched a LOT of lives. Consider that statistics–1/2 of all marriages end in divorce, and the average couple in the USA has 2 children.
That means, statistically–about 35,000 of the couples married by the Reverend are likely still together. And Then go the children–statistically, most people get married between 20 and 35–so most of his marriages ere probably people in the child rearing age group.
Not I am not a math whiz–but it’s possible this one man had an indirect role in the lives of around 80-100,000 children being brought into the world. And folks–that’s the equivalent of a small American town. If you want to get technical, the wedding couples ALONE, no children counted, amounts to a town larger than Yuma Arizona where my brother in law lives. With any luck, some of those couples will see this post, and contact me with their stories :-).
Who Are The People?
Here is a testimonial on the Reverend, found on WBIR’s comments on his passing:
“He performed marriage ceremonies for many years and he has performed over 80,000 wedding ceremonies. Like us, there are many other couples that were fortunate enough to get married by this wonderful man, and many that can also say he performs one of the prettiest ceremonies I have ever seen. The words that have stuck with us and we will never forget are the words that were spoken to us on our wedding day by Rev. Taylor, “Never go to bed mad at one another.” He offered so many words of encouragement for our marriage that day and we will carry those words in our hearts and minds forever. We have pictures, as well as a video to carry with us, but no amount of material things could replace his beautiful presence on this earth. We are sending our condolences out to his family that have endured this tragic loss. May you find peace and comfort in the days ahead, knowing that Rev. Taylor has grown his wings and is now watching over us from above. R.I.P. Rev. Ed Taylor. You will be missed by many.”
And that is just one I have found so far.
A Celebration Of Life…
There will be more coming on the Reverend–but in the meantime, the mere fact that he participated in the weddings of 80,000 couples is the real story here. 80,000 couples, with hope and love in their hearts, stood before this man in what is a celebration of life–their wedding day. 80,000 beautiful brides walked down his aisle, with that stomach tightening mixture of love, expectation, and dreams rising up so strong they probably wanted to just scream it out (I’ve been there). 80,000 grooms stood watching the woman they love coming to them with trust, faith and love–trusting them to be there. To be strong. To protect and cherish them.
Who knows how many christenings this man performed? Who knows how many people received comfort from him when loved ones were ill or had died? Who knows how many people in the community turned to him on days less happy than their wedding day? Probably noone knows these things. But I do know one thing–The Reverend Taylor was probably one of the happiest men on Earth. Because when you stand in the presence of love as often as he did–how can you be anything other than happy?
Rest In Peace, Reverend Taylor–your life was one well lived, your rest deserved. And you will be remembered.
A Letter To Michael Reed–A Gatlinburg Story