Cumberland Times-News

Columns

April 6, 2013

Hail, but not farewell, to an American hero

Ten years ago, I returned to the pew after giving a eulogy for my father and told the other members of my family I probably would never have to do anything that hard again.

I was wrong.

What I did last Monday wasn’t that difficult — because the Lord had given me the best of material to work with, and when I opened my heart and listened, He showed me how to use it.

That’s what I told Father Lawrence after the service, and he said that’s how it’s done. Cyndy did the same with what she said.

But it still was hard and, I suspect, even harder for her.

I was proud to do it, but would have preferred that it hadn’t been necessary.

——————

(Point index finger to heart) Ouch. Remember that little guy? I know how E.T. felt.

Sometimes, you have to let go and move on ... but you never let go completely. You never forget. What’s dear to you remains with you, and you can always find it here (point to heart).

My captain (point to him) and I wear Union Army uniforms as living historians to honor American heroes when we go to the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg.

Whether they were Yankees or Rebels doesn’t matter to us. They were American soldiers who fought, suffered and died by the thousands at a time for something they believed in. What they did collectively led to America becoming the greatest country in the world.

We’re in uniform today to honor an American hero who did what he believed in ... and did it so well. He’d still be doing it today, if he could. America is better off because of Craig ... and Rose, who was his colleague at the FBI, as well as his bride.

When I told Craig he was a hero and that I was proud of him, he disagreed with me. He said what any other hero would say — that he was not a hero, just someone who was doing his job.

Goldsworthys are stubborn, so neither of us was able to change the other’s mind. I still think I was right.

My cousin was one of the FBI’s top computer people, and he stood watch over us. A few days after the September 11 attacks, Craig was driving home when he had to turn around and head back to Washington at what Captain Kirk used to call Warp Factor Eight.

The FBI’s computer system had crashed, and he was on the cell phone trying to talk his people through it until he could get back to them. They called him for help. Even on 9/11 when other people were evacuating the building, Craig and Rose remained at their posts.

 The National Crime Information Center — NCIC — is a communications system that our police officers use. They can access it to find out almost instantly if their person of interest is a fugitive who may be armed and dangerous, or anything else they need to know.

I have friends who are police officers. When I tell them my cousin Craig wrote the first computer program for the NCIC, he becomes their hero. It’s made their difficult job easier and may have saved their lives or the lives of someone they know. He would be a hero to all of America’s police officers, if only they knew about him.

But they don’t, and that’s the way he wanted it. Heroes never want people to think they’re heroes.

How close Craig and I were, when we were younger, I can’t say. He was born a few years after I was, and I thought of him as a little kid ... but I was a little kid myself.

I came to realize that Craig was no longer just my cousin. He was my brother.

Craig put up an enormous fight. The longer it went on, the stronger became his faith and determination and conviction that the Lord had him in mind for some purpose ... and in that respect, I agreed with him.

His persistent good humor and courage were an inspiration to everyone who was in contact with him during his years of trial. They saw that he was a man filled with love.

Craig caused my own faith to grow. By ourselves, we cannot muster a strength like his. It has to come from, and be sustained by, a power that passes all human understanding.

I’ve probably called him Craig more times today than I have for years.

He’s “Gussie” to me, and I was “Gussie” to him. It’s the same with Craig’s sister Cyndy, who has become my sister, as well. Craig’s sons Kyle, Charlie and Scott are Gussies, and I love them like they were my own sons.

Craig’s father, my Uncle Abe, was an Army medic during World War Two. He was “Gussie,” and so was Aunt Frances ... Frannie.

Rose is Gussie, except when I call her Missus G. That’s what close friends of my branch of the family called my mother, who would have loved Rose just as much as my father did, and I always will. Missus G is my sister, too ... and in my eyes, a hero who almost defies comparison. Bear with me on that almost.

Craig could not have held on as long, or put up as brave a fight, and grow in faith the way he did, if it had not been for Missus G. It’s astounding how much courage, strength, warm-hearted humor and love she has. She needed those qualities, and the Lord gave them to her in abundance.

