His name was Carl A. Elder. He lived in Fort Worth, Texas. And just a few short weeks ago, on November 21st, he died. No news affiliates covered his brief illness and death. There were no printed tributes, nothing but a customary obituary in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The only reason I know anything about Carl A. Elder is that his only son, Mark, is one of my oldest and dearest friends. Carl’s health had not been good for quite some time. He’d recently been admitted to a care facility due to his needs being beyond what the family could provide. It grieved Mark to see his dad in that place, so there was a measure of relief when he got the call that his dad had passed. Extreme sadness, no doubt, but sadness mixed with relief.
Carl was a Baptist minister. On the list of attention-grabbing, memorable things that a man can do with his life, being a minister doesn’t rank high at all. The pay’s not good, the hours are horrible, and people who claim to love God can treat you and your family like hell. Still, that’s what Carl devoted his life to, serving churches in Texas, Ohio, and Alaska. He also devoted his life to his best friend, Wynona, for sixty-three years. Together they raised a family – two daughters and a son – and built memories. In these last few months, Carl got around the care facility in a wheelchair. Mark told me he’d find him either in a corner reading his dog-eared Bible, or off visiting with someone, asking how he might pray for them.
Those weren’t habits that began in his later days. No, that’s how Carl had lived his life for a long, long time. Steadfast, faithful, strong, stubborn, dependable, loyal, spiritual, caring, and loving to a fault – all traits inherited by his one son, my good friend Mark. We can aspire to be great men. I know I do. We can also aspire to be good men. The two are not contradictory; they can co-exist. But if I had to choose between the two, I’d want to be remembered as a man like Carl – a husband, a father, and a friend. Carl never met a stranger, and he’d give you the literal shirt off his back if you needed it.
This world is a smaller place when men like Carl pass on. But we can honor their legacy though by striving to be that kind of a man – a good man.