Cover photo for Samuel Graham Wilbourn's Obituary
Samuel Graham Wilbourn Profile Photo

Samuel Graham Wilbourn

February 13, 1995 — May 11, 2020

Samuel Graham Wilbourn

Samuel Graham Wilbourn of South Boston, VA passed away May 11, 2020.  He was born in Halifax County, VA on February 13, 1995 and was 25 years of age. He was the son of Melvin Graham Wilbourn and Susan Faye Warner Wilbourn who survive.

 

He was a member of Bethel Baptist Church and Wolftrap Hunt Club.

 

Samuel Graham Wilbourn is survived by:

His Parents

Melvin Wilbourn of South Boston

Susan W. Wilbourn of Hampton

One Sister

Stephanie Wilbourn of Scottsburg

Two Brothers

Matthew Evans (Lindsey) of Huntsville, AL

Daniel Wilbourn of Halifax

Nieces

Nicole Balducci and Emery Evans

Nephews

Jeremy and Josh Balducci

One Great Niece

NyRae Hamlett

Host of extended family and friends

 

***Preceded in death by***

Maternal Grandparents

Charles and Mary Warner

Paternal Grandparents

Claude and Vivian Wilbourn

 

A private graveside service will be held Saturday, May 16, 2020 at 11:00 A.M. at Ebenezer Mennonite Church Cemetery with the Rev. Dr. Tony Brooks officiating. In keeping with CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19, funeral service for will be livestreamed via Powell Funeral Home’s Facebook page.

 

For memorials please consider Bethel Baptist Church Building Fund, 4198 Bethel Rd, Scottsburg, VA 24589 or a charity of your choice.

 

Online condolences may be directed to www.powellfuneralinc.com.

 

Arrangements are by: Powell Funeral Home and Cremation Services, 1603 Wilborn Ave., South Boston, VA 24592.

We apologize for the brief viewing of the service, we experienced technical difficulties beyond our control.  To view the beginning of the service, click here. Also, just below, Rev. Dr. Tony Brooks is sharing his manuscript for this service.

