Anderson, Ala. – I never imagined how quickly the years would go by after what was the most difficult moment of my young life, but here we are, almost two decades later…
The weekend before granddaddy passed away, I had driven up from Tuscaloosa to visit. During my visit, granddaddy talked about his friends Hiram Hutto and Billy Lovell coming to see him. I don’t recall much more about our visit except that when it was time for me to leave we exchanged the words, “I love you”. I had been a student in Tuscaloosa for the past semester, trying to live out my dream of being a placekicker for the Crimson Tide.
As the school year progressed, granddaddy’s health continued to decline. During his illness, dialysis became necessary. At the end of the first semester, I told granddaddy that I was going to leave the University and come home. He wouldn’t allow it. He told me that I was going to finish the school year. On January 14th, I received the inevitable call. Grandmother said, “Your granddaddy doesn’t have much longer.” Feeling that I wouldn’t have time to get back home before he passed, I called our friend, Tim Sutton, who had expressed interest in seeing granddaddy. I told him that if he wanted to see him, he needed to go ahead and go. To this day, I take comfort in the fact that Tim was able to see granddaddy and speak to him. By the time I made it home to Anderson, granddaddy was in a comatose type state. I sat by his side through the night of the 14th and into the morning of the 15th. It was only a matter of time. Later in the afternoon, as more family arrived, I went into the living room. I watched the grandfather clock which granddaddy had put together. I heard cries coming from his room. The clock read 1:15 pm. Granddaddy’s physical life ended on Thursday, January 15th, 1998. I had never felt so much pain in my life. At that moment, there was no way to make it go away.
Over the years, since granddaddy’s passing, many people have expressed their love of granddaddy. Many of the stories that friends share with me come from a long time before I was in the picture. Through his work as a preacher and Dean of Student Services at Calhoun Community College, I know granddaddy meant a great deal to so many and I appreciate that. His life’s work was sharing the Gospel. His teaching style has been described as plain and simple. His goal was to help others understand the Bible and lead them to the Truth. In his years of preaching, he worked with several congregations. Among those were the church at Ramer (outside of Montgomery), Lafayette, Georgia, ACIPCO in Birmingham, Saraland in (Mobile) Alabama, Valley View near Athens, Old Moulton Road church in Decatur, Jackson Drive in Athens, Alabama, Sun Valley in Center Point, Alabama, Hueytown church of Christ Hueytown, Alabama, and New Georgia church of Christ in Anderson, Alabama. At New Georgia, granddaddy continued to preach until he physically could do it no longer. Through granddaddy’s work as Gospel preacher, I had the privilege of meeting many wonderful people and develop lifelong friendships along the way.
I can’t help but think about how he became my granddaddy and how I became his grandson. I think about a little baby named Lynn Douglas Headrick being born to Orville Bruce and Minnie Sue Goodloe Headrick on a farm between Red Oak and Ferris, Texas, in May 1928 and how that Texas boy grew into a young man who would move to Nashville to study at David Lipscomb and eventually take a teaching job Alabama Christian College (Faulkner) and meet Mary Faye Hall and they’d get married. I think about that couple wanting to have children of their own and choosing to adopt three children in May of 1958. Because of circumstances, I was blessed to be raised in the home of Lynn and Mary Faye Headrick. I was taught to call them grandparents, but they were so much more.
I had granddaddy almost 19 years of my life, now he’s been gone for 19 years. Nineteen more years will come and go and you or I may or may not still be here. One thing I do know is that life is a vapor. Those you love are here one day and gone the next. Death is a reoccurring theme of life for all of us. Love on those you still have with you. Let them know you love them. You’ll either look back on 19 years fondly or you’ll look back on 19 years with regret and say, “I wish I could…”. There will come a day when you can’t. Do it while you can. You won’t regret that. You can mark it down.
Below are three tracts that granddaddy wrote. The tracts were originally only available in paper form until Spiritual Service Supply converted them into digital format.
Understanding The Bible
Back To The Bible For It All
The Gospel Plan Of Salvation
Yesterday, we lost a dear friend in Thomas “Tom” Keese. Tom came to Athens, Alabama, in the mid-1980’s. He attended Calhoun Community College on the “Lynn Headrick Scholarship” and worshiped with us at Jackson Drive. Along with other college-aged men like Tim Sutton, Phillip Owens, Brent Siota, Lane Alexander, Eugene Rigsby, & many others, Tom Keese was part of the extended Headrick family. Although he was several years older, Tom took time with my brother and I. As a seven year old, the best I could do to show Tom how much he meant to me was to name my cat after him. About the time he was in Athens, Tom was having some physical difficulty. It wasn’t much longer before he would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). As a tribute to him, I want to share his own words with you today. In his message, you’ll see what brought him comfort as he faced the challenges of MS. Tom is no longer suffering and that is a comfort. One of the last things Tom said to me when we visited with him back in December was “Fight for me!” Tom’s Christian legacy lives on. My deepest condolences to his family.
Although it was more than 30 years ago, I still remember distinctly our Driver’s Ed teacher’s instructions about how to conquer our fear (among inexperienced drivers) of a bridge near Comfort, TX. Although there are few of them around anymore, this bridge was half a mile long and had two very narrow lanes framed by steel girders. His advice to us was to focus on the caution light on the other side of the bridge. It made no sense to us at the time, but when I actually took his advice, it worked. The principle, looking past our current circumstances to what the future holds also works.
Now I want to deal with my present circumstances. I have been dealing with excruciating pain a result of having MS for the last 28 years and the resulting immobility. In the midst of that pain there have been very few things that will bring me comfort for my mind to dwell on. When you find yourself in the midst of this type of adversity, my advice to you is to focus on the other side of the bridge, look through the fire. One of the things I consider is to look forward to the period of time after the pain medication has taken effect. I will recite to myself Paul’s words from Romans 8:18, “the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
Another passage which brings me comfort is 1 Peter 1:6, 7:
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…”
The trial of our faith, i.e. adversity, is many times painful. We should view it as burning away those impurities in our lives that will only hinder us from reaching our goal. Those impurities in the gold must be burned away. One way to look at this, when I endure this pain, is that it helps me like no other experience to see more clearly the things in my life that do not matter.
Preparing for Trial
I have encountered and continue to encounter brothers and sisters in Christ who deal with adversities far greater than mine. I recently heard it said that physical pain is easier to endure than emotional pain. I firmly believe that’s true. You may be dealing with the death of a loved one or the unfaithfulness of children who have turned their back on the Lord. The best time to prepare for adversity is before it occurs. If you have not dealt with severe trials like this it’s only a matter of time.
The best way to receive comfort from God’s word is to have it stored up in your heart. Just listening to the Scriptures being read or to sermons has brought me great comfort during my darkest hours.
Develop a Habitual Life of Prayer
It should be of great comfort to us that God has encouraged us to bring our problems before his throne. Philippians 4:6, 7 with many other passages urge us to pray about those things that are causing us worry. To me it is so humbling to realize our God who has created universes and solved problems so much more complex than what we are dealing with wants us to bring our problems to Him.
In Daniel chapter 3, Daniel’s three friends had every confidence that God, if he so chose, could deliver them from their fiery trial (Daniel 3:6-30). Yet, they also realized that He might not choose to deliver them. Facing the prospect of a very painful death, they saw through the fire. Likewise, we also must look past our trials of this earth which are so minuscule in comparison to our reward in heaven