“Waiting and hoping is a hard thing to do when you’ve already been waiting and hoping for almost as long as you can bear it.” ~ Jenny Nimmo
I had sent my email off to Pastor Rusty Couch, where I was watching my email daily with eagerness, hoping that I would receive a response from him. I had already spoken to two individuals who admired my father, who gave me insight into the person he really was. Surely, Pastor Couch saw my father on a continual basis every week at church, if not more. I was really hoping that he would be able to share additional information that would tell me more about my father on a personal level.
It was several days later when there it was, the email that I was hoping to receive.
May 30, 2011
Mrs. Jackie (if I may be so bold as to refer to you in that manner):
First of all, please feel free to refer to me as Rusty.
It is an honor for me to talk to you about Mr. Charles. I must admit that I am surprised to hear about you or from you. Mr. Charles never spoke much about his family, and in thinking about, I never really asked him much about it. That does not mean I was not concerned for him, but for one reason or another, I just never chose to pursue such a conversation with him. I thought it may be a sensitive subject with him, but not because of anything he said or did. I guess I just assumed he was a 70-something year old man who was all alone in this world (from a blood-relative standpoint) and I didn’t want to broach the subject with him.
Mr. Charles was far from devoid of family, however. He often referred to our church as his family. He loved our church immensely. He served as a Deacon, and I never ONE TIME remember him missing a service in the 26 months I served as Pastor during his life…except his last two Sundays on this earth. He was hospitalized on both occasions. As a matter of fact, the last words out of his mouth to me were, “Brother Rusty, if I don’t get back to church are you going to fire me?”
He was faithful as an usher each Sunday. And he NEVER ONE TIME spoke to me when he didn’t offer me a word of encouragement. He was a witty fellow, a man of few words. He used to joke about “being blind in one eye, and not able to see out of the other.” In the last few months of his life, he had a surgical procedure on one of his eyes, and reported that his vision was much improved. I believe he was awaiting another surgery on his other eye when he died.
I have never met anyone that didn’t love and respect Mr. Charles. His funeral was a very sweet service at our church, and he was laid to rest by his departed sweetheart, which was his final wish. The church donated the plot where his remains rest this very day.
Mr. Charles loved to eat. I would see him so often walking up and down Moreland Avenue, near the church, and in various eating venues…mainly McDonalds! He also frequently carried a cigarette in his hands, although NEVER at church. I am not sure that he ever even knew that I knew he smoked. Perhaps it was just a guilty little pleasure for him. Whatever the case, it did not seem to be something that dominated his life.
The hour is late and I need to go at this point. I would love to share more with you at another time, if you’d like that. We are in the process of making a church directory, and he is pictured with a memorial tribute. He was a sweet man that I feel very honored to have known and been his pastor.
I look forward to potentially talking (or writing) to you more.
Rusty Couch Senior Pastor
Woodland Hills Baptist Church
I was simply elated to hear back from Pastor Rusty, where he shared stories with me that I never knew. It was almost like discovering a hidden treasure… the more you look, the more you find.
Once I got back on my feet from being sick, I was eager to respond to Pastor Rusty. What he shared with me was truly inspirational and I wanted him to know more about myself and why I had such a passion to learn more about the man that he was so fond of. I wrote Pastor with these words…
June 3, 2011
I’m so sorry for my delayed response. I have been a tad under the weather. Thank you so much for your reply. It warmed my heart to read about my father from your perspective and with such kind words, too. I hope my email didn’t offend, came as an intrusion or surprise, as you mentioned that you didn’t know that side of my father. You hold such a high regard for my father and it truly touches me by the way you speak of him. I hope what I share with you doesn’t deter that.
As I mentioned in my letter, I had the pleasure of speaking with Trenna Robinson, as well as with Pastor Larry Camp. They, along with yourself, has shed so much light on the father than I never knew. I can’t express enough how much gratitude I have and how much all this means to me.
I have been trying to get to know more about my father for quite a few years now. I had even written him a couple of letters, which I wasn’t sure if he received, as they were never returned to me. I know I could have made a simple phone call, but I was in fear of instant rejection and, with a letter, he had the chance to ponder things over for a while.
