Issue 342 – When Friends Pass Away

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Issue 342  –  October 18, 2016

Ever notice how life seems to “pile stuff on to you” and at the most unexpected and most inconvenient times?  I remember driving back home to Edmond, Oklahoma from my job a few miles south of Oklahoma City. There were already four inches of snow on the ground and it was still coming down . . . and I was hitting the big Internet interchange in the middle of the rush hour with bumper-to-bumper. I remember thinking, “Oh, I just hope I can get past this bottle neck okay.”

I didn’t. My car, creeping along at maybe 10 mph, coughed two or three times and stopped. And I couldn’t get it restarted. And impatient folks began to honk their horns and to give me that ol’ single-digit salute. Fortunately, within five minutes a Oklahoma Highway Patrolman drove up behind me and quickly pushed me across the three lanes of traffic and onto a shoulder of a road. Then he gave me a short ride to a convenience store, where I was on my own. I got home that night, but my car didn’t.

Life is like that. And sometimes those events are much more serious. Like the death of a relative or an old classmate or of a dear, dear friend. And too often those traumatic losses seem to hit way too close together.

That’s how I feel right now after losing — in just a few weeks — a former high school teacher of mine, a former high school classmate, a close former co-worker and Christian friend, a cousin of mine who just seems to always have been in my life over the years, and a man I’ve eaten meals with and had coffee with and  prayed with and worshipped with and “picked and grinned” with on a regular basis for over three years. Each of them represent a nitch in my own life, a nitch which now is missing a memorable part of my life.

But enough of that. Let me tell you about each one of them. 

Virgil R. Trout

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Reggie Cauthen

Reggie Cauthen was a first-cousin of mine, the son of my mom’s brother Sidney Cauthen and his wife Thelma. Over the years, and I played together, fished in lakes and swam in creeks, and ate a lot of watermelon and home-made ice cream. Out time together became less and less as Peggy and I lived in distant places and his life in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area and then in east Texas got complicated. Whenever we were able to get together, though, he always had a wide smile and a Texas-sized hug for us. He worked most of his adult life for the U.S. Post Office.

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Ralph Rees

NOTE:   In 1955, my parents moved us to Tulsa, Oklahoma and we lived near my mom’s parents and two brothers and a sister. That only lasted one year, and in the summer of 1956 we moved back to southern California. My dad got a job farming orange trees with the Edward’s Ranch about 1 mile west of Piru, Calif., and they provided a small house for us. That fall my late sister, Roberta Paregien Loffswold Fournier, and I began school eight miles west at Fillmore, Calif. I was a sophomore. And one of my teachers that year — both for drafting and for print shop — was a kind, patient teacher named Ralph Rees. I don’t think I ever saw him again after I graduated in 1959, but he became a solid citizen there over the years and died there 59 years after I was in his classes.

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“Ralph Rees –beloved father, husband, brother, grandpa and friend–has gone home to be with Jesus. He passed away at midnight on Saturday, September 3, 2016 at home, after a long struggle with cancer, with his family by his side.

“He is survived by his loving wife of sixty six years, Patricia (Young) Rees, his sister Roberta (Rees) Gragg, his children Janine (Bill Faith) Rees, Wendy Rees, Robin Rees, Jason (Bethann Buddenbaum) Rees, and Brady (Ina Rosales) Rees, his grandchildren Luke, Hannah, Nathan, Tara, Nora, Claire, Emma and Fiona, and five great- grandchildren.

“Ralph was born on Feb. 17, 1926 in Taft, CA to Helen (Allison) Rees and Ralph Winfield Rees. He is preceded in death by his sisters Joy (Rees) Hanrihan and Geraldine (Rees) Schwocho. Ralph spend his boyhood in Oildale and Bakersfield, CA, where his early interests included carpentry, Boy Scouting, hiking and fishing in the Sierras with his father and friends, and playing the saxophone. He continued to pursue these interests throughout his life.

“Ralph served in the US Navy towards the end of the WWII conflict. He later went on to earn a teaching degree from Cal State Santa Barbara under the GI Bill. After marrying his college sweetheart, Patricia Lucille Young in 1950, he started teaching in Mendota, CA. In 1953 he moved to Fillmore Union High School where he taught Industrial Arts until 1989. Ralph also earned a Master’s Degree in Industrial Arts Education. For the rest of his life Mr. Rees received compliments from many former students, grateful for the part he played in their lives.

“After retirement Ralph became a local “handy guy”. He was most proud of a project restoring a historic carriage for Rancho Camulos Museum in Piru, CA, where he volunteered until shortly before he died.

“Of primary importance in Ralph’s life was his relationship with God, which began when he joined the Boy Scouts at the age of 12. He was born again on January 8, 1976, and remained committed to his faith.

“His family will always be grateful for teaching them that they can do anything and to keep learning. He daily demonstrated his devotion to his wife, his love for his God and family, and his Boy Scout sense of decency.

“His funeral Service was held at Heritage Valley Bible Church, 461 Central Ave., Fillmore, CA on Friday, September 9 from 10:00 am to 11:30 am. Graveside Service were held immediately following at Bardsdale Cemetery, 1698 S Sespe Street, Fillmore, CA.”

Clay Landes

Oct 7, 1943 – Oct 2, 2016

Clayton Guy Landes, 72, of Sarasota, FL., died on Sunday, Oct 2, 2016, in a hospice facility. He had been diagnosed with lung cancer about a year ago.

 A “Celebration of Life” service was held at 10: 00 am on Saturday, Oct 8, 2016 at Central Church of Christ, 6221 Proctor Rd., in Sarasota, FL. Clay had served as an Elder of the congregation for many years and was active in it up until just a few weeks before his death. His frequent word of encouragement to others was, “Keep the faith.”

 Being originally from Indiana, he was an enthusiastic basketball player and fan virtually all of his life. He attended some 20 or so of the national basketball “final four” play-off events over the years.

Clay was survived by his wife Pat. They had celebrated their 50th year of marriage just a year or so ago. He was also survived by their daughter and two sons, and by numerous grandchildren.

The funeral arrangements were carried out by The Good Earth Crematory.

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Daryl Duane Muth

Ron Golson, my friend from Piru who lives in Idaho . . . . and was a mutual friend with Daryl Muth, was kind enough to pass along this email from Jeff Muth, one of Daryl and Vickie’s sons:

“My Father passed away Tuesday Morning (October 11, 2016) after a long fight with Parkinson’s Disease.

“Dad was in a rest home this last year and had to be hand fed as he could no longer feed himself… Sometime Friday, he was not eating or drinking anymore. I think he just could not swallow anything. Saturday we brought him home and he was on Hospice. Many friends and family stopped by to pay their last respect to him.

“We are going to have a service at Joseph P. Reardon Funeral Home in Ventura, Friday 21, 2016, at 1:00 PM. The address is, 757 East Main Street, Ventura, Ca. 93001. There will be a reception afterwards at Mom & Dads house  — 2289 Woodland Ave. Ojai, Ca. 93023”

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Stan Paregien’s reflections:

Daryl Muth and his older brother Garold and younger brother Kirk for several years lived high on a mountain behind Piru, Calif. On a clear day they could actually see the ocean from there. I remember one time that I was up there with Daryl and we found an abandoned oil well site. There were several old connecting rods, maybe 10 to 12 feet long as I recall. We had fun dropping them down that open well hole and listening to them  rumble as they fell thousands of feet, but we never could hear any hit the bottom.

On another occasion, Daryl and I were riding with Garold in his ’49 or ’50 Chevy, heading up the winding oilfield road to their house. Around the single lane road came a car heading down about as fast as we were going up. We had a meeting of the minds, with Garold’s car getting the worst of it. When the dust settled, we had been pushed close to the edge of the road and could see several hundred feet down into the canyon.

In about 1958, Garold and Daryl and I “triple dated” (maybe the only time I ever did that). My date was Susie Warring, a cute blond classmate who lived with her parents in the historic “Warring Mansion” on the hill in Piru. Sorry, but 58 years after the fact I cannot recall the names of the girls that Garold and Daryl dated. I do remember, though, that we went to the drive-in theater in Santa Paula. And then we parked in that popular romantic spot – Kenny’s Grove park – for a steamy hour or so.

Ah, . . . those were the good old days. 

 

 

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What Jesus Said About Death

by Dr. Leroy Garrett

Soldier On! (An Occasional Essay #188 on Oct. 24, 207)

 

The old Bibles with the words of Jesus printed in red seem to be a thing of the past. The implication was that the words in red — those uttered by Jesus himself — are more important and deserve more respect and closer attention. I agree with this. While all truths are equally true, all truths are not equally important.

