I’m George Dilworth, and this is how I’ve been living deeply.
I don’t pass 10 feet in the house without seeing a picture of her. All the décor is still the way she had it. I haven’t moved anything she put in place- paintings like the one of Magnolia blossoms on our living room wall are her mother’s works of art. Carol was my angel in every way, and I miss her tremendously. Hardly a few minutes go by when I’m not thinking about her. It’s been three years now since Carol went to be with the Lord. We were married 63 years, and we were sweethearts for two years before that. The last years weren’t easy for her- she was badly ill. Once we had to go up to the Mayo Clinic for two weeks of treatment. Carol had heart and lung issues- treating one, it seemed, always wasn’t good for the other. The last two months of her life, September and October of 2019, she mostly spent in the hospital. Then, at her request, she was put on hospice care, came home, and within three days, she went to be with the Lord. She was 83. All her life, Carol spent most of her time building relationships with whoever came her way. She had a smile on her face all the time- everybody she met, she tried to establish a good, positive relationship with. She taught fourth and fifth grade girls’ Sunday school at CSPC for years- in fact, some of her students (now adults) still come up to me at church and tell me how much she touched their lives. And she was so active in our Sunday school class- organizing social gatherings and figuring out how to get people together. But ask anybody who knew her, and more than anything, they’ll tell you how much she loved Jesus. She loved other people because she knew she’d been loved; knew how much Jesus loved her. Everyone who was around her, especially in our family, could feel that. She wrote dozens of farewell cards to friends and family, and had me give them to each person individually after she passed. The last words she said to everyone who came to visit her at the end were ‘I love you.’ And the very last person to hear those words, I believe, was one of our granddaughters.
From an earthly point of view, Carol and I ended up at CSPC by accident. We were moving out to the Cedar Bluff subdivision and our moving van broke down right beside CSPC (what is now the chapel), so I went into the church to get some help. The pastor, Lane Adams, was very kind and invited us to church. We’d intended to join another church downtown where all the young professionals went. But I told Carol, ‘He was so nice, we’ve got to go one time.’ So the next morning we did, and it changed my life. Up to that point, I believed in God; believed Jesus existed. But I believed God graded on a curve, and I was okay. The sermon Lane Adams gave that day showed me I was wrong. He was telling a story about this guy who was going bald. The guy would comb his hair every night, lay down on his pillow, and the next morning he’d see some hairs on the pillow. He did that for some time, and finally he had just one hair left, and he’d comb that hair, and then one morning he woke up and that hair was lying on the pillow. He said, ‘Oh no, I’m bald!’ That was when it hit me. The pastor was telling that story so we’d realize we were sinners, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it. That’s when I came to Christ- the Sunday of the first week of September, 1963. From that point on, I realized Who’s in charge. Growing up, my family had considered itself Methodist, but we rarely attended services. Carol had grown up in the Church, though, and she and I did go to church every Sunday from our earliest days of marriage. I guess that was God laying the groundwork in my soul. It’s funny- before we moved out West, we’d been going to the Presbyterian church in Fountain City. Our Sunday school teacher there said, ‘You probably won’t like that little church down below you. They’re too conservative.’ Of course, he was talking about CSPC, and that’s where we were the rest of our lives! I’m so blessed I have so many brothers and sisters, especially these last few years, to be with me through all this in real time. There aren’t many people who’ve been at the church longer than me. CSPC has been such a part of our lives, I really can’t imagine life without it.
When someone asks me how I want to be remembered, my answer is ‘That I was always here- here being whatever was needed to meet the needs of the body of Christ.’ And I’m going to keep trying to serve Him in every way as long as I’m here. I’ve had the privilege of being the longest-serving Sunday school teacher in the church’s history; since 1964, when I started teaching seventh grade. I’m not trying to brag, by the way, when I talk about this stuff- I’m just grateful to God for giving me the chance to be part of His work for so long! I still teach the Speak Out class, which Carol and I helped form back in 1973. When you’re with people over a long period of time and very close, which this class is, you get just like you’re a family. Over the years, I’ve seen probably 75 people in the class go to be with the Lord. Right now, we have about 25 people on the roll- average age is late 80s. God’s also allowed me to be the longest active-serving elder in the church’s history- I’ve been an elder since 1969, and was a deacon four of five years before that. One reason I’m still an active serving elder is because I’m chair of the cemetery commission. I first got interested in the church cemetery back in 1973, when I was chairing the committee that built the present-day sanctuary. We needed a cornerstone, so we went over to the cemetery and got one. From that point on, I was just intrigued by the cemetery and how it helped tell the church’s story. That launched an even deeper, broader interest in CSPC’s history. So I started studying- picking up all the historical information I could find anywhere. That’s how I became sort of the unofficial church historian. It was an honor to give presentations at CSPC’s 225th anniversary celebrations last year. Plus I’ve contributed through the years to several videos and books focused on our church’s long, still unfolding story. It never gets old reflecting on and marveling at what God has done here, going all the way back to our start in 1796. Studying the church’s history, seeing all the times it could’ve fallen apart, and seeing how faithful God has been to the body here, I’m just amazed- and so very thankful for CSPC.
I always thought I would’ve gone before Carol- the oldest any Dilworth lived before me was 68. I had quadruple-bypass heart surgery in June of 1988, and they thought that might last 10 years. But I’m still here -haven’t needed a surgery since- and in just a few more months I’ll be 90. At my most recent checkups, my doctors were amazed at how well I am. Of course I may die tonight, but my vital signs right now say I’m in pretty good shape. I still exercise on a treadmill. And I’m just very, very fortunate that I’ve not had things that would make staying active difficult- I don’t need a walker, I’m not living with neuropathy; conditions which are so common for people my age. That’s God blessing me after losing my angel. He’s kept me physically, mentally, and spiritually active, I think, knowing I’d be in such bad mental shape if I wasn’t busy doing things. But I also have to ask myself, over and over: ‘Why am I still here?’ The answer, I think, is that He wants me to keep serving and seeking Him. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I do devotions twice a day now- once in the morning, and once at night before I go to bed. Plus, mid- to late-afternoon, I’m reading through the Bible- I read through the whole Bible once a year. That’s 30 minutes or more of Scripture every afternoon, so I spend quite a bit of time in God’s Word. I think that’s one of the things that helps if you’re in my situation: You don’t feel alone when you’re close to Him on a real-time basis. The last three years, He has brought me to the experience of realizing that I’m not alone. Even though I’m physically without my dear angel Carol, I’m not alone. I’m just praying several times a day that she is being glorified with Him in Heaven right now, and I know she is. That’s one of the reasons it’s so good to be in His Word so much- you get a small glimpse of what it’s like for His disciples to be with Him. That’s just something we need to think more about, especially as we get older: What’s it going to be like? This is the happy, heartwarming question that occupies so much of my thinking today- I imagine what it’s like for Carol, and what it will be like for me, to meet Jesus.