Clearly I have a ways to go before I reach the place of humility and maturity in which Charley had been camped for years.

He?  He wants us to celebrate colorfully.  If it were me?  Well, I’d want you all to cry like babies, mourning in sackcloth and ashes, desperately missing your Square Piece.  Inconsolable.

I’m not there yet, Charley.

I saw things that I didn’t want to see.  It’s hard to celebrate when there’s that imagery seared in the recesses of your brain.  But for every difficult memory, there’s an equal and opposite moment that more than soothes the bitter sorrow and ushers in a sweeter sorrow.

There at the end, Charley had a hard time drinking water and swallowing.  That said, every time he took a sip, it was from a silly mustache mug… You know, the kind that makes you look like you have a mustache when you put it up to your lips.


When he was quiet, you could hear the sound of his saliva rattling because it was pooled in his throat, crackling with every exhale.  But when he was quiet, he was able to hear the gentle music of my sister, Mandy, strumming worship songs and hymns for him on her guitar during his last hours.  Sometimes we sang along.  Sometimes we didn’t.  Charley loved it and encouraged her to continue.

Every now and then he’d drift off.  When he came to, sometimes he looked a little confused, his bleary eyes searching around the room (seeing things… seeing balloons, aluminum pipes, broken scissors, earthly or heavenly beings…).  Then he’d lock eyes with Momma and she’s smile and nod her head, causing his eyes to shift into a calm understanding as he also smiled and nodded his head.  Whenever his eyes landed on mine, I’d smile encouragement to him while holding up the “I love you” sign in sign language.  He always reciprocated in like manner.  Even when he slipped into a more semi-conscious state, every now and again his right hand would raise and his fingers would lift and separate, clearly meant to be the “I love you” sign, but lacking the strength and awareness to firmly set it.

Charley's ice creamFor a time, I was sitting beside his bed, gently rubbing Charley’s lower leg in that comforting, lazy, back-and-forth manner.  He had lost so much weight that I could feel the sharpness of the bone beneath his thin lounge pants.  Just that morning he had enjoyed my scrambled eggs and later that afternoon had wanted a second helping of the ice cream we had all churned together on Saturday.

Not really sure what else to say for now.

I hear his voice in my head.

I feel how cold his hands got.

I see the body bag being zipped over his face.

Yet the hardest part isn’t so much carrying those bits and pieces around, but knowing that my family is doing the same thing.  My sister can still hear his voice in her head, my mom remembers how cold his hands got and my brother can still picture his father’s face disappearing beneath the zipped bag.

I ache more for my family than I do for myself right now.

But I’m so happy for Charley.  I’m so happy that he’s not in a body that knows hearing loss or lack of mobility, pain or confusion.


  1. May 29, 2013

    Beautiful written. It’s hard to believe now but all of those things you wrote about will get easier to deal with. In time, he will come to visit. You will se his smile, smell the scent of him, hear his voice. My mom came to visit me just a few weeks ago. I looked in the rear view mirror and there were her eyes, looking at me through mine. Sounds like Charley wanted to see his family all together again before his departure.

  2. May 29, 2013

    Suzy……….my heart aches for you. I’m so glad you are writing this out. I wonder if Charley still gets to enjoy your blog. I think he does.

  3. May 29, 2013

    How could you imagine anything you wish to express not falling on the welcome ears of your blog readers/friends/those who love you. Have no doubt we are here and waiting for all you need or just want to share. I never met Charley but felt through your words, for years, his gentle nature and inner strength . I’m hoping to learn even more now. My heart goes out to all of you, but especially Momma today.

  4. May 29, 2013
    Aunt Manny

    The heart does ache. Severely. I sign “I love you” to the heavens now. I so look forward to the day that we see him again!

  5. May 29, 2013
    Laurie Goodson

    You brought tears to my eyes. I have never met Charley in person, but through your mom and F.B. I grew to love him immensely. I am grieving, too. I don’t know how to do it, though. I never got to hug him or say good bye. I never told him how much he meant to me. And now I am too far away to help your mom through her broken heart. All I can do is pray for you all.

  6. May 29, 2013

    It is hard to not to have those last imagines linger. I love that Mandy played her guitar for all of you…how comforting. Death is never easy even when it is expected. Hugs and prayers for all of you!

  7. May 29, 2013
    Nick Horton

    I had the pleasure to know Charley. I had the honor to serve as a deacon with him, and to be his deacon. I have the highest honor of being his brother in Christ. I learned much from him; gentleness, love, respect, charity. I am sad that we all mourn the loss of Charley. That we know in our hearts that this is not how it is supposed to be. And I look forward to that day, that glorious day when I enter glory, and “everything sad will come untrue.”

  8. May 29, 2013

    How amazing you are and always have been from one square piece to another. I know all too clearly what it was like having to watch my mother decline in a similar manner. Some thanks to you and your awesome family for the following: you stuck around when others would have left. You didn’t allow any possible fears to prevent you from being with him all the way to the end. You looked at him, talked to him, signed to him and made his last month on this earth just as awesome as his healthy days. That being said…the images of the thin bones and the zipper of the bag and the agonizing last few days you will always carry with you. But please believe me that memories of his life previous to his fight will come back…and eventually, you will think of those things BEFORE you remember the thinning frame, the zipper of the bag and the moments of incoherantness. And thank you, square piece, for being able to put words with things I felt about my own mother and her fight….almost 6 years later.

Add a Comment

Make sure you share your opinion with us. Fields marked are required. Any other information is optional and for your own pleasure. Your email address will be hidden and never published or used in any way.


Optional Details

If you like you can tell us your website URL and Twitter Username. We'll link your name to your web address and we'll add a twitter link to your comment. This is completely optional.