Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Tribute to Pa: The Echo of the Empty Tomb

Last week my grandpa passed away. He was one of the coolest men I’ve ever known. He was deeply loved and respected as a man, husband, father, and grandpa.
Everyone had a favorite funny story to tell about him. But there is a greater story that leaves us with more than warm memories. It leaves us with peace.
His name was William Bell Guthrie…we just called him “Pa.” This is a collection of scattered thoughts and reflections on his life, death, and life again.

Pa never did like change. That’s probably because he could hardly imagine life getting any better than it already was. He was born and raised on Harkers Island, a tiny little fishing village along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, complete with its own unique culture, peculiar accent, and beautiful people. It’s a place, in many ways, untouched by time, and that’s just the way they like it. So do I.

Pa lived his whole life right there on the end of that island at the end of the world. In fact, the only forces strong enough to move him from that spot were love and war. He was drafted to fight in WWII just as the struggle was winding down. When he got back home, he met my grandma and fell in love. She lived almost 20 miles away from the island, but he would set out walking/hitch-hiking to see her. Now tell me that’s not cool.

When they got married, they moved in with his parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters… the same house he was born in… the same house his grandpa built…the second oldest house still standing on the island. Before long they built a home of their own right across the street, where he lived until he died. He was born, raised and buried all within a half mile of each other.

Thanks to Mr. Roosevelt, he was a life long Democrat who often said he would vote for the devil before he voted for a Republican. Not too long ago, he bragged to me that he liked Bill Clinton so much that he voted for him three times. That’s right, three times. The last one was a write in vote.

You could always find Pa in his classic khaki pants, ‘Sperry Topsiders’ boat shoes, and a stash of orange flavored tic-tacs tucked away in his shirt pocket.

His favorite spot on earth was his front porch swing, complete with a view of the water and the Cape Lookout Lighthouse. Spend five good minutes with him on that porch in the salty ocean air and you’d understand why.

Pa never did like change. But he has experienced a transformation.
About five or six years ago, he finally gave his life to Jesus Christ. And for us, there is great peace in that. I know that people think Christians are crazy because of this. That there is something odd about our ability to defiantly celebrate, even through fresh tears. Is it naïveté…or denial…or something worse?

I believe it is hope. Hope in a Savior who experienced death, so we could experience life. Hope in a God who still has the last word… who stares the fierce finality of death in the face and says, “It will not end here.” Through the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, our covenant with the grave has been revoked, and our fullest future has been secured.

It is hope…because we walk in the aftermath of Easter… because we live in the Echo of the Empty Tomb.

Make no mistake; we grieve hard over the loss of a man we deeply loved. But still there is hope that rises up in the hurt.

“This sickness will not end in death.” John 11:4