My grandfather, Don Guffey of Bay City, died recently, six months after the death of my grandmother. Here are some of the words I shared at his funeral.
Donald Bernard Guffey was born in East Bernard, Tesas December 19, 1921. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the United States Navy and served as a signalman on large convoys in the Pacific in WWII. He was married to Adele Ruth Maresh of El Campo for nearly 73 years. He is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.
The best way I could think of to describe my relationship with Papaw was playfully antagonistic. He never forgot anything anyone ever did, but if the mistake was innocent and funny enough, those wells ran deep, and he would draw that water of laughter over and over again! Like the time I scratched his red pickup trying to park it in the garage. I have no idea how much it cost to repair that; he never mentioned the money. But however much it cost, it was worth every penny many times over, the amount of joy he received telling that story at my expense for over thirty years!
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”
The other day I watched some of the new Ken Burns documentary, ”Country Music,” telling the story of the growth of that style from regional to national. Hillbilly music, the old gospel songs sung with banjos or fiddles, became wildly popular during the Great Depression because of radio and the feeling of nostalgia of better times. Better times of the past when jobs and money were more available, but also the better times of the future: “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away.” Those were the popular tunes of Papaw’s youth, and he held them closely his entire life.
On the day Papaw died, several of us stood around him and sang the hymns of the faith. In another setting, he might have laughed or rolled his eyes when we were off tune or forgot some of the verses. But it was a holy time, for Papaw and each of us. The victory those hymns promised for the faithful has been won by Papaw — he always loved to win. They also sing of the victory of Jesus Christ over death, and the hope it gives to the believer.
“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
I love the metaphor of the human body as a clay jar in the scripture: beautifully made by the hands of a loving God, but also fragile. When cracks occur, they allow the glorious light within to be seen by others: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It’s a comfort to us as we face the death of a loved one, or consider the fragility of our own lives.
Papaw always loved family reunions. When I was a kid, we would have them nearly every year in Wharton, Texas. A few years ago, Mom and Dad started hosting them again, and they brought Papaw such joy. Don Guffey was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Adele, and his many brothers and sisters: Floyd, Lloyd, Gene, Clifford, Winnie, Mary, and Dottie and his grandson Ron. Toward the end of his life, he often dreamed of them. He anticipated joining them all in God’s glory with great joy, a family reunion unlike any other. If we listen closely, we might just hear the laughter and singing.
Frank Drenner was ordained in 1998 and has served as pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Sherman since July 2016. He is married to Christy, and together they have three sons. Find more from Drenner at http://www.pastorfrankdrenner.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.