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Meditations by John Dean

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remembering Lee Garner

(Ecclesiastes 9:5 KJV) For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

The thought of dying certainly causes one to take another look at living. For one to make a contribution to life while still living is a big enough challenge. For one to think about making a contribution that will continue on after they die is another matter. The majority of people probably do not think about this subject one way or the other. The persons whose contributions live on after they die seem to be the only ones who are remembered.

The thought of living life and not being remembered is a sobering thought. Regardless of how sobering the thought of living, dying and at some point being forgotten by upcoming generations is part of our way of life. There are a few folks who are never forgotten because of their contribution to life; such as an author, composer, inventor, and so on.

Even though many folks are remembered for their contributions in life, there are others who have also made contributions but are not remembered. Such was the case with the young man in the following story.

Last year my son-in-law invited me to go deer hunting with him on his East Texas hunting lease. When I arrived in camp he told me a story of an old abandoned graveyard he had discovered while out hunting. I was so intrigued by his story. The next day he took me to see this old abandoned graveyard.

Over the years trees had taken over this old graveyard so that it did not look any different than the rest of the forest. The graves were covered with dead trees, limbs, leaves, brush and debris.

I was strangely drawn to one particular grave. As I knelt down and began raking the leaves, limbs and debris away from the face of the headstone, I discovered it bore the name of Lee Garner. Lee was born in 1893 and served in World War I as a private.

I followed up with some research, and visited the old graveyard a couple of times after that. I found out that after the Civil War in the eighteen hundreds the entire community had been settled by a group of black pioneers. These black pioneers built their own community, started Mount Reah Baptist Church in 1877, and farmed the land. Apparently they had dedicated this small plot of land for a graveyard.

Lee Garner was born and raised in this community and probably, like everyone else, plowed the fields of the family farm with mules. His father John Garner was one of eight deacons of the Mount Reah Baptist Church and Lee was probably baptized in the local creek.

When Lee was old enough he served in WW I as a private. Lee probably never did anything heroic or invented anything special or even composed a piece of music that would cause people to remember his name. However, for some reason that day while raking leaves and limbs away from his gravestone I decided to write about Lee. I decided to let my readers know that almost a century ago, Lee Garner's life counted (at least for a short time).

For the majority of folks to live, die and after a while be forgotten, is a natural part of life. If others are remembered for their special contributions to life, then Lee Garner can be remembered for his contribution of serving in the military.

I suppose the point of this writing is that all of God's children count and contribute something to life. Some may be praised for their contribution while others are not. Some may be respected and seen as irreplaceable when they die, while others are soon forgotten. The contribution to life from ordinary hardworking folks like Lee is probably better pictured through acts of kindness to his fellowman. This of course is the result of being raised in the good Christian home of his father Deacon John Garner, as well as learning the Golden Rule early on in Sunday School at the Mount Reah Baptist Church.

Father,

Help us to be thankful for the Lee Garners of the world who contribute to life even though they are seldom remembered. Lord, being a sacrificial giver to life was Your idea and You set the pattern for the rest of us to follow. Lord, I choose to follow your lead.

Amen

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