Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Figs! (an oldie but a goodie)

My grandfather, GungGung, was a man of faith like to walk on water. He absolutely could if he had even the slightest inclination to. Faith like a grain of mustard seed, enough to say to this mountain, "Be cast into the sea."

Sometimes this absolute faith in God led to humanly stupid behaviors. For example, he didn't look both ways before crossing the street because he reasoned that if it was his time to go, nothing could stop it, and if it wasn't, well... I'm sure his guardian angel had a few close shaves. Another time he was bit by a snake and didn't want to have it checked out because, again, if it was his time... his kids, my mom and her sibs, finally convinced him to go to the doctor... He walked there. This is the kind of guy who, since the Bible said that "threescore and ten"1, 2, lived out his seventy years and was completely ready to go. God didn't take him on that day, so he shrugged and said, "OK, God, I guess you want me to stick around here for awhile," and he lived on for a dozen more productive years. Even in nursing care after his stroke, whether or not he recognized his kids and their kids when they visited, he would sing along (with the half of his mouth that worked) if you sang him hymns.3

1 Psalm 90:10 KJV The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
2 For detractors of "new math", this is realllllly old math, by merit of archaic terminology and rhetoric. A "score" is 20 years, so threescore is 60 and threescore and ten is 70. Similarly, Abe Lincoln intoned, "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal..." Fourscore and seven. That's a lot more sonorous than 87. (Similarly, "fortnight" echoes of Anne of Green Gables, but it sure sounds nicer than "two weeks".)
3 This right there is my viscerally strongest argument for retaining old hymnody in worship services, and for holding periodic hymn-sings to tell stories about the hymns and about moments they've impacted individuals. I have done so many sing-alongs with my mom with retirees and with those retirees for their friends in nursing care where music memory brings good times back to those with their facilities, and even brings mentally "lost" people back to lucidity. And don't get me wrong, I like some of the new hymntunes even better than the old ones, but sing-ins connect generations. Also, this.

Anyways, FIGS.

GungGung's faith was strong and childlike in its simplicity.

One time, he had a boil on his hand that would not heal and would not heal. But he read his Bible and he studied it and internalized it. And King Hezekiah, he once had a boil too.

Hezekiah’s Illness

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.

2 Kings 20, emphases mine (same story told also in Isaiah 38)

Clearly, the thing to do was prepare a poultice of figs.

Except GungGung lived in that fig capital of the world, urban Detroit.
And unlike today's whole-foods movement, this was the postwar processed-foods 1950s.

GungGung hied himself to the store and looked around.
He came home with a package of...?
Fig Newtons.

He laid Fig Newtons on that boil of his.


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