I have known William Holder for more than 40 years. At our first meeting, I came away from his home feeling he was pretty gruff. He was younger then, as was I, and I felt that he was combative concerning church, faith, and matters spiritual. His wife was then, as she always has been, quiet and sweet and of a beautiful spirit. She attended our church, but in those early years he did not come much, until his eventual retirement. I was given the honor of preaching his godly mother’s funeral, and Bill and I were drawn a bit closer. Then it just happened, with no momentous event that stands out in either of our minds but gradually, with the passing of the winters and arrivals of the springs, we became friends.
Our respect for each other grew and today, I think I can speak for both of us in saying that there is genuine, Christian love in our hearts, the one for the other. Bill has listened to hundreds of my sermons, and the days when he would as soon argue a point as accept it have long since ceased. I have preached more than one of his loved one’s funerals. He has stood by my family as we have suffered the anguish of loved ones taken from us by the icy, cold grip of death. Our tears have paralleled each other’s as they have trickled down time-worn cheeks.
Now, Bill greets me with a broad smile. His dear wife, shoulders a bit more stooped by the gravity of years, still has her beautiful countenance through all the heartaches that she may have suffered; and, in spite of the physical challenges of toting first grandchildren and then great grandchildren back and forth to church, to school, to eating places and to wherever duty demanded, she still manages a smile that seems to say, “Good to see you.” The Holders have been there through the thick and thin for many, many years. We’ve kind of grown old(er) together. I don’t even think Mr. Holder is technically a member of our church, but his place in our body as well as in all of our hearts is undeniable, and his mark is indelible.
Some thirty years ago, Bill wrote a poem about an elderly couple, in their nineties, that he had observed in a restaurant. As a Christmas gift to you, I’d like to share his poem, which he entitled “Agape Love”:
“I first saw them in the parking lot, both with hair as white as snow. Walking hand in hand, moving rather slow. Shoulders bent and rounded, from toil and many a year; probably in their nineties, gently smiling, full of cheer. There seemed to be a glow, on each wrinkled face. They chatted with each other, walking at a steady pace. Four legs strode in unison, as if their bodies were one; keeping up a steady cadence, having moved together so long. To the restaurant door they moved; he opened and held the door, and gently held her arm, to evade slipping on the floor. They stopped at a corner table, as if it were their own. He helped her remove her coat, held the chair as she sat down. The waitress came by with the menu, they smiled and said “hello.” She asked “Will you have the usual?” as if she seemed to know. The meal was brought to the table, she gave a little nod. They gently held the other’s hands, bowed their heads, and remembered God. Throughout the meal they chatted, occasionally one would grin. You’d see their gentle hands come together now and then. When they finished eating, the waitress wandered by. They teased her about something, with a twinkle in their eye. She asked if they’d have desert, they said, “We must control our weight.” They talked about a piece of pie, and they settled on chocolate cake. The waitress came with the desert, with an extra fork and plate. The old lady carefully halved it, and shared it with her mate. When the meal was over, they sat and talked awhile. Gently touching the other’s hands, now and then they’d smile. He moved her chair and held her coat, the door he opened wide; she took his arm and they walked out, slowly side by side. They held hands across the lot, until they reached the car—a like new older Ford, shining like a star. He helped her in, gentle and kind, as if she were a queen. They drove away, her next to him, love like this is seldom seen. This is known as ‘agape love,’ that’s shared by God with man. Seldom do we see it expressed, in this old, evil land. When the New Jerusalem descends from God above, all that dwells within its walls, will share that kind of love.” (William L. Holder, 1989)
(Note: I first shared this poem in the December, 2012, TRBC Times and have reprinted it here, hoping that it will be a blessing to you this Christmas season.)
“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)