I went to an exciting celebration at church yesterday. And I saw lots and lots of friends – a whole church full! But Charlie wasn’t there. His wife, Liz, with her beautiful white hair was all dressed up in black slacks and a gorgeous white pleated blouse. His twin daughters, Jamie and Amy, and all their families came too. Charlie’s whole Sunday School class was there and they sat together just like they do on Sunday mornings in their class. His friends from the Red Coat group and his neighbors and even his daughter’s friends came. My goodness there was even a church bus of folks from Memphis that showed up!
We heard the best music – “How Great Thou Art” and “Beulah Land” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. Even though these songs were some of Charlie’s favorites, Charlie wasn’t there to hear them.
We got to see pictures of Charlie from the time he was a baby on his mother’s hip to last year’s wedding when he was the grandfather of the bride. Black and white pictures of Charlie standing by a plane when he was serving our country were side by side with pictures of Charlie loving on his daughters and laughing with friends. But Charlie wasn’t there to see them.
Charlie’s daughters stood up in front of the whole church and talked about him – about his faith, about his patriotism, about his love for his family. They told us about him putting his neighbor’s newspapers on the doorstep every morning because he got up before everyone else. They told us about him always keeping bottles of water cold for the garbage men and how on that last day he was in the hospital he reminded them to do that. And how, even when he was struggling to breathe, he was trying to take care of Liz, his love and his heart. His friend, Max, told us about the prayers they had together and the things Charlie was thankful for. But Charlie wasn’t there to hear all that.
I kept looking around thinking any minute I’d see Charlie come walking in but he never did. And when we all walked out to that great tune “When The Saints Come Marching In” that’s when I realized…..that saint, Charlie, had gone marching in. Head up, shoulders back, determined to get there, Charlie marched right up to the feet of Jesus. And I bet he’s sitting there now, telling a joke or two, visiting with family and friends, and doing his best to take care of everyone around him. He might not have been here for our celebration but can’t you just imagine the celebration they had for him up there?