They Got In!

They Got In!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith

They Got In!

I was the younger of two boys and was literally a “mama’s boy.” Every morning that I was not on the road speaking, I had a routine.... I got up and went to 7-Eleven to get my mother a cup of coffee and a sausage biscuit. Mama loved a good sausage biscuit. If I was on the road, I made it a habit to call her every day no matter where I was in the world. Even in Australia and New Zealand, I got up extra early so I could talk to her awhile before she went to bed. When I got married, I bought a house a mile away from my mama so I could see her every day.

On April 11, 2003, my mother died. I was devastated. She was not only my mother, but also my advisor and my biggest supporter. We had a tremendous home-going celebration for her. It was the day before Easter, and she would have celebrated her seventy-fifth anniversary of being baptized that Easter, so it was fitting that we memorialized her that day. We brought in the best of the best singers and speakers. Les Brown (her almost-son) spoke, and I spoke and sang, and then my brother, Noble, the master musician and evangelist, spoke.

After the funeral I took the rest of the month of April off so my brother and I could get all of Mama’s affairs in order. We worked closely every day and even traveled together to Virginia (where Mama was buried) a couple of times to make sure everything was perfect. We leaned on and loved each other, as always.

At the beginning of May, I felt like I was finally ready to get back to work. Then at 8:30 in the morning on May 6, I got a call from my niece saying Noble had collapsed! I rushed to his house and watched as the paramedics worked feverishly on him, and then we followed the ambulance to the hospital and waited for news. Finally a team of doctors came in and reported what we had dreaded. Noble had died of a massive heart attack.

I called my wife and told her to come pick me up because I was too shaken to drive. I got home and just sat at my desk with my head in my hands and cried, trying to fathom the fact that my big brother had died, twenty-five days after my mother. I could not believe this terrible storm was raging in my life; I did not know the storm was not over.

At 5:30 that same day, as I sat at my desk with my head still in my hands, the phone rang. My son picked it up, and I heard him gasp. He turned to me. “Dad, Aunt Rose just called to say that Granddad just died!” Eight hours after my brother and twenty-five days after my mother, my father-in-law, the Rev. Rivers S. Taylor, died. He was not just my wife’s father, but my mentor, my friend, my surrogate dad. He had taken the time to talk to me over the years and taught me how to be a good father and husband. He was one of the people I respected most in the world, and now he too was gone. It was unbelievable, unfathomable, yet true.

In less than thirty days I had eulogized three of my closet allies and family members. I didn’t know how I would be able to go on. I realized that no matter how positive a person is, death is always painful and always difficult. Yet, it is a road we all must walk sooner or later, so I walked the road and tried to hold on to my faith, even as my heart was breaking. I prayed for strength to somehow make it through this storm. I read the Book of Job over and over again and became acutely connected to him. I understood what it was like to be hit with one loss after another loss after another loss, without time to catch your breath, yet to fight through the pain, hold on to your faith and continue to give God the glory.

About a month after the funerals I was still struggling with the grief and the pain. One day I walked in my office and saw the message light on my phone. It was a voice from the past, the Rev. W. H. Law, an old friend of my mother’s we hadn’t seen in many years. I thought it was quite a coincidence that he would call now, because when Mama died, Noble and I tried to locate his number but we could not find it anywhere. So when Noble died I was doubly sad I could not reach him. Yet, here was a message, out of the blue, from Rev. Law. I was so stunned to hear his voice on the message that I could hardly dial the number.

When he answered, I was filled with emotion and said, “Rev. Law, this is Willie Jolley, I... I... am so glad to hear your voice. How are you?”

“Willie, I’m doing fine, son. Are you still doing the work of the Lord and speaking to people around the country?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“Very good, very good! You know, I tried calling your mom’s house and got no answer. And then I tried to call Noble and got no answer, so I decided to give you a call and check on how everyone is doing. Tell me how your mother’s doing? And how is your brother Noble?”

I was quiet for a few seconds, then managed to speak. “Well, Rev. Law, I hate to tell you this, but Mama has gone on to be with the Lord.”

Rev. Law was silent for a second and then said, “What? Are you telling me that your mama got in?”

I swallowed hard. “And Noble passed away twenty-five days after Mama, and my father-in-law, Rev. Taylor, passed later the same day!”

Rev. Law exclaimed, “What? Are you telling me that your mama and your brother and your father-in-law, they all got in?”

Then I heard the phone drop. And in the background I heard this old feeble voice shouting, “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! They got in! They got in! They got in!”

He picked up the phone. “Willie Boy, I’m ninety-four years old, and I am still preaching and teaching and visiting the sick and the shut-in and those in the prisons and sending clothes and money to people all around the world. I get up early and go to bed late, working as hard as I can, doing all that I can to get in! Willie, you need to shout and celebrate, because your mama, your brother and your father-in-law—they got in!”

In those few minutes, it was like someone had lifted the burden and the grief off my shoulders and I was given a new lease on life. In only a few minutes this man had changed my whole perspective and made me realize that my mother and brother and father-in-law had gotten what we all want to get... they got in.

Yet, this is not the end of the story. I asked Rev. Law if he would like to get a copy of the video from Mama’s funeral, where Noble gave one of the most powerful sermons I’d ever heard. He was quiet and then said softly, “Ahh... sure. Sure, send me the tape.”

I got his address and repeated it to him, and he assured me it was correct and I told him I would get it out immediately. I hung up, addressed the package to him and sent the tape out in that day’s mail.

A week or so later I was surprised when the package I sent to Rev. Law was returned to me in the mail. I looked to see why, and the message stated, “Returned to sender...undeliverable as addressed—no forwarding order on file.” I couldn’t believe it. I was confident I had the right address. I went to the computer and checked the address, and it was correct. So I picked up the phone to call Rev. Law to confirm the address one more time. When I called I heard, “The phone number is no longer in service.” I dialed again: “The phone number is no longer in service.”

I called the operator and asked her to check the number. She did and said that not only was it disconnected, but that number had not been working for a long time. I couldn’t believe it. I had just spoken to Rev. Law at that number a week ago. How could it be?

And then it hit me. God had sent an angel in the form of Rev. W. H. Law to reach out to me and help relieve me of the overwhelming burden of grief I was bearing, and to let me know that all was well with my mother, my brother and my father-in-law. God had sent Rev. Law to let me know that “They got in! They got in! They got in!”

~Willie Jolley

Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2

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