As I’m on this continuing journey of getting in touch with my grief over the loss of my younger brother, I’d like to share with you what I read at his memorial service. God graciously gave me the joy and strength to talk about my brother to over 600 people who honored Chuck. I hope you are encouraged by the story of his life and his journey of trusting God in the midst of physical pain.
I’m Kathy Miller, Chuck’s sister. I’d like to share what my sister Karen and I know about our wonderful brother Chuck.
“Kathy, Karen, and Chuck”: Our names seemed to go together. We were Rich and Viv’s kids. The 3 Collard kids. That’s how it’s always been. I’m the oldest, then came Karen 22 months later, and only 20 months after that, baby Chuck was born.
|The Young 3 Collard Kids
As we grew up, along with the other Collard kids, our cousins, Steve and Kim, our world was with family that did a lot together. Our grandparents were involved in our lives, along with uncles and aunts. We all spent a lot of time together.
As a child, Chuck was tender hearted. He wasn’t very competitive. He was low key and peace loving. And always lots of fun.
Growing up on a kid friendly street in Norwalk, California, Chuck played baseball at the Little League field at the end of our street. Our dad along with our bachelor Uncle Frank were most often his coaches. Chuck skateboarded and rode his bike. Our daddy fixed an archery set in the backyard and we learned to shoot a bow and arrow there. We all walked to school even though it was over a mile away.
We took swimming lessons every summer. We went on family vacations for one week per year camping in a tent at Yosemite or the beach. During the summers, we took day trips to the beach during the week and on the weekends. Seal Beach, California, was our family favorite and our dad taught us to body surf. Our family was not wealthy and we brought our lunch with us.
Chuck’s closest friend was cousin Steve who usually went on vacation with us. They spent their time using plastic army men in the sand of whatever place we camped. Or they played cops and robbers with plastic guns and bandanas over their mouths. Another theme was cowboys and Indians.
When Chuck was in 5th grade, our family moved to Downey. Chuck was eventually in a band playing guitar, rode a unicycle, and was creative and fun loving. One time he created a miniature hot air balloon by fashioning straws together holding tiny candles, putting a plastic bag over it. After lighting the candles, the creation lifted into the night. We watched the flickering of the candles for a long while. We loved Chuck’s playfulness and inventiveness. It was later he found out it was illegal to fly something like that in the sky. Chances are that didn’t stop him from doing it again.
When I married Larry on June 20, 1970, 17-year-old Chuck was a groomsman in our wedding. I asked Chuck to help me by returning the candelabras I had borrowed for the ceremony. I stressed they needed to be returned after the wedding. Chuck was so conscientious that as soon as everyone filed out of the church, he grabbed the candelabras, put them in the truck and took off. As a result, he isn’t in our wedding photos. But I sure appreciated him keeping his promise to help me.
|The 3 Collard Kids
Six years later, on January 15, 1976, our father died suddenly of a heart attack. Chuck was 24 years old—a profound loss in a young man’s life. And of course in our lives as well. Chuck graciously moved in with our mom. He supported her emotionally in that way until she moved to a new place.
Many years later, Chuck began to visit our bachelor Uncle Frank who lived in Jamestown, in Central California. His wife Leslie, and two children accompanied him. We were so grateful that he was willing to do this until Uncle Frank died. He had a tender heart and we appreciated Leslie being willing to help.
After we two sisters became Christians, we prayed for Chuck. At one point, the women of the family including Leslie, formed a Bible study and we met at different homes. After meeting one time at Chuck and Leslie’s house, Chuck told Leslie the next day, “You girls sure laughed a lot.” He seemed surprised we could have fun studying the Bible.
Karen and I envisioned that when he came to Christ we would receive a hoot and a holler from him about making the commitment. But we heard in a round-about way he had talked to the pastor after a service to commit his life to Christ. Then he became the evangelist of our family. He was winsome and effective in sharing the Gospel. It seemed like he felt totally comfortable sharing Christ with anyone.
As adults, family togetherness was very important. One year, our mother decided to rent a beach house for a week. It was a great success. Two years later we decided to do the same thing but were considering a different place to stay. After looking at a home that we were really interested in, we wondered if there could be an opening. Chuck spoke up and said, “Let’s pray.” In the street behind the house, he gathered us in a circle and prayed for God’s favor for us to rent that house. As a result, we rented that house for one week for the next four summers.
Chuck was the fun factor and the evangelist. He could tell stories and keep us entertained.
|Chuck and Karen
Chuck was a loving and selfless son to our mother. He took wonderful care of her. He faithfully spent time with her and loved taking her to the Angels games.
Chuck was caring, good hearted, peace-loving. He wasn’t a fighter. He loved Christ and lived for Him. He inspired us with his trust in his great God his whole Christian life—but especially during the past six years of battling cancer with God’s strength. Of course, we prayed for Chuck’s total healing and God did give us more years with him than originally thought, but his total healing on this earth was not to be.
About a year ago when the doctors gave him up to six months to live, Chuck told me, “Just think, Kathy, I might see Jesus face to face within six months.” His face was lit up with trust, peace and joy. He didn’t want to leave us but he trusted God’s plan and knew he would be in Jesus’ presence.
Karen and I find great comfort in knowing Chuck was not a citizen of this earth. He was a citizen of heaven. As an alien on the earth, the pod that he wore here faded away but his soul remained the same as he made the transition to heaven.
But our grief is profound and though we trust God’s plan as modeled by our brother, the threesome is broken and we feel like an arm has been cut off. We love our brother so much and we know he loved us. We’re so grateful that God made us a family.