Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What a man!!

These words are from the book of Psalms -- ... his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Every once in a while, we are privileged to know a good man.  Some people may know "many" good men and if you do, consider yourself blessed beyond measure.
My daddy and my granddaddy were both good men but they have both been dead a long time.  I am so blessed to have not only married a good man . . .but married into his family which is full of good men.  (does that make sense?  Mark is a good man - got that?  There are lots of other good men in his family . . .bonus to me - an in-law!)
Uncle John was such a good man.  When I first met him, he was still a practicing ENT here in town.  I have always had allergies.  I had been tested and treated at UAB by the only ENT in town who treated allergies via shots, etc.  It was a new field back in the late 1970's and early 80's.  After Mark and I got engaged, I started driving out to Uncle John's office on the eastern side of town (actually not too terribly far from where I grew up).  The folks in his office retested me and treated me for years . . .and I never paid a cent . . .not a single cent.  That was back in the days when doctors could do things like that. 
Not too many years later, Glenn and Laura were born.  Glenn had one ear infection after the other and so we took him to Uncle John . . .I can still see (in my mind's eye, of course) us as Glenn had his hearing tested . . .and I can still see the waiting room of Uncle John's office.  As a matter of fact, one time all four of us were sick with some kind of flu/sinus infection/ear infections, etc.  I remember all four of us sitting in Uncle John's waiting room one time!!
Then came more allergy tests for me and more shots.
Even after Uncle John's mind started to go, you could ask him a "doctor" question and he could answer on the spot. 
He was so smart.  He graduated from high school at 16 and from college at 19 and medical school by the time he was about 21 years old.  He was always willing to share his knowledge with you.  He never talked down to you.  You know - some people who are really smart . . .have a tendency to act like other people are fairly unintelligent . . .not Uncle John.
Uncle John had a swimming pool in his back yard.  My children spent many many hours swimming in the pool, jumping off the diving board.  He would always come out to visit.  If we wanted to come and he wasn't home, he would leave the gate unlatched and the pool bathroom unlocked.  When Aunt June was still alive, EVERY SINGLE TIME we were at their pool, she brought out a tray with chocolate graham crackers and a pitcher of lemonade so that the children could have a "tea party."  After Aunt June died . . .one of my sweetest memories . . .is that Uncle John continued that tradition of graham crackers and lemonade for the children.

Both of these pictures are cropped.  They were taken at George and Alice's house a couple of years ago on Mark's momma's birthday.  Uncle John loved family.  BUT he was always in a hurry so we could rarely get him to join us for Sunday lunch because he got out of Sunday School at 11:00 and had already been to worship . . .and he WAS NOT WILLING to wait until 12:30 to eat lunch (which is our regular Sunday time).  That makes me laugh just to type those words.  For the last 9 months or so, Mark's momma has filled a plate with yummy goodness every Sunday and we have taken turns delivering Sunday lunch to Uncle John.  All along though, his health continued to decline.

Uncle John was a faithful prayer warrior.  I'm the church staff member who publishes the prayer list two times every week.  Uncle John didn't even want to wait on his mailed copy . . .he would show up in the office and ask, "is the prayer list ready?"  If I was on vacation or in training and failed to update the list before the next Sunday, he would say, "this is the same one!  I need a new one!!"  If your name was ever on the prayer list during the last ten years, you can KNOW WITHOUT A SHADOW OF DOUBT that you were prayed for BY NAME by John Harris.

He also had the funniest sense of humor.  He loved LOVED LOVED a good joke.  He even told a few that were slightly off color . . .just slightly - never dirty - just a little risqué perhaps.  He would laugh when he told the joke!!  He had a sweet smile, too.

He wanted to learn more about God and the Bible.  I was privileged to be in a Thursday morning Bible study with him.  By the end of the 9 month period of study, everyone in the class was calling him Uncle John . . .because I did!  I think he loved it!  He participated in Bible Studies until he was no longer able.  He was even in Sunday School just a couple of weeks before he died.  When people said to him, "John, it is so good to see you.  I haven't seen you in a while."  He would smile and say, "I don't know why not - I've been here every Sunday!"  Some people said to him that day, "You look good, John."  He would look back at them and say, "have you had your eyes checked lately?"  Amazing to me that his memory was failing so quickly but that quick wit was still there!!!  I've been told that one of the nurses who stayed with him toward the end started singing hymns one day . . .and Uncle John joined in.  He had been a member of the Trinity Singers - our older adult choir - and I imagine it felt good to him to be singing again . . .just a week or so before his death.