Sam Wilbourn Graveside
We have come today to worship God and thank God for Samuel Graham Wilbourn’s life and the impact he had on all of us. We want to remember Sam and celebrate his life as we thank God for him. We recognize that we don’t have all the answers in tragic situations like this one. So, we come to seek God in the midst of our grief and seek God’s strength. Isaiah 41:10 reminds us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. God continues to be with us in the good and bad of life.
An Obituary is more than that. It is a legacy of love:
Samuel Graham Wilbourn of South Boston, VA passed away May 11, 2020. He was born in Halifax County, VA on February 13, 1995 and was 25 years of age.
He was a member of Bethel Baptist Church and Wolftrap Hunt Club.
Samuel Graham Wilbourn is survived by:
His Parents
Melvin Wilbourn of South Boston
Susan W. Wilbourn of Hampton
One Sister
Stephanie Wilbourn of Scottsburg
Two Brothers
Matthew Evans (Lindsey) of Huntsville, AL
Daniel Wilbourn of Halifax
Nieces
Nicole Balducci and Emery Evans
Nephews
Jeremy and Josh Balducci
One Great Niece
NyRae Hamlett
Host of extended family and friends
***Preceded in death by***
Maternal Grandparents
Charles and Mary Warner
Paternal Grandparents
Claude and Vivian Wilbourn
Loving God, as we begin this service today, we humbly seek you and ask that your comforting presence be felt today in each person’s life. Wrap your arms around the family and friends who have gathered as we thank you for Sam’s life and as we seek you in our grief. In the name of Jesus the Christ we pray. Amen.
There is no way for us to possibly understand when a loved one’s life is shortened by addiction. We look for reasons, to somehow try to make sense of it all. There are no easy answers. I believe God was weeping when Sam was not able to break the addiction. On Monday, I believe Jesus was with Sam when he breathed his last breath here and led him to his heavenly home, because Sam was a believer in Christ. He had given his life to Christ. We will come back to that.
What I have discovered is most helpful in the healing process is to move from why to what now? How can we who are here best honor Sam? I want to suggest we begin by looking at Romans 8:28. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. This passage doesn’t say if you are a Christian that everything that happens to you is good. It says that no matter what happens, God can bring good out of the worst possible situations. It requires each one of us to stop and ask, “What is my part in God’s plan to bring something good out of this tragic situation?”
First, enjoy life with family and friends and don’t take any day for granted. We know we are living in difficult times already with this virus. I would love to hug each of you but can’t. But let’s focus on Sam. I wish I had known Sam as an adult. I only really knew him from his childhood days when I was his pastor. He was shy, kind, gentle, had a big smile and very polite to adults. He loved to tag along with my son, Joe, and older friends of Joe at church. After talking with Melvin yesterday I discovered things he really enjoyed. He loved to hunt and loved his hunting dogs (Walkers)…all 10 of them. He kept them at the cabin. I have enjoyed hunting over the years with my dad and some friends. He loved to fish. For the last 8 weeks I have not been around people except to pick up groceries and go fishing with two friends who are retired. I have followed social distancing for my wife’s health and our daughter’s concern for us. Sam loved the Duke Blue Devils! I began liking Duke in basketball a few years before I came to Bethel in 1994. (Auburn will always be my first love as you can see by my facemask today!) Janice Burton would get me basketball tickets for the Duke games and my children both loved Duke as well. What am I saying in all of this? I had connections with Sam. I wish I had known when I got back to Virginia. Don’t neglect those opportunities and enjoy every day.
Second, learn from his mistake. He may have friends with those same addictions watching this livestream. Let someone know. Get help. Sam was scheduled to go to Pathways in Lynchburg for rehab next week. Next week won’t happen for him on Earth. Honor his life by getting your life in order and living it…which leads me to this:
Third, you can honor Sam by learning from him that the most important decision you will ever make is putting your faith and trust in Christ, who loved you enough to die for you and wants to provide an abundant life for you here on this earth, and when our time comes to leave this world we know our Savior will be there to take us to our heavenly home. Sam had given his life to Christ and rededicated his life a couple of years ago and became a member at Bethel Baptist. When his Pastor left, he stopped going. Many family members and friends tried to encourage him to get involved in church at Bethel, Dan River Baptist and more. He needed that positive influence. Yet, because of his faith in Christ, we need to hear these words: Jesus said in John 14: 1-3 says, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Finally, you do not have to bear this burden of grief alone. Psalm 121 says “I look unto the hills and where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Romans 8:35-ff 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God is loving Sam in ways we cannot comprehend, and God is here with us right now. The incredible mystery of it all is the closer we are to Christ, the closer we are to Sam.
We know Sam is with Christ! Sam loved all desserts, but especially banana pudding. Many years ago, I heard of a woman who was nearing the end of life. She had her pastor come over and explained all that she wanted in her funeral. He wrote everything down to prepare. She then said, “I have a special request that may sound strange. I want a fork in my casket.” The Pastor said, “That is a little strange. Why?” She said, “When I was a child, mom would fix an amazing dinner when guests would come or the Pastor. When the meal was over, she would take away the plates. If she said, keep your fork”, I knew she had made a homemade pie or cake and the best is yet to some! I want people to know the best is yet to come.” Perhaps Sam would want a spoon to get all of the banana pudding!
That is why I am finally able to say this: we are not okay. We are not well emotionally, physically or at some point spiritually over the loss of Sam in this way. It is okay to talk to God about it. Job did, and the Psalmists did! At some point, though our pain and grief will continue in some ways until we leave this world, we know (for those of us who follow Christ as Savior and Lord), we will see Sam again.
When I first heard the news Wednesday night, one hymn began to speak to me as it had in the past in difficult times including my mom’s death on January 2nd of this year. You need to know the story first and then I will try to sing it solo and acapella, though I have never done so before in front of people.
The author, Horatio G. Spafford (1828-1888), was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago. He had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman and was also a devout Christian. Among his close friends were several evangelists including the famous Dwight L. Moody, also from Chicago.
Spafford’s fortune evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871. Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, he lost everything overnight. In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster. But the worst was yet to come.
Hymnologist Kenneth Osbeck tells the story: “Desiring a rest for his wife and four daughters as well as wishing to join and assist Moody and [his musician Ira] Sankey in one of their campaigns in Great Britain, Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873. In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business developments, he had to remain in Chicago, but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre. He expected to follow in a few days.
“On November 22 the ship was struck by the Lochearn, an English vessel, and sank in twelve minutes. Several days later the survivors finally landed at Cardiff, Wales, and Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband, ‘Saved alone.’”
Spafford left immediately to join his wife. This hymn is said to have been penned as he approached the area of the ocean thought to be where the ship carrying his daughters had sunk.
It is Well with my Soul
1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
o Refrain:
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
3. My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
4. And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul
It is well with Sam now. Now I say, We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave us life, and we will all one day go to meet the Lord face to face. Here today we commit Sam’s body to the earth. For he will have a new body in heaven. And may our trust be in him who said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die."
Loving God, we are not well right now. I pray you will wrap your arms around this family and friends gathered and watching today. Bring comfort and help them know the best is yet to come. "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

 

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