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My brother, Earl Lynn Starks

Oct 27, 2016 By Betty Starks Case

He was ever a ray of sunshine to us all

A two-week "goodbye."

That's what we were granted recently with my beloved brother, Earl Starks, only three years older than husband Ned's and my son.

But before the rare, fast-growing astroblastoma brain cancer hit, we shared many years with this youngest of my five dear brothers.

Earl lived his time on Earth loving God, family, life and its people.

Because I'm his "little big" sister, I was a high school graduate when Earl came into this world. That's why I get to write our story, Earl. And why I got to wave the dish towel to call Daddy in from the hayfield to take Mother to Riverton for your arrival.

"When Mama tells you it's time for the baby, you stand out on the porch and wave a dishtowel," Daddy said. "I'll have an eye tuned to the porch and hurry in to take her to town."

Each of us was lucky Daddy made it in time. I could have become a midwife at age 18. As for Mother and Earl, who knows what their fate might have been?

Later, someone created a "Who waved the dish towel?" mystery about Earl's arrival, with his three big sisters vying for the honor.

But I didn't let them deprive me. That dish towel was probably in shreds by the time I finished my S.O.S.

Part of the reason for this contested claim to fame is that Earl, six years younger than the next brother, arrived with curly blond hair -- unlike any of the rest of us. Then, when we expected him to be the "spoiled youngest child," he behaved better than most of his siblings. (My brothers probably are saying, "Speak for yourself, sis.")

Our parents, Daddy in particular, had always believed "There's no better sword than laughter."

Not that trouble was so funny, but when he had no other weapon, he'd found laughter served him the best.

So that's what we learned.

When our mother, our last parent, passed, all their grown children and children-in-law sat cross-legged in the grass on the back lawn, kids again, pretending to compete for the leadership role our mother had vacated.

"I've long held the title of 'Earl,'" announced our family's youngest.

With that, his wife, Sharon, became a countess.

Soon all positions of noble bearing were claimed or disclaimed, each trying to qualify or maybe just get away with some kind of higher authority. Finally, no spot was left but court jester. I don't recall if anyone got stuck with that, but we probably tried.

I remembered seeing cards of shiny gold stars in our schoolteacher mother's dresser drawer. I ran in the house for them and applied one to each of her lawn-children's foreheads.

I wasn't sure if they'd been earned, but with all that imagination, I thought she'd have given them an "A for effort," as would our dad.

After all the play, I proudly share and lift up the living essence that was Earl Lynn Starks, a loved music teacher in the Rock Springs, Wyoming schools for many years, a deeply involved participant in his church, a talented artisan in woodworking and other creative fields, ever a ray of sunshine to us all.

But that's not nearly all Earl was about in this life, and I don't fancy I can begin to cover what our God might have intended when he placed this dear man among us.

Earl was also a kind and caring husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend to many.

Just last winter, he chose to come to our home three times each week to help Ned, his brother-in-law Ned, new exercises, stay healthy and live longer.

In summer, he came with his riding lawn mower, then with equipment to battle invading wasps.

He always had a warm hug or handclasp ready when you looked like you needed one. His presence on the Riverton golf course shed a special light on its soft grass and bounced off the trees.

Because Earl was here, this world is truly a better place.

Because he was here, we all learned a lot about living and loving.

Our wonderful local hospice home helped Earl, Sharon, their family and the rest of us over the recent two weeks that took Earl from us.

We love and thank every one of them, along with the many who brought nourishing food and warm friendship to help us through.

As for me, I always thought Earl would be here to wave a dish towel as I left this world.

Maybe, instead, when my time comes, I'll hear him softly playing his guitar and singing one of the beautiful songs of his own creation.

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