Sunday, May 30, 2010

Jamey Johnson: Lead Me Home

Jamey Johnson’s “Lead Me Home” is a fitting song for a Memorial Day weekend as I will be joining my friends over in Boone County, West Virginia today standing on the mountain for the yearly gathering of which I have taken part since 1977. It will be a time of singing, a time of preaching, a time of fellowship, a time of great food, and a time of remembrance.

Since 1915, the Sunday before Memorial Day has been set aside as a Decoration Day to remember the dearly departed family members and friends in this part of the country. During the early years of these services, Roy Hager traversed the cemeteries of Boone and Logan counties that dotted the hillsides along the Trace Fork of Big Creek in the Guyandotte River watershed. From what I understand, it was an all day affair with a gathering along the middle of the route for lunch and then continuing in the afternoon until all cemeteries were visited. Every year the starting point alternated.

The crowd at the Workman Cemetery; May 24, 2009 - click photo for a larger view

Preacher Roy Hager was born on December 7, 1891 and he handled the duties of visiting every little cemetery along the creek until the family members stopped coming. By the time Roy was 85 years of age, only family members from three cemeteries were coming. These cemeteries were the Workman Cemetery, the Doss Cemetery, and the Hill Cemetery. In 1977, Roy announced that it was his last year and he asked the families to find a replacement and they asked me. I was 21 at the time when I assisted Roy with his last service.

By 1978, I had officially taken the mantle that Roy had once worn and began holding the services. In a few short years, no members of the Doss family were coming, and the number of cemeteries was whittled down to two. Today, I’ll drive nearly an hour and 45 minutes to hold my 32nd set of services. I can only hope that I will be able to continue to do this work as long as Roy did. By the way, Roy lived ten more years following his “retirement”; he was almost 96 years old.

Some of the singers at the Hill Family Cemetery; May 24, 2009

Most of the folks that encouraged me to take this responsibility back in 1977 and had stood with me on those hillsides are now buried there. I miss them, but know I will see them again when I am reaching over Jordan when the Lord takes my hand and leads me home.


I have seen my last tomorrow,
I am holding my last breath,
Goodbye sweet world of sorrow,
My new life begins with death.

I am standing on the mountain,
I can hear the angels’ songs,
I am reaching over Jordan,
Take my hand Lord - lead me home.

All my burdens are behind me,
I have prayed my final prayer,
Don't you cry over my body,
Cause that ain't me lying there.

No, I am standing on the mountain,
I can hear the angels’ songs,
I am reaching over Jordan,
Take my hand Lord - lead me home.

I am standing (Lord, I am standing) on the mountain (on the mountain),
I can hear (I can hear the angels’ songs) the angels’ songs,
I am reaching over Jordan, (over Jordan)
Take my hand Lord – lead me home.
Take my hand Lord – lead me home.

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