, Corbin, KY

January 27, 2014

From a casket a grandmother speaks

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN —   It was the biggest shock of my early years. How can it possibly be? She was an unrecognizable skeletal shadow of who she was. There was something terribly wrong with what was going on. Mourners passing by viewing my grandmother, but she was nothing of what she was.  Beautiful, loving, joyous, and healthy were all my memories of her.  Not a semblance of these could be detected. My grandmother was truly gone with virtually no evidence of who or what she was. She was 62 and I was 11. The year was 1944. For 18 months she had laid in the farm house helplessly victimized by uterine cancer.  Languishing in an unrelenting pain of which at that time there was no escape.

Just 41 years earlier she was the celebrating bride of a young skinny farmer. They started off with nothing of this world’s good. After decades of farm life and toil they persevered and succeeded in providing food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their six children (the second being my mother).

At that young age I was given a true view of life. We’re here and then we’re not.  We work hard all our lives to save our life only eventually to lose it. The soil they tilled, the house and barn they built- all suddenly slipped out of their hands into another young energetic couple determined to “be a success” in the footsteps of my grandparents.

In my young mind, there was something radically wrong with the whole sequence of life and its inevitable ending.  The long years of “blood, sweat and tears” ends up in a big zero?

Over the next many months of my young life the routine of church began to dissolve into encountering a person – a real, loving companion, Jesus Christ; convincingly vindicated by his life so full of miracles. Life on earth was an exciting “once in a lifetime” opportunity to become immortal; to believe the repeated promise of Jesus that he has a Kingdom of eternal happiness for all who spend their years on earth serving one another.

Life makes no sense until the simple and clear direction of Jesus’ Gospel is put into practice; a practice that puts a smile on our faces whether we are an effervescent newly-wed or we are in our final days on a deathbed.

 “Seek ye first the Kingdom of heaven and all else will be given unto you.” [Mt 6:33]

The Rev. John Burkhart  Ph.D, is a retired Episcopal priest and professor of  psychology blog at inspirationsandideas