I remember when I was a boy looking at old men in wonderment. They were either my grandfather or someone else’s grandfather. I knew my granddaddy was once a farmer and he still dabbled with farming. He helped my Daddy with a few things, had a garden, and sometimes had a little patch of corn. He got a few dollars every month from the plan put in place by FDR.
I never thought too much of the former life of these old men in overalls who dipped snuff. They had a few funny stories. Most of them did not have teeth or if they did, they were quite gnarly. They were revered and respected mostly, but I sometimes heard the younger crowd snicker at them when they walked away.
Most of the earliest funerals I remember were some of these old men. The preacher would talk about what a hardworking family man he was, and he was a Christian. His children would cry while his old wife would pat him on the chest as she walked past the last viewing.
After his grave sunk in and was refilled, his family would bring him up in conversation from time to time. One of his daughters might proudly show the old fifty-cent watch that he tucked away in the bib of his overalls. A son hoarded away his old Case knife in an old King Edward cigar box. From time to time, he would show others of the knife with worn blades used for cutting up apples and whittlin’.
Not too many of the old men left a Bible with bent corners, because most of them couldn’t read. When they should have been learning to read, they were learning to plow and cut firewood with a bucksaw. What they couldn’t read in the Bible, they did anyway, like loving your neighbor and loving God.
Generations come and they go. Those who can still recognize their voices are fewer each year, and the memories of these old men are fading as fast as the youngsters have gotten old themselves. And so goes the history of the common man. The only thing of granite with their names is their tombstone. The old family Bible has their names scribbled in the front, perhaps a faded picture and a yellowed newspaper clipping of the old man’s obituary stowed in the pages.
I am thankful Heaven keeps a record that does not fade. I am also thankful for the record of our sin that is washed away by the Savior’s blood.
Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people and now some of these old men look like they are thirty in their new selves in the Promised Land. Their legacy on earth faded after about two generations but Heaven is filled with their exploits. When Jesus welcomed them Home, their stories of persistence and selfless acts were recounted to the ten-thousands of ten-thousands who bore them witness.
When each generation steps over, a generation steps up, and another takes their place. So is the history of old men and old women too. I relate to the old men better, for now I find myself among their ranks.
I am a little different from my grandfather’s generation. I read quite well and wear khakis instead of overalls. I have well worn knives as well and I have well-worn Bibles because I learned to plant and to read. I do not carry a pocket watch but doublecheck the position of the sun by a Timex on my wrist.
According to my calculations, I have about twenty-five more trips around the sun, if I eat right and behave. I am not concerned about an earthly legacy. God has His purpose and my greatest desire is for His will to be fulfilled through me. In my estimation, that is about as good as it gets.
If the world continues for a while longer and some little boy walks by my grave with his grandmother saying, “Grandma, whose grave is this and what did he do?” She might as well answer, “Honey, I didn’t know him; only God knows who he was and what he did.” Enough for me and for you!
Live not for today—it will end; but for eternity—it will last.
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt
“For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15 NKJV).