Paul and the Mountain

Several years ago, knowing I would probably never hunt again, I decided to give my shotguns to my sons. So on Christmas morning, with all our family opening gifts in our living room, I went downstairs and gathered my .410, 20-gauge, and 12-gauge. When our son Paul saw me coming up the stairs he announced, “This is either going to be a very warm family moment or a profoundly tragic one.”

That line was classic Paul. His perspectives always bumped the scenes of life just slightly askew. Paul is the most asymmetrical person I’ve ever known. Built like a refrigerator, his large frame encased the delicate and curious heart of a child. Some people couldn’t get past the fridge. Paul knew that; you could see it in his eyes. But then his tilted humor, his gift for absurdity, went to work, pushing attention away from himself.

As laughter warmed the room, the real Paul would emerge. His voice had a magical and musical pitch; even at 43, you could hear a child’s excitement in his phrasing and intonations. Words just tumbled out of his mouth. As the velocity increased, his words began to dance with laughter, spinning faster and faster. Then it all became a waterfall… words and full laughter and sometimes tears cascading down over everything and everyone.

Paul loved Chinn people, places, stories, and legacies. So it was almost predictable that Paul and his sweet Libby chose the Chinn farm in Kansas for their 07-07-07 wedding. From the time they rode away, they seemed like a long and happily married couple. Like most couples, they had that private language of looks and sighs and shrugs. But theirs was very eloquent.

Paul just filled all his familial and friendship roles, especially as Libby’s husband, our son, and Eddie and Amy’s brother. But “uncle” is one of the most enduring images of his life. I will always see him fishing with Nathan or playing parlor games with his nieces. To hear the shrieks of laughter from that table would make anyone feel better about everything…from terrorism to termites.

Many years ago Paul taught us much about communicating with God. When Joanne or I stood over his crib, gazing at our beautiful baby, his face would light up and he would search our eyes and jabber…long “messages” and excited laughter with clapping hands. Then he would move into serious, seemingly very sober, babbling. I often wondered what mysteries that little boy spoke to his mom and dad. I don’t know, but I know he helped us to see that we didn’t need to pray in formal or religious language. Bubbling heartsounds are just fine.

Paul didn’t like religion, politics, bees, or cabbage. He loved reading, writing, the Denver Broncos (after the Redskins broke his heart one too many times), fantasy football, fishing, parlor games, gaming and movies. His knowledge of movies was encyclopedic and he was a fine (and prominently published) film critic.

To Paul, films were frequent channels of prayer. He loved and often read the Bible, but he also heard whispers from the other side in movies.

His favorite film was Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Paul was five when it came out. From his first viewing, and throughout his life, he was gripped with the story of Roy Neary, a good man captured by the image of a mountain.

As Roy followed the image inscribed on his heart, he met others who bore the same image. They were all drawn together around their search for the mountain. In the end, they all stood together on that mountain. And there, Roy stepped aboard the craft that would take him away from his wife and family and all that was familiar on his journey to another world.

Early in the morning of October 11, 2015, Paul Chinn also stepped beyond a familiar and loving society of family and friends, into the eternal care of His Creator.

His death, from a heart attack, is deeply painful to all those left behind. But his departure also reminded us that he belonged to God before we ever knew him. And he now continues his life just beyond our senses and somewhere on that mountain that he saw and searched for. Paul Chinn now belongs fully and only to the One Who gave him life.

And he would not return to us if he could.

26 thoughts on “Paul and the Mountain”

    1. My goodness Ed, I laughed and cried reading this. What a wonderful portrait of Paul. I could just see and hear him again as I read this. Thank you.

  1. My hat is off to you, Ed. I can well imagine your son seeing from the other side what ole dad wrote of him and a smile appearing on his face. Well done, my friend, well done.

  2. Beautiful, eloquent, touching. I thought of my own son while reading your tribute to Paul, and barely made it to the end. Thank you.

    1. Neither the LPC or NDP have any funds for an election caamgipn. Nor do they have any support outside of their extremist core. They know they’d lose in an election and all their bluster can’t change that fact.

  3. Ed, I have always enjoyed your writing style. Without a doubt, this is one of your best pieces. Thanks for sharing your heart regarding Paul’s life.

