Friday, January 08, 2021

Requiem for Jack

(There are some losses in life that you do not recognize until much latter. This is a story about such a loss. This was originally written in August 2004, and published here July 2009 under the title “We Hardly Got to Know Him”. In recent weeks, I was given news archives and other information which fill out the story which I’ve included in this edition.)

When the muse is upon you what else can you do? You write the story that flows from the memories of time, penning words that paint the pictures you see in your mind so well as though it was only yesterday, but in reality was ages ago; in this case, a whole lifetime. When your years add up past the "threescore and ten", how is it memories can go so far back; memories that seem as fresh as yesterday, though so very long ago?

What tides of history have come and gone since those early days of our lives. The Berlin wall was yet to be built, but is now battered to dust. Wars were to be fought and lost or won. Mankind had not yet gone into outer space and walked on the moon. The Internet and personal computers were the stuff of science fiction, not the reality they are today Such were the days of that school year of 1955 - 1956.

As you came into the sleepy little rural town from the north, you would have seen the site where work was just commencing on the new high school building. Turn left at the main four corners, and a few blocks east you would see the then red brick school building setting on the north side of the street next to the Wesleyan Methodist church building. Behind the church, on the side street was Martin’s feed mill, abutting on the school property. To the east of the school was a house, then another feed mill, after that the railroad tracks and the local grain elevator.

The school building was a two-story brick affair, typical of many local rural school systems in the early part of the 20th century. A gymnasium at the back was connected to the main structure by a hallway to which also was attached two classrooms. It was in one of those classrooms where we who were fresh out of kindergarten, now sat in first grade as Miss Laser began teaching us those beginning basic reading and writing skills that were to be the foundation of our entire academic endeavor over those next twelve years of our life.

Many of us had been in the same Kindergarten class the year before. Of that particular class, eight of us would go all the way, K through 12, graduating together in 1967.

There was another elementary school in a little town about five miles north. Another first grade class was there, and in the seventh grade our two classes would become one as we came together at the new high school building. Many in that other Elementary class would also go though all their school life together. Over those years, in that inevitable camaraderie and shared experience, we together would forge a life long common bond with one another; becoming as it were, a band of brothers and sisters.

Of most of those who started with us, but did not finish with us, the reason was pretty simple. For whatever reason a family would move out of the area, and the one who had been our classmate would be gone, starting life in another town and school system. Over the years from time to time you might see this one or that one, but the shared experience and the resulting common bond was not there like it was with those still there. So over the years, here and there, we would lose a classmate, and usually another would move into the area from another school and take their place.

In all of that inevitable and understandable loss and gain, there was one loss of a very different nature. It was a very early loss in our first grade year; a loss that remains embedded in memory more than a half century latter. It is of this loss I would now speak.

They lived out on the Territorial Rd. south of town, just down the road from Shanour’s apple orchard. His name was Jack. He had an older sister Beverly. I have it in mind he may have been with us the year before in Kindergarten, but my memory may be foggy on that point.

Yet for all that, there is so much that I do not remember about him. At only six to seven years of age, we were still developing our social relationship skills. Though acquaintances, we had yet to develop the deeper relationships of friendship that would come later with growing maturity and age. For whatever reason, in my six-year-old mind I was wary of Jack. I had not got to a point where I was comfortable with him. It was though we were still sorting each other out, and needed more time to figure out how we related one to another, and what our individual place would be in each other’s life.

One time, someone sharpened a crayon in the pencil sharpener. That was a real “no-no”. I was asked if I had done it. In reality I was the “guilty” party, but had in the moment, not realized what I had done. I sought to shift the blame to Jack, who rightfully denied it, and testified that I was the culprit. Thankfully, Miss Laser didn’t “whoop” me, or get all over my case for messing up the pencil sharpener. I know now that a primary prerequisite for being a first grade teacher is a great deal of patience and forbearance. That’s why at that time Miss Laser was such a good one.

Some sixty-five years later, I wonder what would have happened between us as we grew older and moved on in to the upper grades. Would he and his family have stayed in the area? Would we have become friends? Very possible when you are at an age and place where most everyone was to some degree or another a friend. What things might we have done together? What parts of our lives might we have shared with one another, if not as close friends, at least as friendly acquaintances forging that common bond of shared experience as we went through our school years together?

But such was not to be. Whatever the answers may have been, only God Almighty knows.

I did not remember very well exactly when it happened, but now know it was in mid January. We were on the bus on our way to school. From somewhere, from someone the story came. Jack had been playing in the basement. He had lit some candles or something and there was a fire. He was burned badly and was in the hospital. His sister Beverly had run down into the basement and somehow had put out the flames that had been seeking to devour her little brother.

