James Carson Obituary, Death – My father will be buried tomorrow. (I apologize for the lengthy post.) Carson, James Melanie Carson Dad, along with two of his four siblings, got polio when he was a child (around the age of five). They were quarantined at a hospital in New Orleans, over 200 miles from his home in Colfax, Louisiana. His parents could only visit on weekends. I can only image how upsetting that was for both the children and their parents. He had surgery a few years later to repair or replace a ureter in his kidney. He was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disc degeneration in his early twenties. These two ailments would cause him a great deal of agony throughout his life. In fact, he had been in chronic pain for the last 40 years or more.
There have been 11 spinal operations. Two rotator cuff tears necessitated surgery. There have been two carpal tunnel procedures. He had diabetes. He had heart problems, chronic kidney illness, high blood pressure, and even prostate cancer. SO MANY hospitalizations. SO MANY DOCTOR APPOLOGIES. SO MANY MEDICINES…
Enough to make ANYONE want to give up and quit. He never did, however. He fought for a long time and fought hard. He fought to protect his family. I’m sure he was overjoyed and proud when my sister was born. I’m sure it was similarly disheartening to learn a few years later that she was developmentally challenged and would never be able to live a normal life unless someone looked after and cared for her. As a father, I can’t image how heartbreaking and tragic that must have been for him and my mother. But Dad did not give up. He battled! He advocated for her education. He campaigned for her inclusion. He strove hard to instill kindness in her. He fought tooth and nail to teach her to love. He struggled hard to teach her to respect God.
In 2020, when his health began to deteriorate, Libby moved in with me and my family. She is content with us, and while her health has deteriorated (she is now unable to walk for the most part), her spirit remains strong. This is a very difficult day for her. She has a very delicate heart, and she adored her father. He fought to keep his faith. At a young age, he dedicated his life to full-time ministry. He was always someone on whom his church members could rely. I have so many memories of my father getting up early and leaving late to go to the hospital, preparing and preaching weddings and funerals, and being there for people when they were at their lowest or even happiest. He was present even in the midst of his own grief, hardships, and struggles. It was dubbed “the ministry of presence” by him. His presence offered so many people strength and comfort. Only God knows how many lives he affected simply by being present.
It is not an easy job to be a minister. We live in a fractured and divided society. The church is not immune to this brokenness. So many people expect ministers to be perfect. I’m here to tell you, after spending so much of my life with him, that he wasn’t perfect! In reality, reconciling James Carson, the man, with James Carson, the pastor, has been a difficult task for me for much of my life. Isn’t that what God is? Isn’t it true that he’s always chosen to use the damaged vessel? “His power is perfected in our weakness,” the Bible says in 2 Corinthians. That was evident in my father. I could see his shortcomings. I witnessed his difficulties. I noticed his flaws. I could go on and on about how completely flawed he was. Some would call it hypocrisy; I call it God’s grace on a flawed man, empowering him to step out of his own troubles and be an instrument in God’s hands, utilized for His glory.
It has become clear to me in the last several days, as SO MANY PEOPLE have reached out to me, that my father’s ministry has had a significant influence. Worldwide. Several generations of families. It was unaffected by illness. Pain had no effect. His own defects in character couldn’t stop it. Nothing the devil himself could hurl at him could stop him! Dad lacked many things, but one thing he never lacked was his availability to God. Dad died quietly and soon. God was gracious to him. Machines and modern medicine could have extended his life, but it was not his wish to have extraordinary steps used to save him from the inevitable. We discovered a letter titled “Do Not Open Until I’m Gone” while searching through some of his belongings. He asked Libby and me to forgive him for everything he had done to hurt or insult us in this letter. He expressed his admiration for us. He confirmed our feelings.
He expressed his gratitude to Melissa for coming into my life. He told my children how much joy they offered him and how much he wished for them to follow God. He encouraged us all to persevere and keep going. My father has gone to Heaven. There will be no more disease. There will be no more agony. There will be no more earthly struggles. He didn’t have much on earth, yet he left something far more valuable than money…true riches, a legacy.