I could hear in Craig’s voice how tired he was, but even when Rose had to confront her own cancer, I could never tell anything was wrong with her ... except for a few minutes, just one time, when she called to tell me it would be a good idea to come and see Craig. And then she quickly was her old self again.

Craig and Rose took chemotherapy together ... and called each other “Chemo Sabe.” Missus G, I wish I’d been there to see those people’s faces the first time you came out with that.

God Himself must have put those two together. Neither of them could have found a better partner, even if they had all of the world to search and all of eternity in which to do it. Like my own parents, they felt that any time they had to spend apart was too long. Abe and Frannie were the same way.

I did not come here to grieve for Craig. He would not want that, and I refuse to do it. I’m here to celebrate his life and what he did with it and what he meant to people, and I want you to feel the same way. I’m here to celebrate the life we have shared as a family for generations.

Craig and I spent a few minutes alone, making each other smile and even laugh a little. It helps when you both know the same family stories ... especially when their nature is a bit on the ornery side — like why we call each other “Gussie.”

And we have a new Gussie, Crystal, who is engaged to Kyle.

When Uncle Abe’s time was near, he said he was looking forward to his next great adventure. His son was the same way. Like our little friend E.T., Craig said he hated to leave us behind, but he wanted to go Home. I told him that was OK, and that I had not come to say good-bye.

There is no good-bye in our family, just “We will be together again, and with the Lord.” Those we love need to hear this from us. It helps them to be at peace with what is to come, and I’ve said it before ... to my mother and my father.

Craig and I often talked about getting some beer and going fishing in his boat on the Potomac River near his home. We looked forward to that, but it didn’t happen. At least not yet.

I promised him we will do that someday ... with our grandfather, and his father and my father, and it’s hard to tell who else — people Craig and I knew, people we never got to meet because we didn’t come along soon enough, people who as of today haven’t even been born. They do say that a thousand years on earth are less than one day in Heaven.

I’ll just have to tell Craig, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Grandmother Goldsworthy loved to go fishing. She also liked to invent a reason to whoop up a storm and chase the young’uns around their camp at the river ... threatening them with a switch that she never used, acting like she was mad and had no idea they were hiding in the outhouse.

For that matter, she never found Craig and me and my other mischievous little cousins in her own closet. Barbara and Kerry are Aunt Penny’s daughters. They live several hours away and really wish they could be here.

I don’t recall that Cyndy ever got into as much trouble as the rest of us did. (Cyndy grins and shakes her head in vigorous disagreement.) Believe me, I will hear about that.

Uncle Abe told me about Aunt Frances’ last days. He said his son and daughter had sort of drifted apart. Craig went east to the FBI while Cyndy went west to be a teacher .... and become another of my greatest heroes — because what Rose did for Craig when he most needed it, Cyndy also did for her father.

Abe described to me how he spent those days in Frannie’s hospital room, watching and listening as Cyndy and Craig became sister and brother again. They’ve not been apart since, nor will they ever be. Abe said that was Frannie’s last gift to her children.

I thought about this while our family was gathered at Craig’s bedside on his final day in this life.

We, too, had gone our separate ways, but Craig reunited us, so we could spend some time with him and with each other. He gave us a chance to remind ourselves why there is so much love between us, and that we should never let go of it.

That was Craig’s last gift to us.

Missus G said it was good that we were together. I said I wished I could have seen everybody who was there, ready and waiting to lead Craig to his new home and his next great adventure ... but it was enough that I could feel them. I know Jesus was there. So did Craig. He told me so.

You can’t explain something like this to somebody who doesn’t already understand it, but Missus G understood. She had felt them, too. So did Cyndy. Even when we are by ourselves, we’re never alone.

The Lord must love us, to have put our souls together as a family. We surely love Him, and we are grateful. Because of Him, we are able to rejoice together in the good times and to comfort each other with a hug and a smile when things are not going so well.

May God bless each of you and your families the way He has blessed us.

I love you, Gussie. Job well done. Life well lived. Thanks for being a part of my life. Welcome Home, my brother. Welcome Home.

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