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Claude Orten

May 28, 2012

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Claude Orten went to my church in New England and lived in our town.  He grew up in the poor rural south and took on its mannerisms and accent and rural common sense so that you knew where he was from the moment you met him.  Life often came hard to Claude.

He was not a simple man, though I think most people would have thought that about him.  He had a fourth grade education, but was not ignorant, nor stupid.  He grew up working hard and playing hard and he married a sturdy woman who had grown up the same way.  They were well suited to each other.  They loved each other and made up for each others faults as best as they could.  And they loved God as best as they could.  No doubt these loves kept them together through all the troubles of life.

Early in their married life Claude packed up the family and moved to Connecticut, a very different place from the poor south.  Not long after arriving he was burnt badly at work and spent many weeks in the hospital.  He almost died and never really recovered.  From that point on he began to spiral down in most every way.  Life became a bit of a chore for him, but he continued to work hard.  He even took correspondence courses and earned a diploma from Moody Bible Institute.

We met just two years before he passed away and I liked him instantly.  He reminded me of some of the older folks in my family that I knew when I was growing up, the generation before my parents.  He talked slow with a thick drawl, wore jeans and a t-shirt, smoked and drank, though not as much as he used to, and in his garage he had all the same tools my grandfather did.  His garage even smelled the same with the wood and metal and machinery and oil and dirt.  I love that smell.

In the summer we would sit on old rusty chairs in front of his garage and have a drink and talk.  It took Claude about thirty minutes to warm up, but once he did we would just talk about things, about life and God mostly, not too much about the past.  The past was painful for him so I didn’t press it.

When he was ready he would talk and I would marvel at the terrible things people can go through and yet still not be destroyed in body or spirit.  Claude had been beaten pretty badly by this age and its spirit and he had made some bad decisions, but he owned them and he was not bitter.  He only complained to get sympathy from his wife, who gave it to him anyway.

In the winter we would be inside the garage and talk around the kerosene heater.  Sometimes he would make things and I would help him with a project.  I have a shelf we made together.

One day he said he thought of me as a son, and I was happy for him because of it.  It was one of the few overt expressions of love I saw him make.  I was glad he said it and I loved him more for it and I told him so.  I thought of him as a favorite uncle, but I did not tell him that.  I did not want to be cruel.  It made him feel good and closer to me and I was happy for that and for him.

One day Claude’s wounds from life got the best of him and after a short stay in the hospital he was gathered to his God and his people.  He only wanted his wife, one of his daughters and me to visit him in the hospital.  When he died it was a relief, not only for Claude, but for the rest of us.  We were glad to see his years of suffering end and his eternity of peace and happiness begin.

He wanted to be buried back home in the south and he wanted me to speak at his funeral, but God had other ideas.  Three cancelled flights and one late plane later I ended up spending the day alone at a big airport three hours from the funeral.  We even tried to charter a helicopter, but that was broken down too.  It was a lousy, lousy day.

We had a memorial service back in Connecticut a week later and when I spoke I was sad and I missed Claude and I said so to all the people.  After the service some fools chastised me for being sad because Claude was no longer here but in heaven.  I was sad even though I knew he went on to glory where there is no more crying and all his injuries are healed.  I still miss him and I like to think about him and about where he is now and how he is doing, and about seeing him again and sitting down and having a good long talk.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 29, 2012 3:24 am

    Thanks. Nice to be reminded of Claude.

  2. Bryn permalink
    June 9, 2012 11:15 am

    Isn’t that the truth about seeing the dead ones gone, we miss them like mad and we are the ones left behind. If that doesn’t make a man sad, he is a sad man indeed.

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