Saturday, May 28, 2011


I was chillin'. It was the last day of school and school was over. Hallelujah! No more days of having to wake up uncooperative boys to get them ready for school. Nope. Not for 3 more months.

Since I knew that we were all safe to sleep in, and two of my boys were spending the night with friends, I lounged on the couch (Yes, I am from time to time a couch potato), and turned the TV on to a movie channel. That particular night, they were having a special weekend of nothing but war movies. And the particular movie that was on was "Patton." Seeing this movie again brought back a flood of memories.

This is a movie that I have watched numerous times. This is an old favorite for me. And I can never watch it without remembering the first time that I saw it at the old Ritz Theatre in my hometown.

I went with my sister. I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I don't remember the rating, but I do remember that I heard more cursing in one place than I had ever heard in my life. Back then, cursing was a really big deal. Now, not so much. And not only was I amazed by all of the foul language, but there was a man in the movie theatre who laughed every time that Patton cursed in the movie. He didn't just chuckle, he laughed out loud, very loudly. And I can remember that my sister and I wound up watching this man almost as much as we did the movie, because, well, to tell the truth, he was making a scene in the theater. But we couldn't say anything, because he was an adult, and we were just kids.

Whenever I see the movie "Patton" to this day, I think of this man. Who was he? Is he still alive? Does he still watch this movie? Does he still laugh when he hears the vulgarity? What in the world was so funny in the first place?

I especially like the scene in the movie where Patton is talking about feeling like he had participated in the great battles in history in a former life. This scene is mystical, and arouses my curiousity about life after death.

After watching this movie at the theater, I remember checking out a biography of General Patton in our school's library. The movie definitely made me more interested in this important figure in the military history of our nation.

And last of all, this movie reminds me of a story told by my grandmother. My grandmother, Mamaw, we called her, lived in Opelika, Alabama. This is about 30 minutes to an hour from the Georgia line. And along the Alabama-Georgia border is the Chattahoochee River. The same one that was written about in a country-western song.

According to my grandmother's story, General Patton was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia during World War II. This was about 1 to 2 hours away from Mamaw's house in Opelika. Fort Benning was near Columbus, Georgia, which is said to be a sister-city to Phenix City, Alabama. The two cities are separated by the famous Chattahoochee River and the Alabama-Georgia state line.

At that time in history, Phenix City, Alabama was referred to as "sin city." The legend has it that Phenix City was as dangerous as any city in the nation. There was a big prostitution and gambling ring in that area at that time. The corruption and resulting crime was so bad at one point, that Marshall Law was implemented for a few weeks to get the city under control.

One night, quite a few of General Patton's soldiers went in to "sin city" to have a good time and apparently succeded. But too much so, for they were arrested and put in to jail. The problem for General Patton was that his soldiers were to deploy in the next couple of days, and he felt that he needed them. So he contacted the authorities in Phenix City to request that his soldiers be released from jail so that they could deploy. The officials would not comply.

So, the story goes that General Patton got angry and insisted that his soldiers be released. Again, the local officials refused. General Patton informed them that if they did not release his soldiers, he would have the army to surround that jail and blow it up to get release for his men. They still refused. (As I type this, it is starting to remind me of the story of Moses and the Pharoah).

General Patton, led the Army's 2nd armoured division's tanks on the highway across the bridge over the Chattahoochee River into Phenix City, and lined the tanks up in front of the jail where his men were held. Again, he told the officials that they had one more chance to free his men before he attacked the jail with his tanks.

This time, they acquiesced. The soldiers were released from jail and General Patton moved his tanks back over the bridge and on to Fort Benning. The rest of the story, well that is history.

But every time I rode with Mamaw over that bridge, she would tell that story that all of the locals knew, but many people in other parts of the country did not. I think of that story every time I watch the movie "Patton".

Saturday, May 21, 2011

No obituary

When I was growing up, I had a friend, who I will call Jim, for the sake of privacy.

