The world lost someone special a few weeks ago. My wife, Beverly’s Aunt Grace died. Aunt Grace was a very special person. She lived all of her almost 80 years in East Texas in the little town of Shepherd. She actually lived out in the country just outside of Shepherd. Grace was raised up on Big Creek. When you get older you can look back on your youth with certain memories that are cool. I love to hear Beverly talk about the times she spent when she was little, “up on Big Creek”. That is where Beverly’s side of the family has its roots. She still has family living there. It is country living at its best. Everyone knows each other. In fact, if you talk to people long enough you eventually find out that you are somehow related to them. Beverly likes to tell us that she is somehow related to that “Pretty Woman” Julia Roberts. It seems that Aunt Opal, who was married to Uncle Dickie, who was Beverly’s mother’s brother, was originally a Lovett. (i.e. Lyle Lovett) Did you get all of that? It kind of reminds me of the Bible where so and so beget so and so. Anyway let me tell you more about Aunt Grace. I met her right after Beverly and I started dating. She and Beverly were buddies. She was Beverly’s mother’s older sister. So she seemed more like a grand mother than an aunt. One of the things I remember the most about Grace is that she loved to laugh. Right after we got married, Beverly, Grace and I loaded up into our brand new 1979 Malibu Classic and headed up to Colorado. We went to visit Beverly’s parents and it was a blast. I think that Beverly and Grace laughed and giggled all the way there. Let me tell you another thing I remember about Grace. She was one of the most gentle people I have ever known. I can’t imagine Grace ever saying a cross word about or to anyone. She had one of the most positive outlooks on life I have ever seen. Grace also had one of the strongest faiths around, too. I’ll be honest with you. When you work for a church, sometimes when you meet people, they feel uncomfortable. I guess they think that you are going to break out in prayer or song or a sermon any minute. People also seem to be on their best behavior around you. Can you imagine people doing that? Good thing you guys never do that around me. Anyway, Grace always made me feel like working at the church with youth was the most important thing in the world. She told everyone around what I did. It was cool.
The last few years weren’t easy for Aunt Grace. Her mind and spirit were sharp and as positive and young at heart as ever. Unfortunately, her body began to grow old. She couldn’t get around as she once could. She felt bad more often than she felt good. It was tough. She had to be in a lot of pain, but she tried to hide it as well as she could. Her love for life and her faith in Jesus maintained till the end.
The night Aunt Grace died, I came home late from a meeting and when I walked in, I could see that Beverly had been crying and she told me the news. A few days later, we drove to Shepherd for Grace’s funeral. I’ll be honest with you again, funerals are important but not easy. As we were sitting there in the pew, something very special happened. The organ began to play a very familiar hymn. As I hummed the notes in my mind, someone began to sing the words.
Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found,
Was blind, but now I see.
What a great song. One of my favorites. But it became so much more meaningful that day in the little church in Shepherd, because of what it said to me. As I sat there, I realized that Jesus was talking to Aunt Grace. Her Lord and Savior was reaching out His hand. The same hand that made the lame walk, and the blind see. The hand that reached out to the lepers hand, so scarred and ugly, and made it smooth. The same hand that calmed the waters and wrote in the sand. The same hand that had scars on it from the nails from the cross. Jesus Christ reached down and said to Grace Lilly, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound”. I have to imagine that He would also say, “Come and be with me today”.
You know what else I have to tell you? Jesus says the same thing to you, and to me. He tells us every day, how amazing we are. He says our name, and then tells us how sweet the sound of it is. You know why? Because He loves us. I have no doubt that He loved Grace. I have no doubt that He loves me. And I have no doubt that He loves you. Don’t you ever, ever, ever forget that love.