And there are just so...many...memories.
Ralph is gone to boss the angels around now.
Of course he is in a better a place. But it is a better place -- definitely a more organized place -- because Ralph is there.
ALS took Ralph this week. The death angel of ALS was painfully slow doing his work. More than a year passed with that death eater on Ralph's shoulder. The death eater of Lou Gehrig and the many ice bucket challenge warriors.
Ralph was not perfect or saintly -- far from it. But he did a lot of good. Helped a lot of people. Answered requests with generosity. Offered a helping hand with a side of practical business advice.
"If you need to get something done, ask a busy person to do it," Ralph said.
He was a champion of home missions -- helping those at home, blooming where you're planted and all that, instead of going into the world to preach the gospel. But if you asked him to help pay for your mission trip, he would ante up.
He loved a good salad -- one with goat cheese and cheddar cheese and nuts and peppers and grapes and boiled eggs and ham and turkey. But that's just what he got at my lunch counter.
He got fed all over. He loved Vic's fried chicken and all the unhealthy stuff Miss Mary would dish up in the buffet line. Hot cornbread. Potatoes with gravy.
He loved the golden Eagles. He loved his mother.
He liked being a televangelist, delivering a Sunday morning lesson on local TV for years. He got a new car on the regular -- but never tried a different model. He delivered molasses and hundred dollar bills at Christmas.
Every Wednesday, he sent dozens of prayer cards to the sick. Most of the sick people who got those cards couldn't read his handwriting, but they knew he cared.
He probably bought more raffle tickets and fundraiser candy bars than anybody in Jones County.
In the months before the end, I did not see him. My bad, my loss, my sin of omission. He would have surely come to see me.
Nevertheless, I write to say goodbye, Ralph.