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Who was Charles Criniere?

Updated: Aug 1

An overview of a truly glorious life by Megan Criniere

I am not one for writing for a public audience, but love makes you do crazy things so here I am. Charlie has always had a way of convincing me to do things that I didn’t really want to do. He was always pushing me and our kids outside our comfort zones and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Like when he took our family up the scenic route at rocky mount national park in a 12 passenger van, even after we all said NO. But he was driving and we were all captive passengers on the side of a mountain so up we went. Peering down over the side of the mountain (that had no guard rails to catch you if you fall), seeing signs that said caution all along the road. The kids in the back screaming out “are we going to die?” And “can we fall off the side?" I wish he could see me right now. Being brave, facing my fears and letting God use me even in my weakest state. He would be my biggest cheerleader in the front row. He was always so proud of me for overcoming my fears and always telling me I am the strongest woman he knows. I’ll miss his constant encouragement and reminding me who I really am according to how God sees me.

When I sat down to write this, and I struggled to fit such an abundant life into such few words, I decided that there was no better way to honor Charlie than to give you a glimpse of what his life looked like on a daily basis.

His life was simple. His days were filled with hard work and lots of repetitive tasks, but he learned to do the small things with lots of love, and that made all the difference. He sometimes struggled with it, feeling like he wasn't going anywhere, not accomplishing enough, and not impacting enough people. But judging by the number of people I have heard from, I know he is looking down from heaven and seeing the fruit of his labor, and that makes me so proud of him.

On most days, he got up before the sun came up. At 5:15, his alarm went off, and then he was off to the prayer room. His greatest joy was to be in God's presence and experience the love God poured into his heart; I'm glad he is still doing that right now. Then pulling out his laminated prayer list, he would pray for me and our kids, then students and colleagues, family and friends, the community, the government, and any other need that came to mind. He was greatly concerned for other people's needs, but he prayed with a unique fervor for his children and students. Most times, he lingered as long as possible, treasuring every moment before his day started. He knew that nothing he had to offer could transform anyone's life. Jesus was his life source, and he listened carefully to the instructions and directions he found in the bible every day.

He left the prayer room filled with God's love and presence, went to work, and unleashed that love on the world around him. He would speak words of encouragement, share his lunch, lend a helping hand, and pass out absurd amounts of candy to students. He would avail himself when needed and often brought home his lunch bag completely full because he tutored kids on his lunch hour instead of eating. He would pray with anyone in need, no matter where he was or who was around. He worked hard to be a great teacher so he could help his students reach their highest potential.

When he came home, there was always lots of commotion. Sometimes that looked like our kids and lots of neighborhood kids running to his car to greet him and tell him something they waited all day to say share. Sometimes it looked like him bursting through the door calling the kids to come get "treaties" (which was always some kind of candy). Then our kids came running from everywhere. Sometimes it looked like rounding up our kids and making them redo their chores that were not quite up to his chore standards. And sometimes, that looked like him making a beeline to me in the kitchen, giving me a big hug, and asking about my day.

Shortly after that was family dinner time. He always wanted everyone there and always sensed a difference when someone had other plans, which wasn't very often. We would eat and share about our days, sometimes it was silly and outrageous, and sometimes it was serious. But it was always coming from his desire to stay connected to one another at the heart level. He always spoke openly and shared from the heart. I often wondered if it was too much disclosure for our kids, but now I see it producing authenticity and sincerity in my kids' hearts.

His evenings were filled with playing with the kids, sitting on our couches talking, being a chauffeur for our children’s activities, or studying hard to finish his degrees so he could provide more for us. But Tuesday evenings were the highlight of his week, that was our weekly date night. I can’t tell you how many times we ran in to one of his students and they always said the same thing, "He always talks about your weekly date nights…". I will treasure every moment we spent together, not just the good ones but the hard ones too.

Nighttime looked like us gathering everyone in the living room to read books and get ready for bed. He would read the bible with us and pray for the next day. Then bedtime came and it was usually pretty messy. I would put the littles down while he was finishing up a long-winded bible time. By the time he finished up, the littles would all be quiet in bed, and he would come up and lay next to them. Before I knew it, they were out of bed and squealing with delight. He would pretend to be a butler and neatly tuck them into their blankets. He would sing silly songs while tickling them, or pop his head in the room and get the big kids amped up until I could hear laughing all the way downstairs. Then I would scold him like a kid for stirring them up - but he would say he couldn’t help himself (and most days I understood that). After we got everybody settled back down, he would complain about how long it took for the kids to go to bed and I would tell him it was his fault because he always stirred them up.

Most nights we finished off the day in our living room, just him and I, we would talk, pray about everything that came to mind, and worship God because we were so thankful for his kindness toward us. I’m grateful we still get to worship together even if we are in different places.

What else can be said but that Charlie’s life was a life laid down - laid down to Jesus and laid down for others. He knew his life was not his own. That’s why his impact is so far reaching, that’s why we all have pain in our hearts because we were all so well loved by him and because we all loved him back so deeply.

I can only think of one thing more tragic than Charlies passing and that would be to experience this moment and walk away the same. The example of Christ in Charlie should provoke those of us who know Jesus to be faithful in whatever assignment God has given us - leaving the results up to Him, and to live for the day we see Jesus' beautiful face knowing that it will be in that moment that we will receive our rewards.

And to those who don’t yet know Jesus, I pray you find the same peace, hope, and love that Charlie experienced, knowing who God is, and how much He loves you. It wasn’t Charlie that made Charlie so great - it was Christ in Charlie that made him so great. The same is available to every single one of us. Let’s all receive the gift that his life was, a true expression of our Father in heaven's heart. And now there is nothing left to say but go and do likewise…

- Megan Criniere

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