We accept as inspired Scripture what the prophets and apostles wrote, and highly treasure them, but we might rightly elevate what our Lord himself said to a category all its own. We might argue with Paul, even disagree with some of his conclusions, but we are reluctant to question anything our Lord said.

The odd thing in all this is that some of Jesus most remarkable sayings are tucked away in Scripture and virtually ignored, even if printed in red — or they are at least given little relevance to the living of these days.

This is particularly true of things our Lord said about death. The world might justly accuse the church of not really believing them. They are so overwhelming in their import that it convenient not to take them seriously. I want to call three or four of these sayings to your attention.

 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad (John 8:56).

The New Jerusalem Bible puts it this way: Your father Abraham rejoiced to think that he would see my Day; and he saw it and was glad.”This is a most remarkable statement. Our Lord seems to be saying that Abraham — “dead” for centuries — is not only alive and conscious, but he is a witness to the advent of the Christ into human history. Some scholars think this refers to Abraham seeing by prophetic faith the Christ when he looked upon Isaac, the child of promise; but the context suggests that Jesus is saying that Abraham is now alive in heaven and sees what is happening on planet earth — that the day of Christ has come.

Reading this in context, one sees that the Pharisees had just affirmed that “Abraham is dead,” twice in fact. Abraham is dead as are all the prophets, they insisted, so how could Jesus speak of death the way he did — as if the dead are not really dead? Since they claimed to be sons of Abraham and were yet rejecting Jesus, the Lord is telling them that the father of their faith is not only not dead, but that he now sees the reality of what he had hoped to see when he was on earth. When the Christ came into the world to reconcile human kind to God, father Abraham was among the “cloud of witnesses” that saw it, and rejoiced.

That the dead are not really dead was paramount in Jesus’ teaching. In Luke 20:37 he refers to the story of Moses and the burning bush and saw it as teaching “the resurrection of the dead” — apparently all the dead. He tells how God is there described as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus then says, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him” (Luke 20:38).

That the dead are as much alive and conscious as the living, only in a different dimension, is so overwhelming that it may be beyond our comprehension. But it is basic to our Lord’s view of death, and so we can accept by faith, If not by sight, that our honored dead are actually alive and conscious somewhere in God’s vast eternity.

Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise (Luke 24:43).

This stunning and surprising promise — uttered in agony to a condemned thief — says something significant about Jesus view of death. To him death was but the door to the Paradise of God, and he was taking a despised thief with him, and that very day!

That a lowly thief would at one moment be dying ignominiously on a cross would at the next moment be with the glorious Christ in Paradise is mind-boggling grace. And is not death here a mere transition from here to there, and apparently instantaneous? That makes death next to nothing!

Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never taste death (John 8:51).

This liberating declaration delivers us from what we most dread, death. It promises that if we are believers we will never taste of death. This preposterous claim, as the Pharisees saw it, is what led them to charge Jesus with having a demon. Something has to be wrong with someone who claims that some people will not die. Even father Abraham died, and all the prophets died, they pointed out.

And we could add that [Martin] Luther, [John] Calvin, [John] Knox, and [Alexander] Campbell all died. And our parents. No, Jesus says, they are all alive unto God. Of course they “die” in the sense of leaving the body and departing from planet earth, but they are still persons and are conscious of what is going on.

What matters here is that there is no cut-off point in our relationship with God. Death is no obstacle or detour. It is in fact the door that leads home. At any moment in the days of our flesh we are but a heartbeat from glory. Unless in an illness we are temporarily unconscious or in a coma, we are never unconscious, and are never for a moment separated from God’s presence. We might well be aware that we are departing from our body, and may see it as we leave it behind.

This is why I do not want my body laid out as a corpse in a coffin for friends and loved ones to look upon. I want them to see life, not death. As Paul put it, when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Being absent from the body we will no longer be in need of it. It is only the house we lived in for a time. If possible let it be used in some way for the common good, and then disposed of expeditiously.

That is why I have willed my body to the Southwestern Medical School in Dallas [Texas]. They are only a phone call away. I have long told Ouida, that all she needs to do when the time comes is to pick up the phone and make a call. They do the rest, down to at last cremating the remains and placing the ashes in their own memory garden, anonymously. No big deal. No sweat. No visits to a funeral home. No expense.

I make these choices because I believe what our Lord said about death. I will not really “die” at all, but simply fly away home. If there is a service it can be a homegoing celebration rather than a funeral, with no signs of death present.

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End of this issue.

 

 

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