Myself, My Thoughts

Myself, My family, My Thoughts 
Updated 4/23/2012


Who are you?

I’ve been told by management instructors: 
“You are who you think people think you are.”
It sounded like double talk.
Time has changed my mind
If I tell you every day, that you are a failure 
And you believe me, then you will become a failure.  
If we expect little of our children, employees, staff, or friends, 
They will respond poorly and achieve little.  
It is true that others live up to your expectations of them.  
I have been lucky to have had parents, 
Brothers and sister, wife, children, and friends 
Who love me, praise me, and help me
I am grateful for their care in shaping me.

Marks on the wall
There is a certain silence in children that often we do not notice
Beside the clatter and cheer, resolutely it stands for all to hear
Though we parents seldom seem to notice it in our busy inattention
But sometimes the realization comes clear that eight years old is taller

Real love is listening to “Alice and Jerry” read
Love is not just applauding at a recital.  It is enduring the practice.
Love is not excessive praising, but simple pride mixed with constant, and steady support
Love is coloring Mickey Mouse

I was thinking today about love and thought so many have expressed it before
But I could not use their words
They do not know how I love you or the depth of my care.
They do not know how you smile or walk.
They do not know, yet I do.
And knowing I find no words to express myself that are greater than
I love you.

I wish I knew.
When I was ten I did.
I thought of it once at sixteen
Yesterday, I tried to explain it, but no matter.
Someday she will be ten
And remind me of what I have forgotten
So that I can tell my grandchildren 
When she can no longer remember

My daughter talks
At age three and four and five
I understand tis but her age 
this pleasure to derive.

 My wife talks 
on phones, on records, and live
I understand tis but her age 
this pleasure to derive.

My mother talks
To talk, to breath and thrive
I understand tis but her age 
this pleasure to derive.
My granddaughter talks, oh my!

Goodbye Baby, Goodbye Baby
It was great to see you again
Child and Grandchild headed home

When I was 10, I hated to be called Baby
At 16 I got angry
At 22 I sulked
At 30 I apologized for my Mother
Who insisted on calling me, Baby
At 60 I long to hear her call me Baby again

I stand back and watch
Sometimes obviously,
Often hidden glances
Even when I am there
I am apart watching,
Recording the scene
Regretting my isolation

What is more importance?
Leaving or arriving

“Parting is such sweet sorrow” –
Shakespeare wrote.
(And we sigh)
The lover’s last farewell
If we know the last goodbye,
Is it sweeter?
Would we say more?
Our touch linger?

Sweet parting is a splendid memory
Like a rose’s fragrance
That can be inhaled again and again
And still smell sweet.

She has been hugging them a little too long and they are impatient
The oldest looks at me and I nod to stay
Mother will not be much longer and it is a small thing to do

Since Dad died, I have noticed that she holds us longer as we come and go
I have come to understand that many senses can be soothed with memory
Sight with pictures, letters, objects sacred
Sound with records and tapes
But touch will not be satisfied

So she holds us a little longer
We are all she has left of the love of her life
We are their offspring, their flesh
And for those moments she can touch again
Him who was her husband 


Goodbye Pop
The last goodbye was a year ago now
And I am the man, I am the father
None other stands to lend me his wisdom from the fates of time

The last goodbye was gentle, just us two.
We would see one another for the next four days
But this was goodbye
We would not say it again
I would read to him until he slept 
I would hold his hand until his breath had slowed and stopped.
But I would not say goodbye again after this day

I received some wisdom, got some advice, 
Listened to his instructions, promised to look after Mama, 
Agreed in death I would not revive him, but let him go
I expressed my gratitude, my love, my obedience
Then we said goodbye and we knew it was the last time.

