Pap’s Songs: God Be With You Till We Meet Again

three brothers

The Wilson Brothers: Ray, Henry, and Jerry (Pap)

For the last several weeks I’ve been re-sharing some of my favorite video recordings from Pap. I’ve felt especially close to him for the last few weeks. There’s a few reasons why.

He died on April 19, 2016, so the month of April always brings back memories of his death which of course leads to memories of his life.

As we begin our garden each year I always think of the things he taught me about making a garden and of course I’m always wishing I could call to ask him this or that about what I’m planting or preparing to plant.

For the last couple of months I’ve been working on a project connected with the Martins Creek Community Center. I’ll share more details about it in the coming weeks.

The conversations and research surrounding the project have brought Pap’s name up over and over. I’ve got to see photos of him through the years as he pitched in to help at the community center in one way or another and heard many stories about his great desire to serve and encourage the community.

It was only in 2021 that Paul uploaded the video of Pap singing “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.” Here’s a little of what Paul said about the video.

This coming Monday (April 19, 2021), will mark the 5th anniversary of when Pap went on to be with the Lord. I mentioned in a previous upload (I believe around April 2019) that I was lucky enough one day to record Pap singing five classic hymns by himself, just his voice and guitar, no overdubbing, no other instruments. This was when he was in his early 70’s. The songs were songs that he was in the habit of singing around that time, songs that he really enjoyed lyrically. They’re all great, but this is probably the best one.

My original plan was to “release” one per year, culminating with this particular song. However, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, and why not put this up for people to hear now?

Pap and his father, Wade, whom we all called Papaw, had an interesting philosophy when it came to “saving” things. They believed you should use your best first. This applied to food or any other resource. For example, when I was little, if we rented movies to watch, Pap would say that we should watch what we thought would be the best one first. Pap told me that Papaw told him once, “Use the best you’ve got first, and then from then on, you’ll be using the best you’ve got left,” and “If you don’t use your best first, pretty soon, it won’t be as good as it was.” At first, I didn’t agree with this perspective. For example, I thought when it came to stored food that it’s best to eat the oldest first and work your way toward the freshest. But over time, I’ve found myself gravitating toward their philosophy more and more because, again, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

Anyway, that’s why I decided to share what I feel is the “best” one now–not first but second, and definitely not last. It’s a beautiful hymn with a fascinating origin. According to what I read online, the author was inspired when he looked up the etymology of the word “goodbye” and discovered that its original meaning was “God be with you.”

The first time I heard the song was in an old radio broadcast of Jim Reeves, where he closed the show by singing a verse and chorus. The writer, reportedly, wrote the song specifically for closing out services. Reeves’ version is quite a bit different from Pap’s, and the same holds true for pretty much every version I ever heard.

When Katie and Corie (aka Chitter and Chatter) graduated from Young Harris College, I felt like I sensed that they were wishing Pap was there to see it. Ironically, the YHC choir sang this very song as the opening hymn in the ceremony. Though their version was very different from Pap’s, it was beautiful.

The song seemed a fitting one to end my little series of Pap’s songs because of the meaning the lyrics proclaim to the part of my heart that misses him. It also seemed fitting for the mood I’ve been in, I suppose you could sum it up in one word: lonesome.

I’m sure part of my lonesomeness is due to Chatter getting married. Part of it comes from flipping through so many photos from the community center of folks and places that are no more even though they loom large in my memories. Part of my lonesomeness comes from the warp speed at which the world is changing.

The photo of Pap and his brothers was taken here in Wilson Holler. If you look close you can see a shed behind them. It’s been gone for more than 30 years, but I still remember it and another one on the other side of the road just down by the curve. Where in the world did the time between then and now go? 🙂

But my lonesomeness is tempered by all the goodness that surrounds me: A new son, time to spend with Granny, having my work be something that brings me great joy and supports my family, seeing the green bounty I live smack dab in the middle of come back to life, and listening to the beautiful music Pap made and shared with his family.


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  • Reply
    May 3, 2022 at 11:03 am

    Beautiful! Brings tears to my eyes. When I was a child, we sang this hymn at the close of the afternoon service at my church’s annual Homecoming. It made me teary-eyed, because I wondered if we would all be back next year.

  • Reply
    chirrl whatley
    May 2, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    Can’t help but be lonely for those who have gone on Thats normal and right. With a wonderful Father like your Dad was I know you have to miss him terribly one day the tears will be gone and we’ll be happy with our loved ones and the Lord until then bless you dear heart

  • Reply
    May 2, 2022 at 3:04 pm

    Jerry’s (Pap’s) beautiful character comes through in his singing, never more so than in this song. His clear tenor voice – and ability to take the notes a step higher with such purity brought tears to my eyes.

    I wish I could have known him. I’m sure doing so would have mad me a better man.

    Thank you for sharing this and so many parts of your life which so enriches all of us.

