The wind was coming off the river, cold and wet with gusts so powerful that the roof shook. The old tobacco barn had seen many storms and the wood-burning potbellied stove radiated warmth and comfort. The new pews were almost finished with a last coat of varnish drying, polishing. and then they would be moved into the Sanctuary.
Ted and me working together had completed the task several weeks early, and now they would be ready for the coming Christmas services. Deacon had come to me and said my time to leave was near, and he had one more thing that he wanted me to do for him. He handed me a certificate saying that I was now a master carpenter. It was time for me to continue my journey. Deacon stood near the pews admiring what we had built, yet I could tell he was sad, tired, and worried.
With a deep sigh, he said he had lived a full life and had not always been a Deacon. He had lived hard and always walked on the edge and now the end was near. His body was collecting the dues for this rugged life. He had cancer and maybe had a few weeks left before he would be called home. He looked into my eyes and asked if I would carve his Urn and take his ashes back to his home. He grew up in Savannah, Georgia working as a carpenter building shrimp boats, and he wanted his ashes scattered from a shrimp boat down by the docks.
How could I refuse Deacon, who gave me a place to stay, taught me a trade, and believed in me. With a deep sorrow I agreed, and he said you might want to start carving soon. He walked over to the wood bins and picked out some cherry wood rubbing his hands over the smooth wood then handing it to me. He turned and walked away whistling an old blues song. I put the wood on the workbench knowing his Urn would be a labor of love for a dear friend.
They say that you can never go back again, yet if you can write a story, if you can reach back and touch those distant memories, you can go back again. I can still feel the smooth surface of the Urn and the beauty of its deep cherry wood finish. This was an act of love and kindness. That is what I learned from my friend Deacon Watts.
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