Uncle Bill Hodges has passed away . . .
My Uncle Elmo -- who preferred to be called "Bill" -- died on July 22, 2012 at the age of 89. I learned of his passing that same day (though the day here in Seoul was the 23rd) when Cousin Bill sent a short email to various relatives:
My words tonight are brief. Dad passed away this afternoon. Our loss and Heaven's gain.I didn't know Uncle Bill as well as I knew Aunt Kathryn, but I think that I recall one time meeting him when I was a kid and he was visiting his mother, my Grandma Hodges, for I recall being fascinated by his electric shaver and him letting me use it to 'shave' the peach fuzz from my face.
I think that my brother Pat knew Uncle Bill better, for I seem to recall that Pat stayed with him and his family for several months when we were kids, though Pat will have to confirm this.
According to some details forwarded to me from Cousin Bill, his father served in the army in WWII and as the pastor of many churches after graduating from Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. I see that he lived a good, long life, nearly 90 years, and was beloved by many. He leaves behind his wife and their four children (and eight grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren). Cousin Bill added a personal note:
It has been one week since I told Dad goodbye. My eyes fill with tears yet. And will forever. We loved Dad. The Celebration of Dad's Life was beautiful. The tributes by Scott, Barbara and [the minister] Brother Crippen said it all. The music varied . . . all the way from Uncle Cran's "Sunday Morning Living Room" CD to some blue grass and Hank Williams played during the meal. Dad would've been proud. Our family appreciated the comforting thoughts and prayers of each of you.Cousin Bill also sent me some memories from his brother Scott and his sister Barbara, memories that they shared with others at the funeral service. First, Cousin Scott's words:
Memories of my Dad . . . Always willing to spend time with me -- regardless of how hard he had worked . . . and he worked very hard. Teaching me how to cast a fishing line. Hitting fly balls to me. Putting up a basketball goal on a power line pole in the back yard at 12 ft high which explains my 'set shot' and being cut from the basketball team in 9th grade. Listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio on Saturday nights. Able to build or fix anything . . . or so I thought. Tried to teach the same to me . . . it didn't take. Picking blackberries on Grandma's farm in Arkansas. Swimming with me in the cold spring water at Grandma's farm. Traveling around the country with him and Mom on vacation each summer. Eating and drinking from green Coleman coolers at some of the most beautiful rest stops along the highway. Always willing to stop at Kentucky Fried Chicken for 'landing gears' . . . chicken legs. Bringing me along on the milk truck when he worked for Jones Dairy, getting me all the ice cream bars I wanted when we were done. Taking things apart and always trying to build a better mousetrap. Singing and humming hymns and bluegrass. Teaching me how to shoot a BB gun. Sharing with me his love for cornbread and pecan pie. Not really liking being called 'Elmo'. Taking me and Mom to Royals games in KC each summer and listening with me to them on the radio in the backyard. Telling me how much rougher he had it as a kid -- and he did! No rabbit or possum was ever on our dinner table. Having an extremely strong handshake for a 150 lb man. Being patient with me -- rarely did he ever raise his voice. Teaching me to serve others. Modeling for me what it means to be an excellent husband and father. Loving others unconditionally. Reading his Bible faithfully and using it in his instruction of me. Taking a paddle or switch off a bush to me when the scriptures didn't reach his desired conclusion on my behavior. Preaching and singing in church, all the while amazing me with his knowledge of the Bible and his love for God. Baptizing me in Dragoon Creek. Being authentic -- he was in private, the same person as in public. In Acts the Apostle Paul speaks of Barnabas in a way that I think describes my Dad as well . . . "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith . . ." He taught me about what faith was. In John, Chapter 11: verses 25 and 26. 'Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" So you see, Dad is in heaven today. He slipped away from us on Sunday afternoon and went to spend eternity with Jesus Christ. He was ready to go and he assured our family of this on Sunday morning. Those verses ended with a question . . . Do you believe this? Dad asked a lot of people that question during his time on earth, both from the pulpit and in casual conversation. I can think of nothing more important that Dad would want me to ask you today. Do you believe this? I do, Dad. I do.Now, Cousin Barbara's memories:
Dear Daddy -- How do I begin telling others about the man who has always been in my life? I remember . . . a little girl holding tight to her Daddy's hand as we walked down the street . . . the Dad who carried me to the car after I broke my arm twice . . . a Dad that worked hard all his life -- a man not afraid of hard work and long hours to provide for his family and then to find time to study and prepare sermons for church services Wednesday and Sunday . . . a husband that loved his wife unfailingly for almost 69 years . . . the Dad who gave unselfishly all his life -- thinking of others and putting them first . . . the Dad who would tell me consistently, Barbara, if you're that tired, go to bed -- the couch isn't made for sleeping on. (Grin) . . . the Dad who taught me right from wrong . . . the stories told of growing up in Arkansas on the farm -- your great love for your Dad and Mother, brothers and sisters, and for Grandpa Archie . . . the Dad who stood in the pulpit and preached "fire and brimstone" . . . the little girl that was so proud of my Dad, the preacher . . . the twinkle always in your eyes . . . the one liners that always made us laugh . . . . I remember you and Mom singing at church and your great voice . . . I remember the Dad who performed my wedding -- standing up there tall and straight watching his youngest daughter come down the aisle on her brother's arm, her sister as maid of honor and her little brother the ring bearer, and Mom looking so very pretty with her pink suit . . . I remember the Dad who came to the hospital when my first child was born and then my second one. I remember the Sunday I called you when I was unsure if I would go to heaven when I died. And, over the phone, you led me through the scriptures as I accepted Christ as my Savior. Through it all Dad, I remember your love for your Lord. How sweet it was Sunday morning to be at your side, praying and reading scriptures with you, and then for you to begin reciting scriptures to me. The Bible was your constant companion. Bill said he once asked you "how many times have you read the Bible" and your answer to him "was thousands of times". And we know that to be true. Even in the nursing home your Bible was always close at your side . . . . Then I remember Sunday afternoon . . . holding your hand, talking with you, telling you once again how much we all loved you; you taking your last breath here on earth and leaving peacefully to the other side. How many times you told us you just wanted to "walk on the streets of gold". Now you're doing that Dad . . . . That was your life Dad -- loving Mom, loving us four kids and eventually our spouses as they came into our lives. Loving your eight grandchildren and then ten great-grandchildren. And through it all your life showed your love for God and the riches of His glory and the ultimate crown of walking by His side forevermore. I can only imagine your life now Dad. Truly Dad -- you lived a lot of life through the dash between 1922 and 2012. The secret of a life well lived is not in counting the years but in making the years count -- that was your life. Thank you for being our Dad, living the example, and leaving us such a special legacy. We love you Dad.One couldn't ask for greater memories than these. For me to say more would merely be to diminish their words . . .