  • Reply
    Glenda G. Page
    May 1, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    Blessings are so many, I run out of time trying to name them all. You have been so Blessed with your heritage and the wonderful family you have. Your girls will be able to pass what they have learned from you to their children. God Bless you and all that you pass on to us. I love learning about everything you are teaching.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 3:07 pm

    God bless your Pap; I didn’t know he was a Marine. My dad was too, 30 years and 3 major wars; when he would come from deployment, would put Wabash Cannonball on the old crank Victrola and start flat foot dancing. It was his way of shaking off the war memories.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 2:44 pm

    Tipper, I really enjoyed today’s post and I liked what Paul shared about using the best first. I’ve always tended to save the best for last, but this makes good sense and gave me something to think about. 🙂

  • Reply
    Gloria Hayes
    May 1, 2022 at 12:50 pm

    Beautiful song, beautiful voice, beautiful memories! Thank you for sharing this. God bless all of us who have lost precious loved ones.

  • Reply
    wanda devers
    May 1, 2022 at 11:29 am

    Beautiful song! Somehow I’ve never heard it before.

    The changing of the seasons becomes more melancholy as I get older. I love spring but still sad.

    We visited my mother-in-law who is in the nursing home. She will be 98 in July. She has about stopped eating and all her food is pureed. We try to go at suppertime to feed her and encourage her to eat a little and drink her Ensure. She is almost completely deaf & lost sight in one eye due to a stroke. She is able to talk some & sometimes seems engaged in the present. Last time we were there she asked me to fix her nails so I had brought the polish, etc. and she was able to pick out the color she wanted. She said, “I love you, Wanda. We’ve had a good life.” What a blessing! But it makes me cry.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    May 1, 2022 at 10:24 am

    Pap’s tenor voice is as pure as mountain spring water and brought water springing from my eyes.

    The first four lines were sung as the benediction every Sunday in the church Jim, Annette and I grew up in. I never knew about the rest of the song until the first time I heard Pap sing it.

  • Reply
    Dorothy Burgess
    May 1, 2022 at 10:09 am

    Just beautiful Tipper. I especially love your sentiment here with your Dad. April is “the month” for me too as it’s the month I loose my sister 3 years ago.
    I’ve been a long follower of you and have longed to bring myself and my two grandsons to that rich culture someday with a visit to your area. I see the folk school is having their annual fest in October and I think it might be the catalyst to make that dream of travel with them come true. I’m having a bit of difficulty figuring out where to stay. Could you please recommend any good hotels, B&Bs, or Inns in your area. I’d be very grateful. Also, will the girls be performing there this year?
    God Bless,

    • Reply
      May 1, 2022 at 10:46 am

      Dorothy- so glad you enjoyed it!! I don’t have a place to recommend, but would suggest checking with the Cherokee County and Clay County Chamber of Commerce. We will not be at the festival but hope you have a good time.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 9:49 am

    Beautiful singing, as always, I love gospel!

  • Reply
    donna sue
    May 1, 2022 at 9:48 am

    I don’t remember singing this song in the church I grew up in, but have heard it through out my life. I love listening to your Dad sing it. I understand your melancholy for things that have faded away. I wish everything could stay the same. People, places and things. I hate change. I wish all the things that were part of my daily life over the years still were. The thought just hit me when I wrote that last sentence – in order for old things to never change, new things could ever happen. So, just which part of my life do I want to live forever in? There has been good and not so good in each season I have been in so for. My thirties were my most favorite part of my life, but if I picked that time to stay in, I wouldn’t have had my childhood years, or my life right now. The people I have known growing up were just as wonderful as the people I know now. Heaven is where no one will go away. Everyone will be with me forever then. Life changes with each new day. The only thing that stays the same is Christ’s love for me, and the gift of eternal life He has given me through my acceptance of Him as the one and only Son of God. And I am so very grateful that nothing can separate me from His Great Love! Everyone that has been in my life, and are now gone on to Heaven, they are there waiting for me to cross to the other side one day. And then we will be together again forever more! What glorious Hope God has given us!

    Donna. : )

    • Reply
      May 2, 2022 at 4:44 pm

      Donna, You express a great amount of wisdom. I, too, miss wonderful folks who are now in heaven and look forward to seeing them again. Yet I’m blessed to still be around good people and experience new life.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 1, 2022 at 9:29 am

    So beautiful!

  • Reply
    Nina Chastain
    May 1, 2022 at 9:27 am

    Tipper , I really enjoyed today’s Blog ! Your Dad lived a great life and was such an inspiration to all of us in our Church, our Community and our Family . He had such a beautiful voice ! So thankful I can say proudly he was a wonderful Second Cousin of mine .

