Marble Falls Every day the obituary notices record the deaths all around us. During the pandemic sometimes the New Orleans paper would fill three and four pages of these free notices to the community. This week alone the “paper of record” has noted the death of the great religious and inspirational leader and Nobel Prize winner in the fight and reconciliation in South Africa, Desmond Tutu, as well as the great Harvard-based naturalist Edward O. Wilson. They go early, and they go late, but the one law we can never repeal is the natural law. We all go.
I found myself going quickly on a post-Christmas Sunday on curvy mountain roads and turns to pick up a farm table in Maumelle and make a funeral in Hensley, Arkansas down the road towards Pine Bluff from Little Rock. I loaded the table on the truck bed and then asked a favor so that I can change clothes in their bathroom to make it there with five minutes to spare.
This was the “homecoming,” as they called it, for a man I had known for some years, although not as well as I now wish I had known him. Mark Allen was the father of my niece’s husband. I would see him at mi companera’s family reunions, which they held regularly until the pandemic over Easter weekend somewhere in Pulaski County. We would talk, but it was the usual pleasantries that you exchange about weather, food, and whatever. It was just coincidence that we were able to attend his funeral, since he had passed over the last week, losing a battle in recent years with prostate cancer at only 64.
The obit gave the usual sparce details. He was an industrial electrician and member of the IBEW union. He had two children and three grandchildren. He had been an Eagle Scout and liked to hunt ducks and deer. He was the member of two churches, one of which was the spacious, large country church, where we were now sitting, which he had also helped build.
I don’t like funerals. I don’t suppose anyone really does, but I liked this one. The pastor knew the man, and it mattered. It was personal. Mark had picked the verses, facing death squarely, and likely the songs. The sermon was short and struck the points hard and true. This was a good man. A humble man. A family man. A working man. A man who cared for the community, enjoyed life, gave of himself, and expected nothing in return. He was a man who retired early to take care of his wife Shelly when she had a stroke, but the pictures that scrolled across the big screen before the pastor began underlined their love, as well as adventures in the Middle East, on cruises, and behind duck blinds. He loved life, but faced death as well, feeling “blessed” from what he had told the pastor.
As the song goes, this was not a man who made the “news of the world,” but when the pastor said this was a man that made a difference and would be missed, you knew that these were facts, not opinions. There aren’t ever enough of them, and this was a good man gone.