Sunday, January 05, 2014

Jan. 4, 2014, column:
Cousins inspire after death
By Mike Haynes
            If it were just my family, I wouldn’t be so quick to write about Joyce and Vester. But those cousins who died a day apart Dec. 20 and Dec. 21 were known in their communities and far beyond, and their absence leaves noticeable holes in the fabric of McLean and Higgins.
            They said they were each other’s favorite cousins. Joyce, my mother, was the daughter of Ruel Smith, and Vester was the son of Ruel’s brother, the elder Vester. Vester, 91, and Joyce, 83, both took pride in their Smith heritage as well as that of their spouses – the family of Johnny Haynes for Joyce and that of Martha Price Smith for Vester.

Vester Smith and Joyce Haynes hold their hands to their hearts at the state basketball tournament in Austin in 2010.
           You can view the obituaries at (Dec. 22 and Dec. 25) for summaries of their lives. Here, I want to look at how those lives – even the ending of them – can inspire us and how you might look for that inspiration in your own families.
            The two memorial services weren’t the kind where the preacher has to interview the relatives to find something to say. Vester and Joyce spent much time in their respective Methodist churches. Vester’s friend and former pastor Don Travis knew details of the rancher’s life such as the thousands of eggs Vester had cooked for the Higgins men’s group. Joyce’s nephew and pastor Thacker Haynes had heard plenty of chords from her years as the church organist and had enjoyed lots of her chocolate pie.
Glenda Joyce Haynes
            Both pastors had made multiple visits during long hospital stays and were on hand when Vester entered hospice care and when Joyce did the same a day later.
            The two cousins’ families wore their tires down on the roads between Higgins and Canadian and between McLean and Amarillo. For weeks, neither hospital room was devoid of a spouse, son or daughter for more than a night. My dad got to know many of the Northwest Texas Healthcare nurses and technicians, as did the rest of our family. I know Dad misses some of those kindhearted caregivers.
            Mom’s Amarillo surgeon kept our family updated on the increasingly slim prospects for recovery despite her fighting spirit. We noticed that his face sometimes showed more emotion than you would expect from a doctor. He told Dad he had observed how our family was dealing with the tough situation.
Vester Lee Smith
The coincidence of this Smith patriarch and Haynes matriarch going to heaven – and we believe that’s where they are – within 28 hours of each other was somewhat of a comfort. Our families visited each other in the respective hospice rooms, and there were plenty of stories about the two McLean graduates, one who became a respected cattleman and one who helped her husband run their ranch.
            Members of each family attended the two funerals. On a frigid, snowy day in Higgins, we witnessed a community that filled the sanctuary and the church basement. The impact of Vester, friend to all, a storyteller and a John Wayne with more finesse, was obvious.
            On a sunny day in McLean, the same sort of tribute arrived in the form of friends and family from near and far. This side of heaven, my mother didn’t know the effect she had on people she hardly knew. My family had been at the hospital every day out of duty and love, just because that’s what you do when Mom’s sick.
            At the memorial service, we saw a familiar face standing at the back of the church, not in medical scrubs but in suit and tie. It was her surgeon. He had noticed something about our constant presence that made him drive the 70 miles to McLean the day after Christmas. Mom barely knew this doctor who had operated on her. We knew him only from the ICU. But he sensed something in Dad and in what Mom and Dad had passed on to their children and grandchildren.
            I saw the same thing in Vester’s family. My second and third cousins came from Oklahoma, Austin and elsewhere to just be there through sickness and past death.  
            Since Mom’s funeral, friends have told me her service reminded them of good times with her but also stirred memories of McLean during the past several decades. I’m sure Vester’s friends in Higgins and across West Texas are saying similar things.

