Saying goodbye is not forever if you belong to the family of God. I know that in my head, and I believe it with my heart.
On a Friday evening in January, my brother Allen crossed the shores of the Jordan and entered the Promised Land for eternity. It happened on his oldest brother’s 91st birthday and also on the birthday of their mother. While those at his bedside watched his last breaths as he left this earth and told him goodbye, I believe there were those in Heaven anxiously waiting his arrival.
Jesus, for sure. He paid the way for Allen to arrive there redeemed and free from pain, burden, and sin. Jesus was with Him, I know. He promised those who serve Him that we are not alone. “For I,” He promised, “am with you.” I know Jesus was there.
Allen’s mother. I know she was there, and I think she was probably closest to the shore. She never had a chance to say goodbye to her youngest son. Allen was only two-and-a-half when she was ushered into Heaven following the birth of Allen’s baby sister. Allen acknowledged that he did not remember his mother. He’d heard stories and seen pictures. He had talked to people who knew her. For Allen, crossing the shores of the Jordan brought him face to face with the mother he never knew. What a reunion that must have been!
His father (Floyd) after whom he was named and who died when Allen Floyd was twenty, almost fifty-eight years ago. From his father, Allen inherited his inquisitiveness, his ingenuity and his ability to figure out how things worked.
His next older sister, Mary. She died at the age of three of scarlet fever, a year to the day before his mother died. Allen didn’t remember her, either. He’d heard the stories and had siblings who remembered Mary’s spunk. Yet, he never remembered the days of playing with her as a toddler.
Three brothers and the sister who became his mother when he was two. They were on the other side, waiting. His fourteen-year-old sister cuddled and rocked him after the death of their mother and became a stabilizing force, not only for Allen but for his siblings as well.
The brothers were his cohorts in crime and as equally entertaining, hard-working, and inventive as was Allen. There was competition, connectedness, and camaraderie among these boys for sure.
When the middle brother died a few years ago, Allen contemplated all those goodbyes. He told us, “There were five boys. Now there are only two: the oldest and the best looking.”
And now? Now only the oldest one is left.
A host of uncles, aunts, and cousins (and grandparents). It’s a big extended family and we’re all getting older. Each year, the ranks on the other side increase. Heaven is more inviting than when we were younger. For the believer, Heaven is going Home.
Who Allen Was
My brother was an inventor and a tease. While he wasn’t interested much in books, he could figure things out and get them to work. At the grade school he attended, Allen was the first student the teachers called on when there was a problem with the furnace (back in the day when the janitor was not on duty and the teachers took care of the furnace themselves).
Allen enjoyed having the last laugh at folks, like the time he had a driver’s license in two states because of where he was living and working. He lost the one license but retained the other one. An aunt, who didn’t know he had a second license, scolded him for driving without a license. He just allowed her to think what she thought and never told her the truth. Oh, did he have fun with that one!
He was always figuring out how to do things to make it easier and faster. There was the time he rigged up a power drill to the Squeezo strainer when his sisters came to their house to make homemade applesauce together. Ever after that, the Squeezo was powered by electricity instead of arm-power. I heard about it and had my husband try it with our Squeezo, and it worked (of course). He’d never tell you what he was going to do. If you’d ask, he’d just get that impish grin on his face, then proceed to set up his contraption. You’d find out what he was up to when he was good and ready.
Every spring, Allen drove his tractor to the Home Place and plowed the garden so our mother could till and plant her garden. Eventually, he invented a plow-tiller combination that readied the soil so no more tilling was needed.
In the summertime, he took his tractor and ice cream machine to festivals, celebrations, church, and family events. He promised to serve his homemade ice cream for our youngest daughter’s wedding – but she’s still waiting for her groom.
In the autumn, Allen shared his homemade ice cream with us at the annual Springs Folk Festival and helped himself to the homemade bread we made at the bread booth just up the hill from him. His family served the cream, but he kept the machine running and enjoyed tinkering to keep things going as smoothly as possible.
In the winter, he’d be out plowing driveways for neighbors, helping stranded motorists get unstuck, sometimes providing transportation for them. He was always available for his sisters at the Home Place when there were issues with the coal furnace in the cellar. He looked out for his sisters in many ways. Every one of us was proud to claim him as a brother.
Allen was the brother who lived at the home the longest. I was twelve when he got married, but he was always around. As kids, we knew him as a tease. If he wasn’t tickling someone, he was pestering and teasing. I remember the day he told me that kids who played like we did ended up going crazy when they got older. I decided I didn’t think I’d mind going crazy when I was older if it meant having that much fun today. So I kept playing outside with my siblings, pretending and imagining and creating. Allen shook his head at us, but we knew he loved us (his six younger from-another-mother sisters) just the same. He didn’t like cats and promised us a dog if we’d get rid of our cats. Allen kept his promise and we got our first of many St. Bernard dogs whom we named Julie.
Over the years, he worked in different capacities: farming, excavating, fertilizing, hauling hay, building, and inventing. He’d say goodbye to one chapter and immediately begin another one. Because he moved in so many circles, he had friends from many walks of life. Everybody knew Allen Miller.
On the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 1974, a snowstorm stranded motorists on the interstate near our western Maryland hometown. With his leg still in a cast following an accident, Allen spent the entire night bringing people to safety. On one trip, he had thirteen people plus two dogs and two cats in his trail duster. We would have expected nothing less. This is who Allen was.
In 2002, Allen and our brother Lewie chauffered twenty-four family members on a 2000 mile round trip for a wedding using a chartered bus. When the bus broke down on the way home, the brothers argued and cajoled among themselves on the best way to fix it. After several hours, they rigged things well enough to get the bus to run and brought us all the way home, none the worse for the wear.
Ingenious as ever, he showed up at a family reunion one summer with a cherry picker to use as a swing. We said, “Only Allen would think of this . . . ” The kids were enthralled and it was the highlight of the weekend.
He developed friendships and relationships and garnered respect from old and young alike. We knew that, but it was rewarding to hear others’ stories. A farmer neighbor told us, “I liked when Allen borrowed my equipment because he always brought it back running better than when he took it.” No surprise to those of us who knew him.
That’s how life was with Allen. He was unassuming. I don’t think he realized the way he touched lives just by being a friend. Friendships and relationships were better after Allen had his hands in them. There were times I called him for advice, and there were times when he quietly stepped up to bat in situations when he knew his influence would be positive.
We will miss Allen. We missed him before he left because things changed after his stroke. There were times we’d say to each other, “We could ask Allen, but he won’t know now.”
The stroke nearly three years ago changed our Allen as we knew him. He still had his sense of humor and his desire to help others. Physical limitations prevented that, and in time his ability to understand and reason also changed.
In some ways, we lost him after his stroke. We learned to say goodbye to the things he used to be able to do. Now we have lost him again – but not forever. Because, for the Christian, we never say good-bye. We only say good night, for we know we will see him again when our mourning turns to Morning and eternity arrives.