If there’s one thing I’m really okay with, it’s death. Maybe it because growing up there was a lot of death in my church, school and family. This is not to say that it doesn’t make me sad; but when you go through that so much, you learn to appreciate the process. Also, most of these deaths were people in my life, that I saw often, but few were ones who I had a personal relationship with…this probably gave me some space emotionally to learn to deal with death.
There are specific people I can remember that have passed away that have struck me, and every detail is clear. The man who was in his mid-thirties and had children approximately my age (10 or so). My sophomore year of high school, we lost three students, in the span of about 4 months; one of these girls was in my Algebra 2 class, and while we didn’t have a friendship, I distinctly remember her seat becoming a bit of a memorial, and how we grieved as a class of 15 year olds. My high school band director died the summer before my senior year, and every game and competition we marched in, we wore a band around the arm of our uniform. My childhood dentist; I never figured out why this one was such a memorial event, but there was something about someone who had been involved in my life for so long passing away shook me. My paternal grandmother, this grandparent’s death sticks out more than the others because it was slightly a surprise and I got the phone call while studying for college midterms in the library.
Today I got word of another death that is striking me deeper than expected.
All throughout college I went to a small country church about 30 minutes away from my school…it was a drive, but the people and the community were worth it. Mr. Chalk was essential this community. First off, because I honestly just love old people. Mr. Chalk probably introduced himself to me about 10 times before he began to recognize me, once he did though, we formed a deep bond. I would try to get to church early to get a chance to speak with Mr. Chalk, I don’t remember what we talked about, probably not much other than the weather. That along with our similar personalities lead to a great friendship. (I have no problem having a similar personality as a 91 year old man.) When I graduated and moved back to Nashville, Mr. Chalk got my phone number and we talked on the phone a few times. Most of the time I would miss the call, as anyone who’s tried to get me on the phone knows will likely happen, but he’d always leave a message that resounded with the slight confusion and annoyance of embracing new technology. I’d call him back and we’d talk about the weather in our respective cities and about our families.
There was a great grace, kindness, sincerity, and joy in Mr. Chalk. His love and relationship with his wife, Addie, still rings to be one of the sweetest examples of marriage gone right to this commitment-phobe. The first picture is some friends and I right before we graduated, spending the afternoon saying goodbye to the Chalks. The story behind the second picture is part of what made Mr. Chalk so intriguing. The shirt says “Freed-Hardeman University Football: Still Undefeated.” A comical shirt for a university without a football team to have. I loved the humor behind it, but also the truth. You see, Freed-Hardeman DID have a football team for about 2 years, until the Great Depression hit and they were no longer able to fund the program and for two years they were undefeated. The reason we got a 90 year old man a tshirt, was that he played on that football team one semester before the program ended; he was thrilled.
I’m not sure why Mr. Chalk’s death is striking me so deeply. I haven’t seen him in over 4 years, and never regularly thought about him; though I do appreciate random pockets of feeling deeply about someone from your past.