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Loving Fathers Leave Legacies of Love

Loving Fathers Leave Legacies of Love

Posted by Kenny Vaughan on 28th Jun 2020

Excerpts from “The Right Fight: How to Live a Loving Life” by John Kennedy Vaughan

Loving Fathers Leave Legacies of Love

“My grandfather, Ed Vaughan, was a giving and unselfish man.

“He was much like most great men—simple, hardworking, loving, and selfless. His faith was very important to him, my family tells me.

“Growing up, I always felt my greatest loss was never knowing my grandfather. I still feel that way today. His love and the example of love he lived out would have surely enriched my life even more than the stories I’ve heard about him.

“He was the bravest man I can ever imagine, but also the most loving. They say he was always helping other people. Until writing this book, his influence in my life was mostly the knowledge that I was the son of a strong and loving family. I think a lot of my father and have never known anyone who thought more of their father than my father thought of his.

“My grandfather worked at Magnolia Oil Company in Beaumont, which eventually, through a series of buyouts and consolidations, became part of what we know today as ExxonMobile. But back when it was still only Magnolia Oil Company, my grandfather was so good at what he did for them that when he was drafted, management appealed to the government to cancel his deployment because he was a leader in the manufacturing of airplane fuel used by the military.

“Ed was humble enough to put others before himself. He cared so much that he told them the truth. He did this to help them improve, and because he did it with love, people knew Ed was not trying to manipulate them. His selfless and sincere heart opened for all to see. Combined with his tough work ethic, Ed had the kind of leadership anyone was willing to follow. If you knew Ed, you knew he was well educated in what he did. You could trust his knowledge. More important, you knew he would put you before the mission and himself.

“By 1956, my grandfather had spent the previous twenty years working for Magnolia Oil as the company’s leading expert in the manufacturing of airplane fuel. But in November, he went to his supervisor with the news that he had decided to leave Magnolia Oil Company and go work full time for himself as a mechanic. His supervisor asked him to stay another six months, and my grandfather agreed.

“Just after midnight, on Easter Sunday, April 21, 1957, Ed would find himself in a place no one could ever imagine. He would be trying to find his way out of an explosion through a massive firestorm, when staying alive and just breathing must have seemed impossible. He had almost completed those last six months preceding his retirement from Magnolia Oil Company.

“On Easter Eve, Ed headed into work for the night shift, knowing the clock was counting down his last days with Magnolia Oil and anticipating the future. There was a young man Ed had been working with, and in the bigger picture of things, I know my grandfather was really helping that young man. The young man, T. B. Hensley, had grown close to Ed.

“That night, Ed and T. B. had begun working on some notoriously dangerous equipment in the plant when Ed heard a hissing sound. Ed knew this hissing sound meant the unit was beyond saving and that he and T. B. better run for their lives. He screamed, ‘Run, T. B.! Run!’

“At 12:55 a.m. on Easter Sunday, before the two men were able to get clear of the unit, it exploded like a bomb. It was reportedly one of the worst explosions in Magnolia Oil’s history. Fire engulfed the refinery in a time when firefighting gear was limited to a large water hose. The heat was so intense that no rescue workers could get anywhere near the fire, so they were forced to stand at a distance, attempting to reach the fire with their high-pressure water hoses. As they sprayed their water onto the fire, an ambulance stood by in the unlikely event anyone had survived the explosion. As time passed, everyone began to accept that no one could have survived that heat for that long.

“But about that time, my grandfather came stumbling out of the fire. His frame appeared as a shadowed silhouette against the fire, and his body was completely engulfed in flames. Most of his clothes had been burned off, and his skin was as black as coal. Many of his features had been burned away, including his ears, nose, lips, and fingers. His skin was literally melting off his body. Rescue medics extinguished the flames that were burning his body. As they attended to him, the medics could not help but ask him how he had been able to walk out of the fire.

“They were looking at a man with second- and third-degree burns over 100 percent of his body. Ed talked to them and told them why he’d come walking out of that fire. ‘I knew I was going to die, but I wanted to tell my family goodbye. Please, someone help me find T. B.’

“But no one ever saw T. B. again. I am told that in the days after the fire finally burned down, the remnants of T. B.’s boots were discovered in the ashes.

“An ambulance transported my grandfather to the local hospital while authorities began to notify the families. agony—not realizing that man was his own father, burned far beyond recognition.”

At the hospital, my grandfather was burned far beyond recognition and my own father didn’t recognize him. “The nurses directed my dad back to his father’s room. As soon as my grandpa saw his son, he forced himself to rise above his pain, stopped his moaning, dried his tears, and said, ‘Bobby, I am OK, and everything is going to be all right. I have made my peace with God.’

“Ed told his oldest son that he knew he was going to die soon and asked my father to take care of the family. …In the short time remaining in my grandfather’s life, he made sure he told each of his children and his wife that he loved them and said his goodbyes to them.

“He died only seven hours after he walked out of that plant explosion in the dark hours before dawn on Easter Sunday.

“In his dying words, he said to the family, ‘Meet me in heaven.’ Then he whispered to his wife, ‘Please don’t forget to put the Easter baskets out for the kids.’

“That blows me away every time. Imagine a heart so focused on others that in its dying moment, all it could think about was the well-being of others. Imagine turning his love for his family into the will to walk out of that fire, to endure excruciating pain to bid goodbye to the ones he loved, and to be concerned about the kids getting their Easter baskets.

“I always wondered how my grandfather walked out of a fire that melted the skin off of his body and the coins in his pocket together into a solid lump of metal. In coming to realize what love really is, I began to understand that it was his love for his friend, his family, and his God that kept him alive and got him out.

“My grandfather’s example has challenged me through the years to have the courage to strive to live a loving life no matter what. Many times in my life, when I have faced things I was not sure I could overcome, I was inspired by my grandfather’s courage: to love no matter what it takes.

“Love is the single most important tool in finding your way out of your own fires in life. Love gave my grandfather the courage, strength, will, and ability to find his way out of that refinery fire long after it should have been humanly possible, when he knew he would die, his skin was falling off of his body, and there was nothing left to do but suffer and die.

“Love can give you the ability to find your way through your trials, although it may not be the kind of love you first think about.

“…I don’t think my grandfather would have found the strength to walk out of that fire for himself. I don’t think fear would have brought him out of that fire, either. But for others, he had more than enough strength, courage, faith, and power to find his will and his way out.

“For yourself, you may have a hard time finding your way out of whatever trials you encounter. For others, for love, and for your Lord, you can do more than you ever dreamed. Sometimes love gets us into things that only love can get us out of, but once we are in the fire, we too often abandon love to protect ourselves, not realizing that selfishness may ensure we never get out.

“Love got my grandfather out, and love will carry you out.

“We often fail to love, but love never fails.”

Laus Deo,