I had gone out of town for a few days. When I returned, I saw the surprising Oct. 13 big front page headlines in the Daily News-Record that said: “Waving for Whitelow: Bridgewater Residents Pick Up Morning Mantle While Carlyle Whitelow Hospitalized.” My first thought was that there are so many people who are 90 years and older who have contracted COVID-19 and have recovered. I was sure Whitelow would recover and I would see him again many times standing and waving by the road every morning. As a matter of fact, it was a few weeks ago when twice I had to drop off my two different aging cars to Hussey’s garage at 8 a.m. just near Dairy Queen and the bank.

I took a detour in my pleasurable 20-minute walk home crossing Main Street first to casually greet and chat with him as he continued to wave to passing cars and school buses. Soon there was a crowd of walkers coming over. Someone parked their car and walked over to talk with him. We had been friends and workmates at Bridgewater College for so many years. As it happens when many people we love depart, maybe I should have spent just a few more minutes with him those days, which turned out to have been the last days of his 89 years of life. But we would have never known when the Lord would take him. Indeed, none of us will ever know when the Lord will take us. I again met him in the stands at Bridgewater College’s first football game of the season. I again talked to him briefly. Maybe I should have spent a few more precious minutes if I had known that he would soon be departing this world.

Carlyle Whitelow was such a good person and a bright light for so many people in the entire community of Harrisonburg and Bridgewater. He was a public servant. He was warm, generous, and kind to so many visiting the sick in area hospitals. I met him so many times in the halls of the Bridgewater Retirement Community when I was with my own mission with my classes of students. He was visiting residents of the retirement community. God and life had a purpose for him that will endure and will last forever. How else can we explain why he had to overcome so many challenges during his experiences with discrimination going back to the 1950s?

We are sad about him departing from us now but soon and in a matter of time this sadness will surely turn into memories of Whitelow’s deep voice, wide grin, smile and twinkling eyes. We will celebrate his long good life of 89 years of a kind heart and community philanthropic spirit.

We will never make sense of death since when God created us. But we will sure make sense of his Godly life full of soul. Now we think he will meet not only God in heaven but also his parents, and I remember we buried his brother in the cemetery behind the church. I see that grave every time I drive behind the church in Bridgewater.

Mwizenge S. Tembo lives in Bridgewater.

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