That was all we ever knew. A few days later his sister Beverly was back at school; both hands and wrists in bandages. In my simple six-year-old mind, I was expecting Jack to soon be out of the hospital and back in class. We as a class continued on with our studies.

But the weeks turned into a month, At one point during that time, I was with my parents at a store in Hillsdale. I overheard a lady in the store say she wanted to buy a toy for the little boy in the hospital who was badly burned. I thought of Jack. Was he the boy she was speaking of?

As his classmates, we had no idea how badly hurt he was. I do not remember that Miss Laser ever talked to us about what had happened to him. I think that was an honest decision on her part. She probably thought we were to young to understand, and it would be better not to bring it up or dwell on it. And who is to say she was not right in that judgment? There were some stories in the local newspaper about Jack’s accident, but we were far from being at an age and reading level to peruse the newspaper.

Back then there were not the medical advances that would in future years bring about specialized burn units, skin grafts, and all the other advances in medical care and pain management from over the past sixty some years that have saved lives that once could not be saved.

I remember, it was sometime around early March. Once again from somewhere, from someone we heard that Jack had died. A few days later a substitute teacher came into the room so Miss Laser could go to Jack’s funeral. That was it. Jack was gone. He didn’t come back.

If we had been older, perhaps we would have gone to the funeral too. But our impressionable and perhaps fragile six-year-old minds were not exposed at that time to that reality we would later face and grapple with in other circumstances of our life. I doubt any of us at that young age really understood the full meaning of what it meant to say, “Jack died.” We did not know enough to really miss him and mourn his loss.

We went on through school. As the years rolled on, I do not know if those of us who had known him gave much thought to him; perhaps a fleeting memory here and there. And from time to time after I graduated from the high school and left the area to go to college and the rest of my life, I would occasionally remember Jack; the vague picture in my mind.

Jack was the only classmate we lost by death during all our years of school. One classmate later lost his little brother to congestive heart failure. While in high school, a younger junior high student was killed in an automobile accident. One of our married high school classmates lost her husband in Vietnam. But of all of the Class of 1967, Jack was the only one so taken from us. We hardly got to know him…

How did any of us survive our childhood and teen years? How many naïve innocent risks we took. Add to those the calculated risks we took, along with the absolutely stupid risks we sometimes took, and all of that along with the normal risk of ordinary everyday life. We survived. We lived. Jack died. Why?

Miss Laser eventually retired from teaching. Over the years she taught, hundreds of kids got their start in reading and writing from her. Her legacy will be passed on in the lives of those of her students who went on to be teachers, lawyers, engineers, nurses, farmers, housewives, factory workers, and etc. She eventually passed away, her long journey of life completed. I have to believe that over the years, from time to time, she probably thought about that little seven-year-old boy she once had in her class; the little boy whose journey through life was so tragically brief.

I have a picture in my mind. Yes, it is an apocryphal picture, but it is a picture that will not easily go away, if ever. In that picture is a beautiful place where the sky is blue, the sun shines softly, a gentle breeze brushes the leaves of a green tree, and green grass provides a gentle turf. There is a school desk in the shade of the tree. A little boy sets at the desk, pencil in hand, working through his writing workbook. His teacher stands besides the desk watching, smiling, and encouraging him. There is joyous contentment in the faces of both student and teacher. Those lessons, abruptly interrupted so long ago, are resumed once more…

R.I.P.

Jack Dean Tuttle died March 2, 1956 in Washtenaw County, Michigan. He was buried in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Hudson, Michigan. His sister Beverly went on to marry her high school sweetheart, Floyd Allion. She passed away in 2004 from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Acknowledgment: News archives and other source material relating to this story were made available to me by Phyllis Rickard and her friends. My thanks to them for their help.

January 8, 2021 Copyright (C) January 2021. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Keep Yourselves from Idols

The best thing that could happen for a large number of American Evangelical Christians is for Donald Trump to be soundly defeated in tomorrow's election. If your faith and hope is so taken up in a mere mortal man, you have a weak and inadequate religion. Perhaps if your idol is driven defeated from the field, you will realize your only hope and confidence is in Jesus Christ alone. The OT prophets chastized Judea for relying on and hoping for Egypt to help and rescue them.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

"Goodby to All That"

One of the top WW-1 memoirs is Robert Graves' "Goodby to all That" in which he details his experiances as a British Officer in the trenches of France. Graves' memories are compelling in and of themnselves and your WW-1 library is not complete without this work.

Of all the phrases and words Graves uses, the most memorable to me is the title itself; "Goodbye to All That". I supoose most of us at one time or another have reached a point in life when we said, or wanted to say, "Goodbye to all that".

