God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale

Greg and I journeyed to the small farming community of Minier in Illinois today, to join family members in honoring and celebrating the life of a dear man. Dale Schmidgall was the husband of Greg’s cousin Linda. He is survived by Linda, his six children and one granddaughter, and by his mother, two brothers and two sisters. 

God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale
I am deeply grateful that I saw Dale 18 months ago. He and Linda drove to Arkansas to visit Greg’s dad while he was hospitalized. They stayed for the memorial service, after Dad Moore passed away. It was wonderfully healing to spend time with Dale and the rest of the family, catching up, telling stories, dining together. 

I had not seen Dale in many years. And yet he quietly offered us his strength and wisdom, his humor and perspective, his love and affection. Although the circumstances were sorrowful, I appreciated the opportunity to get reacquainted with him. 

God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale

Today at his service I experienced a sense of shock over his sudden passing and his absence was keenly felt. We were gathered to remember and celebrate him. I knew that. And yet I kept looking for his smiling face among the crowd. How much more so is his family grieving the loss of husband, father and grandfather. Indeed, the whole community is missing this remarkable man. It made me wish I had known him better, and had enjoyed his company more often. 

This is what I do know about Dale…

He was a man of deep faith. I discovered today that he truly was a pillar in his community and church. Dale put deliberate actions with his beliefs. He served through his church, caring for widows, and giving his time and resources to make a difference in the lives of others. Dale made a joyful noise regularly, singing in a quartet. In a touching tribute, the three remaining members of the group sang during Dale’s service. 

God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale
God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale
He was a loving family man, devoted to his wife and their six children and one granddaughter. What a legacy Dale leaves. His three sons each served in the US Marines. His  daughters genuinely care for others. By his example Dale taught his children to keep learning and growing, to walk in faith, to work hard. He loved geography, travel, trivia, history, music and sports. His kids do too. 

It was a joy to watch his family today, unashamed as they shed tender tears for the man who loved them and provided for them. Dale was honored through the telling of their stories and the sharing of memories that were often humorous.  

God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale

God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale

And this man put others at ease. Because he knew who he was and was at ease with himself, he could extend that same grace to others. Dale knew how to relax into the moment and enjoy it fully. He was kind, thoughtful, selfless and joyful. I can’t think about Dale without picturing a wide smile on his face and a glint of mirth in his eyes. 

A video was shared during the service, of Paul Harvey reciting his speech, So God Made a Farmer. The opening lines are, “And on the 8th day God looked down on His planned paradise and said, ‘I need a catetaker’. So God made a farmer.” 

Along with being a long time State Farm supervisor, Dale was a farmer his whole life. He was a caretaker of the earth, his farmlands and the properties of others, mowing yards and tending to the church’s grounds. 

He was a caretaker of souls, loving his wife, nurturing and raising his family, playing with his granddaughter, serving and blessing others in so many ways. 

And he was a caretaker of his own soul, walking in faith with God, enjoying who he was created to be, savoring life. 

God said, “I need a caretaker”.  He made Dale. 

He is loved. He is missed. He is remembered. He is celebrated. We will be caretakers, in his name. 

God Needed a Caretaker So He Made Dale

Jeffry’s Train Ride to Heaven

This afternoon I gathered with family and friends to say goodbye to my cousin Jeffry. Although 53 years is a relatively short journey on this earth, Jeff lived life abundantly in terms of joy and happiness and love. Today truly was a celebration of who Jeff was and the light he shared with the world. 

Jeffry's Train Ride to Heaven
As I sat with William, Jeffry’s nephew and caregiver, waiting for the service to begin, I couldn’t help but smile. The music playing over the speakers, in honor of Jeff, was from the movie Wizard of Oz. He loved the movie and the soundtrack and played both often. 

Jeffry's Train Ride to Heaven
During the funeral service the song It Is Well With My Soul was played. What a beautiful expression for Jeffry. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about how true the lyrics were for my cousin. His soul is well. It has always been well. 

