As I reflect upon the life and death of my grandaddy, I think about my life and where I came from. In a sense, my life started in the Highland Park area of Montgomery, Alabama. It was here that I began a life that has taken me to various places throughout the country, and even the world. However, to truly get a picture of what has shaped me and made me who I am (as if any of you care), you have to go to the tiny area of Pintlala and Hope Hull, Alabama. Hope Hull is on the southern side of Montgomery just off of I-65, and Pintlala is what my dad jokingly calls “a suburb of Hope Hull”. After all, Hope Hull did have the post office. It is in this tiny area in the great state of Alabama that the narrative that shaped, and continues to shape my life began.
My professor and friend, Dr. Mark Love likes to remind us that narratives shape us and are what we live by. It’s these great stories we remember and tell that become our truth and define who we are. He likes to talk about this not only for individuals, but also for churches. So, when I think about the narrative that shaped my life, it is a bit different than the one that shaped my dad’s.
My dad’s story began in this small city of Alabama, and it was very much a narrative of work. The Lassiter’s could be accused of a lot of things, but not working hard was never one of them. The men in this family learned how to work from the time they were young, and it continues today into their adult life. My grandaddy started Lassiter Construction Company, and they built roads and lakes through the state, particularly in central Alabama. The men in my family are hard working, and they worked hard to make a living in this tough world. I am very appreciative of this narrative of work, and it has shaped my brother and I in great ways. In fact, most of my memories of my grandaddy are from times we worked together. He taught my dad, his brothers, and a lot of us grandchildren about how to work, and work well. He was always creating new ways to accomplish a task and inventing new gadgets to help assist in the process. And along the way, we learned lots of sayings and proverbs that we lived by. For example, I learned when taking a lunch break at Hardees, you should get two apple pies. One for now, and one to put in the glove box for later, so my grandaddy would say. I’m grateful for the memories and funny stories we have of working with my grandaddy. I am also grateful for the narrative of work that we learned. However, I am also thankful that my dad added another chapter to this story.
Along the way of growing up, I worked a lot with my dad. He taught me to drive trucks, tinker under the hood of a car, fix stuff, and other useful things. We have rebuilt engines together (mostly him), changed tires together, fixed breaks, cut firewood, planted gardens, and on and on it goes. A lot of this goes back to my grandaddy. He always appreciated a good fruit tree and was eager to show you its production. He always had a broken piece of equipment somewhere around that needed work. We carried on some of this tradition. However, my dad wrote another chapter in the story of my life that has shaped me more than any other. I call this a narrative of love.
Some of my memories of my dad are from days working together, but by and large my greatest stories and memories come from the loving time we spent together. These stories are still being written. We have scouted woods together, killed and cleaned deer together, put up tree stands, caught fish, and much more, together. Even when he couldn’t be involved in the activity, I have memories of him standing on the sidelines or sitting in the stands watching me. I have watched him lead Bible studies, pray, baptize, and he has taught me much about how to love God and love other people. This is the narrative, one that began in Hope Hull Alabama, that has shaped me. I am the husband, father, and lover of people that I am today because of this chapter of the story.
So, as I reflect upon the death of my grandaddy and we prepare to return to Alabama for a funeral, I am saddened. In many ways it signals the end of an era. There is a large group of people that are here today and are who they are because of his life. There is also a man who raised and loved me so well because of that life, and I reflect today and am grateful. As our family mourns in various ways, I pray for peace. I also thank God for the story that has made me who I am, and I pray that I, like my own father, can write another faithful chapter in it for my children.