By: magnolia_admin | June 21, 2017

[His] absence is like the sky, spread over everything. ~ CS Lewis

The weeks after a sudden death are like stumbling through a familiar room in the dark. You think you remember where your couch is, and whether or not your toddler left blocks in the floor, but you take slow, halting steps towards the light switch, dragging your feet across the rug. Everything you encounter is nudged carefully with your sock feet in case it isn’t quite what you remember being in that spot before the lights went out.

That describes my work here at the funeral home without Nathan Dixon. The surroundings are familiar but somehow everything has changed and is uncertain. I find myself asking what Nathan would have done or said – how he would have handled things.

Nathan exemplified everything good about our profession – he was kind, he was considerate, he was gentle. His words were soothing and hopeful.

“Oh, don’t you look nice,” his soothing voice would rumble through the dressing room as we lowered a man into a casket. “Your family has done such a good job,” he would assure him, straightening the deceased’s tie. “I’ve never seen a sharper suit.” If you asked him if the dead could hear him, he would shrug and smile. But that was how Nathan was. If he wasn’t sure if you needed him or not, he erred on the side of encouragement. “Your family will be here to see you,” he’d remind them as we arranged the casket in the visitation room. “I know you can’t wait.”

Nathan devoted all of himself to each family – and treated each individual who came into our funeral home in the way he wanted us to treat his own. The gentle giant would guide each sorrowing family through their grief into a goodbye that would help them move towards the light, taking the brunt of the anger and frustration that rears its head in times like that without a second thought. He absorbed their grief, he comforted their hearts, and he tried to help bring out the joy of a life well lived.

I never heard Nathan say if he had a “life verse” from the Bible, but if I had to find one that his life seemed to be based on it would be from Proverbs 15: “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life…the lips of the wise disperse knowledge. A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance…he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast. He that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.”

Nathan was a peacemaker. Seemingly passive and unflappable, the man could stand firm in the wildest situations, nod understandingly, and slowly calm down the most disquieted soul. Everything he said was slow and certain – he never spoke without thinking.

Not exemplifying the discipline of calmness myself, there were many times I turned to Nathan to vent my frustrations about whatever incident I felt afforded a discontented mood.

“Now Dr. Gregory,” he would drawl “you know that’s just nothing to get excited about, we’ll deal with it as it happens.” For inexplicable reasons, he referred to me as doctor. I’m not sure why it started and can’t remember a time he didn’t say it, but anytime my phone rang and the screen lit up with his name, I knew the first words I heard would be “Dr. Gregory!” and that my reply, never said without a smile, was “Reverend”. The Reverend designation is easy to understand – Nathan was a born pastor. He typified an evangelist – always ready with good news, with encouragement, with a promise of hope.

Though I didn’t attend Nathan’s church, I heard most of his sermons the Monday after he preached them, when he would deliver them again in conversation to me. I can’t imagine that his delivery was more passionate in the walls of a church. His faith carried him through his life; not always easily or without trouble, but with a quiet confidence and a genuine love that filled his heart. I heard his exhortations, his gentle entreaties, and his admonitions. He loved the Word – he loved the Gospel – he loved his God.

His final sermon was preached from a pulpit the Sunday before his death, but the sermon of his life will not end until all of us who were touched by him are gone.

And now my office is empty. Nothing has changed in it but the absence of the man who towered over me in every way. His hulking frame would lower into my chair and a laugh would rumble out of his chest as he told me stories I can no longer remember and will never hear again. The words of life he spoke to me now live only in my heart. I can no longer turn and look up to Nathan to ask what to do, or to hear rumbling guidance to be calm, to be sure, to be steady. The governor on my engine has slipped and I feel myself spinning wildly, wearing out too fast. There is no hand the size of my head to pat my shoulder and reassure me, no broad shoulders to take the sadness with me, and no jovial laugh to lighten my spirit.

And now this week I do for my friend what I have done for a thousand others. I tuck him into his final resting place and become the last person on earth to see his face and commit him to eternity. I will straighten his tie and pat his shoulder and send him to God the best way I know how: the way Nathan did it.

“Good job, Reverend. ” I’ll tell him. “You look sharp.”

June 21, 2017


  1. Mary McDaniel says:

    A beautiful tribute to a wonderful man. I met him at the funeral home when he helped us plan the services exactly a year ago. He was so kind ,compassionate and caring with us even though it was not easy. He will be greatly missed by many people, not just his family but his Magnolia family and those of us he helped in our time of grief. God Bless.

  2. Hilda Floyd says:

    This sounds just like Nathan. He would love it. He would say it was a wordy blog, Dr Gregory. And then laugh that great laugh that only he could do.

  3. Shelia Ray says:

    Nathan, I remember you from my childhood but I will remember you for a lifetime. Sweet, kind, soft and caring are my words to describe you but strong, resentless and fervent describe your love for God.

  4. T Chessor says:

    Wow, I have no words, just wow!