My father saved the last letter or card from each of his sisters and mother
Yesterday, I took my grandmother’s letter – yellow and fragile - and read it again.
It’s written front and back and along the margins as she thought of more to say
Until there was not a blank spot on any page
She talked about her new baby and planned visit at Christmas
She mentioned her chest cold (the pneumonia that took her life.)
From the envelop I picked up the clipping of her auburn hair.
I never knew her - except from my father’s memories 
Then carefully I folded the clipping into the letter and envelop.
I read each letter and card – returning them to Pop’s foot locker
As I had seen him do so many times before

Nothing is as important as family
Giving and loving one another
Children are a gift and a privilege
To be cared for and nurtured above all other concerns
Of self or wealth or status
Nothing is my lifetime has changed this belief

To our grandson, Matthew – Love is a Gift

I’ve been negligent sharing with you our family history and values.  I expected to have more time before you took full responsibility for your life.  I will try to remedy this by writing to you regularly.  We will have some time to talk, but you will be entering a time of shifting influences. 

The most important and greatest value in life is love.  It is the bond of love that brought your parents together.  If we are very lucky, we find someone who returns that same giving love with us and we share that love for a lifetime.  It is that same love that led Shannon and George to start a family and then shower you with their devotion and love.

Love is a gift.  It is freely given.  Love cannot be purchased.  When a price is placed on Love, it is no longer love.  Real Love is never used as a weapon or a chain.  When we love someone, we do not own them.  When we love someone, we place that person ahead of our own desires and needs.  Love is sacrificial.  

You are lucky to have been surrounded by love your whole life from your parents, grandparents, sister, and family.  There has never been a moment in your life when you were not surrounded and supported by their love.  This is a rare gift!  Many people are emotionally crippled by a lack of love in their lives.

The majority of people do not know the care of a loving nurturing family.  Your parents have always placed you ahead of their own desires.  They learned this from their parents.  You will soon be with people who know nothing of such love or family devotion.  Many people have been raised in a loveless environment where loneliness, hate, or anger has dominated their lives.  

They often try to escape by altering their minds or circumstances.  The armed services are an avenue for many to escape poverty, abuse, and reality.  For others the armed service is a chance to be thrilled, to validate their manhood, or a chance to abuse others.  For a few of those enlisting, it is for love of country that they serve.  In all cases, the individual surrenders control of his own life.  

My father escaped poverty by joining the Army during World War I.  He left home when he was 17.  His father was a sharecropper with little success at farming.  My Dad never had the love or approval of his domineering father.  My grand-mother who loved him died when my father was 13.  She was worn out by the constant moving from one state to another following the crops eking out a minimal living while giving birth to 12 children.

Dad could not qualify for anything but the infantry because he had very little formal education, but he was smart.  The infantry soldier is a tool like any other piece of equipment in the commander’s arsenal.  Basic training is an exercise to erase the individual and create a compliant tool.        

Dad was forever unhappy that he couldn’t qualify to be an officer, because he had more practical sense that most of those who commanded him.  What Pop thought of as practical sense was really the ability to analyze, visualize, organize, and implement.   Only about one in 10,000 has that skill set.

It does not serve our country, our fellow soldiers, or ourselves if we cannot and do not use these skills.  You have all of these abilities plus the ability to influence others which makes you one in 100,000.  You have chosen a path to the infantry where these skills can still be used – IF you see them as valuable.  

You have grown up in a rich, closed community where these skills are common – do not misjudge or undervalue them.  Your neighbors live in your neighborhood because of these leadership skills which are rare and highly valued.  

My father encouraged and pushed me every day of my life to finish high school and get a college education.  He wanted one of children to succeed where he could not.  My Dad lifted me from his poverty, Janet and I lifted your mother to affluence; Floyd and Sallie lifted George; you now stand on your parent’s shoulders.  Three generations of your family have worked and sacrificed, so that you could have unlimited choices.  Choose well.

Both sets of your grandparents and your parents have chosen leadership as a way to use of their ability to analyze, visualize, organize, and implement.  I do not believe that these skills can be taught, I believe that they are inherited.  A huge number of people have the ability to quickly absorb and repeat data – very few people can see how to use the data and those people’s abilities.  

