I just have a lot to say.
April 6th, 2014 by

Because He Lives

FBC 1976

At 43 years old, Daddy died suddenly, unexpectedly, and far too young. Mama married him when they were both 19. He was all she had known for 24 years. She had three daughters to finish raising (two in college and one in junior high) and their small business to run. How could she could she go on without him? How could she face tomorrow on her own?

At Daddy’s funeral, the mourners sang:


God sent His son. They called Him Jesus.

He came to love, heal, and forgive.

He lived and died to buy my pardon.

An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.


Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.


The Gaither song was popular in the late 70s, frequently sung at the 11:00 am service at First Baptist Church. It was not a hymn, but it was worshipful enough for the old folks to like it–or not to mind it too much. At least, that’s what I remember.

For years after Daddy’s funeral, I hated seeing the song listed on the Order of Worship. I didn’t cry much then, since Mama cried all the time, but I couldn’t sing this song. Tears welled in my eyes; my throat closed up; I struggled to catch my breath. As the worshipers sang, I shut my eyes and sucked my cheeks.

Fast forward to 1997, Chuck and I lived with our twin daughters in Birmingham. Granny had just survived a quadruple heart bypass. Mama, an only child, had just received an “atypical Alzheimer’s Disease” diagnosis. While raising our own children, my sisters and I were laden with the two older generations as well. (As members of the “sandwich generation,” the King Girls were handed a hoagie.)

Starla assumed responsibility for Granny.

I assumed responsibility for Mama.

My pregnancy test was positive.

What should have been a highlight of my life–and it was–seemed an insurmountable burden. How could I do it all? How could one young woman take care of a mentally diminishing mother, two preschoolers, and a newborn?

The Sunday following the positive pregnancy test, “Because He Lives” was on the church program. I didn’t attempt to sing or worship or even pray. I grasped the back of the pew in front of me, intending to hang on until it was over. The pew supported me through the first verse; however, the second verse is this:


How sweet to hold a newborn baby

And feel the pride and joy he gives.

But greater still, the calm assurance

This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

I folded into the pew behind me. With folks around me standing and singing, I sat and sobbed.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.


By their mere existence, babies bring newness and hope. Baby Phillip, named after my daddy, was a gift to our entire family during the nightmare, but he was Mama’s joy. He brought light and laughter to her gloom. He was her 7th grandbaby, and he was the reason she got out of bed every morning.

Mama died three years after her diagnosis, 17 months after my family moved into her house to take care of her.  Steve preached at the funeral. William spoke at the graveside. Chuck played guitar. Angie sang “There Is a Fountain.” Little Granny cried throughout, but she wasn’t really sure who died. Phillip stayed with a sitter. He told me, “Mama Nell’s dead. She got shot by a gun.” (Mama would have cackled loudly at her 2.5 year-old boy who found cowboy violence more exciting than dementia.)

My sisters and I had not asked the organist for any specific songs. We simply asked her to play uplifting music, for we were not dreary and downhearted. We were rejoicing for Mama that her struggle had ended, that she was whole at the feet of Jesus, the One who had sustained her in her agony and for many, many weary days.

And so, of course, as Mama’s worn-out body was wheeled from the sanctuary, as her friends and family rose to watch her leave, as her Beloveds followed her out, the pipe organ bellowed:


And then one day, I’ll cross the river.

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.

And then as death gives way to victory,

I’ll see the lights of glory, and I’ll know He lives.


Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.

Because He lives, all fear is gone.

Because I know He holds the future,

And life is worth the living, just because He lives.


I still don’t sing the song with the congregation, but I do listen and worship. I don’t cry through it anymore. Now I cry through “There Is a Fountain,” but that is a story for another blog post.



12 Responses to “Because He Lives”
  1. Eva Phillips says

    What a beautiful expression.

    I saw this as a “share” by Diann Woodall on FB.
    I recognized Starla King in the photo and clicked to read. We were classmates dhs 74.

    I had no idea of the grief you all had so early in life. My heart certainly goes out to each of you. I sense the bittersweet about the music.

