Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
March 11, 2001

A nephew offers a grateful tribute for his Uncle Mac

Uncle Mac died last Sunday night. Only last month he had begun taking chemotherapy for cancer. The doctor had said the chemo treatment would buy him some time. But weakened by the pain and frustration of recent weeks, he came to the end of the trail sooner than anyone expected, a victim of cardiac arrest. He was 77.

His funeral Wednesday was a wonderful celebration of his life. Rev. Paul Hubbard, his pastor, praised him for his faithfulness to his church, Lakeview Baptist in Montgomery. The final entry in Macís diary was a comment about how much he and his wife, Gene, had enjoyed Sunday School and church that Sunday in January. He wrote that they had met several new "wonderful Christian friends."

The highlight of the funeral service was the tribute paid "Papa" by his five grandchildren. Two of them, Rebecca and Bradley, spoke warmly of the "lessons" their grandfather, a cattle farmer, had taught them. He was always teaching them lessons on the farm drawn from his knowledge of trees, hay, land, and farm animals. They described him as unselfish, generous, proud, and stubborn. Remarkably, they said they had never heard him criticize or stand in judgment of another person.

His pride was not in himself or his own achievements, but in them and their accomplishments. Their Papa was stubborn in that to him there was never but one way to do anything and that was his way. "But while we did not always want to admit it, usually his way was the right way," they said, smiling as they brushed tears away.

It was a beautiful moment -- to hear a manís grandchildren offer thanks to God for the example of their grandfather. Obviously he was to them much more than their grandfather; he was a good and wise man from whom they had learned how life should be lived.

The family graciously allowed me the privilege not of preaching but of sharing how much this dear Uncle had meant to me all my life. Nine years younger than Mac, I had enjoyed a special relationship with him as far back as I can remember. When I was a child Mac took an unusual interest in me that I have never been able to explain except that it was the grace of God.

My motherís seven brothers were all special to her, but none more special than the youngest, Mac. Mama was like a second mother to her younger siblings. And being the oldest of the 13 children, Mama was called upon to do a lot of mothering in her large farm family.

Like all my uncles, Mac was a frequent visitor in our home. He lived about 15 miles away, off the Atlanta Highway east of Montgomery.

Mac became my mentor in my teen years. When I begged my daddy to buy me a horse, it was my Uncle Mac who helped me acquire a Shetland pony named Josephine. That pony cost me fifty dollars, all of which I earned one summer working on the farm for my dad.

When at age 12 I finally persuaded my dad to buy me a shotgun, it was Uncle Mac who took me hunting. Back then there were no deer to hunt. Mac taught me how to hunt dove, quail, squirrels, rabbits, and ducks. Duck-hunting was my favorite thing. I was never happier than when Mac called to say, "Letís go duck-hunting in the morning." And at 5 a.m. I was ready to go!

When Mac married Gene, she began sharing Macís interest in me. Dean and I can remember many times being with the two of them. Once, six months before Dean and I were married, we went dancing on New Yearís Eve with them. Mac must have noticed what a poor dancer I was, for he and Gene never asked us to go dancing again.

During my senior year in college I began preaching on a circuit near Shorter, Alabama. One of my churches was at Mt. Meigs. On a good Sunday we had 15 people present, but Mac and Gene were frequently there. I had no idea how to preach, but Mac convinced Gene that they needed to encourage me by coming to hear me. What an encouragement they were to an ignorant, scared country boy whose knees were always knocking behind that pulpit!

As the years passed it pleased God to send us to Opelika, which is not too far from Cecil, Alabama, where Mac and Gene ran their cattle farm. We renewed our friendship and soon Mac was telling me how much my preaching had improved. He was able to pick up the Trinity service as far away as Cecil on his FM radio. For many years now he has requested that we send them a video tape of our services because he was active in his own church but wanted to listen to my sermons.

A few years ago the Cattlemenís Association in Montgomery invited me to speak at their annual meeting. Mac was behind the invitation. I still donít know how much he had to pay them to persuade them to extend that invitation to me. But no one beamed more than my Uncle Mac that night when I spoke to his close friends in the cattle business.

When deer-hunting became popular in central Alabama, Macís farm at Cecil became a favorite hunting place for many men who were welcome at his home. Many times I have been in his kitchen at 4:30 in the morning, eating doughnuts and drinking coffee as six or eight of us got ready to go to a favorite deer stand.

Mac embraced our four sons as though they were his own. They were always welcome to join the hunt and share stories later about the 12-point buck that got away. I think my boys loved Mac much as I had when I was a young man. As I look back over so many years, it seems quite incredible that my uncle was willing to invest so much time and energy in me. And his genuine caring for me continued to the end of his life.

C. Mac Johnson served his community well. He was a good neighbor and a good friend to those who knew him. He loved God and he loved his Savior, Jesus Christ. He made a difference in the lives of many people.

But in no oneís life did he make a greater impact than he made in mine. So as he departs to dwell eternally in that great ranch on the other side, I pause to say with a grateful heart, thanks be to God for my Uncle Mac.