1 ¶ “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. Isaiah 40:1 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
Telling last week’s story about my father, my grandmother, and the falling ducks has made me nostalgic for the days of my childhood. My grandmother moved in with our family in Stuttgart in 1970, and she lived there until the time of her death in 2005 at the age of 95. (My father passed away with lymphoma in 1999, at the young age of only 65.) Not everyone could live peaceably with their mother-in-law in the house, but my father was an example of love and patience. I learned a lot about the Christian life by watching his daily interaction with her.
In 1997, my grandmother’s younger brother passed away at the age of 77. She missed him terribly and her grief was long-lasting and deep. She later told me, “For some reason, people think it’s not as hard on an older person to lose a loved one. Maybe they think that older folks are more used to death because we’ve lived longer and seen more loss. People don’t realize that I’ve lost my ‘baby brother.’ Even though we have both grown old, he will always be my baby brother.”
Now as I’ve told you before, my father was not a big talker. And my mother told me that he said he wished people (especially women) would not cry because he didn’t know what to do when someone was crying. But his heart was moved by the grief of others. And he couldn’t rest until he had extended comfort to the heartbroken.
Sensing Mammaw’s ongoing sadness, Daddy took his pickup to the local co-op. He filled the bed of the truck with cardboard flats of ornamental garden plants, mesh bags of tulip bulbs, and clay pots of perennial flowers. Then he loaded big bags of peat moss, potting soil, and fertilizer. Upon returning to the house, he unloaded his cargo on the floor of the garage. Turning to my grandmother he quietly said, “Grandma, I got you some things.”
When I returned later that spring for a visit, the front yard was blooming with colored flowers of all sorts. And my grandmother spent part of every sunny day outdoors, tending to the flower beds she had planted. You see, my father was a smart man. He knew that my grandmother loved flowers, and he knew she loved to work. Most of all, he knew that garden plants and work (along with the caring gesture of a loving son-in-law) are all good salves to spread on the open wound of grief.
I usually think of comfort in terms of the things we say—and “words of comfort” do have their rightful place. However, I like my dad’s method best. He didn’t use a lot of words. But his actions did a lot to “oil the machinery” of the healing process.
Dear mamas, someone you know is in need of your comfort and encouragement this week. Look for a way to reach out to them.
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 25 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 19) and Seth (age 16) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where we are having a rare cold winter here and are longing for the flowers of Springtime.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.