I have written about the spiritual impact that Bubba had on Cathy and me and also on our children and grandchildren. In several posts I have mentioned the names of several of Bubba and LaNell’s children, but in recent reflections on the importance of family I realize the spiritual as well as the physical DNA in my brother’s family are also present in Cathy’s and my family. In thinking about and praying for their children I am so grateful for each one of them and how important they have been in our spiritual journey.
The first time I saw LaNell I was a 9-year-old sitting in church at First Baptist, El Dorado. Someone pointed out a college girl singing in the choir and said she was Bubba’s girlfriend. I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had seen and must surely be destined for a career as a movie star. I got to know LaNell Brillhart and every member of her family very quickly and loved being around all of them especially her Dad. He was a real character and could tell some of the funniest stories I had ever heard. His stories accentuated by LaNell’s infectious laughter would make for a fun Sunday afternoon.
Bubba and LaNell were married in December, 1950 which was Bubba’s first year in medical school in Little Rock. I loved the few times I got to spend the night in their tiny apartment on West 6th Street which very near the medical school in its’ old location near MacArthur Park. The highlight of one particular visit was learning to play the ukulele Bubba had given LaNell for a Christmas present. That ignited my desire to play stringed instruments which continues to this day.
Their first child was born in 1954 during Bubba’s senior year and were we ever excited to welcome Lydia into the world! She was very special on several levels. First she was named for our mother, who died of advanced breast cancer when I was an infant. She was the first grandchild of the Berry Moore family, and she was my first niece. When Mom, Pop and I drove to Little Rock to see her on her second day after birth, it was discovered there was a rule at Baptist Hospital which required one had to be fourteen years old to visit the new-born nursery. Since I was only thirteen I had to remain in the lobby while Mom and Pop got to see her. LaNell felt so sorry for me she walked to the lobby to visit and thank me for coming. It was another month before I got to hold my new niece for the first time.
Upon completion of medical school, the family of three moved to Dallas where the young Dr. Moore began his internship at Parkland Memorial Hospital. I wasn’t able to visit them in Dallas because the distance from El Dorado was so great and Bubba’s work schedule was so unpredictable. I wouldn’t have been able to spend much time with him had I made the trip. Their only son Andy was born in Dallas, and I could hardly wait to see him and begin showing him how to throw and catch a football and baseball like Bubba had taught me.
Following the one year internship they moved to Mobile for Bubba’s two year stint in the Air Force as a medical officer at Brookley Air Force Base. I did get to visit them there on two occasions and had a blast playing almost non-stop with Lydia and Andy. Their next move was back home to El Dorado where Bubba began his family practice with Pop in 1957, the year I graduated from high school. It was in El Dorado their other 2 daughters, Rachel and Becky were born.
Their first home was a very small three bedroom house on Melrose Street. The Harry Wadsworth and Dr. Charles Cyphers families lived on the same street and with several other families combined there were at least fifteen children of all ages in the neighborhood. One had to be very careful trying to navigate his auto down Melrose Street, since there were always three or four children running in the street, chasing a bug, a butterfly, a fly ball or just plain running away from their parents.
I was a student in college and medical school during those Melrose years, and when I came home during school breaks Bubba and LaNell’s house was my favorite place to spend time apart from home. Christmas was always a fun time for me as well as their kids. I always went to their home at 11 or 12 P.M. on Christmas eve to help Bubba assemble the myriad of toys for their kids. We usually had to hurry because all of them, especially Andy would awaken at 3 A.M. ready for Christmas to begin. I felt sorry for Bubba, because I could go home and sleep for three or four more hours, but he was awake for the entire night and the next day. In addition to the Christmas excitement he had a medical practice to manage and was getting continuous calls from patients who had some immediate needs.
I really loved playing with all of their kids, and they always had some new and exciting toy I had never seen. I also liked being called “Uncle John,” although Bubba teased me about the title, because early in our life we had a “drinking Uncle John” (Graham) who was well-known for his alcoholic lifestyle. The title to me was one of endearment, and Bubba told me when Andy was a little boy he once said; “Dad, I’ll be glad when you grow up to be a big man like Uncle John. Maybe you can go to medical school like him!”
LaNell and Bubba taught their children the Word of God and modeled the Word to them with their lives. As each one of their kids matured it was easy to see the life of Christ in them being poured out for the sake of others. Even though their personalities are unique each one is soft-spoken, kind, loving and gentle, and they mirror many of the wonderful qualities of their Mom and Dad.
Bubba spent the last six years of his life providing total care for LaNell in their home. She had developed a progressive dementia, and despite his being physically able to continue his medical practice he retired early to lovingly make certain she could remain at home with him. Following his death in 2009, Andy took his Mom into his home, and he and his wife Ginger loved and cared for her until she joined Bubba with Jesus in 2012.
Lydia and her husband Joey Caraway live in Little Rock, and their kids who are now adults will soon be starting their own families. The Caraway’s have been faithful members of Calvary Baptist Church. Andy and Ginger have remained in El Dorado and are active members at Immanuel Baptist Church. They each have grown children from previous marriages, and their children have the same loving hearts as their parents. Rachel and her husband, David Uth live in Orlando, Florida where they are active members of First Baptist Church. David happens to be the Senior Pastor of this wonderful, Spirit-led, megachurch. Their three children are adults and each is an active witness for the Lord Jesus. Becky and her husband Tim Rogers live in Ooltewah, Tennessee just outside Chattanooga. They moved there from El Dorado several years ago along with their two daughters and are impacting the area through their witness for Christ.
In the picture above taken during their Christmas reunion at their parent’s home in 2010 all of the children were present with their spouses, but several of the grandchildren were not able to attend. Bubba and LaNell were very proud of all of them and rightly so. They all walk with God and are living testimonies to one of Bubba’s favorite verses in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Just last night I shared with a friend that God used LaNell to be a mother to me when my own could not. For years, I described Berry Lee as the spiritual elder for the city of El Dorado. Words don’t do justice when attempting to describe the impact they had on my life. And 2007 West Elm will always be an important address to me!
Todd, you were like one of their kids and I’m thankful they had such an impact on your life. It has been wonderful remembering these experiences and the impact they had on Cathy, our kids and me. Our grandkids didn’t know them well, and that is also part of the reason for writing this blog. Thanks for your encouragement Todd.
Wow, what a special and sweet article! Thank you so much Uncle John for sharing that! It means so much to me and also to my children to read about their Granddaddy and Nannie and how the Lord used them. I continually thank the Lord for blessing me with such Godly parents who taught me and showed me Jesus’ love, and also for you, Cathy and your family who continue to impact us and encourage us in the Lord. Thank you!! And Thank You Jesus!!
With much love,
Thank you Rachel. There are so many stories I wanted to include like when Andy said to your Mom about you, “Momma, I didn’t bend her finger backwards!” There just wasn’t enough space. I have loved looking at all the pictures, news articles, letters and cards in writing all of these stories. I am discovering what a truly wealthy man I am and it is all because of Jesus! Cathy, our kids and I love you guys dearly: