Goodbye and Thank You

  The little ragamuffin girl sits curled into the saggy sofa, with her wild hair, her ugly glasses and her hand me down clothes. She is happy. She lied to her father this morning, convinced him that she was sick and could not go to school. She hates school. Its a terrible place, where people are cruel and call her names and laugh at her.

  Her dad is a wonderful dad. She loves him to the moon and back, but he is a hard man, and he doesn't take kindly to bullies. When she tells him about the things that happen at school, he gets angry, and he demands that she fight and that she not allow people to pick on her. Even if her tormenters are boys, or older, or says hit them with a chair, or a book, or anything you can find, but don't ever give them your lunch money and don't ever let them pick on she doesn't say much to him. She really doesn't want to fight people, she just wants to run and play, and be accepted, like all the other kids.

  So she sits on the saggy sofa, on that long ago day, watching Gilligan's Island, pleased that she avoided school, even if she did have to lie to do so, and she is content for the moment. Tomorrow will come soon, and she will face another day of school, but for right now, everything is fine.

 But then a man shows up, a giant of a man, with flaming red hair, her cousin, son of her uncle Bill and aunt Myrtle. He is always nice to her and she loves him. But today, today, maybe not so much, for what does he say but "I'm here to take you over to our house, I'm gonna give you a shot and it will make you feel all better."

  She pleads and cries as they make their way to his truck. "I feel better" she says! But he is persistent and has no mercy. He even seems to be amused by her distress, for his eyes dance with laughter.  

 They arrive at the big house on the big hill, and he instructs the little ragamuffin girl to sit quietly on the front steps, while he goes inside for the shot. She sobs, she is certain now that the great God that her father speaks of so often, is angry with her for her lie, and now he is punishing her for it by making her get a shot. Probably the only thing she fears more than school is needles. She sits and sobs, and she tells God she is sorry, so very sorry for her lie.

 Suddenly from the corner of her eye she sees movement, and she looks to the side of the house, and there, lo and behold, comes the red haired giant! And he is leading a beautiful little pony, and his eyes sparkle with laughter as he tells the little ragamuffin girl...."her name is Sugar.....she is yours".

   That memory was many long years ago and it is the first memory that always comes to mind, of my cousin, Stanley Ray Hall. I know there are earlier ones in their somewhere, but this one, this one, is the one engrained upon my memory. I am the little ragamuffin girl, and I am now 58 years of age and today, September 7th, in the year of our Lord 2018, my cousin Stanley Hall stepped into eternity.

  He was always kind to me and my brother, his father Bill was our beloved uncle, and his mother Myrtle was the only mother I ever knew. She loved me, she was there for me, and she never stopped loving me, even when I was not at all lovable.

  As for Stanley, he continued on, just like he did on that moment that he gave me that pony. It was Uncle Bill that bought that pony, but as the years passed, and Uncle Bill passed away, it was Stanley that got Baby Honey Dumplings, my next pony, and it was Stanley that always let me tag along, to horse events, and always let me hang out at the barn, grooming horses, talking horses....the ponies and horses of my childhood were precious to me, so very precious. I doubt Stanley ever really knew how very precious they were. If not for him, if not for his family, I never would have had the opportunity to be around horses, to learn about them, to ride them, and to love them up close and personal. Without Stanley, the closest I would have gotten to a pony or horse  would have been in the pages of a book..

 For a ragamuffin child, who later became an angry teen, those moments with the horses are probably my happiest moments. I have only one happy moment from school. That was my 3rd grade teacher, Miss Cowen, reading Charlottes Web to the class. She opened the wonderful door to books, through which I would escape some of my most awful times.....and Stanley, and his family, they opened the door to horses, both of these doors sustained me through my childhood, and my turbulent teens.

  I always considered him as more of a brother, than a cousin. I am so very grateful for the kindness that he showed me, kindness that in reflecting these past few hours after hearing of his passing, has brought tears to my eyes.

  When I grew older, and came to my senses and to God, I thanked Stanley for his kindness, but I never told him how very important he was in my life, I never told him how that little pony named Sugar, and all the horses that followed after her, were anchors for a little ragamuffin girl. Those long rides through the woods, those moments at the barn, those were moments that gave me hope, that made my life at that time, bearable. As a child in elementary school, no matter how bad things got, no matter how bad the bullying, no matter how alone and sad I felt at school, I had a pony, and me and my friends that lived next door to Stanley would go out with our ponies on many adventures and those are cherished and beloved memories.

  Being able to grow up with horses also sustained me later in life, and for a time, after I left the Air Force, these skills actually put bread on our table and a roof over our heads.....none of that would have happened were it not for that first pony, were it not for all those days at the barn and at the horse shows.

 So today, I feel very sad, sad that Stanley has gone from this world, and sad that I never actually told him how important his kindness, and the kindness of his mother and father were to me. And yet, as I weep over these regrets, a picture comes to mind, of him standing before our Savior, as our Lord shows him all the things he did across the years, all the good things, all the kindnesses he displayed, and a smile comes to my face, for I know for certain, without a doubt in my mind, that ones of those moments that Jesus is showing to Stanley, is of that little ragamuffin girl, with her ugly thick glasses, and her birds nest hair, and her frightful clothes, as she sits weeping on the steps, and as he watches this memory, and sees her face light up at his words, he will hear that voice, that voice that all of us long so to hear, saying "well done my servant, well done, enter now into your rest".

  Go with God Stanley Ray Hall, my cousin, my brother...… I did not call enough, I did not thank you well know, we Halls are not the best at these things. I will see you soon, and we shall gallop across green meadows, with bubbling streams, meadows filled with beauty, we will need no bridles nor saddles there, and He will ride with us...…and it will be amazing. Until then my brother....until then.