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 9:23 am

    How I wish I could have met Pap while he was here with us. I find comfort in knowing that meeting could still take place someday.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 9:14 am

    Lovely. Brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful blessing to know the Lord.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    May 1, 2022 at 9:07 am

    A lovely tribute of your father…………

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    May 1, 2022 at 8:58 am

    What a wonderful way for me to start my Sunday hearing Pap sing Till We Meet Again. Thank you Tipper for sharing him with us. I know you have many wonderful and pleasant memories of him. Dennis Morgan

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 1, 2022 at 8:57 am

    Pap was such a fine man, and you can clearly see it in his three children. There is the same strong sweetness in the three of them that was so strong in Pap. He made the world better!

  • Reply
    Kirsten Thomas
    May 1, 2022 at 8:48 am

    Such a lovely song & beautiful memories & pictures of Pap. My father’s birthday was April 19, and his heavenly birthday on April 24, so I have been missing my father too. It’s been 8 years (I can’t believe it). I sure would love another of his strong hugs or hear him say “I love you” one more time, but I’m glad he’s with the Lord. I had the privilege of being with him when he took his last breath…a gift from God.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 1, 2022 at 8:47 am

    Tipper–When I was a small boy our family switched church affiliations from Baptist to Presbyterian. It was one of those too frequent scenarios involving a minister and deacons refusing to allow a funeral service to be overseen by a previous pastor because of internal church, never mind that the family of the deceased (a long and loyal member) had requested him. Anyway, one feature, every Sunday for many years, was the choir singing this song as folks left the small Presbyterian Church. Listening to Pap took me back to those days in the 1950s in magical fashion. Also, as is so often the case, I garnered a bit of etymological wisdom on the derivation of goodbye.

    As an aside, the minister who was not allowed to preach was Rev. W. Herbert Brown, a founder of the Smoky Mountain Bible Conference and Camp Living Water. He wrote what I consider the finest epitaph I’ve ever seen. It is on the tombstone of the legendary sportsman Mark Cathey in Bryson City Cemetery and reads:
    Mark Cathey
    Beloved hunter and fisherman,
    Was himself caught by the Gospel hook,
    Just before the season closed for good.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 1, 2022 at 8:39 am

    This song has memories for me. Growing up, it was sung fairly often at the end of services, especially revival because individual nightly services were not “closed” until the revival ended. As is also “If We Never Meet Again” it was a reminder that this life is short and uncertain but we have an eternal hope of “meeting again”. I have those I want to meet again and the list grows longer the longer I stay here.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 8:27 am

    Tipper, I woke up this morning feeling this lonesomeness you write about. As a lot of you know my wife has been gone a year now and I struggle everyday with just trying to carry on with my life. I miss her so much. Like you I have my son, grandsons and friends to lean on but they can not take her place. I went somewhere yesterday that brought back a lot of memories of times in the past with her. . I am glad to have the many good memories but at the same time they can be mighty hurtful. I don’t mean for this to be about me, I am just trying to say I understand how you feel.

    We played a recording of Pap singing this song at the close of her service, we thought it was something she would like to say to everyone.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 8:15 am

    Such beautiful memories of a life well lived to honor God, family, community and country. Beautiful song Pap sang using his talents God blessed him with. Thank you for sharing Pap with us, it’s been a blessing. I’m looking forward to seeing and meeting him when my journey here on earth is over. Blessing to you and all your family and friends.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    May 1, 2022 at 8:01 am

    I didn’t know the etymology of “goodbye” is God be with you. That certainly makes it a wonderful way to part company. I think that I like your father’s rendition of the song the best. Thank you for sharing these special memories and songs with us.

  • Reply
    Linda Hostetler
    May 1, 2022 at 7:56 am

    Tipper it would have been a privilege to have known your Pap. Hearing him sing & play brought a sweet comfort this morning. I’m so glad for you all to have many photos & recordings of him. Wonderful remembrances that you share with us. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Martha Justice
    May 1, 2022 at 7:19 am

    Absolutely Beautiful! What great memories you have ❤

    • Reply
      Julie Hughes Moreno
      May 1, 2022 at 9:51 am

      What a soulful song. I pray that God is with all of us until we meet again.

  • Reply
    May 1, 2022 at 7:10 am

    Just beautiful. Brings tears to my eyes.

  • Reply
    Patty Hansen
    May 1, 2022 at 7:04 am

    I was having this same feeling yesterday, talking to a much-loved cousin on the phone. He lives in GA & I in NY. We haven’t laid eyes on each other in 15 yrs, but email, call, cards & such. He is getting married in June & I cannot go w/the cost of everything up so high, but I was catching up on his life thru conversation. We were discussing all the renovations he is doing to his new home w/his bride. I live in the house my grandad was born in (our great grandparent’s home) and was telling him how it is all fully renovated now & how I so wished our grandad could be alive to see it look so beautiful. It was about ready to fall in when my husband & father took on the chore. Got me thinking about my grandad – He would be 100 tomorrow & was a really great man. I would give anything to talk to him one more day. So many things I would like to ask him, that I wasn’t curious to know 18 yrs ago, when he passed. Well now I’m crying so I better go. His dad (who served in WWI) always said “eat your dessert first… you ,or the dessert, might not be there later”.

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