Today, I am thankful for legacies. I am thankful for the gift of an extraordinary, quiet man of God whom I was able to call Pap. A man, who has left a legacy of what it truly means to be the hands and feet of Jesus…
These hands, once strong and able, with age became weak and unsteady but never less powerful. These feet that once ran in youthful excitement over time became homebound, but never lost their impact.
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.” (Isaiah 42:1-2; Matthew 12:17-19)
Jesus wasn’t like some of these people we see today, going all-out, being loud and obnoxious, in the name of the Lord. He really didn’t draw attention to Himself. In fact, He blended into His world so well that in the Garden of Gethsemane, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Him with a kiss, His enemies would never have recognized Him. Here was a Man who had healed, and fed, and taught thousands, yet He remained unidentifiable because He moved in such humility and grace.
To move in humility and grace, Jesus legacy to us, Pap’s way of life…quietly, unassumingly, being the hands and feet…feeding, clothing, teaching, loving, giving, caring for others.
Edwin Eugene Charles, known to all as Pap. As many times as he has stood on death’s doorstep and came back to us gives testament to his fighting spirit and determination as well as God’s plan to show His Glory and Greatness through miracle after miracle. Today marks 5 years since this man, who lived his last days in such pain, was freed from that bondage and now celebrates in Heaven.
Born in the early 30s into a coal-mining family in a small town in Pa., he grew up with very little but in doing so came to understand early the important things in life. Faith, family, and laughter. These are the pillars upon which his life was built.
My challenge today is how do you, in the shortness of a few paragraphs, even begin to capture the entirety of who Pap was to so many different people. The difference he made in living the way he did. Our memories of him are an integral part of who we are and there is no way to properly pay honor to such a great man.
Pap was the Go-To-Guy. Not just ours but everyone’s. Did you need someone to listen and give advice? He was there, a great listener and his advice wasn’t off the cuff. It was thoughtful and contemplative and filled with love and your best interests in mind.
Did you need a little money to get you through til pay day? Or maybe you needed a lot. Pap gave it graciously without any strings attached. It wasn’t just money though. If he had it and you needed it it was yours. It didn’t matter what it was, the shirt off of his back if that would have helped. He was the hardest worker that I have ever encountered, sometimes working three jobs in order to provide the things for his family that he never had.
He loved his garden and his tomatoes especially. He babied his plants and watched them vigilantly waiting and watching for the first one to ripen. Nothing tasted as good to him as the first homegrown tomato of summer, salted and savored. He shared his garden’s bounty with anyone who would take it. He even boxed it and shipped it across the country to family.
He attended every sporting event, recital, program there was from his children to his grandchildren, taking pride in the accomplishments of each and every one of us. Sports were one of his great passions, baseball, football, wrestling. He was a student of the game. He studied plays and players, from the peewee level through the pros and took great pride when any Pennsylvania team beat any Ohio team. He was sure to remind you of the victory if you weren’t together at game time. The phone would ring after a game and you knew who was on the other end. Pap, just wondering if you had watched the game, innocently asking if you knew the end score.
Pap was often the first call when you had good news to share. He enjoyed a good story, but, even more so, a good laugh. He loved to joke and to tease. His laughter was infectious and it came from deep within him. It was a large part of who he was.
Pap’s giving and generous spirit were evident year round but during the holiday season he would shine the brightest. He provided magical Christmases for many, many people. The memories that we carry in our hearts of Christmas Eve’s spent with him over the years are our most cherished. He embodied what the season is supposed to be about. Not Santa, not presents, not stuff, but remembering God’s gift of Christ to us and glorifying Him for all that that gift meant.
In his last days we had to bring the outside world into him. He lived through the stories that we brought him. Stories of the great hunt, or a great game. The visitors were a constant stream in and out, a testament to the lives that he touched. Thank you to all who stopped in to share a story or just say hello. You helped him continue to be connected and pass the days of being homebound.
Someone once said that he was an uncommon example of kindness and generosity. What made him uncommon? It was his faith. The Lord was his guidepost, his rock. His faith quiet, understated, but evident in every day that he lived. And today he suffers no more. He doesn’t cease to be but lives on in heaven. Because of his faith he has gone home to be with his Lord and Savior.
The legacy that Pap was in life, and now leaves us with in death, will be a summons to all to live in a way in which God’s love through us can touch the people whose paths we cross for the rest of our lives. That we may be one fraction of the man that he was. To live in kindness, humbleness, and generosity. Always putting others before ourselves and living our lives in faith, surrounded by family, and with a good dose of laughter.
This…this is what it’s all about. This is what it looks like to be the hands and feet and tonight I am so thankful for this man, for my memories, and for his legacy that I hope to pass on to another generation.