  5. Vicky says:

    A precious tribute!

  6. Patann White says:

    First, I didn’t know the Dixons. My first encounter with knowledge of them came by way of an urgent prayer request over the internet. But my heart was touched by their circumstance. I came across your blog because a Facebook friend shared the link. I’m so glad I took the time to read your words, God bless you for leaving such a glowing remembrance, as we continue in prayer for the Dixons’ children & family.

  7. Dorothy McGaughy says:

    I shall never forget the kindness of Bro Nathan when Bro McGaughy passed away in March 2013. He was so
    So kind and precious to our family. His smile was an enduring smile. I loved his greeting each time I went by the funeral home to pay my burial dues.Bro Nathan is not a man easily forgotten. One of a kind friend. Now at rest with the Lord he had served and honored so faithfully.

  8. Judith Patterson says:

    Greg, you did a wonderful job. This is a beautiful composition about Nathan. You told not only how you feel but how all of us who knew Nathan Dixon feel. He was truly a “gentle giant” who seemed to love and care for everyone he met. He will be greatly missed. May God richly bless you and all of Nathan’s family and friends. Judith Patterson

  9. Donna Wilbanks says:

    Greg, that was amazingly written. Nathan was my husband’s cousin…each time i saw him he was just as you have spoken…a mild, humble, gentle giant. He was so honored to have you as a friend and co-worker.

  10. Michelle Ferrell says:

    Beautiful in every way. You honored your friend beautifully.

  11. Patrick Hancock says:

    Greg, your words exactly is the most kind that could ever be said, I feel so without words to express my feelings for this great godly Christian gentleman, I can hardly stand the thought that he is gone from this walk of life, he was so gentle, compassionate, and had such a great love for people. I know that all of you that were with him alot can hardly stand it either.

  12. Dorothy Thomas says:

    I’ve know Bro Nathan since he was a small child ,all I’ve I have ever seen out of him was kindness ,gentleness ,He was so precious to my family especially my son Tyler who was killed in a automobile accident last July ,it’s so hard to think this precious young man of God will not be sitting on the pew in front of me at church ,Nathan like his parents was a humble person and had the sweetest spirit ,He loved his family especially His wife Michelle and the 5children ,they would climb in his lap and lay their little heads on his big shoulders ,To know him was to love him .Heavens sounding sweeter all the time

  13. Tommie S Hill says:

    wow what a testomony

  14. Patricia Davis says:

    What a beautiful tribute to an awesome man and minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Prayers for the children, his and Sis. Michelle’s precious parents, their families, and the church family at Corinth and in Arkansas. May “The Peace Speaker” comfort your hearts! Love you all!

  15. Judy Glenn says:

    A beautiful eulogy. Blessings to the family he leaves behind and appreciation for the life lived in our community.

  16. Terry W. Snow says:

    What a great tribute to Bro. Dixon. I didn’t know him but I feel the same passion for our industry as he did. I try to treat every family as I would want to be treated. It is my loss that I didn’t know him. No telling the lives that he has touched. Only time will tell.

  17. Patsy Powers says:

    I have no doubt that Nathan touched the lives of all that crossed his path…including mine. I didn’t know him, except seeing him at the funeral home during a visitation of a friend or loved one…until recently when my husband passed away in March. Nathan was at my house in what seemed like minutes, but was probably longer (that say is still a blur). I remember Nathan being so kind and patient with me and my girls. We saw him the next day at the funeral home while we were there making arrangements and he was still a kind, gentle man. I remember thinking…how considerate and compassionate he us (those attributes definitely stand out). He was great at what he did…it wasn’t just a “job” to him, but a calling. What a blessing he was…not only to me, but countless others. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends, co-workers, and community. God bless the Dixon and Johnson families and Magnolia Funeral Home.

  18. Now that sounds just like my JESUS ,But the difference is , He has promised He will never leave us. That is what Bro. Dixon would say to you today. What a beautiful tribute to his life. Follow his example. You too can do it with Gods help. Run to Jesus, He is a very present help. Let His arms surround you.

  19. Pat Collins says:

    Brother Dixon was our pastor during the time he was at Salem, AR. He was truely a man of God. It just doesn’t seem that he could be gone from this life. He will be missed. But we are comforted to know he lived with the promise of eternal life with our Lord forever more. Until we meet again.

  20. Bonnie Hillman says:

    Greg, that is a wonderful tribute to Brother Nathan. He was all those things. I have loved him and all his family for many years. Bless his family and friends. He will be missed so much.

  21. Sandra says:

    Beautifully written and what a tribute to a man who left a print in your heart. I will be praying for you Greg Woodruff as you learn to move about this life w/o your friend. God bless you and your compassion for the job you do!!!

  22. Daytonand Ruth Jarnagin says:

    We didn’t know Nathan personally but learned about him and his family and their horrible tragedy through our cousins Lewis and Judith Patterson. We send our most sincere thoughts and prayers to Nathan’s family, but especially to Lewis and Judith and his work family who cared so very much for him and his wife. May God bless all of you and remain close to you especially during this very sad time✝️

  23. Casey Jones says:

    Stunningly written.

