Returning Home

However, I soon realized that we were not bound by Grandmother but by faith which superseded her physical presence.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,

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 However, I soon realized that we were not bound by Grandmother but by faith which superseded her physical presence.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.

Henri Whitfield

Branner Street

My mom had been married for two or three years now and to my surprise we were headed to Morristown, Tennessee right before Christmas. Initially, we had decided not to go to Tennessee for Christmas but a call two days after Christmas changed our plans. Grandmother had died. My mom’s mother was the matriarch of our family and her death was due to the flu. It appears that like so many people the vaccine caused her to become stricken with the flu virus which consequently led to her death.

Grandmother’s death was pivotal for our entire family. Her home was the refuge for my family and for many other individuals. Grandmother often took in borders and students who attended Morristown College. She was benevolent and a lover of people. Her death was a significant lost to the community.

As for my immediate family, it was a sad time for us because unlike other occasions, we were returning to Morristown to attend Grandmother’s funeral. A somber mood traveled with us from Georgia to Tennessee. My brother, sister and I slept most of the way except for the rest stops along the way. As I slept I dreamed of being in Tennessee again. It was my trip to Mecca, the holiest place on earth.

As we ascended the steep drive up Branner Street, looking through the front window from the back seat of my parent’s car, it seemed as if the road led straight up to heaven. All I could see was a cloudless clear blue sky. I always sat anxious and silent until we neared the crest of the hill. As usual, 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 where Morristown College sat as a beacon of hope to the Black community.

The beauty of Morristown College sitting above the house is eternally 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 about the world was 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.

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. Although I had been told that Grandmother had passed I was hoping that somehow I would get a different outcome. I went outside and wandered around until dinner time. As I prepared for bed I realized that Grandmother would not be giving me a hug and a gentle good night kiss. The heaviness of darkness and grief put us to bed without prayer. It seemed as if Grandmothers death changed everything. As a matter of fact everything did change.

Arising the next morning I realized that all that was stable in my life was suddenly unstable. I quickly understood 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. The visits to Grandmother’s house came to an abrupt halt after her death.

With Grandmother’s death, the fabric of our family was torn and for a season we drifted apart. However, I eventually realized that we were not bound by Grandmother, but by the faith that she taught about, which superseded her presence. Faith: The fabric of life, is the inextinguishable hope that emanates from God, who is sovereign, ancient, and relevant.

Grandmother’s departure forced us to depend on God. Mom had to pray more and as a result I learned to pray. I wanted to be like her in so many ways. She was my spiritual mentor and the one person I longed to please no matter what. 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. As time went on I was determined to please God just as I sought to please Grandmother. After all, my first name and my calling was prophesied by Grandmother even before I was born.

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 intervening gift of faith I grew in knowledge and wisdom beyond my years. This wisdom caused me to look at life through lens of faith. Hence all of life’s experiences are building block to becoming vessels of God’s glory.

After Grandmother’s funeral, 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.

Luke 2:40-52 40And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him…. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Author: Dr. Aaron Henri Whitfield

Dr. Aaron Henri Whitfield is a freelance writer of non-fiction inspirational stories. He is trained and experienced in family ministry, church administration, and non-profit management. Dr. Whitfield has a Bachelor of Social Work, Master of Theology in Pastoral Administration and a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Ministry Leadership and Family Life Ministry from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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