I don’t know if you noticed, but around two o’clock this morning, the world got a little colder. Carl Vinson had been keeping his spot on Earth warm for the past 94 years, but in the wee hours of the morning, God decided it was time for him to rest.
If you knew Carl, you knew that he hated to be cold. That stemmed, no doubt, from spending the brutal winter of 1944 inside the metal hull of a US Army tank helping roust the Nazis out of the Ardennes. It wasn’t unusual, especially these last few winters, to find him wrapped in a blanket putting as much distance between him and that chilly Oklahoma wind as possible.
I can’t say much about whether or not Carl liked cold food because the cook he’s had for almost 70 years is still around and wouldn’t hesitate to let me know if I got any of that wrong. But I know that Carl didn’t like to be cold.
Carl didn’t like a cold house. His was always full of laughter and chatter and something cooking on the stove, and more often than not, a friend or two to share it all with.
Carl didn’t like cold conversation. He wanted to know about the raw details of life — how your daddy was, if the job was good, how the kids liked school. And if necessary, he was always ready to warm things up with a goofy song or little dance.
Carl didn’t like cold church. If the service was a bit chilly, he would heat it up. His “amen!” was loud and strong, and if you gave him a chance to speak, his passionate voice would fill the room, hot tears often dripping from his face.
Carl didn’t like cold prayers. He prayed just as fervently at home as he did at church. Ask any of his eight children and they will tell you about their mom quietly putting them to bed after family prayer time while he kept the prayer meeting going by himself.
Carl didn’t like cold hospitality. If you walked up to his door, you were greeted with a broad smile and warm welcome. He’d insist that you have a helping of whatever was on the table or in the refrigerator, and, eventually, a hand or two of dominos.
Carl didn’t like cold kids. He kept his children warm by teaching them to chop wood, slop hogs, haul hay, mow grass, fix fence, and a thousand other jobs he found for them on the family farm. He kept their children warm with big hugs and comfy spots on grandpa’s lap.
Carl didn’t like cold hearts. He loved and trusted people, some who weren’t all that loving and trustworthy. If a neighbor or a stranger needed help, Carl was ready to lend a hand, pray a prayer, or give a dollar.
Carl didn’t like the cold.
So, as the October winds began to blow a little cooler and the autumn nights lingered a bit longer, Carl got that long-awaited call to come home. He traded his old frostbitten body for an undamaged glorified one, and received a brand new robe in a land where there’s no need for scarves or gloves or overcoats.
While he won’t have to endure another cold earthly winter, we’ll miss the warmth that his presence brought to our lives. The north wind will sting a little more this winter, but we’ll bundle up in the million good memories he left us, and take comfort in knowing that he’s waiting for us just inside that eastern gate as he promised.