LOVE FINALLY BROKE OUT
(Note: For this week’s edition of Hugh’s News & Views I am indebted to my friend, Jefferson DAVID Tant, son of Fanning Yater Tant, and grandson of the grand old Texas pioneer preacher, Jefferson DAVIS Tant. After decades in the Atlanta area, David and Flora have moved to Hendersonville, TN to be nearer their children and where he is now my neighbor. Under the above title David wrote as follow):
Spencer Tracy is acclaimed by many to have been the greatest of all American actors. While much is known concerning his public life, little is known about his private life. A story from his private life is both touching and edifying at once, and I would like to share it with you.
When Tracy was in his 20s, he married, and a son was born to the young couple. The son, John, was born with a severe handicap—total deafness. As the result of his inability to hear a sound, he was also unable to speak. Otherwise, the child was a normal, intelligent, loving baby.
One evening, Tracy came in from his performance at a theater, tired and weary after a hard day’s work. Utterly exhausted, he went right to bed. Around 3 a.m., Tracy was awakened by some strange sense. He did not know what had disturbed his sleep, but in the dimness of the room he looked over to the little toddler’s crib, and there stood Johnny, waving at his daddy. Immediately Tracy leaped out of the bed to embrace and kiss his dear son. He realized that in his haste for bed, he had forgotten to tell his little son goodnight. A normal child would have cried out for attention, but little Johnny was powerless to do that. So he stood, patiently waving to his daddy until his love finally penetrated and conquered even the deep sleep of his father.
Love does that, you know. When all else fails, God’s Word declares: “Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:8). Love is so powerful; it is greater even than faith and hope (v. 13). The reason for this is found in the character of love. “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious,… boastful or proud,…haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way…is not irritable or touchy…does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do wrong…is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost…always believe in him…expect the best of him, and…stand your ground in defending him” (I Cor. 13:4-7, LB)
When you’ve tried everything imaginable to “get through” to another, when you have exhausted every means to disarm your enemy, why not try love? Instead of trying to “get even” to pay back all the misdeeds of your enemy, why not give serious thought to the suggestions of Paul? “Let love be without hypocrisy…Render to no man evil for evil…be at peace with all men…If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:9-21).
Love is the golden key that unlocks the deepest recesses of the heart and soul. No man or woman exists whose heart cannot be moved in some way, touched to some extent with love. After all, love is the badge of our discipleship. The Lord himself declared: “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
We will never know what it is to serve God, nor will we ever be blessed to see that eternal city, until we learn the meaning of love (I John 4:7-8, 19).
NOW READ THE REST OF THE STORY.
John was born with what is known as Usher Syndrome, which also causes gradual blindness due to Retinitis Pigmentosa—starting at birth. The doctors advised the Tracys to place John in an institution for retarded children, but the Tracys would have none of it. They promptly went to work—talking to him, reading him nursery rhymes, playing games with him… loving him.
His mother Louise early on “kept repeating the word ‘talk’… a hundred… sometimes three hundred times” in twice or thrice daily “exercises.” One day, John, then 3 or 4, leaned his head close to hers and said, “talk”—his very first word. John learned how to lip-read and to speak, read and write, and was fully functioning by age 11.
Tragedy again visited when John contracted polio at age six, leaving him with a withered right leg. In time, the Tracys founded the John Tracy Clinic. It became the only such entity worldwide to provide service, free of charge, to parents of infants and preschool children born with hearing losses.
In time John married and fathered a son. John was always intent, as his son and fellow artist, Joseph Spencer Tracy, characterized it, on living “each day to the fullest, regardless” of his daily challenges.
“I’m an artist, writer, photographer; I played polo, tennis; swim, water-ski, dance,” he wrote in his journal in 1975.” I got married, had a family. I’m also profoundly deaf, going blind, had polio. What can you do?” Well, apparently everything! He was declared legally blind in the early eighties and, by 1994, was totally blind.
“He was strong until the end,” said his son Joe, and “always prayed for other people, didn’t pray for himself”—a lesson in selflessness he communicated to his three grandchildren.
As for actually communicating with words, John could talk, but his deafness combined with his blindness required some special techniques for his family to reply back.
His wife Cyndi described how he loved to converse and remembered with particular warmth those special times, often at the end of a long day, that she would be perched next to him as he would regale her with fascinating stories. She would reply by spelling words on his back. Or, for shorter responses, she would spell words on his hand—a hand that so often held her hand, while tapping her other hand, as he said, “God bless you, Cyndi. Thank you. ”
For, whatever else he was, John Tracy was always profoundly grateful for all life’s blessings. John died June 15, 2007, five days after the 40th anniversary of his father’s death.
The moral to the story? You can overcome. There was a man many years ago who faced many difficulties in life. His name was Paul, and he wrote some poignant words: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) The moral to the story? Never, never, never give up!
I thank David Tant for this beautiful “love story.”
Hugh Fulford, October 27, 2020