Last week I said, "Goodby to all that." regarding my Facebook account. I haven't totally deactivated the account, but am taking a much needed sabbatical from it.

For some reason the Facebook platform has a way of amplifying all the good,the bad, and the ugly of social media. The bad and the ugly are even more amplified during this American Prsidential election year coupled with the COVID 19 pandemic.

Yes, I see the same kinds of stuff on Twitter, but my Twitter list is not primarely built around freinds, families, and aquaintences, and it has been easier to ignore or block obnoxious tweets and people.

Social media has created a platform for all sorts of half-baked conspiricay theories, mis-information, selective data picking, etc, so on, and so forth. It gets to be nauseating and when you see professing Christian people engaging in those things, it is depressing.

Goodby to all that...

...and maybe I'll have more time for blogging here.

Friday, June 26, 2020

The New World Order with COVID 19

I watched the news about the COVID 19 Pandemic. It was spreading from China to other parts of the world. It reached the Seattle, Washington area. It was only a matter of time before we would see it in our urban Michigan area. And so it came.

We knew the Michigan Governor was going to issue some kind of "stay at home" order, and on Friday, March 20, 2020, the order was issued. Sunday, March 22 we stayed home and watched the livestream service from our church.

That was the 1st Sunday. It is now Friday, June 26 and this coming Sunday will be the 17th Sunday. A few weeks ago we started to again meet in the church building, but with restrictions regarding masks and limited seating to encourage social distancing.

Online social media has become saturated with news, analysis, and opinion about the pandemic to the point where my eyes would glaze over and I just ignored most of it; blocking much of it, especially the "conspiracy theories". Michigan had some of the more stringent emergency orders in place, and that became a political hot point between the Governor and her more extreme political enemies.

Being a political independent removed me from the echo chambers some of my friends and acquaintances were caught up in. It is frustrating to watch it. COVID 19 became very politicalized. To wear or not wear a mask became politicalized. To often basic science was ignored or thrown under the bus to sustain a narrative with not much connection to reality. And on top of all of that, it is a major election year.

At our age, my wife and I are in a "vulnerable group" for COVID 19. When we are places where we will be in proximity to other people, we wear a mask. The mask does not stop oxygen or carbon dioxide flow, or even the virus itself. The mask stops the water droplets that are carrying the virus. Stop the water droplets and you stop the virus. That's why we wear a mask when it is appropriate to do so. It's how we can practice loving our neighbors.

The other issue is the abject failure of our culture and society, and even the church at large, to recognize God's hand in judgement through this pandemic. I'm not talking about specific people of whom I know nothing about who have died from COVID 19. But I am talking about judgement at large against a culture and society that is immersed in a selfish secular materialism bathed in the blood of millions of aborted unborn innocent babies.

How long do we think as a society and culture we can keep shaking our fist at Him and spitting in his face? The COVID 19 pandemic with its economic consequence is the small cloud of what is to come. It is the proverbial warning "shot across the bow". Whatsoever you sow, you shall reap. It is an inevitable consequence which at some point will become unavoidable.

May God Almighty yet have mercy upon us.

Monday, June 22, 2020

She was Much to Young

When we first started attending our current church, Meghan was just entering her teenage years. In the context of church life we came acquainted with her parents and two siblings. Meghan was the youngest of the three. She was at that time of life where it remained to be seen what she would become as an adult. There was a time in those teen years when in dealing with severe headaches, it was discovered that Meghan had an unoperable tumor in the brain area. At the time it was dealt with by other means, and seemed to be under control.

The years passed. Meghan graduated from high school, and a few years later married her high school sweetheart Jordan. Children came; their own children, several adopted children, and a foster child; six in all. Meghan and Jordan were active in our church. She loved her husband and children, and more importantly she loved her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and she reflected that love of God to those around her.

Last year the tumor reappeared. To make a long story short, this past week Meghan passed away at the young age of 30. It was a bit of a shock. It seemed to happen so suddenly. She's gone; leaving behind her husband and children and extended family and an innumerable number of friends whose life she touched and impacted for good and for the glory of God.

We know Meghan is with her Lord and Savior. God has His sovereign purpose in all He does and we rest in that assurance. By the grace and mercy of God we will see Meghan again.

The righteous man perishes, and no man takes it to heart;
And devout men are taken away, while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from evil,
2 He enters into peace;
They rest in their beds,
Each one who walked in his upright way.
(Isaiah 57:1-2)

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Great Equalizer

Yes, I posted this before. Yes, it needs to be repeated...

