This is the 3rd installment of my blog series titled Faithful Fridays. Click the link if you desire to read the first two. Otherwise proceed on with this post.
As previously stated I was raised Baptist. Sort of. We didn't attend church often but when we did it was Baptist.
In the other Faithful Friday posts I mentioned my bond with my great grandmother. I was a brat and threw a fit as a small child if my mom tried to leave me with anyone other than my granny Bartlett. Granny Bartlett pretty much gave me everything I wanted. Food, toys, entertainment. Granddad Bartlett was a neighborhood ice cream man. He drove the north side of Amarillo in an old red and rust colored International. amongst family he had the reputation of being a mean man but upon his death lots of young men and women came forward to tell us, Grandad's family about his generosity. How he used to give them Nutty Buddies and Ice Cream sandwiches when they didn't have enough money to buy them, but Grandad Bartlett is not the subject of this post.
Lucille Bartlett was born January 1, 1904. I'm not certain she was born in Bethany Missouri, but I can for fact say that is where she grew up. Her family was Methodist in those days. Somewhere along the way she married my great-grandpa Orville and they moved to Texas. And became Baptists. My mother was their eldest daughter granddaughter. In 1972 I arrived. By that time Lucille and Orville had a slew of grand kids. Great and otherwise. But like I said we had a close bond and I spent countless hours with my granny Bartlett.
By the mid eighties Granny Bartlett's health was beginning to fail. Alzheimer's' plagued her and she often got confused. Granny Bartlett did not always know where she was at or what year it was but never not once did she fail to remember my name.
It was October of 1987 when Granny Bartlett was admitted into the hospital for what would be the last time. Frail and confused she couldn't have weighed more the 90 pounds at the time. Until she'd gotten in such bad health granny Bartlett had been an avid reader of the bible. and she had continued to get cassette tapes listen to sermons from a local Baptist Church long after she was able to actually attend services.
But because of her prolonged illness and absence from church the pastor that came to visit her in those final days did not actually know my grandmother or anything about her. Somewhere int eh discussions the man discovered my great-grandmother having been raised Methodist had been sprinkled for her baptism rather than the full dunking the Baptist Church deemed necessary.
The conversation took an ugly turn from that point on and the end result was my great-granny, an 83 year-old-woman on her deathbed was now convinced she was going to burn in hell simply because she had merely been sprinkled and not submerged.
Was my granny confused? Disoriented? No doubt. But did that Baptist preacher try to bring her comfort? did he go out of his way to alleviate a dying woman's fears? Did he attempt to right the wrong he inadvertently initiated?
No. he stood before my family and said, "We can baptize her the correct way right here in the church. That should make her feel better."
And that is what we did.
Did it make her feel better. Maybe spiritually and mentally, but i cans till hear her cries of pain as they dunked her. I can still see the tears of anguish filling her eyes. I can still feel the burn of shame that we, her family allowed that man to terrify and taint her final days on this earth.
Do I believe God is the kind of anal-retentive creator that would insist on some absurd set of rules that must all be followed to an exact T and in an identical way before he would grant passage into a heavenly ever after.
No only no, but hell no.
The event pissed me off then and it pisses me off now. I wish I could apologize to my grandmother. i wish I had been big enough then and man enough to toss that self righteous preacher out on his butt. Was it right to condemn an entire religious denomination based on one fool's act? Was it right to turn my back on God and all organized religion two decades?
Probably not, but that is exactly what I did when on October 23, 1987 my great-grandmother, Lucille Bartlett departed this world.