The first time I met Earl, he greeted me with a big smile and said “I know who you are, cousin!” I was not totally sure about how we were related and Junior didn’t waste any time telling me. Mamaw Ruthie and I paid him that first visit in the winter of 2018. The last time I saw him was just after the first of this new year. I am honored and blessed to have known him a little over a year. It was too short of a time. He passed away on Sunday, March 10, 2019.
He was one of those people that I felt like I had known for years. He is a distant cousin to me (and also to half of Blount County) through the Headrick family line. Our common ancestor is “Blind” Dan Headrick and Margaret McKelder Headrick of Townsend, TN. Blind Dan and Margaret are my 3x-great grandparents.
Anyways, he enlightened me on so much of my family’s history. The day Ruth and I spent with him will forever be in my mind. He was an open book, sharp as a tack, and knew everything about everyone– even at 90 years old. I was so impressed with his knowledge of basically everything. He always had so much to teach. And I was soaking up all I could!
I am so sad I never knew his wife, Inez. She passed away before I became involved in all my genealogy work, unfortunately. Junior and Inez shared their stories and their pictures with everyone. They were so eager to teach others. I have been so blessed by their generosity in seeing old family photos I would never have known existed if they hadn’t worked so hard years ago to build such a collection. And my, what a collection it is! I’m just so honored that I got to see a part of it.
Earl had no shortage of visitors. He was a pretty popular guy. He was fascinating, humble, loving, and sweet. He never spoke ill of anyone. Even if he told a story for the truth, he would always preface it with not wanting to talk bad about so-and-so that was in the story.
We took him to visit another elderly cousin last year, and it was the last time they got to visit each other. This was one of my little accomplishments that wouldn’t seem significant to anyone else, probably. I got to hear them tell stories of when they were kids, playing together. It was a fun time.
Throughout last year, I’d call him or he would call me every few months. He liked to keep a check on his friends. I had another baby last September and he was sure to ask how I was doing. He would leave me messages that started out with “Hey cous’!”. He always ended his calls by saying “I love you”. That meant a lot to me and warmed my heart every time I heard his voice.
My husband and I visited him the first of this year for the last time. I didn’t know it would be the last time. We chatted for a few hours, learning more and more about his life. He was sort of sad that he couldn’t get out anymore but he was also content in his old age.
In the few visits we had together, I could certainly tell he loved the Lord. He spoke of his Savior and recounted the day he became a child of God at Bethel Baptist. It wasn’t just sentimental, it was real. That was so encouraging for me; to hear him speak of being ready to be with the Lord.
I learned last week that he had a stroke, which left him pretty disabled. My first prayer was that he would be healed and recover. But then, deep down, I knew he was ready to go home and probably wouldn’t want me to pray for him to keep on living in this old world. I just prayed that he wouldn’t have to go through any more hardships with his health, that he wouldn’t have to be in any pain or have to suffer.
When I heard the news that he had passed away, I had a quick pain in my heart, but after that, I had a sigh of relief because he is now at home with Jesus. He has accomplished what we as Christians are living for every day: being home with the Lord. What a glorious thought. It brings tears to my eyes to think about the reality Earl is living now. Jesus saved him at a young age and his faith has been made sight. Any questions he had is now answered. He’s rejoicing with the other saints and angels before the throne right now! Wow.
I just wanted to write this in honor of my cousin Earl, “Junior”. He deserves more than I could ever write.
“His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:21