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Priceless Memories

By Hannah Hensley

Ervin, Tennessee

 

When thinking about my life, there are certain moments that come to mind that I know are priceless memories. Some of the memories are of Christmas mornings and apple butter makings, but there is one winter morning that comes to mind. It wasn’t a holiday, it wasn’t a vacation and it wasn’t an event, such as my birthday. It was just a not so typical day that happened a few winters ago.

The night before this morning we, my parents, siblings and I, decided to take a trip across the mountain to North Carolina, to visit Mamaw and Papaw. When we arrived that evening, we didn’t find the table filled with Mamaw’s delicious food, tasty goodies, and Blue Ridge dishes. We had brought pizza from town instead. Poor Mamaw was laid up on the couch, sick and in pain. We had come to visit, per our usual routine, but we had also come to care for Mamaw. There wasn’t much we could do for her, but we wanted to be there for her and give Papaw his supper. We ate our pizza and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (Papaw’s favorite). We watched an old movie. As to which old movie we watched, that I cannot remember, but some of our favorites has always been, ‘I’d Climb the Highest Mountain’, ‘ A Man Called Peter’, ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, and I could go on and on.

When the movie was over and the children become sleepy, it was decided that it was time to make the trek back across the mountain, home. But, after some discussion and realizing Mamaw’s current condition wasn’t showing any improvement it was decided that I would stay behind and spend the night, just in case I could be of any help. We said our goodbyes and good-nights and the family returned home. I stayed behind, of which I was glad. Since it was so late when the others left, we went straight to bed. I took Dads’ old room. The only heat in the room was a small ceramic heater, so I layered the bed with old hand-stitched quilts to stay warm.

I awoke early the next morning. I have always awakened early at Mamaw and Papaw’s, even when I was a little girl. The excitement of being there and the worry of missing something fun or a distant train whistle always made sleeping difficult. The bedroom was cold, but I decided to embrace it and get dressed. I went and checked on Mamaw, but she was still sleeping soundly on the couch. However, I did find Papaw George wide awake. In fact, if I’m being honest, it was probably Papaw who had to waken me with the closing of his bedroom door and the sound of his footsteps in the hallway. The coffee was ready. I knew that because I could smell it down the hall. When checking on Mamaw, I found Papaw George kicked back in his recliner, doughnut in one hand and coffee in the other and a thick blanket wrapped over the top of him. He was watching the news. Just like he does every morning. Since Mamaw was sleeping on the couch across the room, I sat on the love seat, next to Papaw’s chair.

“You want some coffee?” He said in a half-whisper.  “That’s fine, don’t worry. I’ll get it myself in a moment”.  But, before I could even get up, he was on his way to the kitchen to pour me a cup of stovetop, percolated coffee. We call it cowboy coffee, Papaw’s specialty.  Which, believe you me, there’s nothing special about it. He returned to the living room and handed me my cup of black coffee in an old, chipped, state park souvenir mug.  “There ya’ go.”  “Thank you, sir.”

Hannah’s grandparents, George, and Sherrol Hensley

He sat back down in his chair and flipped out the footrest. Totally disregarding the fact that Mamaw was asleep, he began talking without feeling the need to lower his voice. He told me about a boy he went to school with and he told me about the things he did that past week. I listened to details of how to properly paint the primer coat on a car. I learned about hub caps, wheel and tires. I heard about the guy down the road who had the nice Snapper lawnmower. He poked fun at the way Mamaw was sleeping and how she was snoring. Our laughter woke Mamaw and she arose from the couch looking like what one might say a zombie looks like, but she assured us she was doing better. We laughed, she laughed with us.  Papaw walked over to hug her good morning.  “How are you feeling baby doll?” he said. ‘Hmm? How’s my girl?”  “I feel like myself, so I guess that’s a good thing.” Mamaw said and gave a hearty laugh ” I guess I’ll get showered and dressed for the day.”

