In Memoriam – Reflections on the life of Bookie Shilling

by Ken Crawford,11/03/2011, with gratitude…

     Laughter. My strongest memory impression of Bookie Shilling is laughter – his, and ours. I don’t remember a joke he told, but I do remember him being very funny, and that being important to him. He wanted us to have a good time, to smile, laugh, be happy. He would gently rib others, but the humor was never really at their expense. He would, however, play the fool for our sakes. The strongest visual I have is of Bookie and Merwyn (and maybe a third?) doing the whistler skit atMatagorda Bay. We’d spent the whole day at the beach catching crabs, most of which we would take home in 64qt ice chests. As the house where we stayed was right on the Colorado River, the shrimp boats would come back in with their catch, and sell shrimp right off the back of the boat – as big as your hand, and ready to grill. Still the best shrimp I ever had. Anyway, after dinner we had a talent show, with different folks singing or doing skits, and out came the guys, with giant hats pulled down over their heads, and faces painted on their round bellies – with the mouth surrounding the belly button. The song had a lot of whistling in it, though I can’t seem to recall what song it was now. These guys had obviously spent a great deal of time and energy preparing for the performance – time and energy given to entertaining others and having a great time themselves.

     I remember seeing Bookie as a man of faith. As he led our youth group with the other parents, I clearly understood that he was there as someone who loved kids, his and others, and wanted them to know and love Jesus as much as he did. Even when we were getting chewed out for doing something stupid, I knew that he cared about us.

     I got to spend time at his home in the early 80s, where I watched him interact with Gay, Mark, Derek and Leslee. It was clear that Bookie deeply loved Gay and that they enjoyed one another’s company. They didn’t always seem to agree, which is normal, but I think they showed real respect for each other – particularly in those moments. From where I stood, Bookie seemed genuinely interested in his kid’s lives – in what mattered to them. When they didn’t get along, he was fair in his attempts to help them sort it out.

     My last clear memory of Bookie was at my ordination, when he and Gay came to help represent First Christian Church ofTyler. With a twinkle and a grin, it was made clear that “there are lots of stories to tell, but this probably isn’t the time or place.” I was relieved at the show of discretion, even if a bit chagrined at the acknowledgement that there were any stories at all. Even so, at the center of that I felt an affection and respect born out of years sharing and growing in faith together. I was reminded how important those years had been to him, and again grateful for the part he played in helping me learn to follow Christ. And all along the way, remember to laugh.