His Life Was His Perfect Praise… that was the title of the comments I delivered at CMadison’s homegoing two years ago and on today, the 39th anniversary of our wedding, I think his example of a holistically healthy  human, ally, husband and father are still worth sharing.

Charles, or CMadison was without hyperbole the most amazing person I have ever met-and I had incredible parents, I worked for Federal District Court Judge Robert Duncan and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, had several conversations with the incomparable Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, enjoyed an enduring friendship with the brilliant and kind Professor Derrick Bell and had the joy of watching Professor Tony Martin, one of my long-ago mentors at Wellesley decades later engage our sons over dinner at our home-so I’ve met and spent time with some pretty amazing folks, but nobody lke CMadison.

I don’t say he was amazing because he graduated from Dartmouth College in 3 years, with honors and a box of varsity letters with various track and field records that remained unbroken for 20 years. I’ve known tons of smart people-everybody in CMadison’s family is academically gifted and my Penn cousins were tremendous, varsity athletes at the college conference level. I don’t say that because he had a keen appreciation for music, especially jazz and opera. He played piano and French Horn-and little known fact: CMadison could tap dance! But I’ve known lots of musicians, CMadison’s mother, grandmother and my sister Cheryl- all gifted musicians and my Smith cousins and Cheryl can really “saang”! And while it’s remarkable that he and I were able to maintain a viable business for 27 years, lots of folks are self-employed and nobody worked harder than my own parents.  And I don’t say that because he was saved, married and had kids-David, Sonjia, Courtney & Wil and lots of other folks are saved, married and “got kids.”

CMadison was more than a series of singular superlatives. He was the most amazing person I have ever met because he employed all his phenomenal giftedness within the construct of his Christian practice. He never had to ask “What would Jesus do?” because he was a student of the Scriptures –he had me read the Bible aloud to him daily; we’ve read it through at least 10 times! So he was well acquainted with the Old Testament praise scriptures, but CMadison was most focused on the New Testament. He was committed to the teachings of Jesus, who he saw as the ultimate example, the good shepherd and the embodiment of lived praise. And CMadison’s commitment was illuminated daily in his approach to parenting. Here are four brief examples so you won’t think, “Oh that’s just grief and shock speaking”:

1.) Remember how Jesus told the disciples, “follow Me and I’ll show you some stuff?” Okay I’m paraphrasing but the instruction to follow was premised on direct teaching and observational analysis. CMadison was our homeschooling “director” but he didn’t just teach our sons academics-he taught them how to be a Christian, how to be a human, how to be a man, how to be a husband, how to be a father and how to be a contributing citizen in community with others-and not just in the sanctuary, but in daily living. Our sons, Charles and Damon are 33 and Evan will be 31 in August. They know what loving your wife as Christ loved the church, even unto crucifixion looks like on a daily basis.  They grew up seeing the banner he gave me after we had Evan, “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.” They know what the lived version of suffer the little children to come unto me feels like. Before any of our sons were born CMadison told me “There will be no domestic violence in our home-and that includes spanking.”  CMadison believed parenting was like herd management.  He intentionally by-passed the cowboy way with whips and screams in favor of the shepherd’s way embodied in the 23rd Psalm. “…thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” indicated to CMadison that verbal and physical violence was to be used against predators, not the flock.  Our sons witnessed their Dad’s often unheralded generosity, so they’ve seen love thy neighbor as thyself in action. They never heard him ask “What can I do?” He taught them to take initiative, to look to see what needed to be done and then do it without waiting to be asked. Just as Jesus taught His own disciples, CMadison taught his own sons. He allowed no cable television, no video games, no extraneous music-or extraneous people in our home during their formative years. He controlled the teaching environment.

2.) Jesus never mentioned “me time” or “self-care.” He was with His disciples almost continuously, never missing an opportunity to teach them and prepare them for when He would no longer be physically present. And He did such a good job that nowhere in the scriptures do I recall the disciples having to ask “What would Jesus do?” after His ascension. In that same vein, CMadison made it easy for his sons to follow him because he was following Jesus and they witnessed it because he was with them always, “Yea, even until the end.” Like Jesus, CMadison never missed a teachable moment. When they were quite small, he used the garden to teach them the difference between annuals (plants or problems that you sow and reap for just one season) and perennials (the plants or problems that you sow that will yield a harvest to reap forever). Like Jesus, CMadison traveled with his sons-always teaching. The first time we went to a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok and saw people remove their shoes and kneel bowed to the floor for hours, he spoke with Charles, Damon and Evan about spiritual devotion as daily living and sacrifice. And CMadison was comfortable, in fact happy to witness to people when they asked-and people always asked. We traveled the world, always with CMadison at the helm and just like that old ditty, “everywhere we go people want to know, who we are, where we come from-so we tell them,” people always wanted to know “What’s up with the big black guy and his family?” or  “You guys all get along so well, you’re so close. What’s your secret?” CMadison always was delighted to share.

3.) Jesus protected His disciples. He said, “I send you out as lambs among wolves.” He knew the unfailing truth that Satan is indeed a roaring lion walking to and fro seeking whom he may devour. So Jesus made sure His disciples were fully prepared before He sent them out. CMadison did the same thing. He did not allow them to eat other peoples’ food (“You don’t know where their hands have been!”) or sleep at other peoples’ homes. (“the freaks come out at night is not just a line in a song!”) CMadison believed in the power of intercessory prayer, but he also knew he had to watch as well as pray because “every shut eye ain’t sleep.” CMadison kept his sons under his arm of protection-every camping trip, every cub scout meeting, every football practice, every choir concert, every fencing match, every road trip, every swim meet, every Bible Bowl competition, every early morning drive to Saturday art school, he was there, waiting patiently when necessary-always praying, always listening, always answering questions, always available in love and without complaint.

He reminded me constantly to be more fully present in the moment, to slow down. When he decided they would read the Iliad and the Odyssey aloud as part of our homeschooling project I was outraged. “It will take FOREVER to listen to three little kids stumble through a 1000 pages of epic Greek poetry!” But he didn’t care about my consternation.  He was always preparing them- intellectually, spiritually, physically-for when he would no longer be present. Do you want to know why Damon and Charles, Princeton education notwithstanding, were willing and able to sprawl face down in the dirt in the church parking lot and unstop the drainage pipe? Or why none of them walk past trash without picking it up? Or why they would give up a week-end to fill and pass out 200 book bags with back-to-school supplies their Dad bought for a bunch of little kids they didn’t know? They were trained.

4.) CMadison’s peaceful, perfect, beautiful death at home, alone with me, was the culmination of a job well done. Jesus left the disciples once He knew they were fully prepared-not perfected, but fully prepared. CMadison’s praise and worship were lived things and now he is awaiting our arrival.

I was blessed to have been married to CMadison for almost 36 years, 8 months and 22 days. He was the most amazing person I have ever met!