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Grass that Withereth…

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever.”- 1 Peter 1:24-25

With so many things in life, something began to stand out to me the other day that hadn’t seemed so obvious before. It is sometimes stunning what we lost in a matter of just a few years of life. While inviting people to like the new page for my book, The Light in the Darkness, I kept running across pages of dear friends and loved ones that have passed away. All of them had been here when my first book had been published. They had all liked it, and as such, were some of the first ones to come up to be invited back to like the new page. In a matter of four years, we have lost so many. Each time I would go back in and look to invite more people, their names kept moving to the top of the uninvited; a solemn reminder that they were no longer with us.

I let it go, and as usual, tried to move on.

Tonight, while sitting in church listening to the sermon, the passage of 1 Peter spoke to me. So many friends and family, like those blades of grass in the field, hath withereth away. The thought of all those who had died came back again. I had been in prayer for two other friends, both facing incurable cancers, both looking toward the end of their life’s journey; both too young to leave this world with so much left undone.

There were just so many.

With each one that goes on, they leave behind a little bit of themselves with each of us. Their stories only kept alive by our own existence.

I can still see Randy Shumaker in his golf cart at the Bluegrass festival, up before all the others with his fishing rod in hand. The sun was just barely on the horizon of the cow pasture behind our campers. I caught him heading out to his favorite fishing hole at Denton. With that infectious smile, he called out to me, “Great is the day the Lord hath made.” Together, we finished, “Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” We had as much fun hanging out, cooking get-together meals, and just sharing stories as we did playing music at the festival. He left behind a loving family that still pain from his death and many friends that will never forget his memory.

Thanks to Carol McDuffie Photography

Then there was David Murph, the founder, and leader of the Gospel Plowboys. David and I had also met at Denton. Both he and Randy were brothers in Christ, both devoted to living the word. David would ask me to write a story that he had hoped would someday be published in the Our State Magazine. We had begun working on it while he and his band were at Denton, but one thing led to another, and we never finished it. As I was busy answering my calling to serve and moving a farm and family, I had one last phone call with him. He was still upbeat that things would get better for him medically. He longed for the time we’d be back together, not only to finish the piece we had started but to just revel in one another’s fellowship. Before we knew it, he had too left us for that home on high. One of the last songs the band recorded was “Welcome Home.” After David passed, I found the song and played it, over and over. The words touched my heart beyond measure. It was as if David was speaking to us from above, through the words in that very song. Again, another friend gone before his time, so much work had yet to be done.

Then there was the slow, painful story of Ronnie Joyce. He battled his brain cancer longer than any thought possible. He had become the calm, assuring principal to so many during his lifetime, both in the public schools and at Chatham Charter. I can recall one of the first times I met him, playing music in a pasture at Dwayne Hart’s bluegrass festival. He and several others, probably Bryan Goldston for one, were all there making beautiful harmonies. Ronnie shared with me his love of the mountains and the bluegrass group, IIIrd Tyme Out. He told me that they didn’t sing a bad song. Now, when I drive down some winding mountain backroad, and IIIrd Tyme Out comes on the radio, Ronnie crosses my mind. There were some that lead by example, but to me, Ronnie led by grace. He lived long enough to make it to his daughter’s wedding, but left us not long after, leaving behind a void that will take many years, if ever, to heal.

Duane Hart, a friend to so many, passed as well, and without him, the Hart’s Pumpkin Festival will never be the same. He was my neighbor for as many years as we owned our farm, but he was also someone that encouraged me to reach out in ways that I hadn’t ever thought possible. Sharing the love of music and teaching, we spoke to thousands of school children each fall when they would come out to his farm to tour the Pumpkin Farm and hear how the pumpkins grew. Each year, I would add another instrument to the barn show, until I eventually could play almost all the bluegrass instruments. Duane was not only an encouraging soul, he too was another brother in Christ. Meroney’s Church and the surrounding community will never be the same without him.

There are many more that have passed; some that I knew, while others were only acquaintances through friends of mine. Each of their stories caught a little piece of my heart and took it with them to their new home. With each painful loss, we turn again and again to find comfort in God’s word. There, we find the voice of Jesus, giving us hope and a future. We know that we can face tomorrow for we are not alone.

When my parents passed in these past four years, I was blessed to tell them both goodbye, knowing that they were about to leave us forever. Each one, in their own way, left behind a legacy.

For each one that leaves, those that remain have the burden to carry their torch, to share that story. Yes, it is up to each of us to carry on.

Yes, the grass withereth, the flowers will fall away, but the Word of the Lord will endure forever. Like those precious memories, the Word is with us always. He is our comforter in times of darkness and loss. We may be without those loved ones, but God gave us a gift that would never leave us lonely. Each of my friends and family mentioned here were all brothers and sisters in Christ, and each one had their own walk with Jesus. To this day, I know that someday, we shall meet again on that golden strand, on that far distant shore.

Hug the ones you are with and don’t let a day go by without telling them you love them.

Don’t wait until their face appears on your invitation list to remember that they are gone.

His love endureth forever, and even though they are gone, you are not alone.

Thanks be to God.

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