As we pulled away in the rickety truck, I had a feeling the worst was behind us

This week's column is the last in a series of excerpts from the author's memoir, "True Vine: A Young Black Man's Journey of Faith, Hope & Clarity"

Sunday morning arrived bright and early. Daddy and Jeff and my wife's brother and their father as well as my cousin Michael showed up to help me load our furniture and other belongings onto the back of an open-cover truck driven by one of (my wife's) uncles.

I was a mix of emotions as I carried the boxes and furniture down the stairs to the truck. Normally, I would have been preparing to go to Sunday School at True Vine.

The Sunday before, Grandpa had called my family and me up front to the altar and laid hands on us while the saints all joined him in prayer.

He prayed that God would keep and protect us as we began our new life in Champaign, where I was returning to complete my studies three years after dropping out.

Grandmother exhorted, "Get your learning but don't lose your burning."

I had already said most of my good-byes. I said good-bye to Mr. Newell and to my Public Aid caseworker whose eyes were filled with tears as she wished me the best, saying it was rare that she had seen a client do what I was doing...

While preparing to move, I had not had much time to dwell on the idea of leaving K-Town and how I might feel should that day ever come.

I had been too busy planning my escape...

But as I carried our belongings to the truck, I was filled with a mix of emotions, with the joy of moving on but also the pain of having to say good-bye. For I sensed that this time I was saying good-bye for good.

After everything was loaded, (my wife) and I and the kids gathered near the front door of our apartment, near the bathroom where I had offered up so many prayers on so many sleepless nights, near the kitchen where I had studied (while attending junior college) often until dawn.

We held hands and prayed.

"Lord, we thank you for this place, for all that you have done, for making a way out of no way, for being our provider," I prayed as tears streamed. "...We thank you for leading me back to school... Now, Lord, go with us...

Bless us and keep us... Amen."

I took one last look around the apartment, moving slowly from room to room. Taking in deep breaths and quietly reflecting.

Then we walked downstairs, climbed into our car, and drove about 100 yards to Mama's house.

I needed to say good-bye to Mama alone.

"Y'all packed up and ready to go?" Mama asked.

"Yep," we're loaded, I said, smiling.

My voice cracked. "Ma, uh, I, uh... I just want to thank you... Ma, for, uh, believing in me and for being there when I needed you..."

"...That's what mothers are for.

I've always wanted what was best for you."

"You done all right, Ma," I said.

Mama was fighting back tears.


"Well, they're waiting for me downstairs, I better get going," I said finally.

Mama followed me out into the hall, where we hugged good-bye, a rush of emotion sweeping over me.

"Ma, I'm gonna make y'all proud," I said.

"John," Mama said, crying, "you already have."

I dried my eyes then walked downstairs.

As we pulled away, the rickety truck loaded with our life's possessions, I felt like the Beverly Hillbillies. ...And I had a feeling that the road, no matter how uncertain, led to a bright future and that the worst was behind us.

But this one thing I was sure of: It was the Lord--the True Vine--who had brought us out.

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Email John Fountain at [email protected][2]


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