Saturday, August 1, 2009

Santa Sittin' with Jesus

Today we buried Santa Claus - also known as my cousin Jesse. He lived in Mabank which is only about 40 miles from us so I have been able to see him quite a few times in the last four years. Before that it had been many years. He was the oldest son of my mom's older brother so he was almost her age. He was raised in Seagraves and we were in Denver City so we were over at their house often when we were young.

I wasn't expecting the emotion I felt in that service today. I should have known what an impact it would have because as we drove into Seven Points, the neighboring city, there was a sign out in front of the library that said "Jesse will be missed". Everybody knew him because everybody knew Santa Claus. He was a big, burly, red-faced, white haired man with a white beard. He drove a red chevy truck that had "Santa's Sleigh" on the back window and a clear bug guard on the front that said "Jesus is Lord". And He was. Lord, I mean. Jesse loved Him so that his last word was "Jesus". One of the men that spoke said that Jesse was given a gift of Santa's heart. If Jesse would have been there he would have stood up and said, "No, I have the gift of Jesus' heart."

One lady that had Jesse come to the schools every year said that he would pull those children up on his lap and talk to them a little bit, then tell them that Santa loved them. Then he would look at them in the eye and tell them that Jesus loved them. Being Santa was a tool to tell people about Jesus. There was testimony of kids having their pictures made with him every year up into their twenties.

One man got up and told of how Jesse took him under his wing when he was a teenager, introduced him to Jesus, set him up a place to live in order to get started in life, and introduced him to his future wife. He's been married to that wife for 22 years. Every major step in his life was influenced by this Santa Claus man.

Another young man told of how his single mom raised him with Jesse and Toni's help. That when he would get into trouble she would call Jesse to straighten him out. He said that Jesse introduced him to people as his son and that Jesse was the only dad he ever knew. Taught him how to be a respectable man. This boy was a tall good-looking black boy with dreadlocks. Precious.

I couldn't stop the tears as one after another spoke of his influence in their lives. Oh, how he loved Jesus. I went to see him in June when I found out he was in Dallas in a care center. I was warned that he might not know me. I walked in and he said, "Well, hello beautiful, what are you doing here?" I went to his bedside and for the next 45 minutes or so we talked about the Lord and how wonderful it will be to see Him and our loved ones waiting for us. He told me he was going to get down to our church and Toni told me today that he mentioned coming down here often. I knew he would never step foot in this building. He was so sick. I could see it clearly. Before I left that day, holding on to his big ole hand we talked to Jesus together.

Yesterday I dropped the girls off at a friend's house and when I was at the stop sign there was a 60-something year old woman in her cotton, zip-up robe, spraying bugs on the side walk. It was seven-thirty and she was ready to call it a night. I knew that because it was pretty obvious she was brassiere free. As I thought of my night ahead with seven or eight girls running around the church, knowing my hours of sleep would be minimal, I wondered if there would ever be a time that I would put on my robe every night at seven-ish and wait around until bedtime. I kinda hoped there would be because I was already tired from the extra kids we've been keeping the last two weeks. Kids whose mommy decided she didn't want to be mommy any more and left a three-year-old and one-year-old with their daddy. So a night alone in front of the TV seemed pretty appealing. Until today. As tired as I am, hearing the testimony of Jesse's life - hearing that with his dying breath he whispered the name of Jesus inspires me to go to the end. Not to stop. To keep loving and keep serving.

Tonight Michael, Jack, and I were practicing songs for tomorrow. We were singing "Footprints of Jesus". We started the last verse and the tears came before I knew they were coming as I started singing those words.

Then at last when on high He sees us, Our journey done.
We will rest where the steps of Jesus end at His throne.

You can rest now, Jesse. At last.

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