Happiness is a warm lap
Gracie has played all morning bringing toys to us for kitty calisthenics.  Climbing from chair to chair she has been seeking a warm lap.  Janet moves the lap desk and crossword puzzle so that Grace can nestle.  Curled tail covering her eyes, she is content and naps.  Her world is perfect – she sleeps comfortable, warm, and complete. 

9:00 AM Taylor wanted us there

Ponytails, braces, and sweat
Emma, Carson – no Chet
Some white, some black, some pink
Tied tightly
Ker-flap, ker-flap, ker-flap – doom
Great shot – ten, three
10:00 AM nine, eleven
We won! Great job 

Best of all is sunlight
Of summer’s three fold blessings
Second are the breezes on the beaches
They are caressing
Third be long vacations
Without homework and without lessons

Brown bodies, bronze boys
Too young to care or know
Play within my sight

Three fuzzy puppy’s 
Skip about the trees, sun dappled
Their master to evade

Where they are gone or been
I do not know
But joy is on their way.

December 25, 2010

If Boys can make it dangerous, they will.

This Christmas we are alone and sitting in our living room which has windows front and back.  Our street drops downward  from our driveway toward the highway.  The sound of wheels  scraping the pavement on the street has continued all morning between gaps of silence.  From my recliner I could see the same flag flying by our front windows and the occasional top of a helmet.  Once, the flag was followed by a mounted rider of new bicycle wheels. 

At first I guessed a new skate board made the noise, but the scraping sound was as strong going uphill as the down.  Curious I went to the window and observed a tiny go-car spinning to a stop at the entrance to our drive way.    The cart then flew the width of  three houses to the Smith’s driveway where a much safer turn was made.   It was the Smith boys trying out their new wheels.

Streaking up the hill, the cart performed a perfect 180 degree turn on two wheels, from which point the driver gunned the cart downhill in reckless abandon.  My wife laughed, “If Boys can make it Dangerous, They will.”  We returned to our recliners to enjoy the music of Christmas from our stereo and from the street.

Sometimes it is more fun to scribble than to draw!
I put this feeling into words today as I was mowing the lawn
It is one of those wonderful fall afternoons after a long hot summer
The dog is playing in the clippings and pine needles
I am in no rush mowing in circles, squares, and diagonals.  
Whatever my fancy happened to be
I thought my father would not understand.  
He always mowed in efficient, straight lines.
He never understood what possessed me to move in circles.
I think of him often these months after his death.
He never scribbled that I knew.
Every minute and action was purposeful and neat – no waste.

My daughter is mowing now in a wiggly pattern chasing the dog.
I feel satisfaction – Sometimes it is better to scribble than to draw.

(A note here about my daughter the accountant who is more like my father than she knows.  
He would be thrilled to see her organized home and records.  I still like to scribble)

Mowing again
It gives you time to think
Wide circles in each direction creating a smooth cut lawn
Bo started it, Dave followed suit, and I knitted the lawns together
Something there is – I thought
Dave and I matched grass height where our lawns meet.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall – I remembered
Yet here we were marking borders with well-manicured lawns an invisible fence
Something there is that loves lawns?
Our mowers pass in opposite directions
 I wave as I head the other way
Neat lawns make good neighbors

A dreamer
Dreamers come in different flavors – 
not every dreamer is the same -
Some are bitter, sorrowful, envious, adrenalin junkies, 
fulfilled, robust, purposeful, wanderers, and blank.

