This weekend the world lost one of its best rednecks. Tim Cartee, who was lovingly referred to as “Tim the Redneck” for the radio name given to him when he would call into my radio show a few years back, went home to be with the Lord yesterday morning after a long battle with cancer. I hadn’t seen Tim much since I came to Riverside–he and his family were active in my previous church–and his cancer took a turn for the worse a while back, but Tim never lost his sense of humor. I honestly don’t remember a time I was around him when he wasn’t laughing and doing his best to make everyone else laugh. We went to lunch a couple of months ago, and even though he wasn’t feeling well, he still carried on like nothing was wrong. He loved to go on about how big a redneck he was (I’ve known bigger, but I’d never tell him that), his southern drawl exaggerated to the point that our kids started calling him “Mater” after the lovable tow truck ,voiced by Larry the Cable Guy, from the movie “Cars”. He was a fantastic drummer in the praise band, loved softball like he invented it, and was absolutely on fire for God.
When I got the call yesterday morning on our way to church that he had gone home, we were all stunned. He had gone on Hospice care this week, and I had talked to him a few days ago and he sounded great. Me and another mutual friend had planned on going to see him together, but Tim didn’t wait that long. I’m glad we were able to talk on the phone, as he told me he loved me and I told him the same. When I hung up the phone, the last thing I said to him was, “I’ll see ya later, Redneck”. His laughing response involved a combination of “Yeehaw!” and “That’s right!”
I didn’t say “Goodbye”, and I’m glad I didn’t. As believers in Christ, “goodbye” suggests a finality that really isn’t needed. I know I’m going to see Tim again, beyond any shadow of a doubt–he just got to heaven before me. As believers, we know our final destination, because the Bible so clearly teaches us that we will have all of eternity to spend with God and those who have surrendered their lives to Him through Christ in what will eventually be a new heaven and earth, remade into a perfect creation free from sin’s corrupting influence (Revelation 21:1-2).
Tim’s wife, Sonya, told me about Tim’s last moments. She said she was holding his hand, and he was staring off, like he was looking at something in the distance. Then, he started laughing. She said that he laughed out loud several times, and then was gone. Not a bad way to go, all things considered. What was he laughing at? I can’t say for sure, of course, but I believe that he saw where he was headed. Maybe he saw angels coming to take him home; maybe he saw Jesus Himself, waiting to welcome His child into His arms. He might have seen other family members who went on before him. But I have one possible scenario that, although I can’t back it up with any certainty, would not surprise me one bit.
One of our mutual friends, Smiley Whitlock, died suddenly last year of a heart attack. Smiley was “Shrek” in real life, and loved referring to himself as such (you should have seen him the year he dressed up as Shrek for our “Trunk or Treat”–awesome). Smiley was a bear of a guy, and one of his favorite things to do was pick you up in a massive bear hug that threatened to crush you. You had no doubt that Smiley loved you, and he felt that way about pretty much everybody– they called him “Smiley” for a reason. Tim and Smiley were very close, so it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the reason for Tim laughing as he passed on was that he saw Smiley standing there, waiting to crush him in that bear hug, or doing something else goofy to welcome him home. The Bible indicates that we will retain all of the good aspects our character, without any of the parts that are corrupted by sin, so I can imagine that Tim got quite a welcome yesterday.
Am I sad that Tim has gone on? Sure. But I’m glad to know that I’ll see him again, and Smiley, and all my other friends and family who have gone on before me that are believers in Christ. And best of all, I’ll get to see Jesus face to face. Tim just got there first. He always was competitive.
See ya later, Redneck.