THE LIFE THAT COUNTS
By Ashley Johnston
He was born, lived, and died in the same small town. He only went to school through the sixth grade. He worked hard for many years to provide for his family. He died at the age of 93. It may sound mundane, but he lived a life fuller than most people live on this earth. He lived a life that counts.
I flew to Tennessee last month to attend his funeral. I have to admit that I did not know my grandfather Herman Frasier, or “Pa,” as we all called him, as well as I would have liked to. I just knew that he seemed to always be smiling. He was very even-tempered. He took naps a lot. He was quiet most of the time. He and my grandma would collect pennies in a little basket for me so that every time I came to visit about every three months, I could get my “Ashley pennies.” He loved to sing old hymns and ballads. He liked to take long walks in the woods and pick wildflowers for my grandma. He loved the Lord and loved to go to church. And there was always something about him that was so simple and serene.
He and my grandmother were married for 73 years. He was 20 and she was 16 when they got married. During their marriage, they had eight children, one of which died in infancy. My mother was the youngest. Their marriage was rocky at first. My grandpa, even though it is hard to imagine now, apparently liked the bottle quite a bit in the beginning. My grandma had to give him an ultimatum: either quit the booze or leave. He quit the booze. And not long after that, there was a dynamic transformation in his life when he trusted Christ as his Savior. From that day on, he shared with others the joy that God had given him.
His funeral was the first time I experienced both joy and grief at the same time. His sweetheart of 73 years was heartbroken. I spent a few moments with her, just the two of us. I really didn’t know what to say. I just patted her shoulder and said, “He was precious.” She sighed and said, “Yes, he was. And I tried everyday to let him know just how precious he was.” My heart broke. So many people on this earth cannot spend a full year together as a married couple. Some people spend 20, 30, even 50 years together in an embittered relationship only to separate or file for divorce. But my grandma, after 73 years, was yearning to be with him for just one more moment. Her heart and his heart had become one. She respected him and loved him more than anyone else on this earth, and that says a lot these days.
As I sat in the church pew watching people standing in line to view his body, I noticed how many people there were that I had never seen before. It turned out that not only I hadn’t seen them before, but no one else had seen them in 30 years. One lady said to my Aunt Brenda, “I will never forget the time when my husband had a terrible logging accident and was not able to work for such a long time. I would sit with him in the nursing home for hours, and quite often, Herman would come to visit. We would talk a bit, laugh, and at the end of each visit, he would shake my hand, and in his hand would be a wad of money. And we needed it bad.”
Another man told my aunt, “You know, I used to see Herman every week or so in my grocery store. He’d always be getting some fruit. I do never really knew him or talked to him much, but I always remember that before he’d come in, I’d often be in a bad mood about something. But by the time he left, I’d be in a much better mood and would wonder what I was brooding over in the first place.”
The mail lady that delivered their mail for years, and still does, came to the funeral as well. Pa knew that she would deliver the mail each day around 11:00 a.m., when he would be home for lunch, and, being the giving person he was, he would put a piece of fruit—either an apple, orange, or banana—in the mail for her just before she came. One day, they were all out of fruit, but my grandma had just baked some sweet potatoes, and Pa told my grandma he was going to wrap up a sweet potato and put it in the mail. She didn’t think the mail lady would be too appreciative of that, but it turned out, the mail lady said, that she hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, and she was starving by the time she got to that mailbox. “I hadn’t reached the top of the mountain yet,” she said, “and I had already eaten that sweet potato.”
At his visitation at the church, my Aunt Norma and the music director noticed that a man was outside blowing leaves and rocks off the church parking lot. They walked over to him and thanked him. He told them that he was ill, but when he heard Pa had died, he thought, “I can do something for him, even if it’s small.” My aunt told him that he didn’t have to do what he was doing and should go inside to get warm, but he said, “Yes, I do have to do this for the man that was so good to me.”
A friend of my Aunt Doris said that she told her daughter she was going to the funeral of Herman Frasier. She and her daughter had only been in the area about three or four years. “Now, she had never met Herman before, and I don’t think I ever told her about him, but she turned to me and asked, ‘Mom, is that the man that people are talking about all over town who just died and was so good?’” Yes, he touched many lives. He was a joyful, lively, godly man. He raised his children to love God, and they do. They also love their father who showed the love of God to them. He lived the life that God would have wanted him to live. He only had a sixth grade education. He was not an intellectual by any means. He lived simply. He had enough money to provide for his family and even save up. What is most important is that he lived a faithful life, not only to his family, but to his God. He was not perfect by any means, but he lived in simple faith ever since he put his trust in Christ. Everyone that knew him cried at his funeral because he touched their lives so deeply. We were all sad to see him go. There were people there that he had talked to about what God had done for them through Jesus when no one else would. There were people there that were offended by him at first when he told them that they need Jesus because they’re headed to one of two places after this life—Heaven or Hell. But, in the end, we were all sad to see him go. It was and is so convicting to me. I can only think of the rewards he will receive in eternity because of his humble, selfless, faithful life on this earth, and then think, “What have I done? How selfless have I been? What joy, what love have I given to people?”The pastor at the funeral said that often he would visit Pa in the last months of his life, since he could no longer attend church. He would ask Pa what was on his heart and what they could pray for together. Pa would always say with the utmost sincerity, “Pastor, pray for the church. And pray that the people who don’t know Jesus would come to know Him so they can have eternal life.”
Yes, he was precious. He knew what life is all about and why man was created. He walked in fellowship with his Creator. This earth had him for 93 years, but he lived a life above this old earth. There was a verse that was put on the front of his memorial service program that fits him well, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). But another verse also comes to my mind, 2 Peter 1:10-11: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” I believe that my Pa lived a spiritually fruitful life that was noted by God. He was faithful in the little things. And because of his life, he will be given an abundant entrance into his heavenly home. Many rewards will await him, for he lived a full life in every sense of the word. He lived the life that counts.