Some dreamers only dream from the shelter of self
Some venture out on protected proven pathways
Others adventure far and wide exposed to every hazard

Sadly there are those who do not dream
They endure their mundane reality by surrender or escape.
It is far better to dream

I live to dream and create –

We are a class of dreamers
On Coffee break and lunch
With hopes in clouds
Of grand and lustrous ways

Just once I wish my thoughts
And dreams were profound
To stifle envy and hatred
Of things I find around

Sparkling their achievements stand,
Not dull and blank like me,
Oh! To be a steady dreamer
Like he and she and thee

We are a class of dreamers
On Coffee break and lunch
I would stay here forever
Above cloud and all mankind

BUT the work bell now is ringing
Without reason, without rhyme

It’s funny how the water swirls
Between the tree and bank
Eddies jump and grumble on a merry lark

It’s funny how the water swirls
Our lives a little bout and yet
We jump in merry freedom
With very little doubt

It’s funny how the water swirls

I like the twilight
Neither awake or asleep
Sometimes I dream, sometimes not
I think, I pray 
And visit old friends and new
I relive the future and the past
It is my world to control

The cat sleeps against my legs
Sharing our warmth
Then she stirs me awake
Sometimes I remember the twilight
Today was such as day

I like the twilight
And one day there I’ll stay

There is no real me
I am layers within layers
Separated by deception, intention, reflections, and chance
I dare not be one thing or the other
For with discovery – I am undone
A mindless reel of threads

Wallpaper people – June 2009

Wallpaper people move through the scene – silent and unseen
They sometimes speak but we do not hear
They approach us but are never near.
Unseen and silent they are the wallpaper of our life

Sometime we speak and meet their stare as if no one were there.
Backgrounds to our lives and the stage which we do not share
A vague smile tells us that we should know them and hear
But we turn away when they are near
Background to our lives and wallpaper on the screen

April 12, 2011 
Divine Isolation
Fifty years ago one man looked through a glass and saw what only the eyes of God had seen.
We gasped and were amazed.  One man isolated alone above the Earth explored the heavens as never before.
Fifty years have passed and we are bored.  The image of Earth is common place.
We doubt God, we lack wonder.  We are no longer amazed.
We grovel and war over our piece of dirt.  
We do not look to the heavens with imagination and seek inspiration.
We are isolated and alone, because we choose to be.

Shall we gather still?
For as long as there have been people.  We have gathered
First hunters, gatherers, farmers
Looking for mates, relatives, friends, workers
We sing, dance, and shout – for ages and ages
We celebrated ourselves, our gods, our talents

Is it over?
Gatherings are smaller
Our hair is grayer
Our step slower
Old talents, gifts, and trades disappear

Flashing lights hold our attention
Is it only through electronic signals that we will meet?
It seems so lonely and cold to me to caress a computer key
When a handshake, a hug, a giggle or laugh is so much more fulfilling
Shall we gather still?
I hope, but I do not know.


We were entertained all last week by a family of mocking bird who live on our deck.
Each morning we waken to the sound of hungry mouths—

Cheep- cheep – cheep – feed me – feed me – feed me-
The pair of adults flies endlessly bringing bugs and seeds to their three chicks who have abandoned their nest for our picnic table.

They have learned to fly – after a manor – and – after repelling many times from aborted umbrella landings to table top – They learned to avoid landing on the sides of the Umbrella.  But they hadn’t learned to feed themselves.
Cheep- cheep – cheep – feed me – feed me – feed me-

Then one morning – there were only two chicks
The next morning – there was one Cheep- cheep – cheep – feed me – feed me – feed me-
But the mother came back less and less often.
Still the starving chick set on the table – pooping and chirping – FEED ME!

His plump siblings came to visit often and snatch a snack from MOM – leaving him hungrier.  She even teased him to follow her to the swing set where she placed the food on the ground.  He followed her to the swing set – but still looked for the food in her mouth.  Finally she picked it up and feed him.

Thursday it began to rain and rain and rain – still he sat under the umbrella on the picnic table – chirping – feed me – without conviction.  Saturday morning he dozed and wobbled- perched on the back of a lawn chair – CHEEP!  FEED ME!

One more time the mother dropped food at his feet.  He lurched and gabbled it up.
She brought another and another leading him slowly like a trail of breadcrumbs to the lawn where he began to feast.  We haven’t seen them since.

Authority, Authoritarian, Know-it-all – I’ve been all three.

I’ve been these things – sometimes well and always poorly.  
So here is some advice.  It is admirable to know a subject thoroughly.  
The search for knowledge and skill are among the most admired human endeavors.  
Doing a job well is immensely satisfying.

