Don’t forget the old paths

Published 2:07 pm Friday, January 10, 2020

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We returned from our Christmas visit to north Georgia with lots of memories lingering in our hearts.  It was one of those unusual times when all five of my parents’ children were together—my three sisters who all live in Elberton, my brother from Arkansas, and me.  My parents were doing rather well for their age and it was a great joy to share time with them.  I was invited to bring the Sunday morning message in our home church, which was a great honor for me; it had been many years since I preached there.

Gale and I visited the old cemetery where many of my relatives are buried.  That, too, brought a flood of memories as I stood by the graves of my grandparents that I spent a lot of time with as a kid.  I still feel honored that I was able to preach both of their funerals.  My great granddaddy is buried in that same plot; I remember him well for we lived in the house with him until he died.  He was quite a character!  He shot old stray dogs so many times with his air rifle that he did not have to shoot them anymore.  All he had to do was shake the gun and when the dogs heard the rattle of the BBs they lost no time making their exit. 

My family had their share of tragedies.  My great grandmother was burned in a fire and died before I was born, and a great uncle, his wife, and several of their little children also perished in a different house fire; that was also long before I came along.   Two of the children survived—one because she was not at home at the time, and another sustained burns but survived.  I remember seeing him after he was an adult and the disfigurement that the fire caused when he was just a little child. 

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As I think about all those things, I wish I had talked to my granddaddy more about the events of our family and recorded the details. 

I knew that my great-great granddaddy was buried in that same old cemetery (which contains many iron markers signifying the graves of confederate soldiers).  I found his grave several years ago, but had forgotten its exact location.  As Gale and I rode along slowly searching, I spotted it and walked over to it—the headstone could be clearly read with his name engraved:  James Scarborough!  He was born before Abraham Lincoln was elected president of our nation.  I know nothing about his life, but I do recall my granddaddy telling me a story about one of his relatives being shot in the head while turkey hunting.  As I remember the story, he said he was wearing a stovetop hat and gobbling when someone mistook him for a turkey.  I’m not sure that it was my great-great granddaddy, though, for he was past 70 years old when he died in 1931.  That was rather old for that era, I suppose.

I hope to someday take my children and grandchildren to that old graveyard for them to get a glimpse of their family history.  Perhaps it sounds a bit morbid to some to think about spending part of an afternoon looking around in a cemetery, but it is important to remember our past and see what we can gain to help us have a better future and to cause us to appreciate our ancestors who endured so many hardships and experienced so many changes.  And we need to allow it to motivate us to leave something behind that will make the generations that follow us to live lives that are more God-honoring than they would have been otherwise.  The key to leaving behind such a heritage is found in the Old Testament where we are reminded of the value of instilling God’s ways and God’s Word into the hearts of the younger generation: “Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7, New International Version).