Thursday, March 26, 2015


Two weeks before my sister died I got a call from my ex wife.
“Hi” she says.
“Hi yourself”
““I have some sad news” she says. Her voice is under control just enough I can tell its going to be really sad. There is a pause and she says: “Arnold passed away.”
“ Oh God” I said.
“Are you OK?” she asked.
Long pause…the lyrics to a song come to me...

“Holding back the flood
Just don’t do no good
You can’t unclench your teeth
To howl the way you should
So you curl your lips around
The taste of tears and a hollow sound
No one knows like you”

“Are you OK?” she asked again.
“Yeah. No. Yeah” I said.

You are probably wondering who Arnold was.
Arnold was a friend of my ex-wifes family. He was blind since his teens. He had done everything from milk cows and pick cotton on a farm to making brooms at Lighthouse for the Blind. I’ve personally seen him repair and replace a radiator on a Ford Van, drive nails, and change out a water heater.
He had been a plumber and over the years taken on all sorts of odd jobs.
He and his wife ran the sanitation department in Kennedale for years. She drove the truck, he loaded the trash.
And at one of the deepest darkest times of my life, when I had given up,  Arnold took me in. He gave me shelter in a burned out trailer, no electric, no water,  and let me stay in his trailer when the rains came in. It was all under the guise of me taking care of Arnold, but it was really the other way around.  Sure, I mowed the yard, and made him breakfast, helped keep the place up.. But it was his bacon and eggs and coffee.
And Arnold and I became good friends.

“Are you OK?” she asked again.
“Yeah. I’m OK” I said.
“I want to ask you something” she says. “We are planning Arnold's funeral. Do you think you can do it?”
“You mean, like the eulogy? Sure I’d be honored” I said.
“No, not the eulogy.  The whole funeral.  We need someone to run the funeral.”

Have you ever had the blood just rush from your head to your feet? It was kind of like that.
The most humbling moment I’ve ever experienced. She’s not asking because I’m so great. She’s asking because she knows what Arnold did for me.

“You want me to run the funeral? I don’t know about that. I’ve never run a funeral before.”
“Well, we don’t have anyone else. Just think about it and get back with me” she says.
“Ok. Let me think about it a bit.”
Long pause.
“Ok” she says.
Long pause.
“ Ok” says I.
Long pause.
“Just think about it and let me know tomorrow” she says.
 Long Pause.
 “You know what?” I says. “I don’t have to think about it. I’ll do it. I’d be honored to do it.”
And that’s how I came to do Arnolds funeral.

Good afternoon everybody. I’m so glad you can be here today to honor Arnold. My name is Steve. I am humbled to be here.  I was lucky to know him, and proud to say Arnold  was my friend.
This is a good time to go ahead and turn your cell phones to silent, as we all bow our heads in prayer. 

"Our Lord we thank you for Your presence here today. and come before you this afternoon as friends and family of Arnold Horton. We are here because we love him and miss him and we want to cherish our memories of him, we want to honor his life and honor him and support one another as we grieve his passing - a passing from life here with us to everlasting life there with you  Lord. As you promised:
 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
In the mighty and holy name of Jesus we pray.

Then we played a song, and I read Arnolds obituary, and invited Arnolds sister, and Arnolds wife to come up and share which they did. One of Arnold’s sons had written a nice tribute to Arnold, but didn’t want to stand up. So I read that for him.
Then I told my story…

"I came to stay with Arnold some years ago. He helped me in a jam I guess you could say. I lived in the old burned out trailer for about a year and a half. Maybe it was longer, it was a bad time for me, a bad time, except for Arnold.
I’d get up in the morning and watch for his porch light to be turned off. That was my cue to come over and have some coffee and maybe fix a little breakfast. Arnold ate a lot of bologna and hot dogs back then. I wish I could say he ate a lot better after I come out here. I can say maybe he ate a little better, but the fact is, if anyone had asked what I was doing out here, I’d have said I was taking care of Arnold. But really, it was the other way around.
Arnold was taking care of me.
But we had us a time, you know, and got to know each other. I had a couple 12 hour documentaries about the West and The Civil War, and Arnold loved to listen to those. He could tell you a lot about the Civil War you wouldnt expect him to know, and we used to like singing the "Ki-Yi-Yippie-Yippee-Ki-Yi_Ay" song together.
It’s the loudest place on earth, Arnold's place at the end of the road, right next to the train tracks.
You might think that out in the middle of nowhere would have been peaceful and quiet, but you would be wrong.
The one neighbor had three German Shepherds and a Chow, and all it took was a cat crossing the road 100 yards down the way to set them to barkin' and howlin' like it was the End of the World.
Then, right across the Railroad tracks there was a concrete plant. In the morning trucks would line up to get their fill and between the low rumble of the motors, you could hear the sledging slurping sound of concrete spilling down from a hopper and into the spinning back of the truck. Later that day the plant would go into production, and gravel would be crushed in some giant machine. It was like the sound of marbles being dropped on a tin roof and amplified enough to make you ears bleed.
So when the dogs got to barking, and the gravel got to crushing, you really couldn't quite hear the train that was coming down the tracks till it was almost on you. But as the trailer began to shake from the vibration of 100 cars filled with coal gliding down the Double-E of the tracks, if we timed it just right we could holler out "There goes that son-of-a-bleep" at the top of our lungs, only you wouldn't be able to hear the "bleep" because the engineer had commenced to blowing his whistle.
When we  timed it right Arnold and I would just laugh and laugh.
But that's not all.
Since this place was "out in the middle of nowhere" it made it the perfect place for someone to put up a Dynamite plant a half mile away. And at various times of the day, starting at 6:00 in the morning, they would test the dynamite and there would be a big boom go off and the shock wave (which could snuff out a candle) would rattle your windows and of course, set three German Shepherds and a Chow to barking their fool heads off.
But that's not all.
There was one thing that could drown out the dogs, the concrete, the train and the dynamite. On Friday and Saturday nights, one, or all three racetracks in Kennedale would start their engines. I was stuck right between all three and you couldn't hear a thing.
When those racetracks started up, I might have missed Gabriel blow the Lords Trump.

