By David A. Girar
“You know, I never thought of that,” he said … I was a new Christian back in 1974, when a man who had been preaching for some 40 years was in our home for dinner. I had been commenting on some scripture (I don’t even re-member which one). His reply impressed me with the realization that a study of God’s word is a lifelong journey. Also, the preacher impressed me with his humility and willingness to encourage and build up another Christian.
“He will live on in the influence he had on others”, some-one said … It was September 14, 1995, and I was at the funeral of a gospel preacher who had just died at the age of 83. The funeral home was full with family, preachers and other brethren from many states, and at least three other countries. More than 330 people attended the visitation and emorial service. We were there to remember the life of Leslie Diestelkamp, the same man who had been in our home 21 years before, and had made such an impression on me; the same man who had such a profound influence on my life in so many ways, not only in person, but through the teaching and association of his sons and grandsons, daughters and granddaughters. Most of them were there, his extended family, his wife Myrtle, and so many of his friends (their minds I am sure occupied with the same thoughts as mine). Leslie’s body was there, but he had finally gone to his reward. He is now among the “great cloud of witnesses, (Heb. 11:1) and his influence was evident in the words of so many who spoke that evening in Aurora, Illinois, and the next evening in Saint James, Missouri. The atmosphere was one of joy and thanksgiving. The talk was not of grief and hopelessness, but of hope and comfort and peace. We were not there to praise a man, but to praise God!
The memorial service in Aurora, Illinois began with the obituary read by Al Diestelkarnp, followed by remarks and a prayer by Bob Leigh, an elder for the church in Aurora, Illinois, where Leslie and Myrtle were members. Four grandsons, Rob Speer, Kyle Speer, David Diestelkamp, and Andy Diestelkamp then spoke followed by Robert Speer, Leslie’s son-in-law, and Karl Diestelkamp. Roy Diestelkamp then preached a sermon titled “It Is Worth-while To Be A Christian,” one of his dad’s sermons. It was fitting that the sermon preached would be one exhorting people to obey the Lord; Leslie’s life was dedicated to just that cause. The closing prayer was led by Ray Ferris, gospel preacher in Lockport, Illinois and a cousin of Leslie’s.
The memorial service in Saint James, Missouri was at-tended by close to 200 people. Once again the obituary was read by Al Diestelkamp. A prayer was led by David Girardot, after which David Diestelkamp spoke, on behalf of all the grandchildren. Then Roy Diestelkamp spoke of his dad Leslie’s rich prayer life. In one of the most moving moments of the day, Roy said that the thing that he would miss most is that his dad would never pray for him again. The sermon preached by Karl Diestelkamp was another lesson directed at the living, exhorting them to faithful service to God. A final prayer was led by Raymond Breuer, a cousin of Leslie’s. Congregational singing was led at both services by grandson-in-law Alan Lindsey. Songs were: Have Thine Own Way; Amazing Grace; The Solid Rock; and The Gospel Is For All.
A short grave side service was conducted the following morning at the Oak Grove cemetery. Pallbearers were five grandsons Kyle and Rob Speer, Andy, David and Duane Diestelkamp and Leslie’s cousin Ray Ferris. The body was laid to rest in the very grove of oaks where he had confessed faith in Christ so long ago and near the graves of so many loved ones and brethren who had had so much influence on his life.
The memorial services were some of the most moving experiences of my life. The meaning of the following verses were brought vividly in focus: Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 “A good name (is) better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. (It is) better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that (is) the end of all men; and the living will lay (it) to his heart. Sorrow (is) better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise (is) in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools (is) in the house of mirth.” As I listened to Leslie’s children, grandchildren, and friends, I thought of my own four daughters, my sons-in law and grand-children. What kind of an influence was Ion them, would they stand at my grave site and glorify God, would they remember my concern for the lost, and follow my example as I followed Christ? May God allow me time on this earth to spread the Gospel at home and around the world as this faithful soldier of God had done!
Truly, it can be said of Leslie Diestelkamp: Hebrews 11:4 “… he being dead yet speaketh. “
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 23, p. 22
December 7, 1995