Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Since my sister, Colleen, and I could not attend our brother’s memorial service this afternoon in Oklahoma, she came over to my house about 2:00 p.m. so we could be together and have our own time to remember him.  We recalled all the good times, and I read from John 14.  We ate chocolate ice cream and drank Dr. Pepper in his honor.  I read the following tribute I had written to Carl.
I have soooo many fond memories of my brother, Carl.  He was 8 years older than me, but growing up we were very close.  Here are a few “pictures” in my mind:

  - taking me and my friend back to school after the lunch hour when he didn’t have to have his little sister tagging along.
 - the train set we played with (or he let me play with) that was upstairs on a track built on a ping pong-type table
 - a vacation to the west coast (I was 7, him 15) when Mom and Dad gave us each a roll of coins.  Every time one of would say, “Quit!” “Stop it!” we would have to give a coin to the other person. :)
 - working with him in our small-town grocery store – stuffing sausage, cutting up chickens, etc.
 - a ride to California with him
 - his wonderful sense of humor!  And it would come when you least expected it!
 - the stained-glass window hanging he made me
 - how the only flavor of ice cream that existed was chocolate – and all the better if it was homemade!
After Carl married and moved back to Little River, he managed the meat department of the grocery store.  He butchered the cattle and hogs, and he cured our hams and bacon.  He won many awards for his hams and bacon.  In fact, his bacon was so good, people from all over the United States would order it.  I’ve never had any bacon like that since!

After I graduated from college, and Dad sold the store, we no longer lived in close proximity to one another.  But I loved it when we would go see him.  I remember some of the beautiful homes he designed and built.  Carl was a master perfectionist, and every part of whatever he worked on had to be “just right!” He was VERY talented in that manner!  Everywhere he went, he was usually involved in working with wood, and he would proudly show me pictures of his accomplishments.  He especially loved building things, like sound booths in his church. 

I enjoyed the few times he was able to come to Alabama to see us.  Unfortunately 2 of those times were for our parents’ funerals in 2010 and 2011.  This last time we got some wonderful pictures of us together.

I think the most memorable time with him, the one with the fondest of all memories, and the one that will remain with me forever, was in 2010.  Our small home town in Kansas has an all-school reunion every 5 years over the Memorial Day weekend.  I flew into Tulsa, and he picked me up at the airport in his pickup.  I decided we should rent a car rather than drive this old pick-up to Kansas. (He really wanted to drive this old pickup. :))  When I got the car, it was a pea-green Kia Soul.  This was the first time I had ever seen a Soul, and we both laughed and laughed, thinking  it was the ugliest car on the road, especially that color!!  But it turned out to be a fun little car to drive.  At the hotel in Hutchinson where we stayed the first night, someone came over to us and asked how we liked our car.  We laughed and told him it was just a rental. When we got to Little River, he told me I should park the thing a few blocks away and walk wherever we were going, so no one would see us in it.  :)
On the way to Little River, we drove by our farm just south of Little River.  He had me stop the car so he could get out and look up close at the soy beans growing in the fields.  That seemed to fascinate him.  Once in Little River, we spent hours driving up and down every single street in this town of 500, recalling nearly all the names of the people who lived in all the houses when we were growing up there.  We talked about how we had delivered groceries to many of the houses.  We walked up and down Main Street talking to all our old high school buddies, and he was just loving it.  We went into our old grocery store, now called the Garden of Eden, and met the current owners.  We looked at those old wooden floors and talked about how we had swept them so many times.  Carl looked up at the big wooden plaques with numbers, handing from the ceiling of each aisle, and told David that he carved those pieces of wood all those many years ago.  And to think they still remain!
Before the all-school dinner that night, we parked the car near the park, rolled down the windows, and we both took a little nap.  Then at the dinner, he had more fun talking with all his former classmates.  I remember one in particular, Jerry Rutherford, who worked for us in the store.  They were so happy to connect again.

Carl was a Godly man, giving his heart to the Lord at a young age and living a Godly example before everyone.  He loved the book Heaven is for Real.  (He was friends with the family about whom this book was written, so he knew it was authentic.)  He had business cards made about this book to hand out to people he came in contact with.  His Sunday school class had been studying about Heaven for many weeks.  Not long ago he told me, “You know, if Heaven is this great and beautiful, why do we fight so hard to remain on this earth?!”

Although I miss him terribly, he is now walking on those streets, seeing all those sights, meeting Jesus in person – all the things that book talked about.  And he is reunited with our parents and so many relatives that have gone before him.  When I think about Carl, I smile and know that, just like when our parents recently died – I couldn’t be sad for long because they are no longer suffering, and it’s not like I will never see them again.  In just a little while I’ll be reunited with all of them, to never be separated again.  What a grand and glorious day that will be!!