I was typing a story on my computer when the phone rang on February 25, 2005.
"This is Allen Lowery's daughter, Gwen. I'm sorry to tell you that Daddy died this morning."
"Oh NO! What happened?" My tears began to fall.
"He went to the hospital because of his emphysema, and developed pneumonia. He was there a month, and the pneumonia just kept getting worse until it was fatal."
After choking down the sobs, I said, "I was in his office visiting with him and Debbie on December 1st. That was just three months ago! We had such a good time laughing and reminiscing about those fun days when we were across-the-street neighbors." Gwen and I talked for a few minutes. She said, "His obituary will be in Sunday's paper. By then we'll know about the arrangements." In three months, Allen would be 79.
I thanked God for those days when Allen and Mary were very important people in our lives when Jack and I moved to Hidden Valley in 1957. Allen was born in Lexington, Kentucky. He was only two years of age (youngest of four) when his father died during the depression years. His mother supported the family by turning their home into a "room and boarding house." She never turned anyone away, even if they couldn't pay. She'd always make room for those in need, even putting a bed in a closet! Allen learned kindness and generosity at an early age, and became the kind of neighbor everyone should have: a man always ready to lend a helping hand.
He was a sailor on leave during World War II when he came to Houston, Texas. He stood on Main Street watching a parade when he began a conversation with the cute little black haired girl next to him, named Mary. It was love at first sight! They were married April 6, 1946 and made their home in Houston.
Jack and Allen loved to play ping-pong. Jack had an air conditioner put in the side wall of our garage for playing in the summer. A large space heater took care of the winter nights. They even had tournaments with other male friends, including our pastor, J. Garland McKee.
Allen and Mary had three daughters, Debbie, Gwen and Wendy, and a son Allen, Jr. Our two daughters Dortha and Wanda were in the same age group as their children. Our son Ronnie was 12 years older. On Friday nights when Jack and Allen would play ping-pong, the children would play games, do homework, and watch TV at our house while Mary and I went to a movie.
Allen was a salesman for office supplies. In 1962, he bought land on Gulf Bank and built a large office, showroom, warehouse and printing shop, named Allen Office Supply. Mary worked with him for many years. As their children became teenagers, they also worked there after school and weekends. Debbie and Allen, Jr. became permanent employees.
Allen always gave me a nice discount when I bought supplies from him for Walter A. Smith Paving Contractors, Inc. He donated some stationery for my writing ministry. Business flourished and was very profitable until Office Depot came to town. Many small independents were forced out of business. Allen's company now occupies only half of the building.
In 1966, Jack and I moved to Garden Oaks Plaza. Allen and Jack continued the ping-pong competition for several years. Mary and I kept in touch.
Mary and Allen were divorced in 1984, after 38 years of marriage. She remarried and moved to Spicewood. Allen remained single.
While visiting with Debbie and Allen last December 1st, I said, "I noticed another sign in front of your building, House of prayer--Houston. Do you have church services here?"
Allen replied, "Yes. Two years ago, Kevin Davis, an African-American pastor dropped by, inquiring about leasing the back half of my building for his congregation. An agreement was made. Members of the church carpeted the floor, draped the windows, put up walls, and established an elegant and beautiful place to worship God. I complained in jest that the back of my building looked better than the front!"
Debbie, Allen and I had been sitting around Allen's desk. When I stood up to leave, Allen also stood up and walked with me out the office door and over to my car. He opened my car door for me, and closed it. I said, "'bye! 'love you!" He replied, "Love you too. Hurry back." As I drove away, it never entered my mind that we were saying "goodbye" for the last time. Did you know that "Goodbye" is a contraction for "God be with ye?"
Once again, I am confronted with the brevity of life. We should treat every one as if this was our last day together… because very soon it really will be. Life can be changed in moments. It is precious. Make every hour count for good. If there is someone you need to say, "I love you" to, say it today. If there is someone you need to say, "Forgive me" or "I forgive you," say it today. Jesus tells us to love one another. "Forgive as I have forgiven you." (Mark 11:25,26).
Funeral services were held at 10:30 Tuesday morning, March 1, 2005 at the American Heritage Chapel on Veterans Memorial Drive. Across the street in front of the Northside Assembly of God church was a sign which read: "Visit us before going across the street!"
Dortha and I arrived at 10:00. During our visitation with Debbie she said, "Dad loved getting your letters every month. I read the February one to him in the hospital."
Pastor Kevin Davis was the officiant at Allen's funeral services. He spent much time with Allen those last days of his life. Allen assured him that he did not fear death; that he was confident he'd live forever in the mansion Jesus promised to prepare for him. (John 14:2,3).
The service began with Wendy's favorite song, "To Where You Are" by Josh Groban. Wendy paid a loving tribute to her dad as she reminisced of his goodness and love for his family. She shared many happy memories. She said, "Dad enjoyed working out and was proud of his muscles, his physique. When we girls began dating, he would be in his undershirt to meet our beaus at the door, so there would be no doubt about his strength, muscular chest and biceps! He would ask, 'Do you have a watch? Let me see it. What time do you have?' He would then look at his watch and be sure they were in agreement. Then he'd name a time, saying 'That's her curfew. You make sure she is home by that time.' On Debbie's very first date, her boyfriend did not have a watch. Dad let him borrow his."
After a heart warming talk by Pastor Davis about his friendship with Allen, we all sang "Amazing Grace" together; and then recited the Lord's prayer.
Allen's flag draped casket was placed on a Civil War burial caisson -- an ammunition hauler during the Civil War (like a flatbed wagon) -- which had four large wagon wheels. The veteran in the driver's seat wore a Civil War Calvary uniform. The white horse hitched up to the caisson wore a white "diaper," a thoughtful protection for all the people walking behind, down the road to the outdoor chapel for military services in the Committal Section A. Since Ronnie and I couldn't walk that quarter of a mile, Dortha drove us in my car, slowly following those walking. It was a quiet trip. Even the horse seemed sad as he trudged along leading the procession. The Houston National Cemetery's main flag was lowered to half-staff.
Uniformed Veterans of Foreign Wars praised Allen's service in the U. S. Navy as a gunner's mate in World War II. There was the 21-gun rifle salute. The Department of Defense honor guard of active duty service members of the Navy performed at the close of the committal service, including the bugler's playing of "Taps" and the ceremonious folding and presentation of the flag along with the casings from the brass ammunition bullets (blanks) to Debbie, with the words, "…from a grateful nation."
Debbie said, "Thank you for all you did."
The veteran replied, "It's my honor, Mam." Almost too much for the heart to bear.
It was a perfect day: cool, bright and sunshiny. The very next day was cold, gloomy and rainy. God is good. Only God knows how LONG we will live; but WE decide HOW we will live. Jesus said, in John 13:35 NLT, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." Allen truly loved everyone, as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
On his gray granite tombstone are the words, "I lived my life well."
> Allen Lowery