He was always interested in all of our children.  He wanted to know how they were doing and what they were doing.

Uncle John was one of the most generous men I have ever known in my entire life.  He had a successful career as a doctor.  He didn't hoard his money though.  I cannot tell you how many youth have benefited from his generosity.  For years and years, he would always donate money to the church for at least one youth to go on choir tour.  He would ask me, "do you think there is a child who needs the money?"  By the way, the youth never knew who donated the money.  On Sunday, Paulette West (church member) came up to me and shared a story about Uncle John.  She said that every single mission trip she led . . .Uncle John would come to her beforehand and say, "I can't go on the trip but I can pay for someone else to go in my place."  He wasn't just generous to the church and God, he was generous to his extended family.  Every single Christmas, he bought all of us a gift.  Each family has several fleece throws from Land's End.  I remember a few years ago, he called to talk to me about what he could give everyone.  He said, "do you think they are tired of the fleece blankets?"  I said, "well, we fight over ours so one per person would not be a bad thing!!  Keep giving those until each family has four or so!" We all have four steak knives - nice ones!!  I'm not sure what prompted the giving of the knives!!  One year, we all got caps from Land's End that had ear flaps.  I LOVED that hat.  I wore it every winter day when I would get up and walk at 5:00 a.m.  I would NEVER have purchased a hat with ear flaps - especially in neon green - BUT I LOVED THAT HAT AND WORE IT PROUDLY!!!!  If Laura and Glenn were going on a mission trip, he was one of the first to donate towards their expenses.  ALWAYS! 

He was also generous with his sister, Susie.  Not sure I can even type these words without crying.  He died on September 24 (I think that is right).  My mother-in-law's (his sister, Susie) birthday was in the middle of July.  That is only two months ago . . .and he called me.  He has called me for years to ask me what to buy her.  Sometimes it irritated me (I'm just being honest here) because I would think to myself, "I can't even come up with one gift idea and I have to give you an idea, too!!"  This year, I didn't expect a call.  You see, his memory was REALLY FAILING.  A week or 10 days before her birthday, he called me on a Sunday afternoon and said, "You know?  My sister, Susie's birthday is coming up.  What should I buy her?"  I tried to give him a few ideas.  He then said, "would you just buy something for her for me?"  He asked, "how much do I usually spend?"  I almost lost it right there.  I know how much he has spent on her in the past and he has been so very generous but I knew his memory was failing and I didn't want to say that big amount.  I said, "Uncle John, I think if you spent $50 on her that would be a really nice gift."  He said, "Oh no, spend at least $150 on her and I'll pay you back."  I called his daughter the next day and she said, "oh we went shopping last week and I've already bought her something from him."  BUT in Uncle John's mind, he was doing what he had always done . . .calling me to ask for birthday ideas for his sister . . .whom he loved so very much.

Uncle John was indeed a very fine man.  He loved God.  He loved his church.  He loved his family.  He cared for his employees and his patients.  Just like the scripture I included at the beginning of this post -- "He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers."  Uncle John's life yielded much fruit.  I am more than sure that Jesus greeted him as he entered heaven and said, "well done good and faithful servant.  I gave you many talents and you used them for my glory.  Welcome into my presence!!"  Those words are the words that give me great joy and peace.  Uncle John is with Jesus.  Wonder what they are doing right now?

1 comment:

Linda Smith said...

Precious precious man!!! I wish I had known your bible study class had started calling him Uncle John! . . I am seldom tongue-tied but I always stumbled around him because the first words that would come into my head were always "hey Uncle John" . . . . thanks to you and Nancy (and for several years with you two i'm not even sure I knew his last name!!!!) . . and one time I'm pretty sure it came out "hey Doctor Uncle John" (good grief!!) I miss him already.