It is OK to be recognized as an authority and/or craftsman.   
Let others seek you out as an advisor and authority – 
but do not force your authority on others even when asked your opinion as an expert.  
Render your opinions when asked – 
do not use your intellect as a weapon to control others for your own means and ends.

As Christians we should never be authoritarian 
– but we should speak with the authority given by Christ Jesus.

Authoritarian  - a person who behaves in a tyrannical manner- 
favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom –
 exercising complete or almost complete control over the will of another or of others – 
dictator, autocratic, despotic, dictatorial, tyrannical.

Authority - an individual cited or appealed to as an expert – 
power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior
Know-it-all - Someone who thinks he knows everything 
and refuses to accept advice or information from others; 
someone who is obnoxiously self-assertive and arrogant.

I don’t understand hatred
I’m not saying this from a place of moral superiority, 
I just don’t get it.
Every day, everywhere people are killing other people 
Because they are different
It does not matter to me if someone is black, Latin, oriental, Jewish, or white
It doesn't matter if they have the same beliefs

Paper tigers
I wish that I could shout loud enough to be heard
I’m tired of political “red herrings” and “paper tigers”
Instead of noble thoughts we get petty bickering.
We need ideas to solve real problems.

Called to Comment

We are surrounded “24-7” with commentators – 
criticizing clothes, food, politics, movies, people, and religion.  
We hear them on TV, radio, in papers and I-pods.  
The world seems to have adopted the mantra that we can say something bad about everything.  
What happened to the advice: 
If you don’t have something good to say, then say nothing at all?

Closer to home we may hear: “You trumped my good card!”; “A real soprano could sing that note!”; “Are you really going to wear that shirt?”; “Who picked that ugly color?”; “My children behave themselves - unlike others!”;  Do we really intend to:……?  Are they really going to ………? What makes them think …….?

Do you recognize a comment that has hurt your feelings OR were you the commentator?  
Our modern society seems driven to comment destructively on every action.

This “called to comment” attitude has even been adopted in some churches where we seem to be acting on negative commandments:  “Thou shalt find something wrong with anything.  Thou shalt judge others.  
If Thou knoweth something bad, then rush to tell everyone.”

One justification is usually: “I am not a hypocrite like some people 
because I’m one of those who speaks my mind 
– it is a free country!”; “Other’s shouldn’t carry their feelings on their sleeve”,
 “I’ve got a right to my opinion”; 
“I’m just saying what everyone is thinking”; “If I think something, it is my duty to say it.”; 
“It’s just the way I am.”

Here is a quality control test - before we speak – stop and ask yourself –
1. Is it True? 2. Is it Kind? 3. Is it Necessary? (Is there some real reason to tell?)
If it passes those tests – then ask “is it Helpful and does it Inspire” – THINK then speak.

What does the bible say about uncontrolled speech?

James 3:1-13 5.  So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  6.  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 8.  But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in your eyes, O Lord, my strength and my salvation.

1 Peter 2:11-12.  Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them; glorify God in the day of visitation.

Ephesians 4:29: You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Greed and Arrogance

The world is in an economic depression brought about by greed and arrogance.
I do not know how our bloated democracies will moderate our consumption.
We have been arrogant about the care of earth, and of one another.

A good friend and professor once told me that economics was amoral and without ethics.
I disagree.  Economics is the result of human activity.
To call Economics amoral is to excuse immoral self-centered human behavior.

I also dislike the phase “all things being equal” when modeling the future.
The phase excuses the upheaval, pain, poverty of job lose and relocation.
People are moral or immoral – not institutions or economic theories.

I listen today as an author blamed the current recession on eight men
and the demise of his company on its leadership.
I share his frustration with out of control executives.

But WE are responsible for our actions – consumption, greed, and arrogance.
My friend said that business and countries will have ethics only if they can afford them.
Therefore – economics and businesses have no ethics.

