A couple of weeks before his death, I was able to pay a final visit to "Hambone." Elmer Long was converted in 1935 and for some sixty years was a pastor and evangelist. In 1993 I helped him publish a booklet, Recovering the Wesleyan Emphasis. He was a spiritual guide to me and wherever I pastored the congregation loved him.
When I arrived in North Wilksboro, NC, I found that cancer had taken its toll. Brother Long had lost weight and was at home in a hospital bed. He had been told that nothing could be done medically to add a day to his life, so he had opted only for pain medication. Most of the time his mind was clear, but sometimes he could not sleep at night because of the pain.
When he couldn't sleep, he would begin praying for all of us. Often the times of his greatest pain were also the times of his greatest blessing as God's presence blessed him. He did not know whether the Lord would heal him or not, but he rested in the will of God, whether it was to be healing or heaven. Although our visit lasted about an hour and a half, he never once expressed any complaint over his physical condition.
He was almost 85 years of age and he had to quit preaching a few months earlier. That he was no longer able to attend church grieved him most. He expressed concern over conditions within the church in America. He told how he left the Methodist Church in 1939. At that time he had publicly stated that he could not support the Methodist agenda, which included financing liberal causes. The Methodist leaders offered him a desirable pastorate, but told him they could not recommend him as long as he was opposed to their agenda. When he told them to count him out, he was asked, "Do you really think a little man like you can change the Methodist Church?" He replied, "No, but neither can the Methodist Church change me!"
He said that he had become more aware than ever before that the greatest need was for more of the love of God. He recalled the warning of John Wesley that if we are seeking anything other than more love, we are seeking amiss. He said he aimed to love everyone and that God had given him a love for Christians of all denominations. He also said he believed things would change for the better within the church. Though he might not live to see it, he believed that a time would come when many would enter the kingdom. I left a dying man with a keen mind, a warm heart, and a strong faith.
During the closing hours of his life, Brother Long had a personal conference with each of his five children. He asked each of them to promise that they would meet him in heaven. He was conscious and alert to the very end. His last day on earth was spent singing, praising the Lord, and in spiritual conversation. Then he fell asleep. As his family attempted to turn him in the bed he woke up and said, "I'm out of here." He died immediately.
Several hundred people attended the wake and funeral in Galax, VA. Brother Long not only preached the Scriptural truth that Methodism once spread across the land, but he lived as a shining example of what he preached. John Wesley said the early Methodists, "Our people die well." Elmer Long lived a victorious Christian life, died a triumphant death, and his influence lives on.