My grandfather died a hero.
He was 30 years old.
They say that he was funny and warm and lovable. A dark-haired, olive-skinned, impressively handsome small-town boy who lied about his age and signed up to fight in World War II when he was nothing more than a child. He fought that war and came home to marry a girl from the same small town, my grandmother, and together they built a life, nine years of marriage and four small children.
My mother was four years old when he died.
She has one memory of him. She was in the pen with some pigs, and they were scaring her. She remembers her daddy coming to her rescue, scooping her up and sitting her safely on the fence, out of reach of the wild little pigs. It’s almost like a hazy daydream, that kind of memory. But, it’s there, God’s gift to a girl whose daddy couldn’t stay.
On the day he died, he was riding a company bus, and it collided with a gasoline truck. Witnesses at the scene told and retold the stories of how he kept going back, again and again, pulling as many people to safety as he could before he collapsed, overcome by his own injuries. He died, but not before he saved others.
I wonder how they delivered that news to my grandmother, living so far from home in a foreign terrain, a Texas girl driven to New Mexico thanks to job opportunity and promise for her young family. Two days later she would return to the small town where they married, stair-step children clinging to her– eight, four, two, and one–to bury their father before he even had the chance to experience his third decade on the planet.
The story of my grandfather would be too sad to even think about, if it weren’t for Christ.
But, He wraps all the sad stories in true hope, and this one is no exception. George Henry Porter was born in 1925, and he died in 1955, and somewhere along the way, he met Jesus. He knew the Savior well long before he saw Him face to face on that August day. He was just a man, working hard to support a family he loved. He never experienced great position or even really got the chance to see where his potential might take him. But, in his short life he glorified God in untold ways.
This man with maybe an 8th grade education probably never imagined that words he wrote would live on to bring comfort to his family after his own death, and to speak a testimony of faith in God even when things happen that we simply cannot understand. But, his words still speak, thanks to a letter he wrote to his mother shortly after they learned that his brother Bowen had been killed in action. So much godly wisdom from a then twenty-year-old soldier. The letter was printed in his hometown newspaper, next to his obituary.
If you are going through an unimaginable situation today, I pray that the words of my grandfather, who was affectionately known as Ham, will speak God’s peace to you today. I’m looking forward to seeing my mother sit with him one day, hearing all the stories she ever wanted to hear about the daddy she never really knew. Heaven will be filled with so many sweet reunions.
Okinawa July 25, 1945
I hardly know how the begin this letter. I suppose you know by now that Bowen was killed by an artillery shell on June 19th. I don’t know when you found out, but me and Clyde have known it for some time. I just went to his C.I. and found out all about it. He never suffered a minute, and all the boys said he was a good soldier. Me and Clyde never did get to see him. But, it is for the best. I can send you a picture of the grave if you want one.
Mom, I know how you feel. We don’t understand why God took him and left some of the others that take His name in vain, but it is just one of those things that wasn’t meant that we understand. We just have to trust in God and believe it is all for the best. You remember the story of Job, how Job was a man of God and yet God took nine of his sons. I am sure Job didn’t understand that either, but yet he trusted in God and he was blessed greatly for his faith.
It’s not as if he is gone forever–he was a Christian, and the Holy Bible tells us that it is a better life after death for a man of God. We will see him again, and next time there will be no wars or sad partings. We know that because the Bible tells us so. Remember all things work together and to the good of those that love the Lord. And I am not the only one that has lost a brother, and you are not the only one that has lost a son. They are lined up for hundreds of yards on each side of him. There is only one difference in you and most of the other Mothers–he is in paradise, while the others have no room for such faith. For they don’t believe it their self, and you have two left that love you above all and always will. I’ll close for now and write again soon.
Your loving son,
A HEART SET ON PILGRIMAGE
What a beautiful example of the legacy our lives are called to leave. Thank you for sharing this story. Your grandfather died a hero for sure – in many ways!
Thanks so much!
Wow! I love the story of your grandfather, a hero. You are right, the sadness of your grandmothers story can move us to tears for her. What shines through is the legacy of FAITH. Her journey of survival must be an amazing story in it self. The words of the letter your grandfather wrote to his Mother are so inspiring. Thank you for sharing. You penned it so beautifully
Thanks so much, Barbara! Yes, my grandmother was a tough lady, I know. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like for her. Writing this really helped me to appreciate what she must’ve gone through–since I knew her as an older woman I had never really dwelt on this time of her life very much. Thanks so much for reading!
Jenny Michelle Rapson
I loved reading this Melissa. Thank you for sharing. <3 My grandfather also died young at 44 (heart attack) and I am SO thankful that I will meet him one day because of our shared faith in Christ.
Thank you, Jenny! Maybe our grandfathers are hanging out together. 🙂
So beautifully written by you and by your grandfather. What a legacy he has left so many! It will be a happy, glorious day when you get to meet him and tell him how much he means to you, how much you’ve loved him all of your life because of others who have told you about him and because of his letter of love and hope. You have a treasure now on earth and a treasure in Heaven! I hope to meet him, too, when I get there!
Thanks so much for these sweet words, Sandi!
EDNA JOYCE BRINEGAR
I HEARD THAT STORY ALL MY LIFE………BUT NOT THE LETTER HE WROTE TO HIS MOTHER…………THANK YOU FOR SHARING…….EDNA JOYCE BRINEGAR
Thanks for reading, Edna Joyce!
Oh Melissa! You made me cry! Thanks for this blog. Ask Margaret about his carpentry skills sometime.
I will, Sandy!:-) Thank you!
This story has come up on my feed for several days and I have been to busy to read it. I almost missed a blessing. I met your Grandmother when I was 17 or 18 when she worked at Quickway. She was my friend. I never knew this (her) story. What an amazing women. Ham was a wise man at such a young age. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for taking the time to read it, Veronica! I had forgotten that you worked together. It always amazes me all of the stories that people have and what they’ve lived through that we often know nothing about. That’s one reason I try not to assume anything about senior adults. Many of them have lived through things that we could never imagine. Thanks for your comment!