You see, many would say that Jeffry had a challenging life. He would be called “different” or “special needs” or “disabled” or other more unkind words by some. But I agree with what Rev. Al Gritten said today, as he officiated at the service. Jeff wasn’t different. He was unique. And aren’t we all different from each other, and unique, too? 

Jeffry's Train Ride to Heaven
Jeffry was wonderfully unique. He embodied living in the now. He didn’t dwell on the past or fret about the future. He accepted who he was and accepted others as well. Cheerful and joyful, he worked and played with equal devotion. He loved musicals and movies, the Kansas City Chiefs and collecting coins, the Beverly Hillbillies and Silver Dollar City. 

I loved the way Jeff smiled and laughed and said my name, like he was always delighted to see me. And he was very intuitive. His pure soul easily dwelled on this earth and in the spirit realm. Two years ago, when his sister Mindy died, I went to the house to check on Jeffry, and gently tell him about his Sissy. I found him sitting on the floor in his room, stacking coins from his collection. He knew why I was there. 

I knelt beside him and resting an arm around his shoulders, told him his sister had gone to heaven. He listened quietly with his head bowed. When I stood, he stood with me and laid his head on my shoulder. We didn’t speak, we simply stood hugging each other. After a few moments he staightened and said, “Let’s eat.”  He honored his sister with silence, and then moved on to the next order of business…dinner. 

Jeffry's Train Ride to Heaven
I deeply appreciated Al’s words about Jeff’s journey home. While many compare the final voyage with a ship sailing toward the distant horizon, and that is a beautiful picture, Al chose the analogy of a train ride. Al likes trains. So did Jeffry. 

We were asked to imagine that train pulling away from this earthly station, with Jeffry onboard in the final car. We watched the train as it click-clacked down the track, growing smaller and smaller as it moved toward a mysterious destination that we can barely imagine. Jeffry waves to us. 

In my imagination, I can see him there, on that train. He is waving. He is smiling that gorgeous smile, happy, free, ready for the adventure ahead. I am sending him love and gratitude, for sharing his heart and his life so beautifully, for being Jeff, for making me smile. I wipe away a tear, but my sorrow does not dim his radiance. 

Just before he disappears, I imagine him clicking his heels together smartly and calling out with great joy, “There’s no place like home…” I’ll catch a future train, Jeffry, and meet you there. 

Saying Goodbye to James

I lost a dear friend this past week, someone I have known for most of my life. If his sudden illness and death saddened me, and it did, deeply so, I know his sweet wife and two sons are experiencing his loss at a heartbreaking level. 

My thoughts have not strayed far from James and his precious family. Memories have surfaced. I met him when I was a young teen in Noel, MO. He was married to Patti, the older sister of Shelley, one of my best friends. James and Greg grew up together. After Greg and I married, we would hang out with James and Patti. These familiar people became more than just Shelley’s relatives…they became my friends too. 

While we lived in Noel, our lives were interconnected, as so often happens in small towns. James captured my family in portraits and he was the photographer at my wedding. He owned and operated the Ozark Theater in Noel, one of my favorite hangouts. I took care of Anthony, James and Patti’s first son, for a short time when he was two, before my own firstborn arrived. 

James and I enjoyed discussing movies and literature and writing. We shared an appreciation for sci-fi and fantasy fiction. “I’ll write a book someday,” James always added. 

Even after Greg and I moved to Joplin, we stayed in touch with the Carrolls. James and Patti’s family grew, with the arrival of their second son, Ryan. They trekked to Joplin or we stopped by to see them in Noel, not as often as we would have liked, but enough to keep the bonds of friendship strong. 

James became a mail carrier and later mayor of Noel. Always one to give of himself to his community, he continually sought ways to improve his town and help people live better lives. 

At his memorial service this morning, I heard words such as “wonderful”, “thoughtful” and “courteous” used to describe James. And those words were certainly true about this kind hearted man. I never saw James without a smile brightening his face. He had a great sense of humor. He was gracious with a gentle soul. And, he had this spark that lit up his eyes. 

I just this week realized what that ever present spark signified. It was the fire of creativity shining out through his eyes. That word was strongly connected to James this morning and I wholeheartedly agree. James lived a wonderfully creative life. 

From his photography days to drawing and painting to performing plays to building forts for his sons, James expressed his artistic side through a variety of mediums. This talented man fearlessly explored his creativity and had fun playing with it. 

And that book he intended to write? He did it. Several years ago I was both honored and excited when he presented me with a copy of SARREN. Full of magic and adventures, love and battles, SARREN is an epic fantasy novel with a strong heroine as the central character. 

I’ve been slowly re-reading James’ book this week and I am enchanted by the story once again. And beyond that, I am connecting with my friend and knowing him at a deeper level as I discover more about James through his beautiful writing. 

I hold in my hands James’ creativity, birthed into reality through his writing. I am inspired by him to make manifest my own creative ideas. I see, too, that the Alan Rickman quote I so love, “If only life could be a little more tender, and art a little more robust” was lived out in James’ life. He cared for people and put actions with his desire to create a better world. And he offered his creative gifts to the world as well. His contributions are timeless, and far reaching. His life will continue to impact and touch others, in ever expanding ripples. 

He has impacted me. His book SARREN will rest on my writing desk, in my studio, a visual reminder of what is possible, of what a creative life can bring forth. As I move into a new year, with a focus on making life a little more tender and art a little more robust, I will draw inspiration from my friend James. 

Saying thank you seems so inadequate. However, I am so very grateful, James, for your life…and your art. 

Journey 212: Passing into Legend

This week has been quite the journey with Greg’s dad, Bob. Last Saturday this independent, sweet 94 year old man had a heart attack which caused a fall. The gash on the back of his head, while alarming, was easily closed. The weakening of his heart was a different matter. For several years we his family have known that a time was approaching when Dad Moore’s heart would give out, due to an age related condition that had no treatment, no cure. In spite of the difficulties this week, watching as he slipped away, and the weariness that has accompanied daily trips to and from the hospital in Arkansas, it has been a precious time of sitting with Dad, chatting, listening to stories from his past and simply holding his hand while he slept.

Bob Moore with mom and brother Bill

The shadow of death that crept over his familiar features could not dim the smile that appeared each time we walked into his hospital room. Nor could it dispel his courteous concern for the welfare of everyone else around him, including the medical staff and the host of people who brought his meals, cleaned his room, changed his bed sheets. Until late last night, he was still thanking us, and others, expressing genuine gratitude for the care he had been given, whispering that he loved us. He even cracked a couple of jokes, giving us a last glimpse of his well known sense of humor.

Dad Moore as a young man

Early this morning, Bob K Moore’s earthly journey came to an end, and he shed the worn out body that had weighed him down. He soared, free. The thought that entered my mind at his time of death was that a great man had entered into legend. I think I must have retained that line from one of the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies, where mighty men doing good deeds pass from life into legend. Great stories are told of such men, and they are remembered for their acts, both grand and small. Today those stories of this mighty man began immediately, from tearful nurses who had known Dad a week, to long time friends and family members who have always had this man of strength and character in their lives.

Bob Moore and the statue

Bob was born February 20, 1921 as the second son to William and Ruby Moore. He had an older brother, Bill. On November 21, 1941, he married his sweetheart, Leta Mae Davidson. They had two sons, Ray and Greg. Bob served his country for a little over three years in the Navy, working as an aviation machinist. His love for aircraft, although already present before this time, bloomed into a lifelong passion. Moving their family to Noel, Missouri, Bob and Leta, along with his parents, opened and operated a drive-in south of town, specializing in barbeque meats and hamburgers. Later his love of flying led him to Peterson Industries in Decatur, AR, where he worked until retirement as an airplane mechanic and pilot, flying baby chickens and personnel all over the US.

Bob Moore wedding day

Those are some of the facts about Bob. And while they are accurate, they tell little about how he lived his life, about how much he cared for others, and how generous he was with all that he had, including his time. I love the quote that says, “It isn’t the date on either end that counts, but how they used their dash, for that dash between the dates represents all the time they spent alive on earth.” February 20, 1921 – July 31, 2015. It is the dash that matters, it’s where Dad’s life was lived.

Bob Moore pilot

I met Bob and Leta Moore when their son, Greg, took me to their home on a Sunday afternoon after church. At age 16, I didn’t make an outstanding impression, I’m sure, my shyness and thoughtfulness keeping me quiet, especially after “the incident”. I followed Greg into his bedroom before dinner, and embarrased when he said he needed to change clothes, stepped willingly into the closet and closed the door, while he changed. Long moments passed. When I heard Greg’s parents ask, “Where’s Cindy?” I suddenly wished that the closet would morph into the wardrobe in Narnia so I could make my escape. Instead, I stood there, eyes big, as the Moores opened the closet door and peered in at me, puzzled by my unusual behavior. What thoughts must have gone through their minds! They accepted me anyway, and loved me as a daughter when I became their daughter-in-law three years later.

Bob Moore drive in

Dad Moore has had a huge impact on my life. He taught me how to fish and fry them up, and how to make his famous peanut brittle. He chased away my fear of flying, allowing me to sit in the co-pilot seat several times during flights with him. His wit was already legendary when I met him. I heard tales of his adventures as a youth and saw the pictures, his face lit up in a wide grin as his gaze met the camera as he met the world, full of grace and good humor and an infectious charm. He taught me to see the world as a good place, full of people with good hearts, and to offer to others out of the goodness in me.

Bob Moore with nieces

His loving heart was as remarkable as his sense of humor. He cared deeply for others, and put actions behind his love. I can’t begin to list all the people that he has helped over the years, always without a thought for being helped in return, never with the expectation of repayment of any kind. Did people take advantage of this good man? Yes, they did. That didn’t tarnish his desire to help those in genuine need, it only revealed the darkness in some, while allowing his light to shine brightly.

Dad was a family man. He loved his sweet wife, cared for her at home until her death in 1999. Before her passing, they were one, truly….BobandLeta. You couldn’t say one name without saying the other, so often did they serve and work and play together. Her death from Alzheimer’s was surely one of the most difficult journeys in his life, and yet I never heard him complain or bemoan his fate. And then he was Bob, alone….the woman that was one with him gone from him for 16 years. One of the happiest thoughts I held today was imaging their reunion. They are BobandLeta once more.

Bob Moore the kiss

My children adored their Papa Bob. He played with them, took them fishing as well, flew them in his airplanes and when the planes were grounded, allowed them to play in the hangar. How their imaginations soared as they sat in the cockpit, pretending to fly. They have their own stories to tell, how Papa snored at night, making them giggle, how he and Mimi took them to the Wildlife Safari, and fixed them chocolate milk with vanilla ice cream in it for breakfast. I am beyond grateful that the children, now grown, spent Sunday afternoon with their Papa, hearing his stories again, loving on him, making memories.

Bob Moore with grandkids

I think Dad’s greatest life lesson to me was demonstrating how to walk with faith and hope and perseverance, believing the best about people, laughing at the joys that appeared, weathering the challenges that arose with grace and dignity. He walked with God without making demands. He expressed gratitude instead for what he had. He didn’t linger on what was wrong. He focused on what was right. He remained a man of integrity and hope, true to who he was, even when his physical strength began to fail.

The last part of the quote, that I wrote above, says, “And now only those who loved them know what that little line…that dash…is worth.” I know. Greg and our children and their children know. Friends and other family members know. So many years, so much life, so much love, captured in a beautiful lifetime, the life of Bob Moore. Thank you, Dad Moore, for all that you have taught me, all the love you have shown me. The world was enriched by your presence. I was enriched. Go brightly into the night and soar high into the Heavens. And shine on us until we see you again.