My uncle Bruce Perry died June 1, 2019. It was a relief for him and everybody who loved him, because his body decided to quit before his mind and spirit were ready, and left him in great pain until his soul was finally released. Nevertheless, we all will miss him for a long time.
Uncle Bruce was one of those people that so many cynics would say, “Nobody is that terrific! You’re either ignorant or hiding something!”
He wasn’t perfect. He was always the first to admit that. He had a temper, he was impatient, and he had opinions that could put people’s backs up. But he was a solid family man, loved his wife even after she died, loved and worried about his sons and their children, didn’t drink, didn’t gamble, and only smoked cigars for a while.
Although he played for some time in a country and western band in honky-tonks, it was more for the pleasure of making music with his friends than any other reason. He worked hard during the days at various jobs, supporting his family and saving his money so that he and his wife could have a worry-free retirement. They looked forward to growing old together.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way. His wife became ill and their savings were drained. After she passed away, his health got worse and he spent more time than he wanted to in the hospital. His eyes and his ears began failing, totally frustrating him because he could no longer hear his beloved music, or easily read the Bible studies that were his main interest. He had to move in with his son Barney after his son Clay who had been living with and watching over him passed away. Such are the afflictions of age.
He didn’t like the change in his circumstances and it frustrated and annoyed him that he could no longer be independent, but he understood it. What he couldn’t understand was one anxiety that he could not get rid of and spoke to me continually about: Was he really saved?
When he first brought it up in conversation, I was astonished. I didn’t know many men who embodied the Christian virtues more than him. He had not always gone to church, but never stopped his prayers and Bible study. He didn’t smoke, drink, fool around, gamble, cuss, and very rarely spoke critically of other people.
I began to think he was sort of like Job. He was never rich with 10 kids, but there wasn’t much the Devil could use to torment him. He lost his wife, oldest son, and a grandchild , but that didn’t affect his relationship with God. He lost his savings and was cheated out of a lot of money by people he trusted, but he didn’t get angry with God. He lost his health, and then his independence, but he didn’t lose his faith.
What he lost was his confidence in his salvation. All the Devil could use was the guilt of a child and he used it well. You see, when my uncle was young they had preachers who, especially during revivals, would pressure the youths to ‘come forward and be saved!’ so they could quote numbers of souls saved. Services could last a long time until somebody came forward.
During one such service he and several other ‘unsaved’ boys were getting weary of the constant exhortations of the preacher and one finally suggested they just go forward and claim to repent and get baptized just so they could finally go home and get some sleep. Exhaustion won out over their reluctance to lie in church, and they went forward as a group.
Ever since, Uncle Bruce felt guilty about his lie and wondered if it meant he had never really been saved. He worried about it constantly. He knew and believed I talked with God all the time and asked me if I could find out if he was really saved. I told him God said, “He’d better wise up and stop letting the Devil get between them.” I had to repeat that often.
I don’t think he worries about it anymore. I figure if he showed up at the Pearly Gates and hesitated to go in because he wasn’t sure he qualified, Jesus might come out and grab him by the ear to drag him inside. I imagine he’s picking and grinning with an angel band now, and getting all his questions about things he read in the Bible answered. No painful failing body to bother him, no more anxiety, no more worries, but surrounded by love. A fitting end for a good man.