The change was not alarming at first. Tiredness, just not feeling good! At Christmas 2012, Charles was getting around fine, still laughing, talking, and I really didn't notice any difference. He did seem a bit tired - but who isn't at Christmas?!
Then just a couple of weeks later, the tiredness and weakness seemed to be increasing a bit. On over in January, this became more acute, and we began to worry a bit about increasing fatigue. A trip to the hospital revealed he needed blood, and he got a couple of units that made him feel better. But that was short-lived relief, and within a few days an ER doctor pronounced, "you have a mass in your lung!"
That sent us all into high alert. Andrea and I traveled to Baptist Hospital to be with Charles and Elizabeth for the P.E.T. Scan and lung biopsy. By the end of the day, the Oncologist revealed what we were fearing most - Stage 4 Metastatic Lung Cancer.
No two people respond to cancer and chemo just alike. Charles had one chemo treatment, and complications from it and extreme weakness led to his sudden and quite unexpected death last Friday, February 8, 2013. Denise had been with them through this most difficult week. We were all present when he died.
Today, just a day after his burial, it just doesn't seem real to me. Having done hundreds of funerals and being with dozens of families for bad news, there is still nothing so sobering as when it happens to your own family.
Charles was such a man! When I first met him, I was a bit scared of him! Looking back on it now as a parent, I give him great credit for trying to instill a little "fear" in a guy who came to date one of his 5 daughters! He was heavily tanned from working on his farm. He was a dairy farmer! Quite a few of you probably just sighed! Dairy farming is hard, regular, unrelenting work that follows a twice a day schedule. He plugged away at it.
Things were tough in those days. He had some setbacks - some were just circumstances beyond his control. When the farming crisis hit in the 1980's, he lost the farm.
This was tough for him and Elizabeth. They still had one child, Heather, at home! It was time to start over. And start over is exactly what he did.
Charles moved to Canton, MS and started a used tire store. Within a relatively short period of time, it was up and going and growing stronger. The success of it can be measured in the fact that it is still in operation, and Charles was still spending some time there nearly every day up to the time of his death.
He worked hard there. I remember a few years ago Charles had open heart surgery. Two weeks later he was at the tire store helping go through a fresh load of used tires, sorting them by grade etc.. Even he admitted that might have been a bit hasty - it nearly killed him! But that kind of determination marked his character. He was very successful.
In 1983, Charles made the greatest decision of his life - he surrendered himself to Jesus Christ to follow Him. I have to tell you - I don't think I could have preached his funeral this past Sunday and Monday if Charles had not made that decision. It changed him - it changed his life - and it impacted his family. Charles became a Bible reader! He got interested in his church. He served there. He helped however he needed to. It was amazing to watch what God did with him.
In all the years I have known Charles (a little over 35 years) we have had a great relationship. I've gone with him to pick up loads of tires, traveled to cattle sales, gone to car auctions and just enjoyed it overall. He was full of knowledge - actually useful knowledge. He kept up with current events - (he was a Fox News Junkie) - and he loved games.
Charles should probably be awarded some type of award by the makers of scrabble! You just did not want to play scrabble with Charles. He was the king of blocking the board with all manner of two and three letter words. He and Elizabeth played every night at 8:00 pm. Andrea timed her nightly phone call to their house so as not to interfere with "the game!"
In these last few years Charles served as Deacon at Center Terrace Church in Canton. I was so proud of him. His last ministry to his church was serving on the Pastor Search Team. He was too sick on the Sunday that the people met the new prospective minister to be present - but he was interested in hearing how it went.
It was a privilege to preach the message at his funeral. It was the most difficult funeral I have ever preached from an emotional stand-point. But in every other regard, it was among the greatest blessings and privileges I have ever had.
Charles was "Charlie-boy" to me - "Papaw" to my children - "Daddy" to my wife! I could never afford to cry much over the past few days - I needed to help other folks deal with their pain. Since I have been home, I find myself "tearing up" regularly. Charles is the first of our two sets of parents to go home to the Lord! I didn't know for sure how we would handle it when this day finally came. Through God's help, the mutual support of family, and the blessings of so many friends, we are making it through.
Today I am praying more than ever for his wife, Elizabeth - and the girls - Rannah, Denise, Andrea (the love of my life), Tracy, and Heather. I love them all and wish I could remove the pain.
Keep our families in your prayers. And we rejoice in the Lord who gave us Charles - and loved him enough to give him a home in heaven with the Lord forever!