Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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I'm Not Leaving Either

I read an article about the Dallas Cowboys that made me cry.

No, not because they started out a supposed Super Bowl run by losing their first two games. 

And no, not because a huge rash of Cowboys have recently been charged with felonies {as far as I know, everybody’s clean so far}.

And not because Jerry Jones is strapped and needs some cash {so far, he seems to be okay}. 


I cried because a Cowboy has actually shown some character – a rare trait in post-Landry Land. 

Perhaps you missed the story. 

He’s number 90 and the Cowboys’ gigantic all-pro nose tackle.  He’s a big man —6’4” 303 pounds to be exact.  But Jay Ratliff is dwarfed by a family story that now has him reaching for a different kind of bigness. 

Jay’s grandparents, Willie and Arletha Ratliff, died of smoke inhalation in a house fire on September 15.  Firefighters found Arletha, 74, deceased, but embracing her also-deceased husband in his bed. 

Willie, 84 and a World War II veteran, was both blind and a double-amputee.  When Jay’s grandmother realized that flames were engulfing their home, she called for help – and desperately tried to pull her disabled husband to safety. 

But Jay tells the story better than I ever could.  “When [my grandmother] opened their bedroom door, it gave the fire oxygen.  The firefighters tried to get in.  But the smoke was too thick.  My grandmother was like, ‘They’re not getting my husband out?  I’m not leaving, either.’”


And that’s when I put down the paper and cried.  Because I couldn’t stop the flames from taking my spouse either.  I tried – we both tried so hard – to beat those flames back, to snuff them out and to somehow find some way to make those flames go away. 

And many were the nights I would crawl into bed beside Cindy, just like Arletha.  I’d snuggle with her, rub her back, feed her Ramen noodles, read and pray with her.  Truth is, I would’ve laid down my life for Cindy if I could.  In fact, I repeatedly asked God to let me. 

But it was not to be.  I couldn’t go for her…and He didn’t choose to let me leave with her.  So our story was not to be a newsworthy story — just a way-too common and everyday story. 

Instead of an all-consuming fire, our family tragedy was a very discriminating and ravaging disease.  Like fire, angry tumors spread through Cindy’s body quickly and with such devastation, but only her body was ravaged.  And only Cindy was taken. 


At first glance, these two family stories may not appear to have much in common.  But here’s where I hope our stories DO intersect.  And more than hope, I believe it’s where they DO connect.

You see, the Ratliff’s now have a story that will be repeated around holiday tables and other family gatherings for generations to come because theirs is a story of amazing and tough love. 

I love what Jay said.  “That’s one thing about my family.  We love hard.  We love very hard.  My grandparents weren’t afraid to sacrifice and love with everything in them.”

And that’s the legacy I hope our story [the story of Cindy and Steve] will be for our family.  Long after I’m gone, I want our grandchildren to be talking to their grandchildren about the way Papa and Grammy embraced each other…even through the flames. 

Newsworthy or not, that’s a story that’s worth repeating.  

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