My daddy led the music in the tiny Richards Baptist Church where I was saved from my sins at the ripe old age of nine. The preacher who baptized me that summer had a brief explanation of faith and God’s forgiveness in a private chat before we stepped down several steps into what appeared to me to be a very large body of water behind the pulpit that held the large chair Daddy sat in between the congregational hymns during the worship service. I hated water, had already failed my first swimming lessons in the Navasota, Texas city pool twenty miles from Richards – a failure to be repeated more than once in the next dozen years.
I forgot the submersion in the baptistry (not totally) and remembered little of the rural conservative Southern Baptist minister’s words before he dunked me in the great pool. One concept stayed with me, though. God forgave me of my wrongdoings that day and forevermore. Brother Jones told me no matter what I did from then on that was even slightly evil, I had a free pass. All I had to say was God, forgive me. Full disclosure: I’ve had to ask for forgiveness in the post-baptism days way more than I did in the pre-baptism ones.
While my daddy did enjoy leading the small congregation of sixty members every Sunday he truly loved singing solos as the special music for the worship service. My mama played the piano for the church and, of course, for daddy’s spotlight moments. He had no vocal training, but he did have the loudest male voice in the church. His singing gave me free floating anxiety related to possible embarrassment that I tried my best to hide. Mama accompanied him with great intensity, lots of flourishes that covered any problems he had with the high notes.
Recently I’ve been singing Daddy’s repertoire in my mind; unfortunately I’ve remembered the words to a song Daddy liked to belt out – a song that was a crowd pleaser but my least favorite of his selections. The words to Great Judgment Morning were written by Bert Shadduck in 1894 and published in 75 hymnals according to hymnary.org.
I dream’d that the great judgment morning
Had dawn’d, and the trumpet had blown;
I dream’d that the nations had gathered
To judgment before the white throne.
From the throne came a bright shining angel
And stood on the land and the sea,
And swore with his hand rais’d to heaven,
That time was no longer to be.
And O, what a weeping and wailing,
As the lost were told of their fate;
They cried for the rocks and the mountains,
They pray’d, but their pray’r was too late.
On August 08, 1974 Richard Nixon resigned the office of President of the United States. My daddy and I watched the dramatic exit together from his Hermann Hospital room in Houston – he had been diagnosed with colon cancer that day, treatment options sounded grim, prognosis 18 – 24 months. It was a rough day for the country and for our family. I was 28 years old; he was 49.
Neither he nor I had ever seen anything like Watergate, but the Nixon resignation came at a good time for us: we had something to talk about other than my father’s health. I can’t begin to imagine having a conversation with Daddy during these last days of the ongoing trauma the nation has suffered by the deranged actions of an ex-President who would tamper with the security of a democracy my dad fought to preserve in WWII. What could he think?
Would he belt out the second verse of the Great Judgment Morning…hm.
The rich man was there, but his money
Had melted and vanished away;
A pauper he stood in the judgment,
His debts were too heavy to pay.
The great man was there, but his greatness
When death came was left far behind;
The angel that opened the records,
Not a trace of his greatness could find.
Did I really dream the great judgment morning has finally dawned for a president who, in my opinion, leaves a legacy of evil deeds far exceeding the wrongdoings of Richard Nixon; or did I actually watch David Muir describe this unraveling last week on the evening news.
If there is a great judgment morning, I is accountable. He is accountable. We is all accountable. Don’t just take my word for it. Ask Attorney General Merrick Garland who blows the trumpet now and says no one is above the law.
Please stay tuned.