I have a picture that I keep hanging on an inside wall of my mind. It’s getting a little old now and its starting to fade a bit; but I keep it close by, nonetheless, so I can gaze upon it when I am feeling low, or frightened or in need of direction. It is picture of my Grandpa Tharpe.
He stands in the kitchen of Granny and Grandpa’s little asbestos sided house which rests beside an old dirt road in the blue collar section of Panama City, Florida. The road has since been paved, but in my mind’s eye a passing car will forever kick up dust as it heads down Drake Avenue. It’s dinner time and Granny has outdone herself because her favorite grandson has brought his best girl with him to visit all the way from South Carolina.
As I look at the picture I notice it’s getting toward dusk, but there is just enough light coming in through the window to light up Grandpa’s face a bit. He leans with both of his hands resting on the dinner table.
On the old table I see a bowl of creamed corn, fresh off the cob, sitting in one of Granny’s old flowery bowls with a big spoon leaned up against it ready for service. Beside the corn sits a plate full of steaming fried chicken with enough salt engrained in the crust to cause any number of coronaries; but Lord have mercy, it sure was good. Granny has hold of a slotted spoon filled with lima beans, no, no to Granny they were always butter beans, nonetheless she appears to be serving her visitor first and Mary doesn’t appear to be inclined to stand on ceremony and object. It must be summertime because the amber of the iced tea is shimmering through the condensation on the glasses, and over behind and to the right of Grandpa, the customary chipped Pyrex dish filled with banana pudding sits on the stove tempting us with its promise of sweet coolness.
As I look up from the table, I can’t help but smile when I see Grandpa’s face. I see Mom in him, especially in this picture. You see both Grandpa and Mom were given the gift of total abandonment when something or someone delighted them. I imagine in this case, Grandpa is delighted with my new found treasure, as I am. Whatever the reason, this much I know, in his merriment he can’t catch his breath. Tears are streaming down his crimson face, which is caught somewhere between a smile and a grimace as his joy is tempered with oxygen deprivation.
It was at this moment that I took the picture. I didn’t use a camera; I used something much more powerful. I took a snapshot with my mind, framed it and hung in on the wall. You have no idea how much comfort that image has brought me in my life. Neither did I, until I penned this little note.
The frame is a bit tilted now and the shine has turned to satin, but the picture remains of a man to whom I owe more than I have words to express. While my father taught me how to be strong, my Grandpa taught me gentleness. Both have served me well over the years; but as I grow older I pray that Grandpa’s gentle nature will come to the fore in my life so that I can pass it on and leave a legacy of love and grace to those who follow.
As I struggled to find a topic for this article, this picture kept coming into my mind. I wondered why. Why, I thought, does the Lord want me to open up my mind, to open up my soul, as it were? To be honest with you, this picture is mine. I did not want to share it, but I know from past experience that to argue with the call of God is at one time fruitless and foolish, so share it I did.
In retrospect, perhaps there are a few lessons here.
First and foremost, cherish those you love. They are a gift of priceless value, given to you by God above. Don’t take them for granted. Love them.
Secondly, never underestimate your value to the ones who love you. As God has given them to you, he has given you to them. God never gives a gift without a purpose behind it. Don’t hide your light. Those who follow you need to see.
Finally, never forget to thank God above for the ones He has given you in your life to love. They are true living signs of His love for you.
Love, Pastor Tony