Thursday, October 25, 2007
The Preacher’s Corner
“...having said all he wanted to say; seen all...”
It was perhaps 20 years ago that Jack Stubbs asked me to perform his funeral, and I was glad as he was that we could delay that appointment until this late date.
October 22 was a bittersweet day for me, but at the same time I knew that we could look back on some happy times.
I have sometimes ruefully said that some people do not leave a preacher much to work with, but this is certainly not the case with Jack. I wish everybody was as considerate of the person who must someday frame their eulogy.
My story starts all the way back in some place called “Lillian” out in Scott County. I’ve never been there, but I’ll take Jack’s word for it. (I looked it up on Mapquest, and the place does exist. The nearest neighboring communities are Hillsboro, Harperville, Walnut Grove, Lena, and Ludlow, and just a few miles more, a community called Williamsville, one county away in Neshoba, of which we shall have more to say later.
Anyhow, Lillian is where Jack was born — the youngest of 12 sisters and brothers, one of whom still survives.
Like Jack, many of his brothers were in the dry goods business, and there was a time when it seemed you saw a Stubbs Department Store on the square of almost every courthouse town.
But the story picks up in November 1943 — and I am indebted to Carole Jean Taylor for recording this in The South Reporter — when Jack was living in Louisville (Miss.), young and single, but had already found the love of his life Pat, who hailed from the aforementioned Williamsville community, just south of Philadelphia.
Eventually, he married and brought Pat to Holly Springs but not before he served his country. And when he was drafted into the army in November of 1943, Pat decided to take an old molasses can and fill it with Hershey bars and send it to him in his foxhole, near Normandy somewhere in the north of France.
And somehow through a comedy of errors and the understandable inefficiency of the military mail, that can of Hershey bars followed Jack (unbeknownst) from Philadelphia to New York City, France, Germany, Scotland, and finally to where he was hospitalized after being injured in the war, at the hospital in New Orleans.
And you can see the can today in an honored place in the Stubbs’ home, where supposedly the chocolates are still inside — why he never opened them, I do not know.
But they became to him a symbol of love and deliverance, and he would say that since that day he was shot on Mortar Hill in France, that every day since that day had come to him as an unanticipated gift, and if you do the arithmetic, it adds up to 63 years.
How wonderful to awaken every day for that much time and to say “I did not think I would be here.”
Sixty-two of those years were spent with Pat, and in recent days Jack would say how glad he was to see their two sons, Jack Jr. and Pat Ellis, grown and well-situated, and his grandsons in their maturity, and he was delighted also in LeAnn, his granddaughter-in-law-elect. So he was a happy man.
I wish he could have seen how many people came out to pay tribute to his life. But somehow I think people know and see what transpires, so we drew close in those moments and were thankful.
I’ll not forget “Papaw” or “Paw-paw” (the name depending on whom you were speaking to at the moment) riding little boys around in the back of his old white truck after school (this would be against the law today, but this was in a more carefree time), taking them fishing or to eat ice cream at Tyson’s or to ride the pony.
Now they are grown up — several with children of their own, but I, too, was sad when these little boys got too old to ride with Big Jack in that old pick-up truck.
And, in the latter years, they would ride him around, on days when he wasn’t out on his scooter, handing out tomatoes or other produce from his patio garden that he loaded in the scooter’s basket before starting out. (Wasn’t Jack fortunate never to get a ticket for making a U-turn or some such thing?) He put a lot of mileage on that scooter on the streets of Holly Springs.
He felt that 8s were his lucky number, and he liked to recite a list to prove that this was so:
I do not think I ever knew a happier, more optimistic man, or a more faithful friend or husband, father, and grandfather. So I give thanks to God for a man whose life was his creed.
All partings are sad: but I think there are no regrets. For having said all he wanted to say, and seen all he wanted to see, Jack bade all a good night and went to sleep, and so God took him, and may we all be so blessed to live a full life and meet our Lord in peace.
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