I am the youngest of seven children. I had three older brothers and three older sisters. I grew up on a farm in Southwest Georgia. When I was younger, we lived in an old farmhouse at the corner of a crossroad. My daddy was a farmer and my brother Jerry followed in his footsteps. Jerry’s health took a turn for the worst a couple of weeks ago and by the time the doctors had figured out it was cancer, it was too late to do anything for him. He died last Thursday, almost a week after he’d entered the hospital. His funeral was on a beautiful October Sunday with a sky so blue it hurt to look at it.
This is the church I attended growing up. It’s a small country church on a road that curves around sloping hills. He was buried across that road in a spot that overlooks a rolling pasture, a spot where the wind is always humming through the trees like a sweet hymn. He used to farm the land all around this church but circumstances had forced him to retire. He was buried beside my mother and father and my sister Glenda, who died in 1991 after a car wreck involving a drunk driver. She was 53. Our older brother Windell died a few years later from heart disease.
I saw Jerry once or twice a year and usually only for a few hours at a time. We’d meet up for meals and sometimes, we’d just sit in his den and talk and laugh. He had a vivid sense of humor. He loved to watch “The Young and the Restless” and he liked old westerns and interesting books and he loved his two beautiful grandchildren. But the thing I will remember the most about him was his love of the land he farmed. It’s never easy to bury someone you love but it’s also not easy watching someone suffer in sickness.
This post is not about death, however. It’s about life and celebration and a sunny fall day and seeing a lot of people you should see during good times, not just sad ones. It’s about a tiny church filled with stained-glass memories and children laughing and crying and good country food prepared by loving hands. It’s about forgetting old hurts and remembering the promise Christ gave to all of us.
“I will not leave you comfortless.”
The land will be tilled and tended by someone else but the imprint of my brother’s touch will still be there, whispering in the wind and flowing through the pond and passing over the pasture. And the touch of God’s love will shine in a sky so blue it hurts to look at its beauty. And yet, we can’t turn away because when death takes a loved one, God brings a soul home to that big blue sky. That is why we always look up, even through our pain.