One of a kind
When Artie Conklin passed away at the age of 32, his memorial was held in the largest church in town, which proved to be too small for the number of people who wanted to attend.
Artie was a local boy who spent most of his life helping others in the community. Even when he was away at college, he came back home often to visit shut-ins, help staff the food kitchen, and volunteer for the Big Brother/Big Sister program.
Presently, friend after friend stood up to the microphone to tell others what an impact Artie had on them. For two hours and twenty minutes, locals, college friends, and work colleagues sung Artie’s praises. Even two of his high school bully enemies stood up to regret the way they treated Artie in school.
That was where Artie first learned that his Leukemia was a death sentence; he just didn’t know when. Nobody did.
His mother and father spoke, both physically supporting one another as they gave short, tear-filled speeches. Both admitted that nothing in their lives to this point prepared them to bury their 32-year-old son.
Artie’s 19-year-old brother, David, stepped up to the podium.
David was 6’5” and weighed 270. The unbuttoned white shirt under a suit jacket was ill-fitting and unnatural on the blonde “little” brother. No one thought it odd or inappropriate for him to be wearing sunglasses to the indoor memorial, and they understood why.
He unfolded a single sheet of paper, straightened it out on the podium, and looked out over the sea of 700 people. David bowed his head, sniffled twice, and said, “Thank you all for coming this afternoon to honor my brother.”
He paused, flattened out his paper again, and cleared his throat.
“I, I, uh…”
David paused again.
“I’m blessed to have known Artie as long as I did. As you all know, he was a kind soul, probably unlike anyone you’ve ever met. What you saw in public was what he was in private. No difference.”
David paused again and looked down at the closed casket, nodding slightly.
“You see, Artie kind of set the standard for love and kindness. I really can’t think of a time he spoke bad about anybody, and he never complained once about his illness. I know he felt the pain – you never saw him wince like I did – but never complained once.”
He took a deep breath.
“In his final days, I asked him, ‘Artie, what’s the first thing you’re gonna do when you get to heaven?’”
David stopped and stared out into the audience, surveying the mass of people assembled to pay their respects to his brother.
He said, “I, uh, I…”
Someone in the front called out, “Take your time, David. We’re here for ya, Buddy. We’re in no hurry! Take your time.”
David managed a smile through his tears and heavy sobs.
“So he said to me, ‘That’s easy, David. I’m just going to fall on my knees and worship the God who created me.’ His faith sustained him through all of this junk here on earth. So now, Artie is in the glory of His Savior.”
David folded his paper and shoved it into his inner jacket pocket.
“Some say Artie’s in a better place. That’s certainly an understatement.
“Artie’s home, right where he belongs. You see, Artie knew something we only think about. He knew that serving people here was but a precursor to serving God in heaven. His faith in God sustained him through his horrible agony.”
Artie paused one last time and said, “We can all learn from that.”
David stepped away from the podium, dropped to his knees and bowed his head.