COCHRAN, GEORGIA: Today would have been my grandfather, James C. Madison’s birthday. Though it would be nice to have a hot dog with him today, I know he is celebrating in Heaven with Grandma and a host of other friends and loved ones.
My mom and I were looking through some old photos and things. We came across a plethora of photos from days before my grandparents had children, and of course, afterwards.
There was one picture in particular that caught my eye – of Grandpa, as a young man, sitting by himself. He has on a coat, and a slight smile.
It was in his early days as a married man and a minister. He had that twinkle in his eyes like a man who knew something good.
And, Grandpa did. He had Jesus in His heart.
He faithfully served as a Baptist preacher for many years … in North Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana. He attended college and seminary. Grandpa followed Billy Graham and Charles Stanley, and I remember when we went in his later years to a Billy Graham Crusade.
I could talk about Grandpa’s ‘sermon prayers.’ They were the best – even at meal time when we were all hungry and waiting to dive in to whatever Mom, Grandma or my aunts had on the buffet. Grandpa had this connection with God that many of us wished we could have.
His prayers were earnest, humble, and his words were so faithful. Grandpa’s trust in God never wavered – not even during the “valleys” we went through as individuals and families – like health issues and more.
I could talk about his ministering touch. Even today, though he has been gone since 1996, people still talk about ‘Preacher Madison’ and how much they learned from his sermons and his Bible studies.
Grandpa believed in the ministries of the church – he was a supporter of the total church. Grandpa believed in church.
No matter what the weather, he was there on Sundays and Wednesdays, and other times between.
I could even talk about Grandpa’s ‘ears’ – literal and not-literal. Grandpa had some big ears … in fact, many joked about his ears, and he took all joking in good humor. I could show you our secret handshake. I could talk about his love of hot dogs, baseball and the passion he had for reading the Bible.
Evidence of that came during visits with friends and church members. I remember watching with admiration, respect and pride as he always seemed to know just what to say, and when to listen.
He heard many stories, many needs, many prayers and many secrets. People from all walks of life shared with him … even his grandkids.
Many knew James Charles Madison as he served as a pastor, an interim pastor, a supply pastor and fellow member, as well as through his Bible teachings, and revivals all around.
On his last day with his, Grandpa and my dad had gone shopping. They were looking for a computer for himself. Grandma had passed away a few months before, and he now lived a lone – still across the street from my parents.
As a pastor, Grandpa had always ‘written’ his sermons using a manual typewriter. It was always fun watching Grandpa peck away on the typewriter. According to my dad, Grandpa wanted to do some ‘serious’ writing, and he wanted to get on the Internet.
The computer was set up, and later that evening, my dad finally went home. Grandpa had to prepare for one of his ‘famous’ Bible study courses he was going to start leading at a church in his area.
My dad shared the following after Grandpa passed, “We noticed that his lights were on later than normal, but we discounted our concerns because we knew that he had planned to study. Sunday morning, his outside lights were still on, and our concerns were heightened.”
Daddy continued, “I picked up an extra set of his keys, and went over to check on him. I felt uneasy as I approached the back porch … something didn’t feel right. I didn’t stop to ring the doorbell; I didn’t stop to ring the doorbell. I unlocked the doors, and went into the den, and saw him kneeling at an easy chair.”
“I walked over and knelt down beside him, and as I placed my arm around his shoulder, I felt the cold rigidity of death. Though I knew that life had left his body, the house did not feel empty. I felt as if there was another presence,” Daddy wrote. “I looked around for any indication of what had happened. His wallet, keys and change had been neatly placed in a drawer, as was his routine as he got ready for bed. The kitchen was clean, and dishes had been put away.”
Daddy stated, “It appeared he had gotten ready for sleep, and had slipped to say his night time prayers. There was no sign of pain in his face nor any indication of resistance to his departure.”
His posture was of a man who was saying prayers, and that is how he remained. When asked about the normalcy of it, the undertakers told my dad that it was not normal, and the only explanation they gave was, “God took him gently.”
Grandpa’s funeral was not like any other funeral I had been too. My dad and my two uncles officiated. It was not a memorializing Grandpa time. In fact, it was as Grandpa would have wanted – God was glorified – as it had been in his life, and then in his death.
That was just the kind of man Grandpa was. He loved God so earnestly.
In thinking of him, and things that have happened over the last years since he arrived in Heaven, I know Grandpa would shake his head, and give me, my siblings and cousins, and the next generation, and probably his own daughters and son-in-laws a talking to about somethings.
But I also know he would give out hugs and pats on the back, and would remind us that God loves us in spite of us.
And that is why, I titled this “The Greatest Churchman I Know.”
Happy Birthday, Grandpa, I love you to the moon and back.