A few weeks ago, I lost a dear brother in Christ – EC Owen. So, I wanted to take a few moments to share some memories with you.
First Year Snow On Thanksgiving
That was snow! Thanksgiving Day never had snow in Florida. Of course, snow in Florida was as rare as a heat wave in Alaska. It just didn’t happen in the central part of the state where I am from. Winter there was one night and the following day. You did not buy ‘winter’ clothes. You did not have a coat, except for rain.
We had moved to Dalton, Georgia from Belle Glade, Florida, a small town on the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee. My parents had wanted to be in what they called “the mountains” and Dalton was the winner. Little did we know that winter in Dalton would be such a drastic change.
Well, the Owens visited that November Day. EC seemed to enjoy the snow. But, I think he thought it was a little out of the ordinary, too. But, it didn’t matter. No amount of convincing would work. Is this how it was going to be from now on – every Thanksgiving having snow?
Well, we made it through that day. But, that first winter, me and all my family got the flu. I was the last one to get it, so it fell on me to take care as best as I could the rest of the family including my newest baby brother, Brian. And, I mean he was still in diapers.
But, the Owens always made us feel welcome in this new part of the country. We knew they would look out for us.
First Year Christmas
My family and I, by choice, do not now exchange gifts or have a tree or any other accouterments of the Christmas holiday, but when I was a child, my mom and dad had a tree and exchanged gifts. We were away from all of our larger family in Florida and that move nearly broke my parents. It was difficult. We had moved into a double-wide trailer (to us it was like a house), but it was nice and comfortable.
As a child, we usually had nice gifts from relatives and from our parents (Santa Claus, to the younger siblings). I don’t remember many of those Christmases in the past, but I remember this one.
The area under the tree was stark. ‘Santa’ did his best and my gift was a watchband. I still remember it. It was a beige suede like material and black snaps to hold the timepiece. And, when we all came out to look at the gifts, there was the watchband. I was thankful for it. But, I believe my parents were hard-pressed to maintain composure – but it was all they could do and I knew it. My brothers were too young to grasp it.
And, this is where the story gets interesting. I believe it was that night, we had gone out. When we came back home, and came inside, near the sliding door back entrance INSIDE the house, sat a pile of gifts, airplanes, and all kinds of toys and other goodies.
We were in shock and awe. We didn’t know what to think. Now, over the years we discussed it many times as a family. No one ever came forward and admitted to the deed even to this day. But, the highest suspect on the list was EC and Lee Owen.
They, of all people, knew how tight things were for us. And, we knew it was just the type of thing they would do. We do not know how they got in the house.
But, that was one of the kindest gestures we ever experienced. And, we had known EC and Lee long enough in those first few months to know that they were the most likely culprits.
I may be mistaken, but that is who I still think did it. That is how EC was and Lee is.
Rockets With Mr. Carpenter
There was a man that EC had worked with and had converted to the Lord. He spent his life in a wheelchair and was a kindly soul. EC had seen that I had an interest in model rocketry and set up a time with Bro. Carpenter so I could launch rockets at this place. EC just thought this was the most fun. I did, too. No one had shown that type of enthusiasm over my hobby like EC had.
And, after that day, EC always asked from time to time if I had launched any Sputniks.
EC spent a lot of time with the young people at the congregation. He had this big green Ford LTD. Back then, the LTD was a big car and there were no seat belt laws. You had seat belts in cars, but it was not a law that all passengers must wear them.
Anyway, we could get a LOAD of folks in that old LTD. And, we often did.
One time EC took us horseback riding. I had been around horses only occasionally in Florida because we had friends that worked on a ranch. But, that was not good preparation for this day.
These horses had their own mind. But, if one took off on a gallop, the rest did. And, was that fun! Man, the speed of a horse in full gallop is amazing!
No one seemed to enjoy playing Rook more than EC. He was a master at it, too. Rook, for those not in the know, is a card game with four suits and a supreme wild card called the Rook. The traditional game consists of bidding on a score and the winner of the bid got the “kitty” the five cards in the middle of the table – all except one of which were turned face-down. The winner of the bid could exchange some, all or none of the “kitty” cards with those in their hand, name the trump color and lead each “trick” (round of one card played by each player).
An exception and regional variation allowed any bidder to declare that he or she believed they could take every point in the game signified by announcing that they were going to “shoot the moon”.
This would award the winner of such a feat 500 points which was the typical match winning score. And, most folks would not dare do it. One must normally have a decent hand to even consider it.
EC was seemingly unaware of the laws of average. I have been an observer watching him play against others and as an opponent ‘shoot the moon’ many, many times and make it more often than not. In fact, I don’t know anyone who has made it more than EC.
And, when he announced it, it was not a nonchalant thing, a mere muttering. It was a deep bellowing herald accompanied by a soaring index finger pointing at “the moon” and a long holding of the word, ‘moon’ – and the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.
My First License
When I turned 16, it was time to get my driver’s license. The problem was my dad’s Cadillac was as big as a barn and if I remember correctly, the other car was a station wagon. Neither car was exactly ideal for the required parallel parking.
This was evidently vexing to me. All I recall is that EC stepped in again and volunteered the use of their Mustang II. I had not driven it before, but it would work for the parallel parking.
I got my license and am very thankful for the generous spirit of EC.
