By Tara Sutphen
Craig, sigh….. Leaving us all earlier than you should have, May you be as graceful in heaven as you were on earth.
One day in Science class we had a speaker. The teacher was very excited to introduce Craig to the class. I was 16 years old and he was speaking on Astronomy. I remember everything about that day. Down to the wood grain on the desks and the pattern on the linoleum, even the weather out the window of our classroom was blustery, another Alaska day in October. What struck me was Craig’s honesty about how he couldn’t get into the NASA space program because of his color blindness. But that didn’t stop Craig from being very knowledgeable about planets and constellations. He loved the sky and the heavens and it came across with his every word. I listened to him speak, not something I did for just anyone while in high school. Our teacher was very happy. It turned out to be an impressive day. And a nice surprise to see Craig again, a year later when I started dating his brother, Ron who I also married.
The generous heart and ready smile of Craig, he was always willing to give a helping hand, and a kind word of encouragement. When you were down he would always speak with compassion. There was never any guile. He was straight forward and listened well. I didn’t ever see him too agitated or disturbed, he could be frustrated at times but nothing more. And even that, was a rare event. He was oddly angelic even then. He loved to tease his Mother, Shawna and the Dad’s, also Willie and me in those days. He didn’t tease Ron often as Ron usually was goading Craig, as brothers do, with a hint of mischief.
I remember how they would still debate about how Craig got stabbed in the hand when they lived in the Quonset hut on Government Hill. They were youngsters in grade school and Ron asked Craig to splay his hand so that he could poke a pocket knife in between Craig’s fingers. Craig moved and Ron stabbed him in the middle of his hand. There was a lot of screaming with Ron following Craig as he ran out of the room in pain and chaos, Ron running after Craig pondering on how he was going to get out of this inconvenient dilemma. Ron tried hard to explain to their Mom what all the blood was about and desperately trying to conversationally ‘fix’ the situation. Sadly, it was one of those uncorrectable kid problems where Craig needed medical aid. Ron, the instigator and Craig, the conciliator, this banter and ribbing between them went on for years. As young men, Ron was still trying to ridicule Craig for moving his hand that day. Craig relished the story on how Ron got in trouble. The boys would have me belly laughing every time they bickered and told this tale. I was always easily entertained by the brother’s stories and bantering.
When I married into the family, Craig included my brothers in his social life. Jason was only a young teen, Craig involved him when going to the movies or doing something fun. Jason says “Craig was the only one who treated him like an adult”. I chided Jason when he said that, as he was only 12 and 13 years old, but Jason was beaming with flattery. Both my brothers, Scott & Jason always loved hanging out with Craig.
When Craig met Robin, he was so excited to tell me all about her and looked so forward to becoming her husband. I remember thinking how he would be wonderful to her and they would be happy. Craig would make sure of it. I’m sorry these last few years weren’t as fun for them. Robin cared for Craig with the utmost care and sensitivity. Within their lives and hearts they tried their very best to comfort each other when things went wrong. Robin will lovingly be there for their children and their children’s children. I wish her the best of luck.
I was proud of Craig how he handled his mother and me, when his brother Ron died. It can’t be easy to console weeping women. Ron’s family came to Southern California to make arrangements for the funeral. To take a break, Craig wanted a day of rest to go to Disneyland. I got tearful and voiced my concern, half kidding him that he might disappear and send Mickey Mouse to do Ron’s Eulogy. “I started to mimic Mickey Mouse’s voice on how Mickey didn’t know Ron well, and how he was taking Craig’s place as he was in the other Glorious Kingdom”. Poor Craig, we were hanging on to him like cats with claws, we were counting on him to console us through those hard terrible days. And he did, he also phenomenally conducted Ron’s funeral. God knows, I only remember walking through a fog.
Just as we all walk in sorrow for Craig’s death now… the silence, the vagueness, the gloom.
He couldn’t have a better family. Nadine is one of the most Beloved Mother’s I have ever known. She is pure heart and soul, that she must endure losing her children crushes my heart. I have loved who she has loved. The wound of grief can be long suffering. Thankfully Craig has left precious children behind to sweeten her days. Gene, Shawna and her family will be lovingly there.
As we weep, the brotherly rivalry has started again. Ron and Craig are reminiscing about the good ole days of cars, laughter and love. They are talking about all of us, I can hear their chatter and I’m sure many of you can too.
We can question who may or may not be going to heaven, but we know Craig made the cut.
May he rest in Eternal Grace.
My Love Always to Craig, and to my and Willie’s extended family, The Weiler’s, The Mudge’s & The Parrish’s ~