Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mr. Chilcoat

Last September I got a call one evening just after Jilda and I had finished eating dinner. She answered the phone and after a moment handed the phone to me.
I could tell by the gentleman's voice he was elderly. His breathing was labored. I correctly guessed he had COPD.
He said, "Rick, my name is J. B. Chilcoat." He then stopped and took some deep breaths as if he had just completed a marathon.
"You don't know me, (pause) but I read your column each week, and I feel like I know you and your wife."
I actually get that a lot from people I've never met. It goes along with writing a column for the local paper.
"I've always enjoyed talking to people, but I made a mistake a while back," he said.
"When I told my old friends I was in hospice, and would die soon, many of them stopped coming around."
He sounded lonesome, so I let him talk without interruption. We talked for a long while before saying our goodbyes.
Then when my second book came out, he called me up to say he wanted a copy. That was in October so he came to hear Jilda and I perform at the Frog Festival. He bought one of the first copies of the new book.
Then in early December I wrote a column about Aging Gracefully, and it resonated with him.
He called and we talked for an hour. He told me about his family and his work life.
He loved to fish and it was my intention to take him fishing this spring when the weather warmed up, and the striped bass started running in the Black Warrior.
We'd planned to spend the evening preparing for upcoming recording sessions, but when Jilda picked up the paper this morning and scan the obits as she always does I heard he say "Oh No!"
I was doing some recording, and I heard he call my name.
There was something about the tone in her voice. When I walked into the living room she told me that Mr. Chilcoat had died.
Tonight we bundled up and went out into the torrential rain to attend his wake at the funeral home. We spoke briefly with his son and told him his dad was a fine person.
His son said that his dad had wrung ever ounce of living out of his life, and that the last few months he'd tied up loose ends and was ready to go. I felt badly for the son, because it's never easy losing a father.
I was saddened by the passing of Mr. Chilcoat. I hope he rests in peace.


  1. Rick, my sympathy on the passing of Mr Chilcoat.
    Just knowing that you care enough to take to take time for him was probably a great pleasure for him.
    Bless you.

  2. What a good soul you are-taking time to bless this man who felt all alone as he traveled the path to his beyond. I am sure you were a bright light in his life and gave him something to look forward to in those last few weeks of his life.

    I worked in a hospital setting and it is very hard for people to visit when someone is terminally ill. I think a lot of them are scared because they think of themselves in a similar situation....and makes death all too real. They don't mean to hurt the patient-they are just protecting their own grip on life-as sad as that is.

    Blessings to you and your wife- Diana

  3. Sounds like Mr. Chilcoat was a good man and he found a good friend in you, even if it was for only a short time. We never know when we'll be a bright spot in someone's life. I'm glad you were there for him.

  4. Rick, This story touches my heart. It sort of reminds me of the book, "Tuesdays with Morrie." And, also, it has been a little over 3 months since my own mother passed away. It is not easy to watch someone fade away and finally die. Something of yourself goes with them. I'm glad you took the time to connect with him. The best gifts of service are those that have no promise of recompense.

  5. Such a beautiful post Rick... how lovely that Mr Chilcoat contacted you... and that you were able to befriend him... he sounds like he was a very sweet man...


  6. My deepest condolences to Mr Chilcoat's family and friends. Sounds like he had a most discerning mind especially with his reading material and a life truly lived to the utmost and fullest! It's a shame his firends stopped visiting when he went into hospice care though. Never mind! He was loved and your words became his friend when he needed one most. Take care

  7. This was such a touching story!

  8. So inspiring and moving. Rest in peace Mr. Chilcoat. What a beautiful tribute to his memory Rick.

  9. It says much for your character that you were so kind to an elderly gentleman.

    My deepest sympathy for Mr. Chilcoat and his family!

  10. RIP Mr Chilcoat. Dads are hard to lose.
    I miss mine every day.

  11. Thanks all for your kind words.

  12. Anonymous12:01 PM

    You two are very gracious to have befriended Mr. Chilcoat and to allow him to talk with you. I'm sure he did feel as if he knew you both through your wonderful writing.
    I was caretaker to both my late parents up until their final day...many friends and family are not able to cope with end of life issues. God makes each of us different. I'm glad Mr. Chilcoat found a friend in you.

  13. very touching post...thanks for sharing.

  14. So GOOD of you to honor him in your blog and visiting the family/wake event... kind words mean the most to those who are suffereing that type of loss.... any type of loss... :-)

  15. After 13 years, I still miss my father. In life, we are all connected, and I do try to remember that.

  16. It was nice that you were able to connect with him. Thanks for sharing this story.

  17. What a touching post. I'm so sorry for your loss. Sounds like you made a big difference in his life and he in yours. I agree with Fay I...this post reminded me of "Tuesdays with Morrie."

    You're a good guy. I'm glad you found me and now I've found this great blog of yours.

  18. What treasures you both were to each other. A life like his, lived with grace and vibrancy, is an inspiration to us all.

  19. It's so amazing how God puts people in our paths. It may be for only a short while but the blessings we receive are so awesome. We never know when a new friend could be just around the next bend. Thanks for sharing this precious story of Mr. Chilcoat.

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