Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Charlie has “Graduated” . . .

At 4 PM on October 16th, a mere one week short of his 81st birthday, my dear, long-time friend, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones graduated (as he termed it) to his new home in Heaven. I wrote about Charlie in my August 4, 2008 posting to this blog – I called it “Life is Tremendous,” because that is the title of the book Charlie penned in 1967. Charlie was another victim of the insidious disease – cancer. He and I shared many things in common, but one of them, while not positive, was bonding - prostate cancer. I’m a six year survivor – and hope to be a very long term survivor. Charlie’s cancer was advanced when they found it, but though they gave him less then two years to live, I believe that his attitude, passion, purpose and faith were directly attributable for him living more then 10 years from that original diagnosis.

Charlie lived his life with passion. He lived his life to help others learn, live their lives fully and productively, and find their own passion. Charlie had a deep Christian faith and was totally committed to his faith and knew, without a doubt of any kind, where he was going after he drew his last breath. He was lucid, virtually, to that last breath. The last time I saw Charlie in person (and I knew then, that it would very likely be the last time) was about a month ago. He was weak. His 6’4” frame was just a slip of what it had once been and he was frail. He slept most of the time. Yet, he held my hand with an amazingly vice-like grip and told me he loved me – and . . . I told him that I loved him. He was a friend, a colleague, a collaborator, a mentor, a brother, an inspiration and . . . in several ways, he filled the shoes of my own father who died at age 42 when I was just 21. And no matter what the situation, how good or bad, how tired, however he might be feeling – throughout these last few, very difficult months for Charlie (as well as his family and his close friends) – if you asked him how he was doing or how he felt he ALWAYS answered, “Life is TREMENDOUS” or just simply . . . “Wonderful!”

As I gaze out my window while composing this post, I’m looking into the forest behind my house. There is a slight, but brisk breeze blowing and I can see millions of leaves as they fall from their trees. In my mind and heart, I’m envisioning each of those leaves as one of the millions of people this man has positively impacted around the world during his lifetime. This is not an exaggeration like you get from so many people who speak in public. Charlie would never say that about himself. He told me he never felt like a success because there was much to do, so many more people to help. I’m sure Charlie, long ago, gave up keeping track of the number of people he’s spoken to in meetings, conferences, conventions, etc. for more then 40 years. One of my favorite "trophies" I enjoyed looking at in his personal office was a picture, autographed to Charlie from New York Yankees Hall of Famer, Mickey Mantle, one of my childhood heros. And that little book I mentioned has millions of copies in more then a dozen languages in people's hands around the world. I often wonder how many of those books were given free to all those people. I wonder how many times he signed his books with that word "Tremendous" that became his middle name. Saying that Charlie loved books would be greatly understating the obvious. Some 35 years ago or so, he started a publishing company, bookstore and book wholesale business specializing in positive, self-help, inspirational books. Starting out his professional life as an insurance salesman, he ended up his career selling life, passion and purpose - that he attributed 100% to his Christian faith, a faith that he was totally committed to. While he never wore his faith on his sleeve or forced it upon anyone else, he was not shy about letting you know that it was the source of his energy and passion.

I will miss Charlie’s bear hugs, another of his trademarks. I will miss his laughter. I will miss the great wisdom he shared with me personally. I will miss the way he could make the most humble of people, many performing, what might be considered, menial services or tasks, smile, feel proud of what they did and good about themselves. I will miss his singing. He loved the old standards, big band music, bluegrass, country and, most certainly, the great hymns of the Christian faith. Some of my greatest joys were in working with Charlie (actually, 'playing' might be more accurate) to record many of these songs so his grand kids and great grand kids could hear them. Charlie was quite a singer, though he’d never admit to it. He loved karaoke and we had great fun with the karaoke machine I got for him. I’ll miss the meals we shared together, either just him or often with Gloria, his sweetheart (and she still is) and bride of nearly 61 years. He always made me feel included in whatever the occasion might be.

But, I won’t say ‘Goodbye’ Charlie. I’ll simply say, “See ya later.” “Life IS Tremendous!”

With great respect and appreciation,

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