It was just Papaw and me again. Sitting and sipping our now lukewarm coffee. We had paused from talking and had got caught up with whatever was being aired on the news that morning.  “For heaven’s sake! What day is it, Hannah?”  “It’s Sunday morning Papaw,” I replied. And with that, the TV was turned off.  ” I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel so bad! I’m such a sinner. I should’ve done this first thing this morning. I should do it first thing each morning, but especially on a Sunday. Even more so this morning since we’re not going to church.” He reached over to the shelf beside his chair and took off his Bible. ” I should have done this when I first got up. Instead, I got dressed and walked out to the garage for a minute to fiddle with my car. Then I took my medicine and when I take it I have to have something to eat, you know? So, I fixed my coffee and ate my doughnut while I watched the news. It’s pitiful. My Bible should’ve come first thing. I feel so guilty, you know. Undeserving, you know?”

He began to read the Bible aloud to me. For the life of me, I can’t remember what he read to me that morning, but I do remember him reading a good ten or fifteen minutes. I listened, impressed and pleased. When he had finished, he expressed what the passage meant to him.

“I don’t deserve Him, ya know? I don’t. Sometimes I think why He chose me? But, He did, and I had to have my coffee and doughnut before I thanked Him for this morning.”  I was stunned and impressed. He was so genuine and sincere. I was speechless.  “Here,” he said while handing me a hymnal.   “Help me sing. What’s that hymn that I like so much? We sing it in Church. You know everybody sings so well at our Church. It’s one of my favorite things, listening to everybody sing. Now, what was the name of that song?”  “Amazing Love?” I asked. I couldn’t remember the proper title.  “Yes, that’s the one! I love that one now you start it. You’re the singer in the family. What’s the page number?”  I found the page in my book and helped him to find it in his. Then I began…

 

“And can it be that I should gain

An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain?

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

 

Papaw paused and said ” You know the girl who sits up front in Church? You know the one I’m talking about! She sings this song really well!”  We continued with the second verse…

 

“Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the firstborn seraph tries

To sound the depths of love Divine!

’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

 

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

 

By the time we were ready to sing the last three verses, Mamaw joined us.  “You ready to sing Baby doll?” Papaw said.  “Yeah, I’ll sing”

 

“He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace;

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race:

’Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me.

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness Divine,

Bold, I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! how can it be

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”

 

As the hymn ended Papaw joked and said “Um, that will conclude our services for the day. Please join us next Sunday. Same time, the same place. Come a praying, go a praying” He chuckled and Mamaw and I did too. “I love that song”, he said. ” Love it more than some of the old hymns I sang as a boy.”

Mamaw had switched back and forth, singing melody and alto. Papaw had switched back and forth from melody to bass in the chorus. I played it safe and just lead us by singing a melody. Papaw sang the chorus one more time, only this time he sang the melody and I threw in a few of the bass notes.

There was a pause. My thoughts and eyes fixated on Papaw, who was flipping through the pages of the hymnal and Mamaw flipping through the pages of her Bible and combing her hair. The silence was broken when Papaw mumbled something under his breath.  “What did you say Papaw?” I asked

“Amazing love. Such amazing love.” He sighed and then he began humming some other old hymn and continued browsing through the hymn book. He eventually became lost in his own world and started singing to himself as if no one was around. Mamaw looked up from her Bible and winked at me and I smiled back. She joined Papaw in singing. Together they sang, first one verse and then a chorus, then a verse of another song and then the chorus. Hearing their voices singing those old hymns in the middle of the living room, I thought I was going to cry. Granted, and they will be the first to tell you, great singers, they’re not, but at that moment on that winter morning, I thought I was witnessing the most beautiful picture that I could ever experience. The hymns and what Papaw had said running through my head, “Amazing love, such amazing love.” Over and over it ran through my head and they’ve been running through my head ever since then.

Yes, Papaw, yes. Such amazing love He shows his chosen children. Such amazing love. Papaw and Mamaw, such amazing love you have shown me. One day I will tell my children and grandchildren of this love. This sweet, glorious, heavenly love. This amazing love.

-The hymn is called “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” By Charles Wesley

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Hannah Hensley, 22, lives in Erwin, TN with her family. She is the oldest of 8 children. She loves living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, writing stories and visiting her grandparents, who live in Mitchell County.

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