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I have never forgotten the story Jaybird told us that rainy evening. Whether it’s raining or not on my last day, I hope to die praying

I Won’t Die Sinning

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By —— Bio and Archives March 12, 2018

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I hope to die praying
Shortly before sundown, we drivers finished cultivating my father’s Mississippi Delta cotton fields, and no sooner had we parked our tractors than a long, steady, soaking summer rain began drumming on the shed’s tin roof — just what the bolls needed to finish filling with fiber.

As the thirsty earth drank its fill, we knew this downpour wasn’t just a “sharrain” (Dad’s way of saying “shower of rain”), but what he called a “sho-nuff, chunk-floatin’ crop maker.”

Dad pulled up to the shed, motioned me to his pickup, and handed me the week’s paychecks, along with several buckets of fried chicken.

“You boys enjoy yourselves,” he said. “The Lord has provided just what we need, and I’m headed for a worry-free night’s rest.”

As we feasted on the chicken, I gazed at the rain’s slate grayness and said, “When my last day comes, I hope it’s one just like this.”

My comment struck up an interesting conversation. All of us had different ideas on the best way to depart this earth.

Big Willy wanted to be asleep in his comfortable bed when God sent for him. Bumpy agreed, but also wanted to be wrapped in the arms of his beloved wife.

Sport said he wanted to be fishing when a storm blew up and a lightning bolt struck him. “I’m scared of lightning, but being zapped instantly is probably the quickest, least painful way to face the Man at the Pearly Gates.”

Turning to Jaybird, my lifelong best friend and mentor, I asked, “How do you want to leave this earth?”

The old black man thought for a moment and said, “I want to die praying.” After letting that comment sink in, he continued. “Listen to me, boys. If you die praying, you can’t possibly die sinning, which is the way Satan wants your life to end.

“Supposing I tell my wife I’m going to the men’s weekly prayer meeting, and I’m almost to the church when Satan reminded me that beer was half-price at Jesse’s Juke Joint that night, and I drove right past the Lord’s House and headed to town.

“After swilling a few brews, supposing my eyes fell on a lovely lady who gave me that come-on-big-boy smile, and we danced slow and close. Suddenly, Levi Jones, the meanest man in town, taps my shoulder.

“That’s my woman,” he growled.

“Not now she ain’t,” I shot back at him … the beer talking for me.

“He went for his knife, I went for mine, and right before drawing my last breath I saw the woman hugging Jones.

“The next words I heard would be the Lord’s: ‘Jaybird, you were pleasing Satan instead of me when you died, so I’m sending you down to the Master you served on your last day.’”

I have never forgotten the story Jaybird told us that rainy evening. Whether it’s raining or not on my last day, I hope to die praying. That way, I’ll avoid what he avoided: I won’t die sinning.

Jimmy Reed -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Jimmy Reed is an Oxford, Mississippi resident, Ole Miss alumnus, Army veteran (Vietnam Era), former Mississippi Delta cotton farmer and ginner, author, and retired college teacher. His short story anthology, Boss, Jaybird And Me, is available at (telephone: 662-236-2262). His latest collection of faith-based short stories, entitled One Hundred By Five Hundred, is also available at Square Books (telephone: 662-236-2262) and at To receive Reed’s free weekly newsletter, send an email address to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).