The Tuggles

Episode 1: The Funeral

October 30, 2017

I shook the powdered creamer over my steaming Styrofoam cup of coffee and smacked a packet of sweetener against my fingers. Pouring it in, I grabbed a napkin and began wiping up a few stray drops off the funeral home’s kitchen counter. It was the morning of October 3, 2012 and my Aunt Pat’s funeral was about to begin. As I tossed the shreds of pink paper into the trash, my mom appeared next to me with a twinkle in her eye.

“Christie, you need to come talk to this couple over here,” she said in a low tone with excitement in her voice. “They are traveling across the country on horseback.”

I stopped mid-wipe and looked up at her gleaming eyes.

“What?” I asked, incredulous. “Are you serious? On horseback?”

“They are missionaries,” she said, her eyes dancing. I glanced over at the corner of the small funeral home kitchen to see a middle-aged woman with beautiful short, curly white hair wearing a navy blue sweatshirt and dark denim jeans, clutching her own steaming Styrofoam cup. A man with salt and pepper hair stood next to her in an untucked gray button-up and signature cowboy boots, chatting with a couple of other men.

I paused with furrowed brow, attempting to take in this anomalistic information. “What are they doing here?” I asked my mom, unsure of where to place any of this. With only minutes left before the funeral was to begin, I stood in my black skirt and heels and contemplated where to put this utterly random situation.

“Come over here,” she said, leading me by the arm. I picked up my coffee and came along with her. “This is my daughter, Christie,” my mom said through an enlarged grin, clearly having chatted with them already. “She would love to hear your story.” The couple smiled enthusiastically and the man extended his hand to me.

“Hi, miss Christie. Tim Tuggle.”

I shook his hand and said hello. The woman then reached forward, her smile growing bigger. “And I’m Lynn.” The warmth in the greeting of their smiles filled me a strange familiarity that I couldn’t quite place.

“You’re traveling on horseback?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Lynn nodded, still smiling softly.

“And what are you doing here at a funeral?” My tone seemed to have no filter for my bafflement. Before the couple could answer, my dad appeared in the doorway of the kitchen.

“Christie, we’re about to start,” he said, lending a cordial smile to those who looked his way.

I looked back at the couple, both standing in front of me now. An urgency came over me in that moment that if I didn’t act fast I might miss an extremely pivotal encounter. “Don’t go anywhere after this,” I said, virtually grabbing them with each hand. “I have got to talk to you.”

They exchanged a knowing glance with soft smirks and Tim let out a quiet chuckle. I headed into the main room to begin the music to open the service. A fountain of hopefulness trickled down into the deep places of my soul, splashing within me as accompaniment to the dancing of my fingertips across the keyboard. It had been so long since I had felt even remotely this encouraged. I had no intention of letting this slip through my fingers.

An hour and a half later the crowd shuffled through the doors of the family-owned, homestyle restaurant and joined the buffet line. After filling my plate, I spotted the cowboy couple heading into the separate room reserved for the funeral attendants and made a beeline to secure a seat near them. They noticed me on their heels as they took two seats near the doorway and without a word, I rounded the row of long tables to sit across from them. I resisted my first impulse to just sit in their laps. Might have been a tad overkill.

Settling into my seat, I immediately dived into the brewing pot of questions that had been simmering within me for the last hour. It wasn’t until nearly a half hour into lunch that I noticed all of the ears surrounding us listening closely to our conversation, and suddenly I realized how monopolizing of their attention I had been. I glanced around at the smiling faces tuned in and gave a nervous smile, slightly embarrassed at the tunnel-vision of my unawareness. Hesitating for only a moment, I unashamedly continued with my questions.

“What kinds of things are you seeing on a daily basis?” I inquired.

“We see incredible things, constantly,” Lynn said.

“The second day of our trip we had a horse break her leg falling through a railroad trestle,” said Tim. “God healed the horse right there on the tracks.”

I stared at him, stunned. The green beans fell off my fork.

“What do you mean, God healed the horse?” I slowly repeated. They both smiled as they chewed, amused by my surprise.

“He healed the horse,” Lynn repeated again, very matter-of-factly.

“She just stood up and started walking,” Tim added. “Walked right off the train tracks.”

I took in several deep breaths to aid the logjam of firing neurons overstimulating my processing.

The couple continued with story after story of conflict and impossibility followed by the exciting thrill of God’s supernatural intervention and provision. It all sounded made up, to be honest. And yet, there was an undeniable rumble resonating deep inside my spirit, like a surging passion was being awakened. Their stories stirred up a simmering fire within me and gave life to a struggling hope I had been waiting on for some time. I had died many deaths that year in the form of friendships, a job, and relocation. To see two people so passionate, so obedient, so willing to say Yes to the God so many of us only give one hour of our week to–this was a stark interruption to my own personal funeral procession.

Everything they described sounded like exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Well, everything except the horses–I’m not so much the country girl. Every few minutes the couple took turns snickering at my dumbfounded and boisterous reactions, usually replying with, “You really should come with us.” To which I responded with a snicker of my own. A snicker that I would eat exactly two years later.

As the luncheon wrapped up, a tinge of disappointment rose in me at having to part ways with these newfound inspirations. Numbers were exchanged and I promised to follow the remainder of their journey on Facebook and stay in contact, utterly clueless to the future that lay ahead of us all. 

As I waved them off, I settled into the relieving peace of the previous hours, recognizing the uplifted shift in my soul.

The funeral was over. And now life could begin.

You Might Also Like

1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Reply Crystal October 30, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Christie… first of all, God has blessed you with an amazing writing talent!! I felt like I was sitting right there with you! Secondly, thank you for being obedient to what God put on your heart ❤

    How easy is it for us to assume a ministry is perfect?? How about our preacher, or fellow Christian? Praise God he can take our mess and turn it into a blessing…… I don’t know about you, but unfortunately for me, some of my BEST learned lessons were because of a situation that caused me pain, OR EVEN MISERY! Those trials made me open my bible MORE… fellowship with my savior MORE, and caused me to love on God in a way that didn’t seem possible when things were “perfect”. We all fall short of the Glory of God… I pray others are encouraged by this miraculous journey of two obedient servants! I also pray that because of it, people continue to surrender their life to our Lord and Savior! Satan will NOT HAVE VICTORY….. I am certain of that.

    Love you!! And I look forward to standing in line for my copy of the book. Prayers to you and your family from Rockwell, NC

  • Leave a Reply

    three + 12 =