David Holford

Questions of Grace in a Life Unlived

Yesterday I went to one of the saddest funerals I’ve ever attended. It wasn’t sad because of the throngs of people weeping. Rather one of the reasons it was sad was how few people attended. Of those present, it seemed most were there out of respect for the dead man’s grandmother.

I attended elementary, junior high and high school with the decedent. However, I didn’t recognize any of my contemporaries there. There was a preponderance of little old ladies. His mother had died when we were in elementary school. He had a falling out with his father some years ago and they hadn’t even spoken for years. His father only decided he would attend his only child’s funeral because he was shamed into it by his former mother-in-law, the dead man’s grandmother. He showed no visible grief or sadness and chose not to attend the burial.

It is sometimes said that the number of people that show up at one’s funeral is largely dictated by the weather on the day. It was quite a nice, warm, sunny day. I’d hate to think of what it would have been like had there been a chill in the air or the threat of precipitation.

There were two preachers doing the funeral. One of them had only seen him a couple of times before. The other had only ever seen him a couple of times outside of a hospital or nursing home. Only one of them could even manage one anecdote about his life.

In our childhood days, the decedent and I were sometimes confused for one another by children who didn’t know us well, even though we didn’t really ever associate with each other. We were both named David. We both had red hair. We were about the same height. We were in the same grade.¬†We were born in the same hospital eight days apart.

How differently our lives turned out. From the time I can remember, and until her death, his mother was confined to the hospital with a neuromuscular degenerative disease. From childhood, he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. He didn’t get along with his step-mother. After we grew up, he was briefly married and divorced. He had no children. When he wasn’t in the hospital or nursing home, he lived with his grandmother. The only thing his obituary could say about his life was that for a few years he was member of the local volunteer fire department. And as one of the preachers at the funeral said, regretting that it was the best he could say, at least he’s not suffering anymore.

There embalmed in the casket, I saw someone who still looked a lot like me, bald head, goatee and all.

There are many times when we look at other people and situations and say, often glibly, “There, but for the grace of God…” Today made me truly wonder at the grace of God. At the same time, it troubled me with unanswered questions.

I don’t know the condition of David’s soul. I only ask for God’s mercy on his and mine. May I find a way to use all the potential God has given me in the number of days I have left. And though there appears to have been so little to eulogize about David, may his memory be eternal and may he rest in peace.

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2 thoughts on “Questions of Grace in a Life Unlived

  1. delford_b

    “I’m sorry” doesn’t really convey the emotion I have when I know that there are people like David who never experienced the love and grace of God, either through their conscious or unconscious choices. In no way do I deprecate or diminish your experience but I had to write because I just came home from a starkly contrasting experience. It was the funeral up in China Grove, NC of the mother of friends of ours.

    Maggie Luke was born on September 23, 1927 in Georgia. Her father was a travelling evangelist and later a pastor in the Church of God. She had three brothers and two sisters. They all grew up using their musical talents while travelling with their parents. One year they attended 11 different schools but they thrived. They all grew up with a thirst for education and desire to share the Word of God. Maggie met and married Chuck Dixon from Salisbury, NC when her father came to pastor a church there. Chuck was an extremely talented brick mason. Maggie had graduated from a Bible College and received teacher training. She taught in Christian schools in Ontario and Pomona, California and in Hickory, Concord and Charlotte, NC. While in California Chuck layed brick and Maggie taught. In the summer they would return to the mountains of NC where Chuck would lay brick and Maggie would stay connected to both her and Chuck’s families.

    In 1948 she had twin daughters. Both daughters learned from their mother how every person was different but loved by God. As twins they were totally different but Maggie taught them to be proud of their own accomplishments and to also be proud of the accomplishments of the other. Both had first marriages that ended in divorce in an era where divorce was frowned upon in the pentecostal denominations. Both married again, one to a pentecostal pastor/teacher.They both became teachers and worked together in two different Christian schools for a time.

    Maggie also taught Sunday School and was a minister to her family, her friends and her aquaintances. Senile dementia put her in a nursing home where the nurses competed to be able to take her to the bathroom or to put her to bed because she would pray for them and sing to them and to the other patients even though she couldn’t remember where she was or what day it was. Her spirit was set free this week and she rose to be with Jesus, her savior and the One she spent her whole life serving. Tonight her brothers and sisters, her children and their spouses and the grandchildren and their spouses all rose to witness to the grace of God they had learned through Maggie Luke Dixon. The daughters and the grandchildren all told of how they were in relationship with Jesus because of Maggie’s loving influence. The whole family became a choir several times to lead us in “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away” and finally “The Old Gospel Ship” with Maggie’s brother’s voice leading the way. One lady who stood less than five feet tall and weighed less than a hundred pounds is dancing on streets of gold and we were blessed to have known her and to be able to attend her funeral. I pray that somehow David’s family will come to know the grace of God and His love like Maggie’s family knows them.

  2. David Holford

    Del, I attended two funerals last year that were like Maggie’s. I cried at both funerals, but they were mostly tears of joy. I think that is in part why David’s funeral hit me so, even though I didn’t shed a tear at the time.

    I knew of people who had attended poorly attended funeral where no one had much to say for the decedent, but I guess I never had. And that he and I were parallel yet at the same time so incongruent in so many ways rattled me.

    The one thing David had was his grandmother. She is a pillar in the local Church of Christ. She was there with him through thick and thin, even though she is 100 years old and he was the one in the nursing home. I’m sure her funeral will be much different.

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