  4. It was a blessing to hear about your son. I didn’t know him but his life was fashion after his love for God. What a wonderful treasurer he is to all. I do know, that in our pain, we become more focus on what truly is important. Hope to see you soon. Love Joy

  5. Just such a perfect picture of Paul. Carl read this to me this morning while we were having coffee. You wrote it so well that I could see him sitting there telling a story and playing games with his nieces and nephew! Thank you so much.

  6. Oh Ed, this is so beautifully written. The texture of Paul’s life, view of it and his incomparable humor just warmed my heart.

    I loved the analogy of little baby Paul, jabbering to those who brought him into being; his persona and laughter filling the atmosphere, and then the mountain and being carried to “the other side,” all made me want to stop, bow my head and offer thanks for Paul Chinn, his father, family and friends.

    Thank you for coming into my morning and brightening my day about one so dear to me, who though dead to this life, “yet speaketh.”

  7. Ed,
    Thank you for so lovingly sharing LIFE, both earthly and heavenly … and how wonderfully integrated they are. God bless!

  8. Ed, this was perfect. I always knew that was his favorite movie, but now I’ll never watch it without picturing Paul. He was my cousin, but he was also my friend. I miss my friend. Thankfully, I’ll always hear his laugh. The best memories I have are filled with laughter, and tears in our eyes. Thanks again.

  9. Dear Ed,
    I only met Paul once or twice, but now I feel I knew him, and wish I’d gotten to play cards or watch movies with him. Thank you for this beautifully written heartfelt piece.
    Pam O’Shields

  10. Ed,
    Although I knew Paul had passed, I chose to honor your silence – knowing that when you and Joanne visit Beverly and me within a couple of weeks, you most likely would break the silence and share the particulars. Doing so, I believe, would make your silence even more golden. However, your releasing your reflections today via the internet is surely more difficult and courageous than a continued restrained silence. Your disclosing today Paul’s death and your feelings about it, I believe, is the right time and appropriate way to respond to the tragic anomaly of parents having to bury children instead of children burying parents. Paul knew the importance and intimacy of COOL RIVER PUB in your life and would affirm that the ‘pub’ is the place where the conversation should begin about his ‘passing’ (transitioning to the wonder and beautiful mystery of human life in God).
    – Paul Oxley

  11. Ed,

    Thanks for sharing. I did not know of Paul’s passing. Praying for you and Joanne as you mourn and celebrate his life. We share the same heartache as our son left us for his eternal home as a 21 year ol, now 29 years ago through a tragic accident. We live with the precious memory of all the fun, laughter, life experiences, games, travel and great times we shared as a family. It has drawn us close as a family on each of those special days each year. So may you and Joanne find peace and comfort through our Creator and Heavenly Father. You are in our prayers.

  12. Ed,

    Beautiful. Simply Beautiful. I had goose bumps upon goose bumps, particularly when reading of the Close Encounters recollection.

    I ended with tears. Tears of sorrow for your loss but also tears of joy for a young man who lived his life well and loved his life well also. A young man experiencing Kingdom fullness now.

    Blessings to you and Joanne. My prayers are still with you.


  13. Beautifully written. I wondered how you could write about passing but not write about laughter because it was Paul. I miss him so, and our prayers are with you.

  14. Ed and Joanne,
    I am so very sorry to learn of Paul’s passing – so sorry. God bless, my friends.
    We may not know why or understand, but He does.
    Greg Sampier

  15. Ed, thank you for sharing your heart. I just returned from East Africa and was informed of your loss. Barbara and I offer our condolences and will continue to stand with you in prayer as you and your family walk out this major transition and temporary separation. May the comfort of the Holy Spirit fill your lives.

  16. Dear Ed,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts…written with such precision from your heart and from a painful but peaceful place. Your words are rich with the presence of God and are a blessing to me and to anyone who will reads it. I’ve been praying for you and your family regularly that the Holy Spirit who is ever present will surround you always. Love you, Antonia

  17. Ed and Joanne,

    For those of us who did not know Paul, your communication skills are so effective that you make us wish we had.

    Your delightful word pictures display Paul as one of our Father’s very unique and much-loved creations.

    Thank you for that…

    Jack and Carol

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