Sometimes you get those phone calls that immediately take your breath! Deb and I got one this week. We have had some great friends over the years. Deb says her circle of friends grew to include a more eccentric ring after our marriage. Cliff and Peanut were new friends that moved into our closest circle of friends in Concord, NH. For some period of time the four of us were together one to two times per week. We had many great times together and a lot of Christian fellowship. Last week we got a call that Cliff had died from burns all over his body to save his sight-impaired son from the same fate.
Cliff grew up in that small mountain region of New Hampshire that has a culture similar to what we associate with Appalachia. When he knew he was going to be away for a while in the service he married Edith who was a peanut of a young girl at the tender age of 14. “Peanut” became her lifelong name. On the other hand Cliff’s girth renamed him Chubby! They engaged in that culture’s hard living. Cliff didn’t use his race car to out run Boss Hogg. His Dukes of Hazard game played out on dirt tracks–crazy hours of working construction and then partying and working on the car half the night so he could keep the toy on the track. Lots of alcohol flows for most folks living this way and that leads to impaired judgments and some pretty crazy choices that are hard for most of us to understand.
Chubb brought his son up the way he and Peanut lived. Jr. took to it all. Dad would brag that he was a better “wrench” than his teacher. Life happened. Peanut was afflicted with all kinds of medical challenges including diabetes. A couple of grand kids were born. Jr. developed medical problems that affected his eyesight to the point he became legally blind. He continued to work on cars; particularly of the racing type, using his limited sight, but mostly working by feel.
Cliff got caught up in stuff that he knew was wrong but the drinking and crazy living numbed his guilt. When the granddaughter got to be a teenager, it really started eating on him as to what kind of legacy his life was leaving. In the matter of fact way that he saw and lived life, Cliff went to the police and said I am guilty of wrong doing. The guilt and confusion with family caused a serious issue to get very serious. Cliff did some time. He and Peanut lost all they had. We met them when Cliff was released on parole. Instead of the home and shop Cliff had built for them, they lived in a small apartment.
Several folks embraced them in our church because of Cliff’s outgoing and “up-front” personality. He freely shared his story in the context of telling how he met Jesus as his Savior in prison and it dramatically changed his life. Deb and Peanut hit it off. Cliff and I had our contracting experience in common. We all loved a good story and a laugh. We always tried to reach out, encourage and support people that were new and growing in their Christianity. All of this led to all the time spent together and the sharing of inter-most thoughts, feelings and regrets.
Cliff told us many stories, with Peanut’s constant input and comment, that began with “Remember Chubby when. . .” A favorite that we prompted him to tell many times involved his two cousins that “always walked to a different drummer” as they lived life as owner operators of a salvage yard that Cliff grew up in. It seems as though they had cleared land at the intersection of a couple of the town’s busier streets that they had strewn with cars and machinery parts. They had removed a large pine and left the stump sticking barely above the ground. They routinely drove over it with their forklifts carrying old car shells or machinery. Heavy loads, lifted precariously in the air resulted in scares when the forklift would lurch over the stump. After such an incident one day and being flat out tired of that adrenaline dump that surges through you in such experiences, Cliff tells how the cousins drilled some holes in that stump and stuck in three sticks of dynamite. Now they knew to blow the stump out of the ground, they had to lay something heavy on top of the stump to ensure the explosion would work. A search and lively discussion ensued throughout the yard to find the right object for the job. Finally the flywheel from a piece of earth-moving equipment was agreed to and the forklift set it on the stump! Cliff’s tummy would jiggle as he would tell about everyone taking cover to safely watch the destruction of that aggravating stump. The fuse was lit. Chubb had a special knack for describing how they all watched as that flywheel went airborne until it passed out of sight, never to be seen again and the stump moved not an inch! Observers simply walked away without a word!
Then there were the serious discussions about how Cliff would do anything to help his family find the Jesus that had changed his life. That became the most important mission for him. He knew he had hurt his family. He regretted living a crazy life during his son’s formative years but he really hated dragging his grand kids into his mess! He constantly tried to reach out to make amends. It was understandably hard for his family to really believe the “New Chubby” was real.
We moved out West. Peanut’s afflictions and her lack of resistance to things like a Friendly’s “Jim Dandy Sundae” caught up with Peanut and left Cliff by himself. They had started “flea marketing” as a way to give out Bibles, share Jesus and just have fun. Peanut’s absence took the fun out of it. Cliff moved from their little place to a site that allowed him to do salvage—the tragedy’s news release shows his fork lift, scattered race car parts and his business name: Chubb’s Scrap Metal. Time and having to “talk on them darn phones” let our close friendship become distant. Then the call! No more chance to catch up this side of heaven! I don’t even know where things ended with the family.
What I do know is the reality of Christ and how; for reasons known only to God, we can all know salvation because Jesus made a choice to be offered up as a sacrifice for our wrongdoings. Jesus died to save us. I go over and over the details. Living life the way they knew –“hard”—there were father and son, now obviously at least working together again, doing stuff routinely that others found way to risky—drilling a hole in a gas tank to drain it—the odds caught up and a spark came from somewhere. Cliff obviously saw it happening and knew his sight impaired son was in real danger. Age and conditionally impaired, Cliff in a split second chose he would be the one! He grabbed the burning gas and got it away from his son. His choice to save his son cost his own life! The obvious parallels of the essence of Christianity lived out by Jesus at his crucifixion bombard my sensibilities every time my mind tries to deal with Cliff’s un-timely passing. Cliff, you showed what a real man was in the last of your life and you showed your Jesus in your death. I agonize; do your kids and grandkids really understand what you did and why? I love and respect you brother! I can’t wait to be with you again and laugh as we imagine that ol flywheel sailing off into the sunset!
Learn about Lamplighter Realty, Lamplighter Financial, and Distressed Property Academy at callgene4realestate.com. Watch for the introduction of his new web-site as well as the opportunity to receive these articles to your email if you choose and even watch Gene and his buddy Mark create a video blog of their journey as Cooperative Capitalists. For your real estate needs, call Gene’s message center for Lamplighter Realty 866-931-4684 or dash off an email to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. God Bless!