INSIDE STORY: A time to be born and a time to die
You give and take away,
You give and take away,
My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name.
In recent weeks, my family has experienced joy and pain — and we are not alone.
Such is the reality of life.
But, praise God, a better day is coming.
As a father, my greatest desire is that my three children will become faithful Christians and spend an eternity in heaven with God.
Eight years ago, I had the privilege of baptizing my son Brady, then 8 years old.
After much reading and studying of the Bible and discussion with his parents, Brady came to the conclusion that he had sinned. My son, whose wisdom exceeded his age, decided he needed to profess Jesus Christ as his savior and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
In one of the best moments of my life, I walked into the baptistery with him and immersed him.
On a recent Monday night, Brady, now 16, stepped back into that same baptistery — this time to immerse his brother, Keaton, 12.
Before a crowd of fellow Christians at our home congregation, Brady asked Keaton, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he came to Earth and died so that you can be forgiven of your sins?”
“Yes!” Keaton proclaimed.
Dripping wet and wiping his face with a towel after his baptism, my middle child said, “This is the most important day of my life.”
The first few verses of Ecclesiastes 3 take on new meaning.
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Seven days after Keaton’s baptism — the next Monday — my cell phone rang.
My wife Tamie’s name flashed on the screen. When I answered, I heard her sobbing. Her grandmother Reba Dooley, 84, had died.
“I’m so sorry” was all I could say.
A month and a half earlier, we had mourned my grandmother Margaret Ross, 85, as I shared in last month’s column paying tribute to her.
A part of me hesitates to take space to reflect on another loss in my own family. We live in a world of pain and suffering, of brain tumors and cancer, of way too many lives taken way too soon. My family’s loss is no greater than anyone else’s.
But I can’t let Reba Dooley pass without mention. “Mamaw,” as her seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren knew her, welcomed me into her family more than 20 years ago.
She treated me like an extra grandson, even though — to the amazement of everyone — I did not like her famous shrimp gumbo. But that was OK; it left more for the rest of the family. (I never met Tamie’s grandfather Homer Dooley, who died before we started dating.)
Mamaw was baptized in her 30s and lived a faithful Christian life for 50 years.
She was a member of the Holly Lake Church of Christ in Hawkins, Texas, and a loyal reader of The Christian Chronicle.
Any time Tamie and I visited, Mamaw proudly introduced us to everyone she knew and made sure to tell them that we work for the Chronicle.
Mamaw planned her own memorial service, and one of the songs that Holly Lake member Tommy Wheeler led at her request was “I Love The Lord.”
I love the Lord, he has been so good to me,
He gave his life, from sin to set me free;
No greater love, than his could ever be,
If you look in your songbook, you’ll notice the name of the person who wrote the words and music to that hymn back in 1970: that same Tommy Wheeler.
My son Brady led “Amazing Grace” at the service. No, he did not pen the words or the music. But I was so proud to see him play that role at his great-grandmother’s service.
The next afternoon, sleet and snow caked our faces as we stood at a small, country cemetery near Idabel, Okla. My mother-in-law, Pat Dillard, and her brothers, Lonnie and Teddy Dooley, wept as they buried their mother’s ashes.
“Today was really hard,” Tamie said as we drove away. “But I know where Mamaw is, and it’s not where we carried her today.”
Praise God for that.