On Sunday morning my husband’s maternal grandmother stepped over into Gloryland. After 96 years living a faithful, hard-working and service-filled life she reached her reward. I won’t try to preach to you here but I can’t help but think of what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:6-8:
…my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
As we waited for this dear, dear lady to pass, I found myself asking a lot of questions – how much did she know at the end? Was she able to peek over into heaven? I’ve talked several times about how thankful I am for the advances in medicine that we enjoy today, however, this process of dying is one that science just can’t quite reach.
Still, my history-driven mind wants to draw comparisons between the week my family just passed and similar times over the last hundred years. The family sat with Mawmaw around the clock for four days because we wanted to be with her, we wanted to celebrate the very moment she was freed from her suffering. But we sat with her in a medical facility surrounded by competent and compassionate medical professionals. They cared for the patient as well as the family. Before, it would have been the neighbors who came and offered this service. I remember when my great-grandfather died at home over thirty years ago, within the hour several ladies were busily cleaning the whole house. It was the first time I had been that close to death and I was very moved by these friends who came in to do work that even as a young teenager I recognized was far from glamorous. In the 1980’s of course we had a funeral home who whisked away the body and presented it to us a few days later dressed in his Sunday-go-to-meeting best and positioned in a store-bought casket.
Can you even imagine the layers of complexity this process of death presented when those neighbors needed not only to clean a little and prepare some food but also to clean and dress the body and place it in a homemade casket?
Invariably sitting with a family opens windows into lives and I love those moments. Well this week I heard the story of Edker and Gladys and it’s worth sharing.
Edker lived in Alabama and his brother lived in Dalton where he was preaching at Poplar Springs Baptist Church. Edker walked to Georgia to visit his brother and of course he went to church with him. He chose to sit on the same pew with the Crow family – perhaps the beautiful fifteen year old girl drew him to that seat near the front. As Gladys looked over this stranger she found him barefoot and was embarrassed by it. Now, why that would bother her is a mystery to us today because her family certainly wasn’t wealthy, but I guess she had shoes for church.
Edker kept coming back and his charm soon blinded Gladys to his poverty. I wish I could have heard his version of this story because every picture and every memory of their daughters is him loving her. He is always wrapping his long arms around her petite shoulders or even sweeping her off her feet – literally – for the camera. Their love story was all too short for he passed away very suddenly when he was only fifty-four years old.
Theirs was a love worth remembering and Gladys Pell’s was a life worth celebrating.