Fred Craddock tells the following story about his family. “My mother took us to church and Sunday school; my father didn’t go. He complained about Sunday dinner being later when she came home. Sometimes the preacher would call, and my father would say, “I know what the church wants. Church doesn’t care about me. Church wants another name, another pledge, another name, and another pledge. Right? Isn’t that the name of the game? Another name, another pledge.” That’s what he always said.
Sometimes we’d have a revival. Pastor would bring the evangelist and say to the evangelist, “There’s one now, sic him, get him, get him,” and my father would say the same thing. Every time, my mother in the kitchen, always nervous, in fear of flaring tempers, of somebody being hurt. And always my father said, “The church doesn’t care about me. The church wants another name and another pledge.” I guess I heard it a thousand times.
One time he didn’t say it. He was in the veteran’s hospital, and he was down to 73 pounds. They’d taken out his throat, and he said, “It’s too late.” They put in a metal tube, and X-rays burned him to pieces. I flew in to see him. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t eat. I looked around the room, potted plants and cut flowers on all the windowsills, a stack of cards twenty inches deep beside his bed. And even that tray where they put food, if you can eat, on that was a flower. And all the flowers beside the bed, every card, every blossom, were from persons or groups from the church.
He saw me read a card. He could not speak, so he took a Kleenex box and wrote on the side of it a line from Shakespeare. If he had not written this line, I would not tell you this story. He wrote: “In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.”
I said, “What is your story, Daddy?”
And he wrote, “I was wrong.”
Fred B. Craddock, Craddock Stories, Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, eds., Chalice Press, 2001, p. 14.