“Thou Art The Potter, I Am The Clay”
I couldn’t quite figure out the look on their faces as I opened the door for my parent’s friends, Frank and Lexi. So, shy seven-year-old that I was, I silently escorted them to the kitchen where my mother was cleaning up after supper. I retreated to my room to live again in the fantasy world of the latest library book.
After eagerly finishing yet another Bobbsey Twin mystery, I realized no one had scolded me for staying up too late. So I ventured back to the adult world to see what they were up to.
There they stood, almost in a circle. All were silent except my little brother whose latest accomplishment was a joyful “Da Da” that he was practicing confidently and continuously. Everyone else now shared that same somber look that Frank and Lexi had brought in the front door.
Instantly, I knew. “Daddy died, didn’t he?” No one said a word, but looking at the tears, I knew that I was right.
He had died in a fiery plane crash that afternoon. It shouldn’t have happened. It wasn’t his plane; he wasn’t flying it. He had merely gone along for the ride. Another flight instructor had just repaired a small single engine Piper Cub and needed to test it before his next student took it up for a lesson. They identified the two young fathers by the flight records from the airport. There wasn’t enough left of the bodies.
I stood with the grieving adults for a few minutes trying to absorb the news. When they began making lists and phone calls, I slipped back to the comfort of my own room to cry alone. We had just won World War II and now everything was supposed to be okay. How could God have made such a mistake? Wasn’t He paying attention?
Just 11 months earlier, He had taken away my beloved grandfather. But Granddaddy suffered from heart trouble and had been sick several months. Much as I missed his gentle hug and courtly manners, I could understand that he was old and had earned the right to go to heaven for a rest. All through the war he had sat silently praying during daily newscasts by H.V. Kaltenborn and Gabriel Heatter. He had lived to see his native England spared, celebrated V-E day in May, and then clung to life until victory over Japan was assured. Two days later, with his work done, he went home to be with the Lord.
But Daddy was only 28 years old. He had three children to care for. He wasn’t supposed to die. They told me that God loved me. How could He do this to me twice in one year?
I talked to God a lot about it, angrily, pleadingly, and finally, submissively. When none of the adults was around, I would sit at the piano, pick out the tune, and sing “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” and offer my life to Him again and again. I considered myself one of His even though I hadn’t been baptized yet. No one could help ease the pain, but I turned to God because I had memorized that verse in Matthew that says, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I didn’t know how or when I would find comfort, but the Bible offered the only hope I could find.
My mother and grandmother were devout Southern Baptists who accepted only believers’ baptism. I had wanted to be baptized and “officially” a Christian for as long as I could remember. But to get to that point, one had to go to the front of the church during an altar call, cry because of your sins, and write on a card that you wanted to be baptized. I really wanted to do all of that. I knew that I mustn’t “deny Him before man” and that I must stand up for my faith. But it took me a couple more anguished years to work up the courage to walk down the long church aisle all alone and make my profession of faith.
We descended from a long line of Protestants who took religion seriously. Church work, prayer, and attendance at the three major church services every week were part of the family heritage, if not the genetic code. And we continued the pattern with even more fervor after that fateful day in July 1946.