March 16, 2015


“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way”
(Ps. 37:23, KJV).

It’s been exactly one year since my brother was laid to rest after a long struggle with cancer. He was 69. The cover date on this magazine, March 19, marks the very day that our family, along with a few of his closest friends and caregivers, gathered in New York for a private ceremony to reflect on my brother’s life and the relationships he developed over five decades. Afterward our group committed his body at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.

Bertram Medley (right), his friends and colleagues called him “Bert,”* was born and raised in Philadelphia, and he had a long career in journalism and media production. For 30 years he worked for NBC-TV, serving in Cleveland, Atlanta, Tel-Aviv, New York City, and Secaucus, New Jersey. He traveled extensively around the world, finding stories for the Today show, Dateline, and other news programs.

Upon completing his tenure at NBC, Bert went on to transform the media ministry at Trinity Wall Street, a 300-year-old Episcopal congregation in lower Manhattan. He later established a broadcast news operation in Nairobi, Kenya. (Read more about his life at the Web sites listed below.)31 1 9 8

The task fell to me, as one of Bert’s next of kin, to methodically go through his belongings and carefully decide what should be preserved, given away, thrown away, sold, or shredded. It’s a daunting chore that continues as I write.

For me, the very act of searching through his extensive papers and records was a sobering experience. When it came to records, he never threw anything away. One glimpse at his storage lockers proved that fact. As I pored over the many notes of appreciation, the occasional letter from a female admirer, or the photographs of Bert with former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Bishop Desmond Tutu, or journalist Katie Couric, I learned more about him than I ever had from our many phone calls and visits.

Through the process it became clear that there was a powerful story in the stacks of travel vouchers, utility bills, tax returns, credit card statements, equipment invoices, receipts, insurance claims, confidential investment proposals, interview transcripts, lease agreements, court filings, Rolodexes, policy books, business plans, software manuals, and videotapes.

I could see where his life diverged and intertwined with my own. For example, I discovered my paternal grandmother’s death certificate and papers from her funeral and burial. I also found appraisal documents for my maternal grandfather’s house, major events in my past.

In searching through a pile of boxes, dresser drawers, and file folders, I discovered my brother’s paper trail. I could see the many key events in his life—his relocations, changes in assignments, major accomplishments, and some missteps.

Throughout this whole tedious ordeal I’ve wondered, What message will my life give to my children? What values will it reveal? Where are my priorities? Will my life show flamboyancy or frugality? Will it be consistent with my public persona today? What can I do now to ensure that my legacy will be a positive one?

As Christians, we must honor God in everything we do. The apostle Paul says that Christians are letters from Christ, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets but on the heart (2 Cor. 3:3). That means that Christ’s virtue and integrity should be reflected in each letter we write, each tax return we file, or every bank loan we apply for. Each time we put our signature to paper or make a verbal promise, they become a witness to the values we hold and a testimony to our character.

Even today I ask myself, What will my paper trail say about me after I’m gone?

What will your paper trail say about you?

* “Bert Medley, Broadcast Journalist, Digital Innovator, Succumbs to Cancer,”; “Remembering Bert Medley,”