Pray for my friend Charlie Fuller.
It's hard to imagine this world without him in it.
Maybe you know that flowing white beard, those soft eyes, gentle voice, or the strong handshake of a man who has wrestled hot iron and other metals into well-wrought light fixtures, decorative gates and other adornments for houses and churches all over the country.
For some time Charlie was the blacksmith at Silver Dollar City. He's also played Santa Claus at area malls, schools and festivals. He's a natural in that role, although, in another time, an artist like Michelangelo might have used him as a model for Moses or even for the good Lord himself.
Charlie is in his mid-fifties, I think, but he has an ageless quality about him. As I say, it's hard to imagine this world without him in it, once you get used to having him around.
One recent night those closest to him were called in and told to prepare for the possibility of his dying. I'm not sure there's a way to fully prepare for such a thing. I've never been good at it, and this turn of events has shaken me and everyone who knows Charlie. Friends and loved ones have been sending out appeals for prayer, in person, by phone and over the Internet. I pass those requests to you.
Say a few words, send out good wishes for Charlie. He's filled a lot of shoes at St. Joseph the Carpenter, in Sevierville. He's been a eucharistic minister, an acolyte manager, lay reader, teacher of Education For the Ministry (EFM) and--a role not to be under-appreciated--chief cook at our annual pig roast, a job he revels in. I'll never forget watching him loosen up and dance a little jig on the hillside above the roasting pit last year in celebration of a particularly well-cooked carcass. He looked like a joyous over-grown elf against the green hills that day as he took his wife Karen by the arm and swung her around a time or two. We Episcopalians allow ourselves such simple pleasures from time to time. I hope to see Charlie dance again some day.
It won't be soon.
As of this writing, Charlie hangs on at Fort Sanders Medical Center. He started complaining of congestion several weeks ago, but it was much worse than that. Turns out, his body had been invaded by an especially ugly brand of pneumonia, his lungs become little more than pumps for spreading the corruption throughout his body.
After seven weeks of fighting his illness, resources have grown slim for Charlie and his wife, Karen. Medical bills mount, and the overhead on his blacksmith shop continues to grow. People have asked if there is some way they can contribute financially to Charlie's family, so I asked around. The proper place to send checks is to "St. Joseph's Church." Please take every care to note on your checks that this is for the "Fuller Discretionary Fund" and mail to 345 Hardin Lane, Sevierville, TN, 37862.
If prayers can help--and double-blind studies as well as our own experience indicate they can--Charlie should be in good shape. It's impossible to know. Like many of you, this old sinner closes his prayers by saying "if it be thy will." It's presumptuous to assume we know the mind of God.
Having said that, it's hard not to second-guess even God, at times, especially when it comes to somebody like Charlie.
I remember the night my son Travis, one of Charlie's acolytes, babysat Karen's daughter at Charlie's place. I was waiting to drive Travis to their home, but I noticed it was taking Travis a long time to get dressed. Exasperated, I finally said, "Good grief, Travis, just get dressed; we're not going to church you know, we're going to Charlie's house."
Travis turned to me and said, quite seriously, "You don't understand, Dad, Charlie IS the church."
Well, no single man is the church, and Charlie was the first to laugh at that pronouncement, but at times Charlie does seem like the church itself. The sight of him reading at the lectern on Sunday morning, or handing out bread and wine to the faithful gathered at the alter is something I've grown accustomed to. In his flowing white robe and equally flowing beard, Charlie has the appearance of a prophet of old come to minister to us. It's a presence I miss already.
Pray for my friend Charlie Fuller.