At Jim Nason’s funeral in Montgomery last Monday afternoon, his former wife gave the eulogy. “This is a first,” I told Anne. “Oh? Maybe I shouldn’t do it,” she said. “Oh no,” I reassured her. “I’m just saying I’ve never preached a funeral where the ex-wife paid tribute. I think it’s just fine.” And it was. She and her former sister-in-law had wonderful things to say about his life and character.
Back in the early to mid-80s, Jim Nason had served as our maintenance supervisor at the First Baptist Church of Columbus, Mississippi, where I pastored. If ever a man was over-qualified for a position, he was that one. At various stages in his life, he worked as a commercial pilot and flight instructor and any number of other jobs. “He was a perfectionist,” Anne said, and told of the time he was teaching her to fly.
“He reached over and shut off the engine,” she said, “while we were taking off. It was so frightening. Later, he explained that he was trying to prepare me for emergencies. I said, ‘Well, the least you could have done was warn me.’ Jim said, ‘Emergencies never come with a warning. They happen when you least expect them.'” Anne considered it one of the best lessons she ever learned.
While Margaret and I were in Alabama Sunday through Tuesday, I was interested to see that New Orleans’ plight is still being kept before the readers of the Birmingham News and USA Today. The only time I read the latter paper is when I’m out of town, it seems. Among other things, the Birmingham paper had articles on restaurants that have reopened and those that haven’t, while USA Today was running an editorial page invitation for residents in our part of the world to write a letter with their Katrina story; several letters were run. I’m considering sending mine.
Tuesday night back at home, I sat at the table with a bowl of my favorite food and read the Times-Picayunes I had missed Monday and Tuesday. Whereas the papers I had read in Alabama had a little Katrina-type/New Orleans coverage, the local paper was saturated with post-hurricane-rebuilding stories. Welcome home. It’s the major fact of our existence down here. One feature was calling on residents to be prepared for the next hurricane.
They used to tell us that hurricane preparedness meant stocking up on canned foods such as vienna sausage and potted meat, jugs of water, and such. Occasionally, someone would add, “My daddy always told us to keep a hatchet in the attic.” In case they were stranded inside and had to hack their way out to the roof. Like there’s a likelihood of that happening, most of us know-it-alls thought, back then in the antediluvian days.
These days, hurricane preparedness is not about staying, but leaving.