    You are all so brave to have loved your family so well and brought them through their difficult times. Only faith that runs deep (and gets deeper) through those times can sustain the hurt in the heart. God bless y’all. I appreciate that I found this to read.

  2. Sharon Weyland says

    Celeste, you girls were so sweet to take on so much. The Lord must have meant for “Because He Lives” to speak to you. Ross and I have always hated that y’all had to go through so much, but we’re so thankful that you’ve leaned on God. God bless all of you! You will rejoice one day with loved ones in heaven!

  3. janie woodall says

    Wow, Celeste, love your posts from your family, kind of the same way I feel about my mom and dad. I am so glad we had the up bringing from parents like, Phil, Lanelle, Robert and Frances, Pinckard, FBC. You have done well. Every body is up there in heaven singing, fishing, tryinging to water ski, eating and talking. Dad will join them one day, we just don’t know when. I am moving out of the lake house back to dothan to help take care of him. His lake days are ending as his condition continues to decline. I know how you feel about there are just some songs I can’t sing either, mostly Euguene Hattaway’s To God Be The Glory. Love you family, janie

  4. Tom Sorrells says

    I remember so well the King family when I came to Dothan. I loved Phil and his upbeat personality. There has been much tragedy but I do not think I have known a family that has been more of a blessing to the people around them.

  5. Celeste, what an uplifting post! Even through the sadness of losing your Daddy so prematurely and the pain of walking through a devastating illness with your Mother, you sought the Lord’s guidance and saw His incredible grace and power. I know this post will encourage so many others as it did me. Rejoicing with you. . . Because He lives. . .

  6. Christy Keyton says

    Wow. I so remember your Mama being with my Daddy for that short time at The Terrace. I remember rejoicing with you when she went home – whole and happy at last. Dementia is such a cruel disease, but we serve a merciful God. This is a beautiful post, Celeste.

  7. Because He Lives was Mama’s favorite song. My Beth was her favorite except for me. It was played as we followed her casket out of Camden Baptist. I had asked my high school friend Beth to play it last because I didn’t think I could hear it and get through the funeral. Of course I could have. Then I spent the next seven years dreading seeing it listed in the order of worship, formerly called the bulletin. It made my chest tight because my crying system is broken. I’m going to get it fixed some time, Not long ago I told Beth that Because He Lives doesn’t make me sad any more because Mamaw had a good life and she is in heaven. Beth said “me either”. So we’re good. Your post made my chest tight on this rainy morning but that probably good for the broken system.

  8. Cyla Harrell says

    Celeste! This one did me in…We consider it an Easter Hymn in the Missionary Baptist Church, and we really only sing it during Easter, I never understood why. But it’s my go to song for a lot of situation. No matter what, I know it’s ONLY because HE lives that I can face tomorrow. Isn’t it amazing how the Holy Spirit gives you what you need, when you need it? I pray that one day you will be able to sing those words again and make it personal for you, because it’s oh so true..Because HE lives I can face tomorrow, because HE lives all my fears are gone, because I know HE holds my future, MY life is worth the living, just because HE LIVES.

  9. Johnny Oppert says

    What a great post. the memories of your family are precious. You are a great writer as well as a great cheerleader. Thanks for reminding me of how special your family has always been
    To us. God bless you all.


  10. Celeste,
    I started first with It’s Not About Mama posted by my cousin, Laura Lewis Kirkpatrick, then was led to Because He Lives. Although I’m quite a bit older than you, our lives have crossed paths several times over the years through both church and mutual friends and now with both having shared the experiences of caring for family members with Alzheimer’s. My best friend, my mama, is in the latter stages and your words rang only too true for me. May God continue to bless you and your family who’ve always meant a lot to me and your words from your heart in your blog. Thank you so much for risking to be open and real. Carol Trant Dean

  11. Hilda Bragg Jackson says

    Thank you for this, Celeste! It really touched me…

  12. My Grandfather instructed us to sing “Because He Lives” at his funeral and “Don’t leave out any of the verses!” So I do the exact same thing you do with this song – and also “Victory in Jesus” which was played at Grandmother’s funeral.
    Your story hit on the power of music. Such a great thing!

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