I was reading the account this morning in I Kings about the Sidonians being hired to cut the trees for the temple “Because,” King Solomon said, “we don’t have anyone who can cut down trees as well as the people of Sidon.” I looked over at Certain Man, sitting in his morning chair with his Bible cradled in his lap.
“Huh!” I said, surprising him a bit, “I wonder what made the people of Sidon good at cutting down trees? I mean, what is there to cutting down a tree that a certain group of people would be better at it?”
He looked contemplative and then said, “Well, maybe they were like Wade, and were just naturally good at it.”
“Wade?” I queried, puzzled. I knew immediately who he was talking about, but I didn’t know this about him.
“Yeah, Wade!” Said my good man. “He was incredible when it came to cutting down trees. It was almost unbelievable! He could make them fall wherever he wanted them, no matter how they were leaning.”
“Really!” The word was more of a statement than a question. “How do you know?”
He looked thoughtful, like he was trying to remember something he hadn’t thought about in a long time. “Well, when Greenwood Mennonite Church would cut wood for the widows, I would go and help sometimes and he was usually there, and he would do the cutting.” He paused again, and then said, “I heard a story once about him taking a tree down at someone’s house–. I’m not sure whose it was, but as I recall, the tree was leaning towards the house and it needed to come down because of the danger it presented if there was a bad storm. Wade said he could do it and came over to take it down. Nobody thought he could do it. He made a big notch in one side, and everybody watching said that it would never work. But then he started making a cut in it and whoever was telling me said it was almost unbelievable! That tree actually appeared to rotate on the stump and fell exactly where he wanted it. That may have been one of the harder ones he did, but even when we were cutting the wood for the widows, sometimes we had just a small place for the tree to fall, and he would look at it, think a little, and then lay it right down where it needed to go. It was phenomenal! There was nobody quite like him. I don’t know who taught him or how he learned it, or how he could figure it out, but he did it and it was something to watch!”
I went back to my morning reading with troubled, wondering thoughts circling my heart. In that brief exchange, I learned things that I had never known before. For one, the fact that Wade would come to the widows’ woodcutting told me something about his sense of responsibility for his widowed mother. The handsome, curly haired oldest of her six children, was also her wild child, but he must have felt both her prayers and her love. And then this unusual gifting that took some sort of knowledge of math and physics and trigonometry gave me pause to consider what went on in that head. I knew he had an artistic eye and that he could draw fine line pictures that were incredible in detail. My Daddy, once when we were still children, hired him to make a series of pictures to illustrate the six verses of Psalm 1. He brought the pictures to our house one night, done on letter size white paper, finely detailed, one picture for each verse. I was still in elementary school, but I would look and look at the pictures and wonder what was in Wade’s heart, where no one could see. (I kept thinking that series of pictures was still somewhere in my parents’ house and I looked for them when we cleared it out last summer, but never found them. I wonder if someone has them somewhere.)
It would be nice if stories could end with the perfect endings in real life. Wade’s life was difficult and sad. He made choices, yes, I’ll grant anyone that who wants to quibble. But so did the community that he grew up in, and I wonder if anyone ever told him how very special it was that he could cut down a tree so well that he would have been chosen to build Solomon’s Temple. I know that people tried to encourage and engage and influence and help, but sometimes our best intentions are not the most helpful or effective. And sometimes the way people try to help actually ends up hurting. Unfortunately, for Wade, the hurts seemed to pile up.
All day I’ve been thinking. Maybe if his choices and our choices would have been different, there just might be art shows and museum pieces with the name, William Wade signed in a corner instead of a tombstone inscribed with his name and the dash of his life, 1/9/44-5/6/95.
Maybe his name would be remembered for his abilities, his intelligence, his skills.
And even though we will never know, I still wish it could be so.