Sunday, January 20, 2013

Remembering Uncle Willie















Today marks what would have been the 103rd birthday of my dearest uncle, William James McGahey, who was born in Balleymoney, County Antrim, Ireland, UK, not emigrating to the US until the age of 11. To the day of his death on 2 July 1993, Uncle Willie retained both a love for his native land and a few pronunciations of words derived from his youth in Northern Ireland.

Much could be said about Bill McGahey (for my own thoughts last year on his birthday, see here). All one needs to know is the esteem in which all, without exception, held him. Every time my brother and I see our Forster and Smith cousins, the conversation inexorably turns to recollections of Uncle Willie, even now, 20 years—could it possibly be?—after his homegoing into the arms of his Savior and Lord. For, despite—or could it be because of?—the simplicity that characterized his life, no one made a greater impression on his family than he. And the reason for it is made evident by the words reproduced above from the New Testament given to him by my dad back in 1947. In particular, the quotation, written in my uncle's own hand, from the tragically short-lived 19th century Scottish Presbyterian minister Robert Murray M'Cheyne can be viewed as the motto of his life, which he lived as well as anyone I have ever met.

Likeness to Jesus is, of course, what God is in the business of producing in his chosen and called people on the way to their ultimate, future glorification (Rom 8:28-30). Well, I can attest that the Holy Spirit did his job on and in Uncle Willie, who remains, with my father, the greatest, living and breathing apologetic for the Christian faith I have ever known. And I rejoice in the hope—the sure hope, as the venerable Anglican Book of Common Prayer puts it—of the resurrection to eternal life that we who follow Christ will experience in the not-too-distant future. And because of that hope, I also have the excited anticipation of seeing my dad and his dear brother again, when we can sit at the feet of the one who loved us and gave himself for us (Gal 2:20). Marana tha!

From left: Dan McGahey, Uncle Bill McGahey, the author, Norman Forster (Havertown, Pa., 1989)

Uncle Willie and my dad, August 1975, in Virginia

Uncle Willie with four of his grand nieces (from left: Sarah Forster Byrd,
Brynn McGahey Faix, Carrie Forster Roszell, Lauren McGahey Ailes),
Philadelphia, 1989

Orange, N.J., 1930s

Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, 1930s

Dallas, Texas, 1985 (from left: Bill McGahey, Jack Smith, Norman Forster,
the author, John McGahey)

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