A charge to keep I have, 

A God to glorify...

To serve the present age, 

My calling to fulfill, 

O may it all my pow’rs engage 

To do my Master’s will!

— Charles Wesley

Carlton Rainge had a gift as a funeral director to help minister to people during the most difficult times of their lives. It was his calling in life. It was his charge to keep. 

I was reminded of those words as the congregation raised the hymn as a dirge in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church here in Blackshear during his homegoing celebration last Monday. 

The hymn was one of his favorites. It was lined in the old style I grew up with in the Primitive Baptist Church. Elder Terrence Lattimore, one of Carlton’s staff members, called out the verses in couplets of rhyme. The congregation sang it back to him in the familiar call and response style. 

The church was packed. The visitation Sunday night also featured a large crowd. He was very well thought of.

It hardly seems real that Carlton has passed on. My heart still hurts at the loss and I know it hurts so much more for his family and his friends.

I was thankful to call him my friend. I’ve known him a long time, dating back to our Brantley County connections of some 20 years ago. His sister, Barbara, helped a young, green, wet-behind-the ears reporter get his start covering city government in Nahunta back in the 1990s. His brother, Marshall, helped neighbors I knew and loved through his work with the Red Cross back in the day. His dad, Daniel, was a fine man. I came to know his wife, Marie, as the business began. The Rainges are good people.  After I came to Blackshear, we connected once again. I was privileged to help him with writing and advertising as he achieved a life-long goal in June, 2005.

He said it more times than I can count: “I want to own my own firm.” He always said he wanted to help people. Rainge Memorial Chapel opened its doors that year. 

The business has grown and prospered since that time and I was proud of my friend, Carlton. He often said that he considered it his calling to help people and I think he certainly fulfilled it. He had just the right touch, just the right gifts of sympathy and compassion. 

It should be no surprise that, when he was stricken, he was doing what he loved, following his calling. He was serving a family and helping them through their sorrow.

 Over the years, it has been my privilege to sit in the parlor with him at his funeral home.

We would tell tall tales and reminisce.

We would talk Scripture. He loved the verses where the Lord encourages us and tells us everything is going to be all right. 

I thought of that when I heard the lyrics to the rousing Chicago Mass Choir Song entitled “God is My Everything.” Carlton would play some mass choir albums for me when I was over at the funeral home visiting.   

I can still hear him say it. “Brother Deal, come listen to something I want you to hear.”

The song, led by Eric Brown, was sung to open the celebration service in just the way Carlton would have wanted: jubilant, happy, reassuring.

The first verse is “God is my everything, He’s my joy in sorrow, He’s my hope for tomorrow, He’s my rock in a weary land, A shelter in the time of storm.” 

The words were a comfort. 

Carlton had a great sense of humor. We often kidded one another about which one was going to have to put Grecian formula on our hair first.

Carlton made me feel as though I was his best friend. Many would say the same thing.  That’s a testament to the kind of man Carlton Rainge was. 

In every conversation we had, he would say these things: “I am blessed” and “God is good” emphasizing each word. 

God is good to have let me have Carlton Rainge as a friend. And, for that, I am blessed.

I’m satisfied, my friend Carlton, that you have kept your charge and have done the Master’s will. 

I’m confident that Sunday evening, the Lord said “Well done, thou good and faithful servant...”

• Jason Deal is a staff writer for The Blackshear Times. Reach him at jdeal@theblacksheartimes.com.

Jason Deal can be reached at jdeal@theblacksheartimes.com or (912) 449-6693.