Of Favorite Hymns, Not-So-Weird Tears, and a 19th Century Teenager...

I still can't sing it without crying.

There are certain hymns that triggered tears for a long time after my dad's death for obvious reasons. They still do, sometimes.  "It is Well" was one of his very favorites, and every time I sing it, I remember him telling me the story of Horatio G. Spafford and the great tragedy which inspired this much-loved hymn.  I was a little girl when he first told me the story, and I credit that and the stories he told me over the years about Fanny Crosby and other great hymn-writers with sparking my lifelong love of hymn stories.

"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" was another of his favorites, which I never hear now without remembering how beautifully the choir sang it at his funeral.  It was that arrangement that was used at Merlene's funeral last month...which brought back such a huge flood of memories.  That will always be my favorite arrangement of that beautiful hymn.

"O Sacred Head Now Wounded" and "And Can It Be?" were two other favorites that always bring back special memories.

Weird Tears...

I've done better in recent years about singing those without tears...most of the time, anyway.  But as we sang "My Jesus, I Love Thee" Sunday morning, my voice began to crack on the 3rd verse, and I began to wish for a kleenex for the tiny tears that were pooling in my eyes. I realized that not once since December 2004 have I sung this hymn without fighting back tears.

It's a bit odd.  There are so many hymns I associate with Daddy in some way: hymns that were on his list of favorites, hymns written by hymn writers he was partial to, hymns we'd played on handbells years ago (When Morning Gilds the Skies and Now The Day Is Over among others), and hymns written by Frances Ridley Havergal, author of the little devotional book he read to me for many years at bedtime.

This one fits into none of those categories, and yet is the one that hits me the hardest and brings him to mind the most.  How weird is that?

Not so weird, actually.

Not So Weird...

Daddy has been gone for over 8 years, and I still hear stories from people about how he impacted their lives.  What a huge blessing that is!   He certainly impacted mine in a million different ways over the 36 years we had together.  It would take a book to list them all.

And yet, the greatest impact of all was in the last months and days of his life.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;

He was faithful until the very end.  Although he was in serious pain, and dealing with severe physical limitations, he continued teaching 3rd grade Sunday School with my mom and singing in the choir until he just physically could not get out of the house anymore.  He loved teaching children, and he loved singing in choir, and he did those things with great joy until the very last.

Many of those who've shared the impact Daddy had on their lives are fellow choir members and (now) young adults who were in his Sunday School class those last few years.  They in particular saw his love for the Lord and his joy in serving him, even at a time when many would have said, "I'm too old, my health is too poor, I've done my time."  He didn't do any of it because he felt like he "should"; he did it because he loved every minute.

Greatest Memory of All!


And say when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”

Of all the memories I have of my dad, of all the things he taught me by word and example, of all the stories I could share...one stands out above all.  It was just days before his death, and he was in intense pain.  He had dealt with five years of devastating health issues,and he knew that death was drawing near.  He wasn't as talkative as usual; pain and meds and weakness were taking their toll.

Ammah Grace and I were on the bed with him, and as he looked at the tiny granddaughter for whom he (and everyone else) had prayed so hard, tears began to stream down his face as he said, "God has been so good to me."

My dad was by no means perfect.  I know that there were times when he struggled with his medical issues and the pain that he suffered.   But at that point, his overwhelming thought was "God has been so good to me." 

Although that wasn't our last conversation and those weren't his last words, they are seared into my heart and mind as the last words I remember of my dad's.  Everything after that gets fuzzy, as we waited and watched and lived on adrenaline and emotion.

Those words, though, those words still completely overwhelm me.  "God has been so good to me."

Pondering the Now...

 In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”

And then of course there's that last verse.  I love the thought of Daddy worshiping His Lord "in mansions of glory and endless delight", singing praise to the Father He loves in the choir to end all choirs.

The "Rest of the Story", With a Bit of a Twist...

This hymn...especially those last two verses...just sums up my dad's testimony to me.

Here's what's amazing about those words:  They were written by a teenaged boy.

Unlike many of the great hymn-writers, William Ralph Featherston's story is amazing mostly because of its lack of amazing-ness.  Little is known about him, and this is the only hymn he is known to have written.

The story is simple.  Featherston became a Christian as a teen, and was so overwhelmed by God's love for him that he wrote this as a poem to express his love for his Savior.  Years later, Adoniram Judson Gordon put the poem to the tune we sing now, and published it in his hymn book.  Featherston died at the age of 27.

There appears to be little known about Featherston beyond these facts.  And yet his testimony lives on in this  beautiful hymn. 


My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine—
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow:
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
“If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.” 

 ~William Featherston

 Did you sing a favorite hymn yesterday?  Or a new one that touched you in a special way?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!  Or share your favorite hymn or hymn story.


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