My world changed on Easter Sunday, 2021. My son’s dad died. We had been divorced for 43 years—but my world shifted when he died.
Most of my memories of life with Larry are miserable. Some are funny. A few are good.
The best of the good memories revolve around son Luke. Luke had a speech impediment when he first learned to talk. For a short time Larry rode and raced dirt bikes. He bought Luke a dirt bike when Luke was three. Luke’s bike was a red “Indian.” His dad rode a yellow “Yamaha.” Luke didn’t want his red bike; he wanted a yellow one like his dad, but he stammered over the word “Yamaha.” Larry told him, “When you learn to say, ‘Yamaha,’ I’ll buy you one.” Luke thought for a moment and replied, “Daddy, just get me a sellow one.”
When Larry and I started painting signs together, I painted the signs and he cleaned the brushes. It frustrated him to watch me paint when he couldn’t, so he used his VA benefits to take a commercial art course. He studied diligently and I went from sign painter to brush cleaner. He passed that diligence down to Luke; whatever Luke decided to do—he accomplished. He taught himself to play the trumpet, read music, play the piano, and fly an airplane.
Some of the memories are funny. We were stuck in the parking lot of a motor home repair shop in Kingman Arizona on our fourth anniversary while our motor home was getting fixed. We were headed for a gold dredging expedition on the North Fork of the American River in California. Larry said we should celebrate our anniversary with a meal out instead of our usual sandwiches for lunch. We went to a local resident and Larry purchased one meal. One. He had the hamburger, Luke had the fries, and I had the strawberry shortcake dessert even though I never liked any dessert that wasn’t chocolate. All three of us shared the soft drink that came with the meal.
I can’t sing. Really. I never believed I couldn’t sing until I was in college and our drama professor’s wife—who held a doctorate in music—tried to coach me so I could perform in the summer musicals at Calloway Gardens in Georgia. She finally said, “Stephanie, I don’t know why you can’t sing. I’ve never met anyone before who can’t sing. But—you really can’t sing.” When I first met Larry I thought I was an atheist and that it was my job to covert him. He dragged me to church with him every Sunday. He would elbow me in the side and demand, “sing.” It takes me years and hearing a song 20 or 30 times before I can even approach the tune. But with an elbow in my side, I would try to sing. A few minutes later—the elbow jab in the side again. “Shut up. You sound terrible.”
Larry was a perfectionist. Everything he did had to be perfect. He passed that trait down to Luke. They both cleaned everything and kept everything immaculately clean. I was a changeling in my own home. I drew my joy from writing—not cleaning. Perfection in anything never darkened my door. Larry kept the same pair of sunglasses for 20 years. I could go through three pairs in one year. He clipped and organized coupons. I was too impatient to use them.
There are the really bad memories, but I won’t share those. I’ll share the one that changed my life. Larry dragged me to church every Sunday even though I couldn’t sing, had never heard the songs before, and had no idea what the pastor was talking about. I went because Larry was more stubborn than I was. And because of that, I gave my life to Jesus. I was saved. I was born again, and my life was never the same after that.
When I heard that Larry was dying of cancer in a VA Hospital I tried to call him and thank him for dragging to church with him. He never woke up enough to take a phone call, but two of the nurses passed my message along. I hope it gave him some comfort and peace.
My world changed this Easter Sunday when Larry left this earth. But it changed most of all on that very first Easter when Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose again on Easter Sunday. Because He lives, I will live again when this body dies. Just like Larry. Just like Luke who preceded both of us in death on November 17, 2013, in a plane crash, at age 37.
I owe my place in eternity to a man who could play a guitar, sing, fix anything with a pocket knife, and was more stubborn than me.