The story that my mother had always told me was that she would always find my father standing at the Greyhound bus stop in Wisconsin, waiting to go back home to Georgia, to be with his mother. She said that he was always a “mama’s boy.” My mother said that she would always bring him back home but, after catching him on the bus stop numerous times with his bags packed, she finally told him to just leave and go home. This was always the story I heard. I’m not sure if my father had tried to contact my mother or myself growing up. If he did, my mother never shared this with me. My mother, as well as other family members, portrayed my father in such an unpleasant light, basically telling me that he always needed assistance and he had “challenges” in life. Perhaps, this was her way of deterring me from trying to find him.
If I can explain, you may better understand why I followed this quest for so long in trying to learn about the man I never had a chance to know. I had a very rough upbringing that was not only mental, but physical as well. I feel my mother tried the best that she could but, unfortunately, her choices in life left our relationship distant. I feel she had a hard time to express love and compassion. No doubt due to her own abusive relationship that she was having herself. She was a recovering alcoholic and living with a man that literally drank 24/7. We never had the mother-daughter relationship that we should have had. I do have two younger brothers and their relationships were basically the same. I have survived everything from living in poverty, to living in burnt out buildings to being sexual abused throughout my younger life by the same man that we grew up with and lived in our home, who was also my younger brother’s father.
The only time I found solace and safety in my life was when I lived with my grandparents in Wisconsin on their farm, with animals, open spaces and safety. Their home was my safe haven. My grandparents are the ones who taught and showed me family structure, how to live life as if it’s your last day on earth, and how to love deeply and unconditionally. My heart misses them so very much.
I would not want to repeat the abusive side of my life growing up but, as strange as it may sound, it made me the person that I am today… determined, strong-willed, compassionate and a loving person. I AM a Survivor! I believe that everything in life happens for a reason and I believe there’s a reason that I’m here. I not only see with my eyes, but also with my heart and I feel it was all meant to be; a learning experience, so that I can be the person who I am today. Because I knew that I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as I saw repetitively while growing up.
So, this is why I always wanted to know what kind of man my real father truly was. Did he have a “normal” life, unlike the one I was living? Was he a kind man, compassionate, caring? I always wanted to believe that my father were all these things, something like a fairytale story. I have to confess that what I have learned so far has made my heart beam with happiness. He sounds as if he was all of these things and much, much more.
I love and respect the thought that my father had God in his heart. I wasn’t brought up with religion. As a matter of fact, I lived in an atheist house. I knew nothing about God, but after I was married and had my children, I knew that I wanted to be a part of this wonderful worship. I would look around and see all the beauty around me and knew that it was due to God’s hand and I wanted to be a part of it. Therefore, in the year 2000, I attended RCIA classes and I was baptized and confirmed by my brother-in-law, Joe Morin, who is a Catholic Priest here in Chicago at St. Michael’s Church. He spared no expense to make sure that I was blessed with a FULL pitcher of Holy Water, too. A little joke unbeknownst to me, as they were on their way over to the church! Sopping wet and hair a mess, I knew that I had just made one of the most important decisions of my life. I cannot walk into a church or think of God and his beautiful blessings without getting emotional. It pleases me to know that that my father and I shared this same passion.
To share something about myself today, I am an artist. I enjoy water coloring, drawing, mosaics, creating jewelry. I have an art room that always offers inspiration. I am an administrative assistant for a neurosurgical group and have been working with my physicians for over twenty years now.
I’ve been married for twenty one years to a wonderful man, Frank. He is a truck driver, who delivers glass for existing and new building construction. He comes from a family of seventeen children! We are blessed to have his mother, “Bubby” still with us. God willing, we have started making plans to celebrate her ninety fourth birthday in September! To say the least, I have a very large family and when the Morin’s get together, it’s definitely a party!
I have two children, Arlaraye and Tanner. Arlaraye is in her second year of college, majoring in teaching music and art. Her passion is piano and guitar. Tanner will be entering his second year of high school and plays guitar as well. I have been blessed to have two beautiful children, where I wasn’t sure if I would be able to have after a critical motorcycle accident. They are such wonderful kids and I am very proud of them.