Jim was rather cute--not drop-dead gorgeous, mind you, but cute. He was a little short, and had a nice tan, and a quick smile. He had brown hair mixed with gray. That was very unusual. It was one of the first things you noticed about him when you met him. He also had patches of light pigmentation on his eyelids and various other places. The patch on his eyelids looked somewhat like eye makeup.

We spent a lot of time together in the neighborhood with all of our other friends. We all rode bicycles together, played spotlight, baseball, football, kickball, listened to the radio, attended school, played and ran in the woods and the field together, talked on the phone and anything else we could dream up. Once or twice, I think that we even played spin-the-bottle.

We also shared the same birthday. He was born exactly 1 year before me.

Jim had a mother who had been divorced a couple of times. That was a little unusual back in those days, but not completely rare. She was married to a new man. She had daughters by that man. They were Jim's half sisters. And the new man adopted Jim.

Jim's biological father had deserted him and would have nothing to do with him. None of us in the neighborhood had ever seen him.He didn't talk about it much and we didn't ask. We didn't know what to ask. We didn't know much about a world in which someones father would desert them.

Although Jim was adopted by this man, they weren't close. He didn't spend time with Jim. He was just there. But being there is more than Jim's biological father had done.
And Jim's mom? She pretty much ignored him too. She took her daughters shopping for new clothes and other stuff. But not Jim. One sister was a cheerleader and got absolutely anything that she wanted. It was as if Jim didn't exist to his mom.

Time marched on, we grew up, moved and went our separate ways. But, from time to time, we would run into Jim in various places--the grocery store or the hospital. We heard that he ran off and eloped with a girl, just before her parents had the marriage annulled.

Then we heard that he got married a few years later. I saw him in the grocery store. He said that his wife was in labor having his baby. But he wasn't going to go to the hospital. He was going to go get drunk. That was what his father did when he was born. So he thought that it was the appropriate thing for him to do, too.

I stayed close to a few of the people from the old, dear neighborhood. I got updates from acquaintances about Jim and some of our other mutual friends.

About 2 months ago, a friend from home and I were talking on the phone. She told me that Jim had called her out of the blue. It seems that he was going through a divorce--which number, we didn't know. But it wasn't the first. He had also recently lost his job that he had for many years working in a factory. He was bragging to my friend about how many possessions he had and how much money he had been making. Well, that is, before he lost his job. And, of course, his soon to be ex-wife was trying to take everything from him. It seems that he kept talking about himself and forgot to ask about my friend very much, so she finally ended the conversation after he told her that if she got lucky, he would come and take her out on a date. I think that she told him that she really didn't want to be that lucky.

About a month or two later, I was talking to her on the phone again. She told me that another friend of ours, I'll call him Joe, had told her that Jim died. At one time in life, Joe and Jim were best friends. She asked what happened and Joe said that he didn't really know. He said that Jim was drinking about a quart of hard liquor every morning, and up to a gallon before 24 hours had passed. He guessed that had killed him.

I had a lot of questions. What day had he died? What was the official cause of death? Had he been sick? Had he been hospitalized? Where was he buried? Where was the funeral? Which funeral home had his family used? My friend did not know the answers to any of these questions.

But my curiosity was piqued. We had all grown apart over the years, but I still had an affection for someone with whom we had been so close at one time. So, I began a search for the answers to these questions.

I could find no obituary in any newspaper, no funeral listing at any funeral home, no evidence that he had died at all. I went back to my friend and asked again. We were confused. I did another search on the Internet and finally found a listing that listed Jim as deceased as of 2011 at the age of 50.

That's it. Nothing else. No mention of him on a listing of people in his community who had died. No obituary. No listing at any mortuary in the town where he lived or in any town or city nearby. It was as if he died, and was either left in the spot where he died, and was still there, or, even worse, he died and nobody cared. Nobody. Not even enough to bury him with a proper funeral. Not even a mention in the local newspaper.

I furthered my search and asked my friends on facebook if they knew about his death. I got only one response from a mutual friend asking what happened. I responded that I didn't know; that I had heard that he had died, but that I hadn't been able to get any information since then.

That ended the search. I found a phone number for his mom, but I didn't call. I figured that it would be too awkward.

I think to myself, how sad for someone with living family to die and nobody even notice. Nobody even wrote an obituary. I wondered if he has been buried. I think that it would be terribly sad to live for 50 years, and then die and not even get an obituary. I shudder to think that it could happen to me. I wanted to write him an obit. So, here it is:

Jim, Born Sept 3, 1961. Died March 5, 2011

Jim, was born and lived in Brewton, Alabama most of his life.He enjoyed sports during his young life. He liked to hang out with friends. And he was a ladies man even at a young age.
Later in life, he married, fathered several children, and held down a job for years before his untimely death at the age of 50.
He is survived by his mother, Virginia Smith, of Cantonment, Florida and her husband, Mr. Smith, a wife, several children, and two sisters.
He is also survived by childhood friends, who will probably miss him the most of anybody.

There. Now he has an obituary. Rest in peace, my childhood friend......

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I have had pastors and Sunday school teachers who repeatedly taught me that it is good to memorize scripture for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is to be ready when hard times come. When we can recite scripture to speak to our problems, we receive strength to endure the difficulties. This is actually an example of faith in action.

So when I had one of these experiences, I found scripture to be very reassuring.

On Wednesday, December 13, 2000, as I was cooking dinner, I hoped that my husband would get home in time to babysit our children so that I could attend Wednesday night church service. I heard a knock at the door. When I answered the door, I found a friend standing in front of me with the news that my husband Greg, had been in a car accident. He had accidentally run his truck into a tree on a dirt road near her house. She told me that he was not seriously hurt, but only banged up a little. For precaution, he had been transported to the hospital by ambulance. He would be ok, but he would need me to go to the hospital to get him. His truck was totaled.

I turned off supper, made quick arrangements for a babysitter for my 3 boys, and drove to the hospital. He was laying on a table in the emergency room screaming in pain, and telling me that he was convinced that his hip was broken. He was right.

Because of internal bleeding, the hospital in our hometown transferred him to Sacred Heart Hospital, in Pensacola, Florida. He had emergency surgery there to realign his leg into the hip socket and was put into traction. The Dr. diagnosed him as having an acetabular fracture of the hip. (His hip socket was crushed.) In addition, he would need a surgery that could be done at only 5 different places in the country. One of these was Tulane Hospital in New Orleans, La. (pre-Katrina).

After his surgery that night, he lay in the bed, in pain and worrying about the consequences of his wreck: he wouldn't be able to work for quite a while, we would have extra Dr. bills, how would we pay bills without him working?

Me, I had a different outlook. I was thankful that he wasn't killed, wasn't hurt worse, and that the kids weren't with him at the time of the accident. I knew that with God's help, we would find a way.

He would say, "How are we going to pay our bills?"

My response was, "My God shall supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory, in Christ Jesus. I am not going to worry. I am just going to trust God. He will take care of us." (This scripture is from Philippians 4:19)

I didn't just speak the scripture. I believed that it was true. Several times that night, he repeated his worries. And I would repeat this scripture back to him.

Four days later, Greg was transferred to Tulane Hospital. Three days after that, he was in a 13 hour surgery where his hip was repaired.

In the meantime, I was driving back and forth from my home in Brewton, Alabama to New Orleans, after getting people to keep my children while I was gone. When I returned home, I worked. Then, I went back to New Orleans to see Greg. This was a very stressful, hectic time for our family. Not only that, but because of the traveling, money became very tight.

One day, I received a phone call from a member of my church. She wanted to do something special for our family because she knew that we were having a difficult time. She and her husband wanted to buy us some boxes of food from the Angel food ministries, and she wanted to know if I would mind if she did this. Some people wouldn't accept help and she didn't want to offend me in any way, but they wanted to do something to help us. I accepted her very gracious offer.

