By Christopher Smith
For most of the people at the funeral of Christopher “Cale” Wooten, Friday afternoon was a time for crying.
But Wooten was remembered by his friends and family for the opposite reason: his smile and laugh.
Pvt. 2nd Class Wooten, who passed away on July 22 after a nearly eight-month fight with leukemia, was remembered by hundreds at the Cedar Valley Cathedral of Praise on Cleveland Highway. He died two days after his 20th birthday.
The number of people there to honor his son is a testimony to his life, Christopher E. Wooten, Cale’s father, said.
“Lord, what can you say about him?” he said between tears. “He touched so many people. It’s hard to put it in words.”
Tabitha Kelley said her son appreciated the support he received in his final months of life.
Many local individuals attempted to help Wooten through blood drives and bone marrow registration in January and July of this year after acute myeloid leukemia began to collect in his bone marrow. Tabitha Kelley underwent a bone marrow transplant for her son, but the transplant was rejected by his body.
“I want to say thank you to everyone for their support and prayers,” she said. “Thank you for everything that everyone has done through this journey. I appreciate it. I know my son appreciated it.”
Cale Wooten, a native of Chatsworth, enlisted with the U.S. Army in October 2012. He discovered he had cancer when visiting his mother in Virginia during leave.
The death of “one so young” raises questions about God, Jeremy Southers, a reverend who knew the family well, said.
“I know that a lot of people want to know why,” he said. “As a preacher, I look at this and say God needed his soldier, another soldier, home. He called Cale home.”
Southers said he prayed for God to show him the right Bible verse to share with those grieving at the funeral. He read from John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Several servicemen and women took part in the funeral honors, which included a folding and presentation of the American flag to the Wooten family, taps and a 21-gun salute.
Friends and family released several balloons the day of Wooten’s passing at the old Murray County recreation center in Chatsworth and at Gordon Central High School, which Wooten graduated from, in Calhoun.