Remembering Gene: Carole Gilliland

I didn’t ask Carole the typical questions that I asked everyone else, she obviously had a very different relationship with Gene. It was somewhat difficult asking a Mother about her deceased son, but she was very comfortable and eager to talk about Gene. Carole has been through a lot, as I stated earlier, she has lost 3 of her 4 children. At the time of this article, Gene’s sister Lisa was moving to be with Carole and she was really happy about that…

1) How would you describe your relationship with Gene?
Gene and I had a normal mother-son relationship. We were very close and he promised that he would someday build me a castle. One month before he passed away he and I talked and he said, “Mom, I am finally on my way to building you that castle you deserve.”

2) What were some of your proudest moments of your son?
I don’t know that there is one proudest memory I have of Gene, as I was proud of all that he accomplished. I was proud of the job he did as valedictorian of high school. I was proud when he got picked to go to Boy’s Town in Sacramento during his senior year in high school. I was proud when he decided he wanted to be an actor, but also proud when he quit acting to concentrate in his music.

3) Five words you would use to describe Gene?
Loyal, humble, giving, off the charts and humorous. He was loyal to all his band members and all the bands he committed his time to, as well as his family. He was humble, as things like cars, clothes, money, furniture, etc. were never important to him. He was giving, as he gave of himself so much that he never took care of Gene. He was off the charts talented and the world should have enjoyed all of his work, but that wasn’t part of the agenda. He was also very witty and funny and made the family laugh all the time.

4) Where do you think Gene got his musical influence?
Gene was drawn to music probably because he came from a very musical background. His father, and several uncles, sang and played numerous instruments. I also played accordion and dabbled on the drums a bit. There was always music going on in our home and it just came natural to him. I want my son to be remembered for just being him, but also for the lyrics in his music that always told a story of what was going on in his life when he wrote them.

5) What stories do you remember about him growing up?
He was such a good boy that I might have to make something up. He did play little league, and he loved it, but got Brights disease at 8 years old and had to stop for a year. He also was helping his dad work on the engine of his car, some gasoline spilled and there was a spark, and Gene caught on fire. I saw him running from the garage, on fire, and being a mother I just panicked and screamed. Thank God for his Boy Scout training, he knew enough to lay on the ground and roll. He had 3rd degree burns from his knees to his sock line, and he had to have them peeled and peeled for months. I used to ask him if he wanted something to bite on when the doctor’s peeled the top skin off, but he was such a champ, he never cried or complained and he was in a wheelchair for quite some time. Gene never wore shorts after that as he was scarred badly and it bothered him terribly. Gene received many awards such as Boy Scouts, baseball and leadership awards. The one award he passed away before knowing he got was the Dove award… I display that proudly on my mantel. Gene gave his life to his music, he didn’t care about the money, he just wanted to help other bands get started. He was a humble person, you would have enjoyed knowing him.

If you need me to expound more on how much my son meant to me, I can only say that words cannot describe the huge piece of me that is now missing. Gene was a devout Christian, but he did write a lot about why things happen in this world like war, famine, if there really is a God. I am still searching for why He took Gene when he did so much good for mankind. I know there will never be an answer to that question, I have to accept what fate handed me knowing the God has the power to take any one of us at anytime. I only wish it would have been me. Gene was my child that could always make me feel better during the worst of times. I think what I miss most was his gift to light up the room with a smile.

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