The prophets talk about how the mighty kings of the earth are brought down low in death. They dwell in the realm of the dead with those who in life they oppressed and lorded it over. Their pomp and circumstance and their great deeds, mean nothing in the grave. In those prophetic writings, the common unknown dead of the earth mock and scorn those who were mighty and powerful in life, but have now been laid low by the great equalizer of death and the grave. The grave worms don’t care if you were mighty among the nations or not; nor do they care if in the eyes of the world you were in the top one percent of the one percent.

This present world is not the end. There will be an accounting for all the wrong and injustice that has been done on this earth. By sin came death. It is in Christ we have the hope of life and the resurrection. He holds the keys of death and hell.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

He really was born...

Be deaf, therefore, when anyone ever speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, who was the son of Mary; who really was born, who both ate and drank; who really was persecuted under Pontius Pilate, who really was crucified and died while those in heaven and on earth and under the earth looked on; who, moreover, really was raised from the dead when his Father raised him up. In the same way his Father will likewise also raise up in Christ Jesus us who believe in him. Apart from him we have no true life.

(Ignatius To the Trallians #9; “The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations” 3rd Edition; Michael W. Holmes)

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

"Willie Stark Syndrome "

It was probably Monday, June 19, 1972 when I first heard the news reports that there had been a break-in at the Democratic National Committee office at the Watergate Complex in Washington, DC.

My immediate thought at the time was, “That was stupid and totally unnecessary.” Of course my immediate presumption was that somebody related to the Nixon Republican campaign was probably involved.

It was stupid because by all accounts Nixon was projected to whoop the Democratic Candidate George McGovern by more than a healthy margin. And in November that is exactly what happened. There was nothing to be gained and a lot to to put at risk by snooping around the DNC offices.

But of course we know what happened. More and more facts came to light. The evidence brought the investigation closer and closer to President Nixon. Evidence implicating higher ups and a White House connection had been destroyed in a blatant obstruction of justice. In the end, evidence came to light that implicated the President himself. President Nixon’s support in Congress suffered a bi-partisan collapse pointing to impeachment in the House with a subsequent trial and conviction in the Senate.

President Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974; the first POTUS to do so in our country’s history.

Those of us who had supported his election and campaigned and voted for him were betrayed. It was like being kicked in the gut. The rest is history.

In retrospect it is clear President Nixon was betrayed by his own insecurities and pride; pride which the ancient Greeks called hubris, and of such was the subject of the Greek tragedies.

In the 20th century, the updated version of the Greek tragedy plays is found in Robert Penn Warren’s novel “All the King’s Men” published in 1946. It was in this southern tragedy we are introduced to Willie Stark.

Wille Stark comes to power by riding a populist wave of discontent with the current political establishment. As governor of his deep south state, he institutes programs and reforms, playing to the populist base on which his political power was built. And he plays hardball with his political opponents; digging up dirt and blackmailing them into subservience.

In the end Willie is undone by his own conniving and pride. His life ends in the bullets sent his way by one who had been a ally, but whose trust had been betrayed in the bed.

In a YouTube video entitled “Gods and Devils Aplenty: Robert Penn Warren's Civil War” (https://youtu.be/e-JxArcSyYg). Historian David Blight comments that when he asked Warren who “All the King’s Men” was about, Warren replied that it was about Julias Caesar. The Romans had their issues with hubris too.

Hubris, pride, the corrupting influence of power; It’s all there; the "Willie Stark syndrome".

In December 2019, 47 years after Watergate and the events leading to President Nixon’s resignation; once again a sitting POTUS is facing impeachment hearings. As I watch events unfold, I am unable to avoid a sense of deja vu; we’ve seen this before. It remains to be seen how much current events will parallel those of over 40 years ago. It is not so clear how current events will eventually play out. What is not to hard to see though, is that we may well be observing another case of “Willie Stark syndrome”.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

"The world was not worthy of them."

.

Through faith

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35b-38)

We love the Bible stories of those who "conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies" (Hebrews 11:33-34). But how little we want to talk about the possibilities of our Christian life involving "torture", "flogging", "chains and imprisonment", or being "killed by the sword"?

'

But the path of faith is also a path that more often involves suffering. How often do we like to think about that? That doesn't exactly resonate with our "prosperity gospel" propensities. In fact a Biblical theology of Christian suffering brands the "prosperity gospel" for the damnable heresy it is.

R

May our minds in all things be conformed to the mind of Christ.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Worship as Aliens

"So we must gather on a regular basis for worship. To speak about God in a world that lives as if there is no God. We must speak to one another as beloved brothers and sisters in a world which encourages us to live as strangers. We must pray to God to give us what we cannot have by our own efforts in a world which teaches us that we are self-sufficient and all-powerful. In such a world, what we do here on Sunday morning becomes a matter of life and death..."

Citation from "Resident Aliens"; Hauerwas & Willimon; (Abingdon Press, 1989 ; pg. 154