Hank Was Right

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

What was the number one song on the Country charts in January, 1953? It was a song written and recorded by a Montgomery boy – Hank Williams. The song was “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.”

Hank Williams experienced the truth in that song. While it was the number one song in America, January 1953, he died on January 1, 1953. His funeral was January 3, 1953.

Hank Williams was only 29. He recorded 35 singles and had 11 of them ranked number 1. He hosted a 15 minute program on WSFA Radio. He never was able to read or notate music to any significant degree. Everybody said that was too young to die. It is really never too young to die.

He was a great singer and song writer. But it doesn’t matter how talented or famous you are, the Bible says, “each person is destined to die once.” (Hebrews 9:27) He had achieved fame, but he couldn’t avoid death. The chorus to his song says:

                    “No matter how I struggle and strive

                    I’ll never get out of this world alive.”

His funeral was held at the City Auditorium and attracted one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Montgomery. There is an interesting video of the funeral at the Hank Williams Museum.

I had a good friend, Tommy Ragsdale. When he was about 10-years-old he was a big Hank Williams fan. Hank gave a concert at Cramton Bowl. Tommy wanted to attend but his parents would not let him go to the concert because it was sponsored by Hadacol and Hadacol contained a large percentage of alcohol. You will remember that Hadacol was one of the very popular “medicines” of the 50’s. They said that they named it Hadacol because they “had-a-call” it something. Tommy’s older brother, who was a classical music student, agreed to take him to hear Hank.

Occasionally people say to me, “John Ed, if I die.” I quickly respond, “it is not if – it is when.” We really like to make death a hypothetical question that might be a possibility. It one day will be a reality. I checked the Alabama Bureau of Statistics and the death rate is still one out of one!

Death is not something to be feared when our faith is in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul even looked forward to dying because he knew that he would experience something much better. Death is not the end – it is only the beginning. What the caterpillar calls “the end” – the butterfly calls “the beginning.”

Winston Churchill made all the arrangements for his own funeral. He included some of the great hymns and impressive liturgy for the Saint Paul’s Cathedral celebration. He planned something special after the benediction. He had a bugler positioned high in the dome of the church to play “Taps.” This was the universal signal that the day was over. People thought the funeral was over. But another bugler started playing “Reveille” which was the signal for a new day. It was goodnight down here – it was good morning up there!

The Bible is clear that God offers to us the promise of eternal life. William Wilberforce was instrumental in freeing the slaves in the British Empire. His great contributions were dramatized in the movie “Amazing Grace.” On the tomb of William Wilberforce in Westminster Abbey in London are these words – “Tis death is dead, not he.”

All of us, like Hank Williams, will one day die. None of us will get out of this world alive. Getting out of this world alive won’t happen – living forever with Jesus can happen.


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