Joe Howell. He was born and then he died. When he was born and when he died are far less important than who he was and how he lived. But, for those of you who are interested, he was born on Sunday, April 22, 1934 in Harless Creek, Kentucky. His parents were Mildred and Roy Howell. He died peacefully at Columbus Healthcare Nursing Home at 3:45 in the afternoon on Saturday, April 30, 2011. Or as he would say, God came to get him.
The list of things, especially foods, that dad did not like was pretty long but most people do not know that because he did not complain. For years we didn’t know that he did not like cornbread, hot dogs, green beans and a long list of other things. He does like strawberry, another thing we didn’t know about him until recently. Complaining was just not something that he did much of. Talking wasn’t always his thing either.
He loved bluegrass. Playing was one of his passions. He even played on the radio as a teenager. He could play the guitar, the mandolin and the harmonica. He was a very talented man. His musical legacy will live on through his family because he taught and inspired many of us with his abilities. If you didn’t have the privilege of being taught by him you may have inherited his musical abilities through your bloodline, either your voice or your ability to play an instrument. Dad was such an inspiration. Our best and most memorable experiences come from the times when he would get together with other people to play music.
Dad came to know the Lord late in life, during his last year in fact. After that, all of the conversations about Adam and Eve being aliens and Jesus not really dying just stopped. Once he was saved our conversations about God around him and with him were drastically different. No more crazy schemes and stories to explain away God’s existence, only a gentle nod of agreement or quiet listening would be what you got. He agreed that God was real after he got saved. The week before he left us he said that God was coming to get him. I am so happy that he was escorted into eternity by God’s angels instead of Satan’s demons.
On his last trip home from the hospital you could see the fear in his eyes because he knew what was coming. But soon his fear was replaced by the overwhelming presence of his family surrounding him at every possible moment. We all spent as much time at his bedside as we possibly could during his last weeks. One night when some of us were leaving at 2am he said, “Stay around a while, this might be the last time you get to see me.”
We all celebrated his 77th birthday with him. Birthday pizza all the way was his wish (because what most people don’t know is….dad doesn’t really like cake). He didn’t eat anything all day so that he would have room for his pizza that evening. When we asked him what he’s like for his birthday he jutted his jaw forward and said “Some new teeth” with a big smile. His sense of humor was unique and all his own and will be so greatly missed by us all.
You could hear our laughter filling every hall of the nursing home during the 9 days before he left. He shared with Crystal that he felt so loved by us all. He also realized during his last days that even the people at Columbus Healthcare had accepted him and grown to love him. Our time with him was priceless and all I can say is I am so glad that we all gave him his flowers while he was living while he could still enjoy them. He will be missed more than he knows.