Arnold never complained, never had a bad word for anyone. He had the sweetest most pleasant disposition of anyone I ever known. And how he did what he did with his limited vision? I’ve seen him drive nails, do plumbing, pull and replace a radiator off a car. His wife Jackie might say “Arnold, I want you to put that tractor up in my pickup truck, and Arnold  would go over and put his arms around the tractor, grunt, laugh and tell her “I don’t think I can do this Jackie”. But he sure did try. Pauline, his sister was telling me about when he and his brother Waymon were working on a car.
She said: ‘He and Waymon were working on a transmission out in the driveway. It got to be dark, and Waymon said that’s it for the day. Arnold asked him why.
“Its dark out Arnold. Time to go inside” Waymon said.
“That doesn’t make any difference to me” said Arnold.
That's just how Arnold rolled. Nothing got him down.

(When I told this part I looked at at Pauline, and she was smiling so big. People like it when you tell their stories)

Lets go ahead and close out today with a prayer. After the prayer, I’ll invite you all to pass by Arnold, and pay your last respects, say goodbye. Let us pray:
God, thank you for Arnold! You formed him, you knew him, you walked with him through 81 years, and even now we have confidence that he is in your presence.

"Thank you that you are a God of mercy, who promises to comfort us, particularly when we lose our loved ones, and so in these moments now, and in the weeks and months ahead, please bring comfort and mercy to all of us as we remember, and share fondly all that Arnold was to us.
Amen "

 And that was that. I did the graveside too. Its really quite easy. Its like running an NA Meeting. You introduce yourself, tell folks to turn off their phones, say a prayer, invite people to share and share yourself, then close out with another prayer.

 It was just two weeks later my sister died. I started looking for someone to do her funeral. In a totally inspired moment I thought of Daryl. Daryl had been the champion of the Youth Group where we went to church. He stood up for us all, especially the girls, and kept us straight as best he could. He was like Johnny, in Dirty Dancing, without all the dirty dancing.
So I called Daryl and asked if he could do Lisa’s funeral.
“You mean like a eulogy? Sure, I can do that” he said.
“No, not just the eulogy. The whole thing. I’d like you to stand in as a minister would”
Long pause.
‘Well, let me think and pray on this tonight” Daryl says.
“Sure, take your time”
“When did you say it is?”
“This Saturday”
Long pause.
“I’ll just need to pray on it” he says again.
“That’s fine”
Long pause.
"You know what? I dont need any more time. I'd be honored to do it."
And that is how Daryl, who had never run a funeral before, came to do my sisters funeral.


Deanna said...

Oh Steve, it's beautiful......thank you so much for sharing your heart and soul.
You are amazing

Anonymous said...

beautiful !

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sending this to me Steve. Isn't it funny the way things work out? You did a funeral and that help prepare you for Lisa's. I had a double loss one time (also 2 weeks apart) and you go numb. One grief gets wrapped up in the other. Even more prayers coming your way. Nancy

Lower88Rider said...

Nice story BulletHoles - as always. When are you going to turn these anecdotes into a book? I'd buy it.

Sorry for your loss of Arnold, and your sister, of course.

Without the supporting story, one might think you were running a funeral home or leading a congregation. Well done.

bulletholes said...

Thanks for ya'lls comments.
It was a month to remember. In between Arnolds and my sister, there was another funeral for a very dear friend. I didnt speak at that one.
But I have reached my limit on funerals for the year.

KFace said...

So great...

Unknown said...

Inspiring and spirit filled, just like the author! Much Love,


Unknown said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, Steve, I loved it. I've been to one that you officiated and your humor made it bearable and it felt good to laugh out loud. I know Cynthia would have, too. <3 xox

Kim said...

That was lovely. Im filing it away in case i ever need to borrow some for a funeral. Im sorry for your losses and hope you are experiencing some of gods comfort of which you speak.

David Kanigan said...

Wow. Moved Steve. Thanks for pointing me to your post.