Daddy’s leaving

Photos and story by Brad Luttrell
Willis “Dean” Wilson pats her husband, Clyde, on the head in their home in Ages, Ky. Clyde had been dying from an aggressive cancer, but outlived his doctor’s expectations of a week by nearly a month.

Talking to Clyde Wilson wasn’t like starring death in the face, unless you knew he was dying. But everyone did.

Despite being told there was no hope for him after doctors found he had an aggressive cancer, Clyde, 69, didn’t seem to be bothered by anything. Clyde’s character remained compassionate, kind and never cowardly or weak. He was still talking, having fun with his dog, Boots, and enjoying the company of those who visited him.

Clyde would put peppermints in his shirt pocket for his dog, Boots, to find. Boots would run up Clyde’s legs, ascend his arm and mount on his shoulder to dig for the hidden piece of candy.

Clyde’s dog Boots, a chihuahua, was Clyde’s favorite type of dog. Clyde and Dean bragged about how smart Boots was, and were always eager to show of his intelligence by hiding candy in Clyde’s pocket, which Boots could not only find, but unwrap. Clyde’s nephew, Alex Rigney, placed a stuffed chihuahua in Clyde’s casket before his visitation.

Friends and family would come visit and they would ask him, sitting in his chair by the door, if he was in any kind of pain. “Yeah,” is all Clyde would say. He said complaining about it didn’t make the pain go away. His only protest from the pain was that he stayed in his chair by the door. It was the least painful way to sit, he said.

Janie Luttrell, right, and her daughter Megan, visit their uncle Clyde on Sept. 23, a week and a half before he died.

Clyde, a retired coal miner, had been with his wife, Willis “Dean” Wilson, for 50 years. In a small house on Peach Tree Street in Ages, Ky, the two lived a quiet lifestyle together. They attended a small, country church just across the road and by the river, where Clyde, or Daddy as Dean always called him, served his faith for over 12 years.

Clyde’s niece, Janie, comes to visit him and Dean in their small, dark home on the hill in Ages, Ky.

When others may have been tempted to give up on God and stay home, Clyde was still worshiping by the river. At Clyde’s funeral, his preacher, Brother Kellis Greer, recalled to a packed building, seeing Clyde coming into the church with a feeding tube hanging from his face. Clyde was as dedicated as one can imaginably be.

“Seeing that packed church really showed you how good Clyde was to us kids,” Clyde’s niece, Janie Luttrell, said. “I can’t remember Clyde ever being anything but nice to us.”

Atop of the living room television, near the front door, a loaded pistol sits next to glass figurines of angels and a dying Jesus Christ. Dean said the pistol was for protection in case someone broke in to try and steal Clyde’s pain medications.

Clyde and Dean were the two you can’t imagine without the other. Hand in hand, they were a living unit together. Dean tended to Clyde in his sickness, feeding him only a half of a spoonful of ice cream, which could be as much as he would eat for days. As Clyde sat in his chair, Dean would tell you about how well he was doing, in comparison to how poorly the doctors expected him to do.

Dean and Clyde loved to show friends and family how smart Boots is.

But now, Dean is not with Clyde, and Clyde is with the only other person he knew more intimately than Dean, Jesus Christ. Dean must cope without her best friend, Daddy. The house that ever so small house on Ages’ hill is now bigger than she ever imagined. Even amongst all the glass whatnots and figurines, years of belongings stacked throughout and even Boots, there isn’t enough there to keep the house from feeling empty.

On the day of his funeral, family and friends packed into that small church house by the river. Some were laughing as they met up with old friends. Others crying as they looked to the casket in the front, where Clyde would last be seen. With an unusually thin face and small stuffed dog by his waist, he looked as though he were waiting. The lid of the casket displayed four doves flying, one away from the rest. “Going Home,” was stitched under the lone dove.

When the time came, the funeral began and songs praised God and spoke of when they “would see you again.” Preachers, who were also friends, spoke of Clyde, but spoke more attentively to those in attendance. Clyde was already in a better place. There wasn’t much anyone could do for him. Making an example of Clyde’s life and dedication to his faith, a message was given to those in attendance that day. Instead of a mourning, within the four walls of the tiny church sounded more like a revival.

Which is exactly what Clyde wanted.



3 Responses to “Daddy’s leaving”

  1. Danny Luttrell Says:

    Very well said…Clyde would approve. You have a gift of “absorbing” the truth and explaining it to others with compassion and honesty.

  2. Brad, this story and the photos along with it are absolutely magnificent. I cried when I finished it. Well done.

  3. […] but this is pretty much it. In my lifetime, I’ve had 6 family members buried here, including Clyde Wilson and most recently, my grandfather, JC […]

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