Daddy was born 117 years ago (1902) today (January 29) and died on March 6, 1982, at the age of 80. I’ve lived almost that long but, thankfully, have never had to deal with the kind of hardships he did: the death of his first wife, the death of two children (one a child, one an adult), a houseful of children (seven!) to raise by himself, two sons going off to war, a blended family (after he and Mama married and had two children), diabetes, etc. Even with all those problems and few of life’s comforts, Daddy was a happy man, well-known for his big smile and sparkling sky-blue eyes. He loved the Lord—and people—and always had lots of friends (rich ones and poor ones).
The day before he died, he was transferred by ambulance from a small hospital in North George to a larger one in Atlanta. My husband (James) and I rushed there to be with him and Mama. The doctor came to Daddy’s bedside to examine him and to ask lots of questions. When he said, “Pops, what do you for fun?” James answered before Daddy could. “He goes to church!”
James was so right! That was what Daddy loved to do. And he didn’t just go and sit on a pew. No! He led the singing, with or without piano accompaniment. He often preached. He got on his knees during prayer time, as was the custom in Baptist churches in that part of rural North Georgia.
His religion carried over into his daily life, too. Whenever he had a minute to sit down, he’d reach for his well-used King James Version Bible and read from it. Although Daddy had only a third-grade education, he was able to read the Bible; and the Holy Spirit helped him understand what he read. He drew strength and comfort from the Scriptures and from hymns, many of which he'd memorized.
One of his favorite songs was Heavenly Sunlight, written by Henry J. Zelley, published in 1899. I think the words in that song explain why Daddy was joy-filled despite having to face so many hard things. His Source of help and hope is available to everyone who will believe in Jesus and in what He said.
Listen here and/or read the words below. May they comfort and strengthen you as you make your journey through life.
Walking in sunlight all of my journey;
Over the mountains, through the deep vale;
Jesus has said, “I’ll never forsake thee,”
Promise divine that never can fail.
Heavenly sunlight, heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine:
Hallelujah, I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.
Shadows around me, shadows above me,
Never conceal my Savior and Guide;
He is the Light, in Him is no darkness;
Ever I’m walking close to His side.
In the bright sunlight, ever rejoicing,
Pressing my way to mansions above;
Singing His praises gladly I’m walking,
Walking in sunlight, sunlight of love.