Greed and arrogance is as old as humanity.  
It is no wonder that other religions look at the Christian democracies and decry our influence. They war against its example and hypocrisy with their very lives.


When is a lie, a lie?
When is a lie, a lie?  We use a lot of words - (like spin, deception, disguise, dishonest, secret, undisclosed, half-truth, point-of-view, misdirection, manipulation, misrepresentation, euphemism, blame-game, deniability, and confidential) - to describe telling less than what we know or manipulating what we know so that it appears to mean something else.   We wouldn't have so many words to describe "lying", if we were not good at it and trying to shift responsibility.

Where is the ethical or moral point at which withholding knowledge becomes a lie?  For ethical business the line that defines a lie is when damage or hurt is done because of a withheld truth or fact.

Wen I was a five year old - our neighbor - old Miss Collins gave me milk and cookies every afternoon.  One day she asked me why my mother didn't come to visit also.  I told her my mother said she talked too much.  I didn't get any more milk and cookies.

I learned about "discretion."   My answer should have been - I'll ask Momma to visit with us tomorrow.  This would not have been a direct answer, but it would not have caused hurt and would have answered the real question which was "Can your Mother visit more often because I'm lonely?"  This is more than a 5 year old understands.

I've taught the kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes to be kind and answer the truth, but not to repeat things their parent have said.  But an Adult should have no problem knowing when information can cause damage or hurt.  

Forgiveness - My story

I’ve seen too many examples of those who would rather cling to their grudge 
or hurt feelings than cling to the cross of Jesus’ redemption. 
 Forgiveness has been defined by three events in my life.

When we visited my father’s family in Mississippi, I would share a bed with my cousin, Sonny.   I knew his mother (my cousin, Olive) had died but nothing more was ever said until one summer.   It was obvious that Aunt Jessie (my Dad’s sister) was angry with Uncle Johnny.

Uncle Johnny was going to testify in a parole hearing on behalf of Sonny’s father.  
Olive, their youngest daughter and Sonny’s mother, had been killed in the Jackson Bus Station trying to return to her parents with her four-year-old son. Her drunken husband, Sonny’s Father, caught up with them at the station and killed her on the steps of the 
Trailways bus.  Now he was up for parole and Uncle Johnny was going to testify for his early release.

I asked my father why Uncle Johnny would do that?  Dad's answer was “Sonny asked him to.”  I couldn’t understand.  Dad explained that Sonny and Johnny had forgiven him and wanted him back in the family.  I asked why was Aunt Jessie angry?  Dad tearfully answered “She can’t forgive him.”

Later, both Aunt Jessie and Uncle Johnny talked with me.  Today I still can’t judge the right or wrong.   I learned that guilt and grudge can drag you down - and split families.

Our second daughter died at 3 weeks old from birth defects.  It is the most terrible thing that has happened to Janet and me.  My father came to me weeping – explaining that it was his fault that Regina died.  God was punishing us for things that he had done and his sin was being visited on his son.  I heard things that I did not want to know- but my father needed to tell.

I had a moment to think - First, I do not believe God was punishing us.  
Second, God had forgiven him and remembers his sins no more.  
Finally, I forgave him for his actions and was grateful that I didn’t meet the fate of those other fetuses.  Pop needed forgiveness and he needed to hear it from me.  
I am sure that guilt and grudge will drag you down. 
I am sure that confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation heals all wounds.

My mother was being robbed of her health, motor control, and mind by “TIA” episodes where the blood flow to the brain is stopped.  My father had died three years before and Mom could no longer live with us.  A nursing home was the only option.

My brothers and sister persuaded me to move Mom back to Savannah where they would look after her and visit her at the Nursing Home.  Mom didn’t want to leave me – she was easily scarred and afraid of many things.  One of her greatest fears was of small dark places or of being confined.  Her older sister had kept her like a slave, locking her in the closet during the day and letting her out at night to wash and iron.  Many times when Mom was in the hospital, I’d have to go over and clam her down until she remembered where she was.