A few days later, my friends arrived with the food boxes. After they left, I began to put the groceries away and then sat down to take a break. As I looked on the side of the boxes, I saw that there was writing on the side of the box. I could not begin what I saw as I began to read the following: "My God shall supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory, in Christ Jesus." I laughed, as I thought about this. My heart lept with joy.

I had received my affirmation that in spite our our dire circumstances, God would provide. He does so through other believers. And He is always faithful to keep his word to us. Amen.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hound dogs

This is a true story that occurred in my childhood.

My paternal grandparents resided in a small house in Melbourne, Florida. They lived next door to a family of four: Mom and Dad, and 2 college age children, a girl and a boy. This was a talented and very active family. The Mom painted, the daughter was an award winning horse barrel racer and everyone in the family had their private pilot's license. I think that only the Mom and Dad had instrument licenses, but they were all licensed to fly.

So, it is no surprise that they made weekend trips by plane. They had done so one weekend, and were going to fly home, during a foggy Sunday evening. They were advised not to, because of the fog, which causes unsafe conditions, but they were determined, because they had to be home on Monday morning to attend work and school. So, they took off.

They never arrived.

They were reported missing on Monday morning. A search ensued. They were not immediately found.

In the meantime, my mother and father were very concerned. They figured that our friends had crashed and died. All week, my father, who was a very good sleeper, continued to wake up during the night, thinking about our friends. This caused him to get very tired at work. So, finally, he decided to take some personal days off from work to join the search party.

In the meantime, my Mom put in a phone call to a friend who lived in Mobile, Alabama, named Tommy. This woman had a prophetic gift. She could tell the future, although she was very judicious about it and would not do this but for a few people, so as not to attract attention to herself. My mom was one of the people for whom she would do this.

My mom called her and told her about the situation and asked Tommy if the family would be located. Tommy told her yes. The question was asked about the location of the plane and Tommy was unsure about this. So, my mom asked if she knew who would find them. Tommy replied that it would be a man with 2 hound dogs. So, after a few more unfruitful questions, they ended their call and my mom related all of this information to my dad.

A full week passed without any success with the search. The next weekend, our family loaded up with one of my cousins, and went to the Silver Sands Motel in Destin, Florida to stay. My mom would take the kids to the beach, while my dad joined the search. The authorities had determined that the plane had crashed somewhere near where we were in Florida. My dad joined the team. He flew by helicopter to look. He spotted the wreckage on the ground. The helicopter landed near the wreckage and the scene was surveyed. While the emergency responders did their job, my dad smuggled a couple of small pieces of the plane wreckage for a keepsake from this disastrous event.

He returned to the motel where we stayed, thankful to have located the wreckage, but still sad about the loss of life. The bodies and wreckage were recovered. The family was returned home for a proper burial.

That night, a terrible storm hit Destin. The lightening was close, the thunder was loud and the rain poured. It was so bad, that on 2 occasions during the storm as we tried to sleep, sparks flew out of the receptacles in the wall of our room. One time that it did that, my cousin jumped over my sister. The next morning, many of the boats at the pier were 1/2 submerged with all of the rain water halfway filling them. People were having to bail water out of their boats for quite awhile.

According to the authorities, the location where the plane wreckage was found would have normally been in a swamp. But that particular year, Florida was experiencing a drought. The terrible storm that came through Destin filled the swamp back up. Had the wreckage not been found when it was, it would not have been located until another drought, which could have been years later.

We returned to our home to settle back into our normal life. The night we returned, my mom and dad were discussing the recent events and how Tommy had obviously been wrong about the man who would find the wreckage. It was very odd for her to be wrong. If Tommy wasn't sure about something, she would usually say, "I don't know". My mom commented that she had never known of Tommy to be wrong and my Dad agreed. My mom asked if anyone with hound dogs was anywhere near the scene, and my dad said, "no". They decided to drop the issue and go on to bed.

