My Cousin Terry is gone now himself, but his Spirit and beautiful words live on..." The time has come; the hour is upon us. It was an hour just like this one that brought us to this same place on an August day in 1968. The death of my grandmother brought home the painful reality that the circle had been broken. Now, some 22 years later, the circle for some of us has been restored.
I realize that there is nothing I can do or say that will significantly ease the pain that all of us feel. For in truth, we have, each in his or her own way suffered a great loss.
The death of Hiram Maggard leaves a void in our lives that will not be filled this side of eternity. Jesus understood all these things. The Master's Sacred Scriptures tell us that Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazurus--whom He loved--and as John tells us-"Jesus wept." So it is entirely good that we mourn our loss. Yet this gathering is much more than a time of loss: it is also a time of joy and celebration it is time to celebrate the 881/2 years that Grandpa was with us-A time to be thankful for the gift of Hiram Maggard's life and the promise of life eternal found in the pages of MSS.
Grandpa would not have us to be overcome with grief and pain. He was never a man given to weeping and wailing-And his Spirit calls us even now to celebrate his life; not mourn his death. Robert Frost once said: "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." Grandpa took the road less traveled. He lived life his own way. He was fiercely independant all his life-depending on no one for assistance. Living life and worshipping God according to the dictates of his own conscience. Not many have the courage or determination to take such a path. Grandpa did.
My earliest memories of Grandpa come from my childhood. He would take me coon hunting and quite often we would(or better said "I") would get lost. Confused + Afraid, surrounded by the fog and darkness of night, I would look up to him and ask, "Grandpa how do we get out of this place? How do we find the path home?" He would take his handkerchief, wipe off his glasses, and look at some landmark only he could see. "That's the way Home" he'd say as he pointed the way with his finger. Now in his death, he once again is leading us out of this world dimmed by the fog of pain and grief to our eternal home prepared by God for all who love Him.
I never knew Grandpa to be afraid of too many things. He was somewhat afraid of my driving.
We observe here today, not only the passing of a man we love; but it is also the passing of an era. Grandpa was one of the few remaining immediate descendents of the origional Scotch/Irish and German settlers of Appalachia. My Grandpa dug coal with a pick + shovel - hauled it out with a mule and sled. He often told me of buying "kateriges" for 5 cents a box. His death marks for me, for us, the end of an era in American history.
Grandpa does not leave us entirely alone-his legacy to us remains. In closing, let me say a few words about that legacy.
My Grandfather was not a "Sunday morning Church-goer." But he was a very religious man. He taught me to see God in the majesty of the Appalachian Mountains. He taught me that no one is an athiest who plants a seed in the ground. Grandpa knew that God was greater than any human attempt to restrict or confine God within the religious boundaries of doctrine or dogma. He knew that salvation was the "Free gift of God; not of works, lest any should boast." John Wesley once said "The world is my Parish." Grandpa counted himself amoung that universal parish of which Wesley spoke. As a student of theology first at Union College and late of LTS I learned many important lessons about theology--but none of them were more crucial than the one I learned from my Grandfather. That is part of his legacy to me.
Grandpa was a "Mountain Man." There is a story of him winning a turkey shoot in North Carolina, "You'll break us up old man." they told him. His love of nature is part of his continuing legacy to me + to us. Each time I see a bass lurking in the depths of a pond; each time I hear a squirrel chatter; each time a turkey gobbles; and each time I see the geese flying south for the winter I will know that Grandpa's legacy continues.
The Master's Sacred Scriptures promise us a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells rightousness-the New Jerusalem-A place freed forever from pain and trouble of this present life. Until that day when we gather together by the throne of God, let us be comforted by the memory of this Man who lived life with courage and dignity. While the pain of parting is real and honorable, let us always celebrate his life, rather than mourn his death: I know that Grandpa would have wanted it that way. Amen and Amen."