Sunday, March 23, 2008
On Earth As It Is In Heaven
I couldn’t help but notice this scene Saturday at Mt. Olive Cemetery near Reynolds, GA. You will find similar scenes at most any cemetery you walk through wherever you may be. There are stories under these stones. The stories are the stuff that makes up real life.
The story of Jessie and Maude Windham and their son Julian is about real life. And if there was ever an Easter story, this is it.
Jessie and Maude Windham and their five children were visiting Jessie’s parents in the little village of Potterville on a hot August weekend in 1940. World War II was raging as the news of Hitler invading Europe was causing all Americans to be nervous. Winston Churchill delivered speeches that year that would be memorized for generations to come. Jessie Windham, a mill worker from Thomaston, GA was a few weeks from his 40th birthday. Maude was 35 years old and pregnant with her 6th child. As you might imagine, life was very busy and I’m sure money was tight for this very close knit family during these very uncertain times.
Early on Sunday morning of August 25th, Jessie and Maude’s 15 year old son left his grandparent's house to go to Sunday school. He decided to stop by Potterville pond on the way with a few of his friends to go swimming. They were swimming in the part of the pond the churches used for baptizing. There were a couple of wooden floats in the pond so Julian swam up to one of those floats and climbed on it. As most any other 15 year old boy would do, he dived off the float. He did not see another wooden float that was out of sight under the water. They are not sure if his head hit the wood float under the water and it knocked him out or his body hit it and his breath was knocked out.
But the other boys immediately knew he was in trouble and one of them ran for help. Mr. Cox and Mr. Underwood rushed to the scene and hurriedly took the young boy’s lifeless body up the hill to his grandparent’s house. When they ran in the house, Fred Underwood was carrying the boy over his shoulder. He went straight to the kitchen and laid him on the table. Dr. Sams was called to the house but it was too late.
Twelve year old Irene Windham, her 10 year old sister Dorothy and 8 year old brother Troy still remember when the two men came running in with the lifeless body of their older brother. And they remember him lying on the kitchen table. I spoke to Irene and Troy Saturday about this tragic event that forever changed their lives. And almost 68 years later, their voices still shake when they tell the story.
There is no way to even imagine the grief of Jessie and Maude Windham and what they went through in the untimely death of their oldest son. As I mentioned, Maude was pregnant when Julian died. She cried every day during the rest of that pregnancy. A few months later, God graciously gave her another son. A few years later, she would have another.
Jessie and Maude Windham were people of great faith. And the tragedy did not shake their faith. In fact their faith only grew stronger through the years. But the closest any of their other kids got to a swimming hole after that August morning was playing in a sprinkler in the yard.
Life went on for this family but they never forgot Julian. Their six children went on to live very productive lives. They all got married and produced houses full of children themselves. And those children have produced children. And those children have produced more children.
I married one of Jessie and Maude’s grandchildren.
I couldn’t help but think about this story Saturday when I saw their three graves side by side. Jessie and Maude were separated from their beloved son for many years. The pain they experienced was the greatest pain a parent can ever experience. But they also strongly believed all those years that they would be united with their son again. That belief was the essence of their faith. And that belief gave them the courage to keep on living, loving and laughing.
As I said, the rest of their children grew up and had families of their own. I am quite sure none of them will be buried on this lot.
But the fifteen year old boy who never had the opportunity to have a family is right beside his mom and dad. Right where he should be and right where they believed he would be one day.
On earth as it is in heaven.
Happy Easter folks.