I soon realized that we were not bound by Grandmother but by faith which superseded her physical presence.
My mom had been married for two or three years now and to my suprise we were headed to Morristown, Tennessee. It was a sad time for us because unlike other occasions we were returning to Morristown to attend a funeral….Grandmother’s funeral. Despite the reason for our return the ride up Branner street was always the same.
As we asended the steep drive up Branner Street, looking through the front window from the back seat of my mom’s car, it seemed as if the road led straight up to heaven. All I could see was a cloudless clear blue sky. As a child, I would sit anxious and silent until we neared the crest of the hill where the ground leveled out. As always, I was boiling over with excitement. To the left of the car… there it set… grandmother’s house! It was a light brown brick colonial style house with different dark speckled brown shingles that fit perfectly on the roof. Next to it was my Aunt Irene and Uncle Robert’s house nestled under a dense green canopy of giant maple trees. The tree line casts a shadow of security over the homes. The trees also created a natural boundary that separated my family’s property from the meadow that flowed upwards to the summit of the hill.
The beauty of this place will always be etched in my heart. It was the one place in my world that true love really existed. Grandmother, Mom, Aunt Iren and Uncle Robert were the guardians of my soul. Whatever I came to believe that the world was, was always based on my experiences in Morristown, Tennessee. Little did I know that my life would forever change after this trip to my family’s homestead. Branner Street is a gift that God gave to me which is a foundation of security and love.
The smells, sights, and sounds, of Morristown were different this time. As I made my way into the house I ran from room to room looking for grandmother…but she was not there. Grandmother had died! Although I had been told that Grandmother had passed I was hoping that somehow I would get a different outcome. At that moment, all that was stable in my life suddenly became unstable. I quickly understood, with the selfishness of a child, that there would no longer be hot chocolate on the cold winter nights, no more special birthday cards, and no more trips to the garden to pick tomatoes and fresh vegetables. At that moment I wondered what would visits to Morristown be like with Grandmother gone. The visits to Grandmother’s house came to an abrupt halt. Once that reality set in my life changed.
With Grandmother’s death, the fabric of our family was torn and for a season we drifted apart. However, I soon realized that we were not bound by Grandmother but by faith which superseded her physical presence. Faith: The fabric of our life, is the story of how hope in an ancient, unseen, yet relevant God cultivated my life into a man of God.
The death of my grandmother was a pivotal time in my life. Grandmother was my mentor and the one person I longed to please no matter what. I wanted to be like her in so many ways. She was smart, strong and she had influence. She was the pastor of Youngs Temple AME Church at a time when women clergy was not common. For as long as I can remember I said I would become a preacher. This unique fact made my bond with grandmother even greater. Because of God’s gift of faith I grew in knowledge and wisdom beyond my years. The words of the Psalmist are real, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it…” (Psalms 127:1) Our family had been built by God through faith. All that we were was based on His sovereign gift of faith.
As I grew in faith it seemed that the idyllic lifestyle of my childhood was a thing of the past. Everything changed! My security and comfort gave way to insecurities, disappointments, and emotional pain. My new reality, from hindsight, was happiness mixed with suffering and pain. Until the age of eight I only knew comfort and joy after eight I began to experience life!