I grew up a PK; that’s Preacher’s Kid for anyone uninitiated in church lingo.
My Baptist preacher dad was known as “Brother Ed” to everyone in the small Missouri Ozark mountain town where he was a pastor. Dad was a self-educated man, having completed only the sixth grade of elementary school.
During Dad’s years as pastor of First Baptist Church of Van Buren, Mo., his favorite church member was Cindy Baker, whom he affectionately called “Aint” Cindy. Cindy Baker was 90 years young. She was sharp of mind, wit and tongue.
Many Sunday mornings, after being allowed the honor of ringing the bell in the church steeple, I would jump in the old Plymouth with the runningboards and dad and I would go to pick up Aint Cindy and bring her to church.
“Well it’s about time you got here. I was beginning to think you’d done furgot this ugly, wrinkled, old women,” Cindy quipped with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Now, Aint Cindy, how could I ever forget my sweetheart,” Dad replied with a broad grin, his Irish eyes smiling. Then off to church we’d go, the two of them exchanging loving insults and barbs.
Visiting with Aint Cindy on lazy summer afternoons was special to me. Cindy, sitting on her front porch in her favorite rocking chair, wad of tobacco in her jaw, would hold me spellbound with stories of coming from Indiana to Missouri in a covered wagon as a young child after the end of the Civil War.
Her stories of real Indians, campfires by the wagons and cowboys allowed me to touch a part of history, the stuff of which a boy’s fantasies and dreams were made.
It was while listening to my dad’s fervent gospel preaching that Cindy Baker’s oldest son made his “profession of faith in Jesus.” I was sitting on the front row of the church sanctuary that day.
Aint Cindy commenced to shout praises to the Lord. Frankly, it scared the Hades out of this 9-year-old PK. I was later informed that her shouts were expressions of great spiritual ecstasy.
In Dad’s thirty years in the pulpit, he never returned to a former pastorate for a wedding or funeral. He always said that was the new pastor’s role. There was to be only one exception to that pastoral ethic – Cindy Baker’s memorial service.
When that day finally arrived, I traveled back to Van Buren with Dad for this celebration of the life of our special friend. The church was packed beyond capacity. At the conclusion of the service, we all joined in singing Cindy’s favorite hymn, the one she always requested on “hymn sing night” at church, “There’s a Land Where We’ll Never Grow Old.”
Many years later, my brother and I led the memorial service for our preacher dad. I shall never forget Mom’s phone call informing me that she had gone into the bedroom “to check on Dad and found he had gone on to be with the Lord.”
After hanging up the phone, I stood in stunned silence. Then came a vision straight from heaven’s gate. There stood Aint Cindy, twinkle in her eyes and wad of chewing tobacco in her jaw, saying, “Well, it’s about time you got here. I was beginning to think you done went and furgot this ugly, wrinkled old women.”
And with Dad’s Irish eyes once again smiling, he replied, “Now, Aint Cindy, how could I ever forget my sweetheart?”
The writer lives in Princeton