When chatting with Pastor Camp, he shared with me that you were with my father when he passed. One of my concerns when I found out that he had passed was that he had passed alone, as I assumed that he had nobody in his life. I remember sitting quietly, saying a prayer for him, hoping he had someone with him as entered his new journey. I’m so thankful that he did and that you were with him. It’s also nice to hear that he is resting next to his sweetheart. I’m sure he’s very happy and at peace.
I would love to hear any other stories that you may have that you would like to share with me. It’s been a real treat to hear such wonderful stories. If you happen to have any photos that you would be able to share or send, I would just LOVE to see them. For giggles, I am attaching a picture of my father so that you can see how he looked back in 1960. I don’t have many photos, but the ones I do have are from my parents’ wedding. I always felt I had his eyes… except that mine are blue. Sorry for the long email. I have always been known as the “communicator” in the family.
I always considered this part of my life a chapter that I never thought would ever be written. But, thanks to three wonderful people who have entered my life, this will be the final chapter in my Memoirs that I am writing for publication one day. My journey is complete!
Looking forward to hearing from you,
I could picture my father walking down the street, selecting where to eat his lunch. It would have been nice to sit across from him in a restaurant, sharing a meal together, perhaps, talking about something as simple as the weather or where he finds this world of ours to be within the next hundred years. I would have enjoyed speaking to him about things such as what his favorite colors were or did he enjoy a favorite food. I would have loved to have spoken to him on topics of life, love and, in particular, God, our spirituality and our beliefs. Did he believe in the afterlife, did he believe in Heaven, did he believe in intuition? I believe in intuition. I believe that my father brought me in contact with my new friends from Georgia, in particular, Trenna. I feel there are too many coincidences not to believe that all of this was meant to happen. With similarities such as Trenna’s Aunt Bea passing away on my grandfather’s birthday, Trenna and my daughter, Arlaraye, sharing the same birthday and not to mention that Trenna works for a medical facility called, Tanner Medical, the same name as my son. I can’t help but to believe that there was a higher power at work, guiding me, escorting me directly into the hands of these angels.
Reading Pastor Rusty’s words that he was with my father to the end, as he left this earth to be with God, warmed my heart. As an earlier concern, when learning that he passed away in hospice, I was praying that he didn’t die alone and that he had someone by his side. I was pleased to know that Pastor Rusty was there, surely making him feel comfortable, praying as my father prepared for his own final journey.
“Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.” ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Sadly, my family really made my father to look like someone who wasn’t worth getting to know, as if he was trash and not worth the effort. If I knew years ago what I know today, perhaps, I would have made more of an effort to find him, to get to know him, to ask him to be a part of my life. But, as Garth Brooks once said, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I do believe that there’s a reason for everything and timing is a part of that. I feel that if it was meant for me to meet my father years ago, then it probably would have happened. Perhaps, my unanswered prayers were meant to be answered after my father had passed away. I have accepted this fate. I’m so very thankful that I had decided to move forward and learn more about my father when I did. Hope is such a powerful feeling. We all need to have hope in our life, leaving no doubt behind or unanswered. My hope of “wanting to know” is what kept my journey alive. I am so happy to learn that he is resting peacefully next to the love of his life and that he was an astonishing man. Saying my prayers, they now include one more person to whom I pray to, my father, asking for happiness, health and safety, asking him to be my guardian angel. In return, I ask God to bless him as well.
God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.
Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.
In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.
Just like the three wise men who came from the East, bearing gifts to the baby Jesus, I believe my gifts, the gift of contentment, peace, and knowledge, had been brought to me. All good things come in threes. Every one of my three Southern angels from the East, who I spoke with during my journey, who came into my life regarding my father, couldn’t have been more gracious, accepting, and willing to share what they could with me. I was a complete stranger who they didn’t even know or realized even existed… a stranger who also brought surprises along with her. These angels made my journey of learning who my father was come to fruition. Because of them, I no longer have a void in my life, where I feel that there is something missing, unfinished or the thought of the unknown.
My heart, mind and soul are at peace and, I believe that my travels and the journey that I have been on regarding my father’s existence, has ended, leaving my life at long last… complete.
“Wonder rather than doubt is the root of knowledge.” ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel