Recently my husband’s father died after 101 years walking on this earth. He was born in Louisiana in 1918 where he grew up in a large family. His life was an amazing journey. He loved to hunt and spent many hours growing up in the woods with his dogs. His family struggled through the Great Depression. During this time, his dad was out of work but he said they never went hungry. Having food from their chickens, hogs, and surrounding wildlife was truly a blessing. He learned to be self-sufficient and strong. At the beginning of WW II, Pappaw served as a training sergeant in Georgia. Later he served overseas. He told stories of the harrowing time when they landed in France with the second wave at Normandy. His unit moved forward and fought to Aachen, Germany. During the time he was in Germany he developed severe frostbite on his feet from staying in wet boots in the frozen trenches. He was sent to an army hospital where the treatment was complete bedrest for three months. I cannot imagine how scary this was for a young man raised in a small sawmill town in Louisiana. One of his favorite memories from when he was in the hospital was of a kind black man who carried him piggyback to the movie room multiple times. He often remarked how much he would like to see that man again and tell him how much his actions had meant to him. It is truly amazing how God prepared and equipped him for all of his wartime experiences, especially his leadership in many reconnaissance missions when he was tasked with going ahead of his division to find the enemy in pitch black darkness, then returning to report without being discovered.
Several years ago, Pappaw shared some of his wartime stories with my grandson’s fourth-grade class. He told them the comfort he took from President Franklin Roosevelt’s words, “Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.” My father-in-law told those young students that the source of his hope lay in this one fact: they could only win with God on their side.
Pappaw took many opportunities during the war to share God’s love with fellow soldiers. Those who served with him valued being side by side with a soldier for the Lord as they went through battle together.
As I have considered the life of this brave and godly man, I have thought of the many times he passed out pens that contained verses outlining God’s plan of salvation. He bought them by the box and always kept them in his shirt pocket. At any time or place, when he would see someone hurting or in trouble, he would ask, “Where do you go to church?” If they had no home church, he would invite them to his and then share God’s love with them. He boldly had prayer anywhere and everywhere, but especially before every meal. I remember one time in the Houston VA hospital cafeteria when he asked me to hold his hands and he said a blessing. I could see all the eyes of those around us looking. I was so thankful for his boldness and faithfulness. In his later years, fellow residents and caregivers at his assisted living residence would ask him to pray often. His sitters and our entire family knew that he read his Bible every morning around 5:00 a.m. His example even to the very end of his life continued, but he would be the first to tell you that he was not someone any different from you or me. He was simply a hard-working husband and father, who loved his church and was faithful to attend and take his children. He was not a perfect man, but he was one who loved the Lord and was faithful to share that love with everyone.
My father-in-law’s life reminds me of the verse in John 13: 34-35, where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” How does someone know you are a disciple of Christ? They know because they see you, they watch your life and the love you have for others.
In John 15:11-13 Jesus goes on to say, “I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.…” How did Jesus love others? Scripture answers that question in Romans 5:8: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” I am thankful for my sweet father-in-law and for all those in my life who have spread and made evident the sweet fragrance of the knowledge of Christ. I have been blessed by so many who have faithfully served Him by sharing God’s truths and following His command to love one another.
Lord, I ask that You help me to love others and to share Your love through my actions and words. I pray that You would forgive me when I do not obediently follow Your leading. I want to be that sweet aroma that brings the knowledge of Christ wherever I go. Help me to love others knowing how much You have loved me. Use me, guide me, and prompt me to love others. I want to be recognized as Your disciple when others see the love I have for them.
In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.