Monday, May 22, 2006

Chaddy Brown loved the devil.

I really miss my Grampa. He passed away on July 9th, 2002 of leukemia at the age of 80.

I will never forget the smell of his pipe or his distinguished, "downeast" (Maine) accent. "Wanna play caahhds?" I won't forget his love for animals or people of any kind. In fact, I will never forget one time when he came to visit us kids in the cellar (basement) of his house in Kennebunkport, Maine. We lived down there because my dad had discharged from the Air Force and we had no place to go. Grampa let us build a rough apartment in it.

As he was sitting on the couch he was talking to us and decided to give us a lesson on love. He said, "I love everybody, even the devil because he keeps the earth warm." As a second grader, I didn't understand the devil part, but I certainly learned from Grampa that it was important to accept and love everyone and everything that was living.

To my knowledge, my Grampa, Chaddy Brown, did not know Jesus Christ when he died. Well, my father spoke with him about God, but there wasn't a repeat of any "sinner's prayer" or anything like that. Before I get to my thoughts on that, I want to ask a question.

How much do our personal stories affect our theology?

Here is what my Uncle Larry wrote about my Grampa's life:

Chaddy Brown was quite a boy.

He was independent, old fashioned, curious, generous, shy, witty, and humorous. He got a kick out of people and people got a kick out of him. He enjoyed a challenge. He challenged life and was challenged by it. He was never dissuaded. He enjoyed beating the odds.

He was a talented athlete in his youth, excelling in golf and bowling, but once he met these challenges he left them behind to move on to others. His analytical mind enjoyed the logic of contract bridge and he played with a methodical passion. Chaddy was well known in local bridge circles and was a sought after partner in regional tournaments where he slowly accumulated points, a fraction at a time, until he was recognized by the American Contract Bridge League as a life master. After reaching this pinnacle he seldom if ever played again. He preferred to play cribbage with his family and grandchildren, often cheating to let them win. He teased Sheila by saying her victories didn't count- it was just practice when Grampa lost.

He challenged the English language throughout his life. He was sparing in his usage of various parts of speech. I have never heard him use the verb "to be" for instance. I remember that Chad hoped to win the lottery by buying a "Magnavox" ticket every Saturday. He decried the use of "phonographic" pictures on the internet.

He spent his life in Kennebunkport except for his service during WWII. Those years found him aboard ammunition ships in convoys crossing the Atlantic and into Murmansk Russia where the survival rates were as low as one in three. Chad Brown faced death at an early age and rarely spoke of it.

To meet Chaddy Brown was to like him and to remember him. His work at the Post Office and at Smith's Market gained him a large circle of friends and acquaintances from all walks of life. From bankers to bums, he found something to appreciate in most people he met. It was not the external attributes of a person that mattered to Chad, but their inner qualities that he appreciated and that's what endeared him to so many.

My wife Barbara once wrote a college paper expressing how family storytelling can instill values in future generations. Of course she wrote about her Dad. I quote it now.

"Many of these stories include a mentally handicapped man that my family took various places when I was young. He always wore an official sheriff's badge and my father loved to try to get into fairs or the racetrack for free. These stories present a fun-loving, but very compassionate side of my father. I share these stories so my daughter will understand her grandfather and know I value compassion above other attributes. To ensure that she does not miss the point, I have told her what happened the time I grumbled about how often this man tagged along. The edge to my father's voice was unmistakable as he squelched my complaint with a single sentence: "Emmy has to have a life too."

I came to know him as a somewhat private man who had a life long love of animals. He was a friend of every dog he ever met and a few ponies as well.

When I think of Chad Brown, the words of the poet come to mind:

Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it has ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Whither?"

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love for a season?

- Robert Frost about Chad Brown

In trying to come up with a short summary of his life his children write:

"We found there was much about our Dad we didn't know. We decided that Dad was successful at living life on his own terms. He was glad to help family, friends, or strangers. He saw the positive in everyone that he met. We all share different memories of him, which is probably a function of the range of our ages but it might be from the fact that he loved us as the individuals he saw us to be. We will all miss him in ways that we will never be able to express."

He enjoyed many of the people and things that others didn't see or took for granted. He found humor and pleasure everywhere and with most everyone. Chad was a kind and generous man. He embraced life. When faced the inevitability of his final illness, he first ignored and then embraced death. He courted it and encouraged it unafraid. He bowed and accepted the end with strength and grace.

I miss him so much. What a great man, with great qualities. He was kinder than many Christians I know. Damn me if I judge his final destination based on the doctrine of the tidy "sinner's prayer." Only God knows. My father is at peace with it.

So, how do your personal stories affect your theology? Dig deep and be honest.


BruceD said...

Nice story... and I have a feeling he is just fine! ;-)

JimmyBob said...

Thanks Bruce. Is it OK to call you dude sometimes?

Did you start blogging again? It's very difficult to read your site with the way the font is set up or something.

On Jeff's blog I asked a question to Ninjanun about those who don't believe in the innerancy of Scripture. I was being sincere when I asked it, but she thought I was disingenuous. Maybe you could help me.

Seriously, I remember you saying a while ago that you don't believe the Bible is the Word of God and that it was hard to make sense out of, but you believe in the Cross.

Where do you get your information and beliefs about the Cross from? Are there other historical documents that you've read? If so, what are they? I know in asking these questions I'm taking a real risk in looking STUPID, but I don't care. I have to know.

As a friend, please help.

Ninjanun and I just keep rubbing like sand paper. Maybe we're so stinkin alike but with opposite views that we're doomed. I don't think she feels I'm very intelligent or well read. She seems like she would be shocked if I held my views after reading some of the works she cites.

If that was tacky to post, Oh well. I just want everyone to know how I feel. This personal experience has affected me. My grampa's life reminds me that love for others should supercede Theological positions and arguments. I better learn from him while I have the chance.

BruceD said...

I think that was a wonderful post, JB. I love to hear about people who understand true love. Truly inspiring!

Yeah, I've been blogging for a while on a new URL. I haven't really announced it, but from my profile, the "my website" link goes there.

BTW, did you ask if it was ok to call me "dude"? Or were you saying you wanted to call me on the phone? The answer to both questions is yes. Call me "dude", or call me up... any time!

BruceD said...

James, did I cause you to become upset with me?

JimmyBob said...

No way, dude! Why do think that?

Hey, did you see that verse I posted on Jeff's blog from Matthew 11?

It's from the Message Bible: Message Bible, Matthew 11:28-30: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

I thought you might like that.

BruceD said...

Oh, I kept checking back to see if you had responded to the comment I left about your comment, and when more than a day went by, I thought maybe I said something wrong. I'm happy to hear that I didn't.