Somerset, TN (APN) – Cumberland County Coroner Raymond Newsome has ruled Jacob Preston, prominent farmer and humanitarian, died of natural causes early this morning at Regional Hospital. However, authorities are puzzled by a statement Preston, 82, allegedly uttered about six hours before he expired.
“Boys, I know what you’re doing. Stop it.”
That’s what Mary, Preston’s 16-year-old great-granddaughter, claims she understood. Luke and John, Preston’s two youngest sons, agreed with Mary.
“We were all crying and praying for God to heal Papa when we heard him groan and issue this unusual demand,” John Preston said. “Then it was like an arrow pierced my heart. Papa was pleading for everyone to quit praying that God would heal him.”
Preston’s reputation as a prayer advocate was known throughout the state. He believed in the power of prayer; kneeling at the throne of grace was what a believer in Jesus Christ did, whether it was for forgiveness of sins or to request physical healing.
“Papa’s breathing gently eased those last few hours. I don’t know if he saw any white light or anything like that, and I know it may sound weird, but his death was beautiful,” Mary observed. “He had drifted in and out of horrible pain for weeks before he had a final talk with Uncle Luke and Uncle John.”
The community leader was preceded in death by his wife, Rebecca, and their two oldest sons, Matthew and Mark, both of whom died in the Vietnam War. Survivors include two sons, Luke and John, 12 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren.
Preston and his wife named their four sons after Jesus’ disciples and, in later years, encouraged the boys to also name their children after Biblical characters. Preston said it was a reminder every child is a gift from God and that parents should dedicate their children’s lives to God. Attending church on Sunday wasn’t enough; coming to know and serve the Lord was a daily minute-by-minute act of faith.
“Papa seemed rational as he talked to Uncle Luke and Uncle John,” Mary pointed out. He explained that he wanted and knew that it was time for him to join Jesus, Grandma, Uncle Matthew, and Uncle Mark. Every time he felt he was slipping into the arms of Jesus, Papa declared God would hold up because someone would be praying for his body to be healed.
“The hospital room with its white sheets, nurses in white uniforms, and doctors in white lab coats were an earthly prison for Papa,” Luke Preston argued. “He defended prayer because God always listens, but Papa thought our current prayers were selfish. We were praying for healing so he could stay with his family rather than allowing him to go Home.”
“I stayed with Papa, gently rubbing his hand and wiping his brow with a cool white washcloth, while my uncles quietly left the white sanitary dungeon for the chapel,” Mary cried.
Luke and John called every family and church member, and every prayer chain they knew. Papa’s request was rejected by some at first but Christians finally joined in the crusade.
Quit praying for healing. Quit the selfishness. Papa believes his time has come. Thank God for all his blessings and ask the Heavenly Father to comfort everyone. That was the directive from Luke and John. And, in a few short hours, Jesus peacefully embraced Papa’s soul.
A Celebration of Life for Jacob Preston will be Thanksgiving Day at 2 pm at First Fellowship, 201 Main Street, Somerset.
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