            As heartbreaking as the losses are, the passing of two people has inspired others. May we all be as important to our communities, as active and willing to work and as faithful to God as Vester and Joyce were.  
Sailors on a small rescue boat rescue a USS West Virginia crew member from the water after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. (AP Photo)
Dec. 7, 2013, column:
Father recalls attack on Pearl Harbor
By Mike Haynes
            Six words stuck in the mind of a 10-year-old student at Sam Houston Elementary in Pampa: “forces of the Empire of Japan.”
            The full sentence my dad, Johnny Haynes, remembers 72 years later came from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
            “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
           The enormity of Pearl Harbor fully hit Dad and millions of Americans on Dec. 8, 1941, when Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan after about 2,400 died in the sneak attack on a quiet Sunday morning in the paradise of Hawaii.
            “I just remember listening to the radio when President Roosevelt made his talk and declared war on them,” Dad said last week. Radio and newspapers were the social media and cable news of the day, so the outrage took a little longer to build than did the similar reaction on Sept. 11, 2001. In fact – keeping in mind that he was 10 – Dad doesn’t recall anybody talking about it at school the day after the attack.         The enormity of Pearl Harbor fully hit Dad and millions of Americans on Dec. 8, 1941, when Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan after about 2,400 died in the sneak attack on a quiet Sunday morning in the paradise of Hawaii.
            “I don’t think the word got out at first on the number of ships,” he said. “Nobody knew where Pearl Harbor was, at least not the average people in Pampa. Later on, they realized how many people had been killed.”
            Of course, our thoughts always should go first to those who died that day, and then to the survivors, some of whom still tell their sad stories on each anniversary. But Dad is an example of the millions of Americans who had no direct connection to Pearl Harbor and still joined in the rise of patriotism once everyone understood what had happened.
            As huge as 9-11 was, Pearl Harbor had a greater immediate impact on the world, bringing the United States into a war that eventually killed more than 400,000 Americans and millions worldwide. Our family lost three cousins, two in Europe and one in the Pacific.
            Looking at it biblically, any war brings up the question of whether Christians should engage in it at all, and the church has run the gamut from pacifist Quakers to militarized Crusaders.
            I don’t think we’ll all agree on every aspect of fighting before Christ returns, but I hope believers will consider one of Jesus’s most radical teachings when it comes to war. That’s forgiveness.
            It may be next to impossible for someone who lost a loved one at Pearl Harbor or at the World Trade Center to get rid of bitterness. But as we know, “With God, all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26)
            Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:43-44)
            Those teachings are so familiar that we may pay as much attention to them as a kid does to, “Brush your teeth before you go to bed.” But if they don’t apply to Pearl Harbor or 9-11, when do they apply?
            I haven’t been to Hawaii, but my wife, Kathy, has visited the memorial in Pearl Harbor, where 1,102 servicemen rest in the sunken USS Arizona and a few quarts of oil still leak from the wreck every day. She remembers a solemn atmosphere where tourists – including Japanese visitors – were quiet and respectful. I don’t know if the generally good relations between the United States and Japan are a result of forgiveness or the fact that fewer Americans who remember World War II still are around.

            I hope there’s some forgiveness involved, but as C.S. Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
Nov. 9, 2013, column:
Author C.S. Lewis finally gets his due
By Mike Haynes
            You may have heard this story before. My wife, Kathy, and I were on a city bus in Oxford, England, about to get off a couple of blocks from the Kilns, the longtime home of C.S. Lewis.
            A big part of that winter-time trip to England was our arranged private tour of the famous house where the celebrated Christian writer lived from 1930 to his death in 1963.
            On the almost-empty bus were a man and a woman, not together. We found out the woman attended Holy Trinity Church, the Anglican parish where Lewis and his brother, Warren, had sat in their regular pew for years.
Mike Haynes poses at C.S. Lewis's grave in Oxford in 2010.
            The man had a different take on Lewis. As I recall, he said in his British accent that yes, he knew where Lewis’ house was but that “I don’t agree with what he stood for.”
            As someone who strongly agrees with the Christianity that Lewis stood for, I was dismayed but not surprised. After all, Oxford University, where the author of “Mere Christianity” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” taught, had not put its association with him front and center through the decades. Neither had England as a whole. In fact, after his rise to fame in the 1940s and 1950s had faded, Lewis had become more popular in America than in his home country.
            So I’m happy that this Nov. 22, 50 years after Lewis died the same day as President Kennedy, the professor, writer of children’s books and creative defender of the faith will be recognized with a memorial stone in Poets’ Corner, the cluttered area of Westminster Abbey where 108 creative people already are either buried or have their names inscribed for posterity.
            Among them are Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
C.S. Lewis's grave in Oxford is at lower left.
            Despite some signs of spiritual life last time Kathy and I made it to the United Kingdom, the UK is not a nation of churchgoers. Even in his own day, some considered Lewis an intellectual rebel for embracing Christianity. When he made the cover of Time magazine in 1947, the caption read, “Oxford’s C.S. Lewis. His heresy: Christianity.”
            Michael Ward, whose story, “How Lewis Lit the Way” is in this month’s Christianity Today, told the magazine earlier that “It takes a while in Britain for a great man to be recognized as such. But Lewis has been safely dead now for 50 years, and we can afford to recognize him as the major figure he was.”
            The figure who wrote about a devil’s apprentice and a Christlike lion also contributed much to literary criticism and medieval studies, which gives unbelievers something to latch onto. “He is, by any standard, someone who is a serious intellectual … who thinks about the society we’re in,” said Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury, in Christianity Today.  
            Lewis is buried in his home churchyard, a mile or two from his Oxford home. Kathy and I had to go to great lengths to get there. Now millions will have a chance to see his name inside one of Britain’s best-known tourist attractions.
            * * *

            An update on the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s efforts to establish a C.S. Lewis College: After failing to raise enough money to own and operate a picturesque campus in Northfield, Mass., the foundation apparently decided to settle for small steps. It has bought “Green Pastures,” a historic house across the street from that campus. Several generations of the family of D.L. Moody, the renowned evangelist, lived in the home, which will be converted into a C.S. Lewis Study Center.