Saturday, September 12, 2009

How Small a Whisper...

Charlie died last week.

To many, he was Charles Hoyle, Ph.D., Professor of Polymer Science & Engineering in USM's School of Polymers & High Performance Materials.

He researched the following, according to his webpage: Photophysical properties of polymer systems; Laser flash photolysis of polymers; Photopolymerization of thin-films based on monofunctional and multifunctional self-initiating monomers; Photochemistry and Photopolymerization of Liquid Crystalline Polymers and Monomers; Thiol-ene photopolymerizations; Kinetics and Mechanisms of Free-radical Polymerization; Mechanisms of Polymer Photodegradation; Photochemistry and Photophysics of Small Molecules in Polymer Matrices; Fluorescence of Polymer Solutions and Films.

(And no, despite many a cup of coffee & meal & chat with him, I still haven't the vaguest clue what any of the above means. Sorry Charlie...I tried to understand all those times you tried to explain it to me...)

Charlie's students are researching & working in Polymer Chemistry all over the world. The ones I knew...know...remember Charlie as one of the good guys who was a trusted friend & mentor.

He was absolutely brilliant. Bachelor's & Ph.D. from Northwestern. (I don't think I'm smart enough to drive past that school, let alone get in...and let's not discuss my probability of getting out...especially in polymer chemistry!)

But to Abby & Austin, he wasn't "Dr. Hoyle" or "Professor Hoyle" or even "Charlie." He was DAD. I know every time I spoke with Charlie or shared a cup of coffee or whatever, I would get the Abby/Austin update. He was proud of his kids, as he should've been. Abby teaches English in the south Pacific, & Austin & wife live in Vicksburg. Abby & Austin, never doubt that your Dad loved you. I've been in your shoes of losing a Dad suddenly to a heart attack well before we thought such an even should happen...I know. I have no magic words, for there are none. Except for the oh-so-trite sounding "press on"...

And he was Karen's husband. I have NOT been in her shoes of losing a spouse suddenly. I cannot imagine the depths of that darkness. Again, I have no magic words, for there are none. Just know, Karen, that I always loved the quiet, solid cherishing of you that Charlie did. And know that, somehow, in ways that will be made plain when we join Charlie in glory, in the presence of the One before whom all of our questions fade away into one glorious answer, we'll understand fully that "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15)

That's how I knew Charlie best. As a saint. He was one of the 2 or 3 most brilliant professors I've ever met anywhere in any field. An amazingly productive scholar & teacher with an awesome mind. But he also possessed a rock-solid faith that affected the totality of his life. Charlie was a key part of our Christian Faculty Forum at USM when I was there as a professor and as a staffer with Campus Crusade working with professors. Despite his prodigious scholarly output, I always found him humble and eager to listen to invited speakers...or to uninvited Campus Crusade staffers who dropped into his office without a prior appointment. (that'd be me)

And yeah...I did pick his amazing mind & scientific training regarding origins & design & evolution & such. As a bit of a hobby, he was fairly well-read in that. His take--one for the ages!--was this: "Mike, that evolution & creation stuff is fascinating to read, but IT'S NOT SCIENCE!!" (emphasis his). Meaning essentially that origins & evolution are not replicable & not repeatable, so whichever side of the argument one arrives on is philosophy & not science. He would get rather intense when someone like, say, Richard Dawkins would make the claim of scientific superiority of his atheistic, evolutionary beliefs over Christian creationist beliefs.

And what I always loved about Charlie was his enthusiastic encouragement of the Christian Faculty Forum's activities. But more, his enthusiastic encouragement of me. Here was one of the most impressive scholars I'll ever meet, and he always had time for me and always encouraged me, professionally as a Business School professor, and then as a Campus Crusade staffer, and personally as a brother in Christ.

That is why, since I heard Friday night of his passing, I've been unable to stop remembering. And pondering the awesome, wonderful, majestic, sometimes-inexplicable providence of God. It's also why I'm up at 3:41 a.m. Saturday morning capturing these thoughts and remembering Charlie.

USM is now short one incredible scholar & professor & mentor to many. Karen is short a husband who cherished her. Abby & Austin are short a dad who loved them & never shied away from talking about them. My church is short a quietly faithful member. And I am short an encouraging friend.

And this world is all the more lonely, making me feel all the more like the stranger & sojourner that I really am...that we all really are...

RIP, Charlie. Thanks for being my friend, and for going out straining toward the finish line. Your life & work mattered. Matter. See you on the other side. Perhaps there, in a place unstained by sin, I'll finally be able to understand what your areas of research actually were...*smile*

Your friend,

"Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?”
Job 26:14

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