One summer a few years later (we had moved into a house out in a very rural area) my parents and brothers went on vacation while I had to stay home. I had to work. My dad had this big Cadillac Sedan De Ville that I used to get to drive.
It was a hot summer. And, we had a well for water…
One day, I heard the loudest crack that sounded like a gun shot. I went to the door near the side entrance to see the Cadillac’s back windshield appear as one big sheet of glued together ice cubes. The heat had shattered it.
An omen, I suppose. Then, the well pump died… And, I was all alone. My only solution was to call the Owen’s. I needed rescue and they welcomed me in whole-heartedly.
Now we all knew Lee could cook. That was apparent anytime there was a get together. But, I had 3 meals a day of the best food ever. Mercy! And, they made sure I never felt like I was imposing. I learned a great deal about the Christ-like nature of hospitality that time.
Rocking Chair To Rock…
Many years later, my mother-in-law began having a cookout on Memorial Day. And, of course, she always invited the Owens. EC served in World War II in the Navy and he always downplayed any thanks we aimed at him and his service.
Now at these gatherings, there were some who brought guitars and who sang. It soon became a tradition that EC would sing a song that totally embarrassed Lee. But, he he sang it anyway…
“It takes a rocking chair to rock, it takes a rubber ball to roll, it takes a fine fine woman to satisfy my soul, ‘cause I’m jealous, jealous as I could be…” an adaptation to the Eddy Arnold song…
It was great fun to watch him sing it…and watching Lee blush…
One time, Michael Thomas (his granddaughter, Stephanie’s husband) and I had set up a time to play golf when he came to visit. So, when we met he announced that EC had decided to come and play, too. This was at the time when EC’s eyesight had diminished exceedingly and we wondered how he would hit the ball.
He brought a single club, an iron, and maybe borrowed Michael’s putter. He brought a ball, too – an ancient sphere that had aged to a nice brownish patina – no doubt due to the toxic chemicals they used to fill older golf balls with…
But, it was fine for EC. I had never seen him play golf. He surprised me. At the first tee, he teed up his ball, took a backswing and actually made contact. The ball sailed a little ways in the air, not bad really. Michael and I took our shots.
So, we drove EC to his ball in the fairway. And, he plunked down his tee in the fairway and teed up his ball. This was a clear violation of the rules, but EC was undaunted. No ranger came by to tell him he couldn’t do it. Neither did we.
We played that way all day. And, EC held his own. A legally blind golfer – how do you compete with that?
Ice Cream Bowl
One of EC’s favorite things was ice cream – homemade of course. So, whatever summer gathering we were invited to, there was usually homemade ice cream.
My folks made ice cream too. And if EC came, it did not matter how full the meal made him, he wanted ice cream. Now, in my house, you got ice cream in a Corningware white cereal bowl. Well, that simply could not hold EC’s serving. He got ice cream in a somewhat larger bowl…think Jethro Bodine. His bowl was a large serving bowl and he always drained it.
After I had married and had a very young son, life was going fast and I was trying to learn how to be a father and a husband… and, I forgot about the most serious blessings of the gift of my wife and child. I let the hypocrisy of others I saw that professed Christianity live a life of lies while I struggled to do what I needed to do. They seemingly got away with it and I seemed to think I was fighting an uphill battle and simply gave up on the Lord.
Those were dark days. My wife was stellar and I love her deeply for how she refused to give up on me. I acted badly, selfishly, shamefully. But, I was going through a change. I was re-evaluating everything. I was deciding what to keep in my life and what to discard. It was indeed a trial by fire.
The outreach by the visits of several folks was acceptable. I knew they were trying to help in the only way they could. But, they were largely ineffective. Except for a very few.
On one occasion during this time, I was told that EC wanted to visit and asked if I would be OK with it. How selfish that was on my part. But, that was where I was.
Anyway, EC came and spoke with me. He wasn’t critical. But, he did tell me that I knew what needed to be done. He urged me to forge ahead and face all the difficulties…
And, I did eventually. I don’t know how much his visit changed me. I think he understood where I was. But, his visit is the one I remember.
I will always be thankful for his love and care. Looking back, I can see Christ in his example. I hope I can one day help someone like he helped me.
Prayers For My Health
Well, that was many years ago. I met EC when I was a teenager. 30 years later I had a heart attack at age 46. It was a classic “widow-maker”; I should not have survived. But, the Lord was with me.
Ever since then, whenever EC led a public prayer, he seemed to always remember me in prayer – even after my recovery. He seemed to think I needed those prayers. I no doubt did. Here was a man, almost twice may age, in poor health himself and his thoughts were on me – that gangly armed teenager all grown up.
What an example he was. I hope I never forget.
How Great Thou Art
When this dear brother passed on, his family asked if I would lead the singing at his funeral. I accepted as graciously as I could. I am so thankful to have been asked.
My wife asked if I knew what songs they wanted me to sing. At the time, I had not yet been told. But, Kim and I were sure that at least one song would be ‘How Great Thou Art’. And, so it was.
Whenever we had a singing EC would always sing, without a song book in the later years, what seemed like his favorite song, ‘How Great Thou Art’. He sang from memory every word. He sang from the heart. He sang from his soul.
And, it is how I saw him live his life.
He always took the time to listen to birds sing sweetly in the trees feeling the gentle breeze and considering the immensity of love that the Father had to send His Son – scarcely able to take it in. He often prayed publicly with an eye looking forward to humbly be taken home and acknowledging How Great Thou Art!