I was barely out of childhood when my grandmother died. She died in her bedroom while I played in her room. She died as she often lived, with a worn out Bible in her lap. She had thumbed through it, worn the cover off of it, and had inhaled its words like air. She probably didn’t hardly notice the transition from this life to eternity, and passed away instantly with heart failure.
But I noticed. It was the first death I had experienced that close to me. I am pretty sure I am in ministry today because she prayed me into it! Zelphia Salyers still has her name on a plaque over the Sunday School class of sweet little ladies she taught for years at the Second Baptist Church of Ashland, Ky.
While I know she was far from perfect, she was a saint in my eyes. I remember the parade of little Baptist ladies from “The Zelphia Class” coming in with fat-laden casseroles and mountains (it seemed) of potato salad. I remember their weeping and them hugging my mother, grandfather, and me.
And I remember the funeral. Not the sermon. Not even the eulogies, though I’m told there were many. No, I remember a song. Just one. It was not the first time I’d heard it, I’m sure. And it wouldn’t be the last (and no, it wasn’t Just As I Am!)
The song that Grandmother requested was the song that was the most meaningful to her. I heard it sung then, and probably paid attention for the first time. I have pondered it’s theology for a lifetime since. It was, I believe, my Grandmother’s parting message to me… her prayer for her husband… and her testimony.
“On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross
The emblem of suffering and shame.
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.”
“And I’ll cherish the old rugged cross
Til my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to that old rugged cross
And exchange it one day for a crown.”
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ….” Romans 6:11
FOR REFLECTION: Which part of the hymn above is most personal to you?