Some people long to know about the past—their own and anyone else’s. These people keep genealogy websites humming as they search databases and create family trees. Their hearts race when they find their 5th or 6th great grandmother. They find cemeteries desirable places to visit and enjoy reading tombstones, even the grave markers of total strangers.
Many a good work of historical fiction has been written because someone wandered through an old cemetery and took note of names and dates, connected families, and then forged a path through historical records in the many places they can be found.
I have made forays into the world of my family tree many times, only to stop looking for my ancestors when other demands became more pressing.
I am currently reengaged in that pursuit and found one item I particularly treasure: the obituary of my 3rd great grandmother Sarah Barnes Vinson, my maternal grandmother’s great grandmother.
Sarah Barnes Vinson was born July 13, 1826, in Crawford County, Georgia. Her parents were Benjamin Borman Barnes Sr. and Patience Spears. She married Robert Anderson Vinson in 1841 and had six children.
She lived a rich full life and died in Weatherford, Texas, May 1918.
Her pastor wrote these lines in memory of her.
“The snows of ninety-two winters were on her head, but the springtime of immortality was in her heart. This was true of dear and revered Sister Sarah B. Vinson. Revered because of long accumulated sweetness of soul, dignity of spirit and saintliness of character. She was born way back in the beginning of the nineteenth century (1826) and on a beautiful May day all in bloom, the bloom of her life faded on earth to reblossom, all sweet and fresh with the youth of immortality in the garden of God. She was not sick, she did not die—she grew very tired and went to sleep and waked to find her feet brushing the morning dews of the ‘river that makes glad the city of God.’
“The writer was for three years pastor of this dear old saint and has been cheered often and blessed by fellowship with her during nearly twenty years of acquaintance. She was full of quiet humor and bright appreciation of life, and folks, especially folks. Her years ran back to the simple life when home-made comforts and homemade homes were the rule. Simplicity remained as one of her chief characteristics. Simple in life, simple in fellowship, simple in faith; hers was a child-like soul such as Jesus meant when he said, “Except ye be converted and become as little a little child, ye shall in no wise enter in the kingdom.”
As Sarah lived her “simple life” at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, she had no idea that someday her great-great-great granddaughter would read these words, much less share them through a means such as this.
She did not live her life of quiet humor and with a “bright appreciation of life” with the intention of being noticed. Neither did she cultivate these traits overnight. She worked on them from the time she was a young woman, gradually transforming into a woman with a “sweet” soul, dignified and saintly.
These attributes were the result of habits and practices of a lifetime, a conscious daily decision to live well every day.
Few people noticed. She was not famous. And yet she encouraged her pastor and left a legacy to be admired.
She no doubt reared her children to do the same, unlike, for example, Queen Athaliah [II Chronicles 22:1-4] mother of Ahaziah, who “walked in the way of the house of [wicked king] Ahab, for his mother was his counsellor to do wickedly.”
The Bible warns of the dangers of being “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”
Hebrews 3:13. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
But the opposite is also true.
Every day of our lives we are “hardening” into what we will eventually become, how we will be described and remembered. No sweet “senior saint” [consider the ones you know] earned that reputation overnight.
The ungrateful bitter soul will be more so tomorrow and eventually, that will be the main characteristic of that person’s life.
Sarah Barnes Vinson serves as an example to all of us to live out a life which is an accumulation of good days of kindness and service.