'Let us now praise famous men'
Roy Harrison Luster had all the hopes and dreams of any young American man in his early 20s. He was married and was the father of three beautiful daughters. Times, however, were hard. The very early days of the Great Depression had gripped the throat of America like a vise.
There were no safety nets in those days: no food stamps, no rent assistance, and no unemployment. There was no health insurance, and there were very few jobs. Somehow Roy kept things together and it was then that things got horribly, unimaginably worse. In a day when there were few treatments for deadly diseases that have now been virtually eliminated, Roy contracted typhoid fever.
I have often wondered what went through Roy’s mind during that terrible sickness. Did he worry for his wife? Did he wonder what would happen to his daughters, the oldest of which, I was told, was around 5? When the illness had its full effect and he knew he was dying, did he wonder if his life mattered?
The fever consumed him and Roy Luster died. He was 24 years old. He was my grandfather.
Eventually, my grandmother met a man, Charles Daniel Duckett, and married him. He became the father figure for the little girls and he would be Grandpa to the children born to the daughters.
Roy Luster was a mystery to me, like some shadow figure shrouded by the past. I had, and still have, a photo of him — strong, handsome, and full of life and hope. My understanding is that my aunt Blanche, the oldest of the girls, had some memories of him. My mother, Kathleen, the middle child, never spoke of him. I assume that Ruby, the youngest daughter, carried no memory of her father with her.
The ancient Jewish Book of Sirach, chapter 44, begins with:
“Let us now sing the praises of famous men, our ancestors in their generations ... all these were honored in their generations, and were the pride of their times. Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise.”
But the writing continues, “But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed; they have become as though they had never been born ...”
This is what I often thought when I looked at the photograph of the grandfather I never knew. I do not even know where he is buried. But, it would be a great mistake to believe that he left behind nothing of value, that he left no legacy.
In time, Blanche married Ray Flynn and they had Danny. Danny and his wife had a daughter who married and had a daughter. Kathleen married Bill Epps and had two sons, myself and Wayne. My wife and I had three sons, three grandsons, and eight granddaughters. Wayne and his wife had a daughter, a granddaughter, and a grandson.
Ruby married John Honeycutt and they had John, Jeff, and Pashia. Jeff and his wife had two sons, a grandson, a granddaughter, and another granddaughter is on the way. Pashia had two sons, two grandsons, and another grandchild is on the way.
Altogether, Roy Luster and his wife Pashie have had (so far) three daughters, five grandsons, one granddaughter, two great-granddaughters, seven great-grandsons, 10 great-great granddaughters, eight great-great-grandsons, and two more great-great-grandchildren on the way.
Sirach continues with these words:
“But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten; their wealth will remain with their descendants, and their inheritance with their children’s children. Their descendants stand by the covenants; their children also, for their sake. Their offspring will continue forever, and their glory will never be blotted out. Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.”
Those of us who came, and will come, from Roy Harrison Luster and his wife, Pashie Tunnell Luster Duckett, are grateful for his short but difficult life. If you are looking down, Grandfather, generations of your descendants are remembering you this weekend.
Though you may have never heard your infant daughters say it, “Happy Father’s Day!” It mattered that you were here. You are remembered.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]