My dad had a habit of sitting on his bed, removing his boots, and placing them in the box that they came in when he bought them. His nightly routine was underway, when my mom heard him called out to her. When she answered, he told her to come here and look at something.

On the side of the box was the name brand of his boots: Hound Dogs. The man with the two hound dogs had located the wreckage.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The forgiveness of a child

It was a typical school day morning, when, my voice raised to a high screaming pitch and decibel level that would make an announcer proud. My boys were ignoring my instructions to get out of bed, and prepare for their day at school. This was typical.

What wasn't typical was my frustration level, which was normally high in the mornings, but on this particular day, much higher than normal. So, accordingly, my reactions to them and responses were less endearing than I would have liked.

Then, IT happened. I uttered the words that I would come to regret. You know what I am talking about: the kind of hurtful words that can not be taken back once they leave our lips. The "end of the argument" words. I had failed to tame my tongue and immediately, I realized the damage. My 10-year old son was crying hard. I, with my insensitive demeanor, had not only upset him, but I had shattered his world. Nobody can inflict emotional pain on us more than the people whom we love. I am not immune to this. And I was terribly sorry.

I had to backtrack; to try to take back the hurtful words; but there was no way. I was left with only one option: to apologize.

I went to my son, more gentle now. I said, "Son, I am so very sorry. I did not mean what I said. What I said was hurtful and I shouldn't have said it, because it doesn't reflect my true feelings."

And in a very weak, pitiful voice, Rusty answered me by saying, "OK".

I said, "You know, sometimes you get upset and angry and say things that you do not mean?" He nodded. I said,"Well, that happens to parents too. I really didn't mean it."

Again, in a very pitiful voice, he said, "OK, Mama." By this time I was sitting and hugging, holding and rocking him. And he was hugging me tightly, with his head on my shoulder.

I said, " I need to ask you to forgive me. Will you, will you forgive me?"

He answered, "OK, Mama". But as he spoke, his voice was so weak, and so pitiful, that it broke my heart.

I knew that he would truly forgive me. I knew that we loved and still do love each other very much. I needed his forgiveness and he needed my apology. Without my apology, his world was shattered. With it, it was temporarily broken, but on the mend. He needed me to apologize. And both of us needed his forgiveness. And he gave it to me easily. And I am so very thankful.

I explained to him that if he would get ready for school, we would stop by a restaurant, and I would buy him a special breakfast, and we would eat together, just him and me. Hopefully, this would help to restore the relationship that I had so quickly damaged. A smile replaced his tears and we set out on our breakfast adventure happily. He made it to school and had a good day.

But this was not an insignificant incident. I don't know whether or not he remembers it. But I do. And as I remember, I still feel the hurt that I experienced at watching him hurt.

Since then, I haven't broken his heart again with my sometimes short fuse. I hope I don't ever repeat this mistake with him or anyone.

And I am so happy that I received his forgiveness, which I didn't deserve. No one forgives as easily and quickly as a child. We adults can learn from them. Especially since we were once children. What has happened to us to make us learn to do differently? Why don't we forgive as easily as our children? Is it age? Is it bad experiences? Is it because. over time, we have learned to emotionally insulate ourselves, thinking that this insulation will protect us from being hurt? Does this work at all?

I had related this story to my prayer group, and one of the ladies told me, "Yeah, we adults say that we forgive, but actually it is more like saying 'I forgive you', when actually, we are secretly thinking, 'but I am going to keep my eye on you from here on out'. We have learned as adults to do everything conditionally. We love conditionally we forgive conditionally.

Maybe we should learn from our children what we have unlearned. Maybe we should put ourselves in a position, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to forgive as easily and quickly as our children do. Will we get hurt? Yes. Will we get hurt anyway? Yes. Will we be more vulnerable? Absolutely! But, will our relationships be more rich, more abundant and fruitful? Yes. Will God be better pleased? I think so.

I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, "Come like a child".