|We may hear someone say, “Well, you have one life to live!” It’s an off-the-cuff remark of which people pay little attention. However, maybe we should. |
Life is short. It is something that no one should take for granted because the next breath could be the end. Living in the moment is rare, for often we live in the past or in the future with our thoughts.
How we live, whatever time we have, is what makes the difference.
I want to share with you a short summary of the life of one man that none of you will know. His first name was Grafton. We buried Grafton yesterday in an all black cemetery in Florida. He was 95 years old. Having emigrated to the U.S. from Barbados, he wanted to serve God even though he only had a 4th grade education. During this time, he worked in the groves as a fruit picker. He had no problem with hard work, but wanted to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Being poor was often a problem with where to live or having enough to eat, but he managed to make ends meet. Sometimes it was with the help of those who cared about him.
After getting some education and a license to preach by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Grafton reached out to the black community to preach and be of service in their church. As is their practice, the AME Bishop appointed Graftron to be pastor of a specific congregation in Central Florida. Often, after his first Sunday in the new congregation, he arrived home and received a phone call from the Bishop, who said ” Don’t go back. They don’t want you.”
Why? Because he was different from the African Americans here in Florida. He was from another country and he had a slight accent. Was this any reason to reject his open heart to serve God? Of course not, but unfortunately, people of all races have their prejudices. What was he to do? He found a white minister who was willing to give him a position as “Visitation minister” to the shut ins and those in the nursing homes. What happened? Some families complained and didn’t want him to visit “Grandmother” because he was black.
A friend said to the minister who hired him, “You mean you gave a black man a job to go visit white women?!” “Yes.” “Well, there IS a God in heaven!!” was the reply.
For a period of time, he drove about 200 miles to a congregation that would accept him. This was a hardship, but he was willing to go where he was accepted and appreciated.
Grafton was one life given to God to serve Him. Yet, he was unwanted…much as our Savior was unwanted. Grafton was not crucified, but it is certain that his heart, at times, was torn in half by the people around him…who “just didn’t want him”…both black and white.
Those friends who did accept him and brought him into their homes for meals knew that they had found a real “Gentle Giant” with a heart of gold. He was over 6ft 5in or more and had a smile that warmed the heart. He was one life…humble and caring. He was God’s child.
The minister, who hired Grafton, was my husband, Bill. Some years ago, Grafton told Bill that when the time came for him to die, “Please give me a good send-off!” Yesterday, Bill did just that, with prayers and thanksgiving for a special life and a special man. Grafton was laid to rest beside his wife, who also was a minister of Jesus Christ.
At the grave-site…an all black cemetery…there were only twelve people…all white friends who loved him. In this day of racial division and concerns, it seems appropriate to say that love is still available to all who want to give and receive it…regardless of who we are. We are all God’s children with one life to live. A young, white woman came to the funeral, with a photo in hand of Grafton and her when she was younger. She said through her tears, “He was my friend.” What a lesson for all of us that friendship can be a real blessing in life when we put away our biases.
In Honor of Grafton… One Solitary Life…who served the resurrected Savior.
This is a poem about the life of Jesus Christ. Although the author is frequently cited as “unknown” the poem is actually attributed to James Allen Francis.
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant. He grew up in another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was 30. Then, for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never lived in a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but himself.
He was only 33 when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied him. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While he was dying, his executioners gambled for his garments, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today he is the central figure of the human race. I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned–put together–have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one, solitary life.
VIDEO: One Solitary Life Turn on sound
POST NOTE: After this blog was posted, I received a note from one of my readers. She also addressed that people with a disability are also not given respect. She tells of a student named John who was an Albino. (Definition of albino: a person or animal having a congenital absence of pigment in the skin and hair which are unusually white and the eyes which are usually pink.)
” John, who was studious, nice, thin, not athletic at all. He was an albino. His hair was white, his eyes were almost pink. I liked him, and most kids did. A lot of the boys, who were considered “tough guys,” gave him a hard time. If any of us saw that we’d go after those kids and try to save John. We lived close to that family. His father died, and his Mom did her best. She had edema and had problems moving around, but John took care of her. It was such a sad situation and he did his best. John was intelligent and received outstanding grades in school. Just prior to graduation, his mother died. John hung himself. He couldn’t go on any longer. It boggles my mind when I hear about people who torture others because of their color or any disability, etc…”
When life leaves a body, it is but a shell of what was originally there. It is quite mysterious, but the truth is that life that was breathing, talking…even eating has left that body. I am hopeful that when my time comes that I will have a moment before seeing my Maker to hover over the place I am leaving and say a fond farewell to this body that has served me well. It has given me pleasure…taken me places that I wanted to go…whether it was just across the room or across the sea. The body is an amazing creation of God. When we need it no more, we know that God with His Almighty power can raise every hair and molecule from where it has been laid to rest…whether in a beautiful casket or in a cremation urn. He put the earth and universe together, so I have no problem with what He will do at the Resurrection.
All of this leads me to ask a simple question….”Why are we so afraid of death… or a dead body?” Is it that many people fear this great mystery because they are not ready to face death? Do some think that the Grim Reaper will somehow come to their door next and they would not greet it so kindly as in this picture.
Regardless of the reasons, we know our upbringing ,or our culture, may see things differently.
I remember when I was a child, living in the country of North Carolina, my grandfather died. I had known him as “Papa’. It was the custom in those days to bring the body to the home and let him lay there for people to come in and see him one last time and pay respects to the family. A bedroom was cleared out and Papa was placed there. Sometime in the evening, I went to see him. I was a curious child and I had never seen a person who was dead. I carefully lifted the thin, see-through veil that was placed over his face and touched his cheek. I was surprised that the cheek was hard and cold. I knew instantly that this was not the Grand-papa who had told stories to us in the kitchen. He was not the man who had grown strawberries in the fields and talked with me about the family history while we chucked corn. Neither was he the man who had taken me by the hand and walked to the country church. He was not the man who Grandmother had threaten to call if I went one step further down the dirt road to the main highway. (I said I was going to run away at about age 7.) There was nothing in seeing him dead that made me fearful for he was just not the same. Yes, death is a mystery, but I believe someday I will see Papa who has gone on before me.
One thing is certain…most people try to make a funeral a special event. I just went to a friend’s funeral where they called it a “celebration” because her life had been a celebration and this is what she wanted. They released balloons at the graveside in honor of her and the love she gave while alive.
The vehicles where the body is carried to a final resting place have evolved over the centuries.
One may ask, why are you writing about such a subject? Don’t you respect those who may have just lost a family member? Absolutely, I do…but when I received an email from my good friend, Margie, with the following video, I asked myself the question, “Why are we afraid of a dead body?” That question brought the thoughts that I have just shared with you.
Can one joke around with people’s fears…when it is such a serious matter? Maybe so… for they did so in South Africa. Remember the old TV program called “Candied Camera”? The men shown here decided to see how people would respond to a completely staged request to take a so-called “dead body “to a funeral. The most that we can say is they had a great sense of humor. Luckily, no one actually died of a heart attack! I think the reactions speak for themselves.
If you have genuine fears about your own death, Give your life to Christ for the Holy Scriptures tell us:
“I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in Me shall have life even though he die...and everyone who has life and has committed himself to me in faith shall not die forever.
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last He will stand upon the earth. After my awaking, He will raise me up; and in my body I shall see God. I shall see, and my eyes behold Him Who is my Friend and not a stranger.
For none of us has life in himself, and none becomes his own master when he dies. For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord and if we die, we die in the Lord. So then, whether we live or die we are the Lord’s possession.”