  24. Karen C Sanchez says:

    Mr. Greg Woodruff, I don’t know you, or Mr. Nathan, but somehow your tribute to him found it’s way into my facebook timeline. I just wanted to say “thank you”. I have never heard a more sincere, loving and genuinely touching eulogy to someone I will never know. I wish I had known this great man of God. I try everyday to be such a person. I try to see the good in everyone, to talk the talk and walk the walk of the Lord. I can only hope that the people who know me will one day think somewhat good things like this about me. Oh, I know I will never match up to this fine man, but as long as God gives me breath, I will continue to strive to be more Christ like. This gives me more strength to continue Christ’s work in this world. We need Him more now than ever. Thank you again for this uplifting and inspirational post. God bless you. God comfort and love Nathan’s family and yours! In Christ’s ever abundant love, Karen C Sanchez, Pollock, LA.

  25. Jim Benson says:

    Thank you for sharing your heart felt feelings. I did not know Bro. Dixon, but your attribute to his life has inspired a heart felt prayer for the Lord Jesus to help me be careful to be gentle and kind, we never know when someone as you will be recounting our affect on those around us. Thank you again, can’t stop sobbing. – JB

  26. Susan Smith says:

    I was very sorry to hear of Brother Nathan Dixon’s passing. I did not know him, just helped to pray after he was injured. It appears that he was very loved and well thought of and that he will be forever remembered. May God lift and bless the entire family. Amen.

  27. Pam Phillips says:

    I like others, never personally knew Nathan, but have followed the situation from posts shared via Facebook and have prayed for him. This beautifully written, heartfelt tribute to him brings me to tears. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us who did not know Nathan Dixon in person, but someday will have the privilege to meet him in heaven.

  28. Connie Wright Hon says:

    Beautiful. My husband and I considered knowing Brother Dixon as an honor. He was such a kind gentle man. Everywhere you saw Bro. Dixon he had a smile on his face and greeted you as if you meant the world to him. Our loss here is certainly heaven’s gain. Our condolences to his family.

  29. Mary says:

    Incredibly written.

  30. Tracy C says:

    What a beautiful tribute to one who lived as Christ through him. This is an encouragement for me to do better in letting Him shine through me. Thank you for a great testimony for one who shined.

  31. Maxine Henson says:

    This is such a touching tribute. God bless and keep his family who will be affected by his absence.

  32. Julee says:

    Beautiful tribute!

  33. I feel I knew this gentle giant, from reading this article, but never met him. So sad for his children and family but so happy for heaven!

  34. I never knew Nathan except the urgent prayer requests for him and his family. This was a beautiful eulogy, and helped me to understand what kind of person he was. Prayers continue for his 5 children, and all the families directly effected by the untimely deaths of him and his wife.

  35. Tina Fleetwood says:

    What a beautifully written tribute.

  36. Jeanine says:

    Wow, beautifully written and ” what a man.” I didn’t know him but after reading this passage, I feel I did. Seemed to be a great man among men. So sorry for his earthly family’s loss. My prayer is for God to bless the hearts and lives of his children left behind.

  37. Pat McKinney says:

    What a beautiful and heartfelt tribute to Nathan. I also did not know Nathan and his wife but have followed the story via a friend of theirs. The story has pulled at my heart so much that I wish I had known them. They walked the walk and talked the talk! I am a Christian but wish I could be 1/100 of a person like Nathan. I pray that God surrounds His arms around the children and families and brings peace , understanding, and comfort to them.

  38. Debbie Rhodes says:

    That was beautiful. Nathan always had a kind word each time he was at school being a dad. His children all display that same kind, sweet spirit. Enjoy heaven. We’ll see you there someday.

  39. Glenda Hoots says:

    I did not know him before I read this but through your great description I feel I do. This is great tribute to your friend and co-worker. Pray God gives you what you need to handle your grief and loss.

  40. Tammy March says:

    It’s been 3 months since my dear friend and one of the greatest men of God I have had the honor to know, was called home to be with our heavenly Father and his precious wife Sis. Michelle. I had known Bro.Dixon since he was six years old but my fondest memories are when I was blessed to call him pastor for 7 years. As I read this heart felt memorial written by “Dr. Greg”, it still brings tears to my eyes. How I wish I could pick up the phone and talk to him one more time. How I wish I had told him how much he meant to my family and I and how much he touched and had such and impact on our lives. I hope he knew. He had such patience and wisdom. Oh that I could be half the Christian that he was and the my life could somehow reflect the things that I learned from him in the life he lived and the things he taught me. As the song that Jason Crabb sings that is oh so true and so dear to me, ” I sure miss you. Life will never be the same with you not here each passing day has brought much pain. With God’s grace my strength remains. I sure miss you but heavens sweeter with you there”.