How does one pay proper tribute to a magnificent life? I have been asking myself that question during the sleepless nights since hearing the dreaded news that my dear friend has left us. There are so many memorable scenes I am replaying on the inside of my eyelids, as he often used to say.
It is hard to put into words how much Charlie has meant to my life for the past 34 years. He literally changed the course of my life, and for that I am grateful. He has been teacher, mentor, kindred spirit, and the truest friend I have ever known.
One indelible image from so many years ago is that of my youthful hand tossing away an acceptance letter into the plastic-lined trash can under the kitchen sink of the first home my Army helicopter pilot husband and I ever bought in Clarksville. My admittance to the nursing program at Austin Peay State University was now residing with the dinner leftovers.
Dr. Holt had been assigned as my advisor, and although he never pushed me in any direction, I had just finished my first American Literature class with him, and the experience changed me forever.
Charlie not only made me work harder and learn more than any teacher I'd ever had, he also made me see the beauty and intrinsic truths that the great minds expressed so eloquently in our beloved English language. Because of him, I chose the path of spiritual awareness and quest for knowledge, “and that has made all the difference.”
Charlie, you are the jar placed upon a hill in Tennessee with all the slovenly wilderness rising up to it. You lived an authentic life - full of kindness, compassion, humor and honor. Although you demanded so much from us, you were always hardest on yourself since “the unexamined life is not worth living.” You showed us how.
The artist in you yearned for expression, and the way you lived was like a poem that Wallace Stevens wished he had written. The lonely earth is colder and drearier without you; while the skies are “a blue and gold mistake” since now your soul is soaring free.
My cherished teacher and friend, how I wish I could have skipped this last lesson from you, because now I fully understand the awful truth of these lines from Emily:
“Parting is all I know of Heaven
And all I need of Hell.”
I miss you so much. I pray that God will hold you tenderly in his arms forever, and give your treasured family all the strength they need to go on without you. “After the final no there comes a yes and on that yes the future world depends.”