Three days after letting Mom move from our care, I received an early morning phone call 
that Mom had been moved to intensive care at Memorial Hospital.  She had suffered a massive stoke during the night while tied to her bed in restraints.   My brother and sister had left her there restrained and begging them to call me.  I have never been angrier.

When I got to the Memorial Hospital I was trembling with anger and unable to speak 
– I went straight in the ICU.  Mom’s body had been revived by machines but no one was there.  I looked into the blank dilated pupils and apologized for letting her leave me,
 then I went back to the waiting room.

A sorrier group of people I’ve never seen before or since.  My niece, Brenda came to meet me.  “They don’t know what to say to you or how you’ll react.  They want to keep her on life support.”  “I won’t object – but I also can’t stay here or I’ll explode.  Call me if anything changes – As far as I’m concerned Mom is gone.”

I drove home to Statesboro.  My brother John called me to let me know several more strokes had followed and they could not restore life support.  John had been out of town and neither of us had been part of the decision to leave mother under restraints.  He told me that he had forgiven our brother and sister - and I needed to do the same.  They made a mistake.  They really needed my forgiveness.  I had a choice - let my anger separate us or to forgive.

I meet them at Sipple’s Funeral Home to make arrangements.  We hugged, cried, apologized, forgave.  We were a family with flaws but we overlooked and forgave them.

I know that guilt or a grudge will pull you down.  It saps your strength and blocks your relationship with God and others.  Two years ago my brother Otho died. I still have his phone number and e-mail address in my rolodex – A draft of an e-mail is saved in outlook.  
It’s curious that I will not remove or delete them as though they are my last string to my birth family.

On our last visit Otho talked about the things that he had done wrong.  I assured him of my love and forgiveness for any wrongs. I knew that the others he mentioned would feel the same way as I did.  He was struggling with regret for the things that he had left unsaid. 
Often the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves and remember it no more.

                                      I remember my mother’s last words to me 
“Please don’t make me go – I promise to be good.”  
I hope that she forgives me for letting her go away.  
I have trouble forgiving myself.

Grief and remembrance

I watched Margie move alone around the room.  Oren was gone. 
 A circle of friends had formed about her to listen and hug.  
As she talked the layers of grief that I had seen on Monday were lifting away.  
I had believed that others cannot share my grief.  It is mine alone, but I was wrong.  
Grief is not owned - it can be shared - it is plural - a pair – 
One gives, another receives - both are cleansed and blessed.

Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief.
--Joseph Addison

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4)

Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you
--I Peter 5:7

Sometimes a butterfly (For Bill Perry)

On weary days sometimes a butterfly lights on my window.  
Its bright colors illuminate my day and lighten the gloom.
On sunny days with warm breezes sometimes a butterfly 
delights me with its acrobatics flitting from this place to that.
I watch as it moves from flower to flower carrying life-giving pollen from one place to another.  What a bleak place the world would be without them.

Some people are like butterflies carrying life giving ideas from one place to another.  
They spread beauty and peace wherever they go.

I have a favorite butterfly who enriches my day 
– as he moves gently touching this life and that.  
I call him Bill - as I ponder his path of beauty and peace 
– I am sure a few people are sometimes a butterfly.

A road taken (For Bill Perry)

The stranger moved slowly along the side of the road – picking up a bottle or paper – some were placed in his sack, others were tossed away.  Some were poured into another bottle and sparkled in the sunlight – others were dark and gray – almost ashes and soot.

Often he laughed, sometimes frowned – but all and all he had a pleasant demeanor.  Approaching the spot where I sat, he called – “Hello Stranger – have you a thought for today?”

I had seen many pass where I sat on the highway – some spoke - some not – but none had ever asked me a question –

“Have I a though for today?” – I asked. I didn’t know.

“Well, I guess that it is pleasant to sit here on life’s highway watching the comings and goings,” I spoke.  “I’m not sure where I started or where I am going – this road looks much like the others that I’ve traveled – so I decided to sit.  Would you care to stop and sit with me here?”

