All week I have been thinking about our trip to Greene County. Me, him and Tim. A summer day. The Reverend’s VW convertible. The top down. The small towns and old tobacco fields of eastern North Carolina. The wind and the sun on our faces. The joy of it all.
He told stories all the way. It was like listening to the Book of Genesis, if Abraham and Isaac and the children of Israel had lived on the shores of Contentnea Creek instead of the land of Canaan.
We went to: his old school in Stantonsburg. The farm where he grew up. Middlesex, Snow Hill and Farmville. Friendship Church. His mother and father’s graves.
At Friendship Church, where his daddy used to be the preacher, we walked in the cemetery. The Reverend seemed to have a story about every soul laid to rest there.
I swear that man could find light in the darkest sinner’s heart.
All that was 15, maybe 20 years ago. Or more. But I still remember. I will always remember: that deep, deep love between father and son, and how, all the way home, we told stories and laughed and were happy.
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Rev. Vernon C. Tyson, age 89, passed away on Dec 29th. You can find his obituary here. You can find a little story I wrote about him in 1998 here. You can find a story by the Raleigh News & Observer’s Lynn Bonner on his life and legacy here.