Friday, July 06, 2007

Bun, Charlene, Collin

Instead of writing here on Wedesday night, I keep getting later and later in the week. When Audrey Biby phoned Saturday afternoon with the sad news of her father's death--just after he had fixed Audrey and Alan hamburgers for lunch and they had had a good time together--I thought I would write after his Tuesday funeral about the good life of William Martin "Bun" Handkins.

How Gerald has enjoyed visiting with Bun and hearing about his work in the coal mines as a very young man--being in charge of the mules down there. Of course, he stayed in the mines through all the later technology. Gerald never came home from Bun's house without having his spirits lifted. Bun would insist on feeding Gerald cashews or something and getting him a drink of ice water. Gerald would try to tell him to let him do it, but Bun wanted to serve him that water--even though the walk to the kitchen sometimes made him shaky.

The last time I visited with him, he was admitting that maybe he needed to accept Audrey and Alan's repeated invitation to come live with them. "If you can't keep care of things, maybe you better move on," he explained. But by the time Gerald visited him next, Bun thought surely he could stay one more winter in his own home that he loved so well.

He would have been 94 at the end of this month, and he still was going up and down the stairs to the basement, riding his tractor, driving his pickup to town, and relishing life. His niece down the road checked on him every afternoon and fed him many home-cooked meals. Gerald will miss hearing Bun brag on brother Kenny's expertise on the dozer and on our son-in-law's crops and straight rows. Not long ago, Bun had made a special stop by McDonald's just to check up on Kenny. We will miss his dropping by the farm. A good life well lived continues to be a joy.

On Sunday afternoon, we got a call about the death of Gerald's first cousin Charlene Givens. She was 79 and had been quite ill for a long time. She was always a favorite. We were saddened all over again. However, like Bun, Charlene had lived a very useful and full life and had loved many people and made many of us happy with her enthusiasm and concern. I will never forget her smile nor her laugh.

Then, however, we learned of the death of a young man in a truck accident on Sunday morning. He left behind a wife and baby girl. Although we had never met Collin Petty, we knew his parents and sister. When our granddaughter rented his grandmother's former home, Collin had been kind to her. We had prayed for Collin's daddy when he was so ill.

Many years ago, we had grieved the tragic accident of his aunt's young husband Joey Rumfelt down in the Ware community in the Mississippi bottoms. Joey was Ken and Opal's nephew and the cousin of our children's cousin, and he too left behind a young wife and baby. Ware Baptist Church was so crowded with mourners that I remember thinking what if the floor caved in.

Now this family had to go through all this again. Our hearts ache for them. The death of those of us who are at the end times of our lives is both appropriate and expected, and we often consider it a good thing even as we grieve. (When my adored father died, I really was not even able to allow myself to fully grieve for a couple of years because when I would start to grieve, I would feel selfish for wanting him to stay on earth.)

But it is much more difficult to process the unexpected death of a young parent and a beloved son who we feel has so much to live for. We have had too many of these difficult accidents in our area as well as the loss of our young service people in Korea, Viet Nam, and now Iraq. When I work on family history, I do not feel sad about the deaths that I record of older people. Oddly, I don't think we ever quite get over the sadness of those who die young.

We find ourselves still grieving for Charlene's mother who died of a stroke at age 26 when Charlene was only four. I still grieve for my mother's mother who died when my mother was six. No, that is not exactly correct. I grieve that my mother and siblings had to grow up without their mother. It meant so much to Mother when she visited Uncle Henry in the Mt. Vernon hospital and went in to help a patient in the next room who was calling for a nurse who did not come--and Mother found out that elderly person had known her mother! Such a small tie--but it meant a great deal to one deprived of a mother.

I still grieve the death of Gerald's uncle Oard Glasco, who was murdered before any of us were even born. A bunch of rowdies crashed a teenage party. (And I sometimes grieve for those rowdies, who were never convicted but had to live with this knowledge all their lives.)

Our children always grieved the death of Gerald's baby brother Clay, who died before Gerald or his siblings were born. Elijah Clay Eiler carries his name. I comfort myself that those who die young do not usually have to experience the grief of death of their loved ones--nor any other of life's hardships or illnesses they might have had to experience if their adulthood continued. It is important to realize we better express love and appreciation while we can. Those are the memories we cherish.

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