February 28, 2014

Memories of Good Hope

I feel moved to tell you that I have such wonderfully warm memories of Good Hope Baptist Church in Youngsville, NC. My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents are all buried there, along with a slew of other relations. I hope you’ll forgive my foray into my childhood memories of Good Hope. Walk with me, if you will.

When I was a child, we lived in Jacksonville, NC (daddy was a proud Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune) but we “came home” to Raleigh and the “Hurricanes” almost every weekend. If not, certainly every other weekend. Mama and I often came home to stay with my grandparents whenever daddy deployed overseas. We always attended church at Good Hope, especially on Mother’s Day when they held homecoming and at Easter.

Back then (I was born in 1959), Good Hope did not yet have indoor plumbing. I always dreaded going to Good Hope because it meant I’d have to use the outhouse. I was so afraid of that outhouse! It was far down a path into the woods behind the cemetery. I imagined it was haunted and I was sure there were snakes along the path. My father would walk me down to the outhouse and patiently wait for me. He was very sweet and sympathetic about my fears. My mother thought I was being silly. She’d used that outhouse for 40 years!

Attending church at Good Hope was an all day affair. We’d arrive early so we could visit the cemetery and place fresh flowers on the graves. We would stand over each and every grave recalling memories of the buried – some good, some not so good.  Then, there was Sunday School and Church – which always seemed to last longer than it should. We’d either stay for lunch on the grounds or go to a nearby relative’s house for lunch. There were plenty of nearby relatives to choose from. We’d stay all day so we could go back to evening services. If we had lunch on the grounds, my mother would get up with the dawn to prepare an entire meal to take….fried chicken, potato salad, green beans, a pound cake, and “rot your teeth” sweetened iced tea. You’d think we were feeding the entire congregation.

Among the long tables of food, I’d always search out my mother’s dishes. They were better than anyone else’s. Often, we’d drive all the way back to Jacksonville (about 3 hours to the southeast) after evening services. I have to admit, as a teenager, I was not particularly gracious or tolerant of these all day visits to Good Hope. But I went anyhow – my mother would never have allowed me to NOT go. Even in college, I drove the 6 hours one way to be at Good Hope on Mother’s Day with my mother or to attend family reunions at Good Hope. It was expected and I complied.

Mother’s Day was a particularly important Sunday at Good Hope. As with many churches, mothers in the congregation were recognized by the minister. We paid our respects to the oldest mother, the youngest mother, and the mother with the most children (God Bless HER!). The pastor always gave us a lesson on mothers and the sacrifices they made for us.

Each year in the spring, mama would take me to Hudson Belk in downtown Raleigh to buy a new outfit which would do double duty for Easter and Mother’s Day. I’d get the whole nine yards…a new petticoat, a PollyAnna dress, matching tights or frilly socks, patent leather shoes, handbag, and new white gloves. I even got a new Sunday hat if we could find one that went with my outfit. My mother was a southern lady to the core. Ladies always wore patent leather shoes and white gloves to church. The gloves must be white and they must have pearls on them. After shopping for what seemed like hours to a little girl – and probably was - we’d have lunch at the cafeteria on the top floor of Hudson Belk. I’ll always remember my mother’s comments, “they use real silver and china”.  Just as it should be for a country girl from Granville County who grew up dirt poor always longing for a different life.

Back then, roads around Good Hope were not paved. Between the dirt roads, the outhouse, and the red Granville County clay in the cemetery it was almost impossible for a little girl to keep her white shoes, gloves, and frilly dresses clean. I usually came home a mess. Sometimes, mama would take a play outfit for me to change into after church. That was the best and I can still recall how wonderful it felt to change into my play clothes and have the freedom to play to my heart’s content around the graves of my ancestors.

My daddy died February 11, 1997. Mom died ten weeks later on April 2, 1997 – of a broken heart, I’m sure. They were married 45 years. They had purchased a family plot at Good Hope many years prior, and that is where they are buried. My mother dearly loved Good Hope and all the people there. My father loved Good Hope simply because he loved my mother. His family was from Johnston County and he grew up in the Primitive Baptist church. I’m sure he thought the folks at Good Hope were far too liberal for their own good.

My daddy was in the US Marine Corps for 23 years. Most of that time, he was stationed at Camp Lejeune with the 2nd Marine Division. He loved his Corps as much as he loved his family. I remember him saying “God, County, Family”. He loved us in that order. Daddy saw action in Korea and Vietnam. He did two tours of duty in Vietnam. He has who knows how many awards, stripes, and purple hearts. He truly felt that doing his part for his country was one and same of doing his part for his family. He was seriously wounded in Korea and spent months in a hospital in Philadelphia. He lost his hearing in the service from too many long nights on firing ranges and far away battlefields. He lost his health in service to his country. He spent his last years suffering terribly from lung disease, crippling arthritis, and past war wounds – both physical and not physical.

I often wonder what he would say about this latest war. I’ve no doubt he would fully and completely support our President and our troops. It would never occur to him to do otherwise. He would look at the protesters on TV in disdain and shake his head. What do they know about the price of freedom?

I can still hear the young Marines playing taps and firing their guns in salute to him when we laid him to rest at Good Hope. I can even smell the gunfire.  I have the American flag they so carefully folded from his casket just before we returned him to God’s ground. They presented the flag to my son who was only 6 years old at the time. Will he truly understand and appreciate what that flag means? I do hope so. We will cherish it forever.

I have to agree with my father on many counts. After all the sacrifices my family has made for the love of enduring freedom, I also have to wonder “What do they know”?  After all, it wasn’t just my father who sacrificed for his country, although he paid a very hefty price for his commitment to God, country, and family. His family paid a price as well. I try to remember that as I watch the news at night and I hear of families struggling without deployed loved ones. They are all sacrificing for their country. That’s as it should be. If we aren’t willing to sacrifice for our country and our ideals, what are we?

I like to think that Good Hope is the peaceful and God-centered place that it is because of men like my father and women like my mother. May they rest in peace and always know the enduring freedom of God’s love.

Carla Stancil 
October 2003

No comments:

Post a Comment