‘Oh – no thank you,” the stranger said – “I have miles to go before I sleep.”  We both laughed at the ancient line.  “You look so comfortable sitting there.  Are you sure that you have nothing to share?   I find sadness and happiness but never contentment discarded along the highway.”

He spoke again, “I have many bottles in my sack – they are all so very precious to me.  They are filled with memories of where I’ve been and where I’m going – of those I know and those I’ll meet.  So much joy and happiness is contained in this sack that I often cannot walk for laughing.”  He chuckle at another thought.   “Are you sure that you have no thought that I might carry or take to relieve you?”

“No sir, I’m content to sit here and wait.”

“Well, I must hurry – so much to do,” he said.  “I’m so glad that I chose to come this way.”   He turned and smiled, “Did you know that there are one hundred and sixty bottles a mile?”

The kindness of strangers

My brother has died and is now buried.I am the last of our family – and I feel sorry for myself and sadness for my brother.

His last comfort and understanding came not from his family, but from strangers.
Strangers who listened and cared when family and friends turned from him.  There is so much that I could not forgive which I recognize as my failure.

This isn’t a lack of love – the emotion is there - it is rather a hesitation to open and fully commit your heart.I heard the same tone from his children – a need to vent the injustice that they had suffered.I did not speak of the past and encouraged them to focus of the good.I am convinced that the evil that men do should be put away and only the good illuminated.

I kept a temporary peace to commit my brother’s soul to our God.  I am sad that it could not be more.I cannot fill the gap that their father did not bridge.He could not forgive them and they cannot forgive one another or themselves.

The only thing that keeps humans from utterly destroying one another is forgiveness and understanding– then kindness can allow healing.  It is the only way to kill hate and envy.

The kindness of strangers gave my brother the strength and joy to face his last struggles and days.He found joy and basked in the comfort that they gave him.I am grateful because I could not.  I sang, spoke good words, shared hugs and tears, but within my heart– I did not forgive.

From: OTHO EAKIN [] 
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2006 11:57 PM
To: Reggie Eakin
Subject: what is wrong with me

Hi Reggie
I have Pulmonary Fibrosis that’s scare tissue on my lungs there is no cure I take breathing med four times a day with a nebulizer that opens my breathing tubes when I move my body from one place to another I get short of breath that causes the cough it's tough it takes cough med time to work some times it doesn't the worst time is when I go to bed I forgot to tell you I have a new power chair my other one died Medicare came through Cost $7000.00 

Good night love Otho

From: Reggie Eakin 
Sent: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 9:53 AM
Cc: ''
Subject: RE: what is wrong with me
Thanks – It sounded like something new had happened to your lungs in addition to the Pulmonary Fibrosis.  From my reading the average lifespan after diagnosis of the disease is 3-6 years – 10 years is not unusual.  It sounds like the disease has accelerated from when I saw you in Florida. 

Write me something every day even if it is just - Hello.

Love Reggie

From: OTHO EAKIN [] 
Sent: Friday, June 16, 2006 5:15 PM
To: Reggie Eakin
Subject: Re: daily message #2

Hi Reggie
I wrote message at 3 am I got my power chair back took it for a test run to store worked fine have power left it's 5pm will start fixing supper soon by the way HAPPY FATHERS DAY the trip to Bankok will be a long trip hope they have food on the filght how long do you expect to be gone perhaps you will be able to see some of the sights there should be some nice temples etc. it won't be too long till you will be your own boss closing now love to all Otho

From: Reggie Eakin 
Sent: Monday, June 19, 2006 9:00 AM
Subject: RE: daily message #2
The flight is 18 hours from Atlanta to Bangkok with two plane changes in Seattle and Japan.  I’ll be gone about ten days – all of my time in Bangkok will be in a warehouse at the airport.  I’m not likely to see much but the hotel and the warehouse offices.  There is a problem right now between the two computer systems.  If it isn’t resolved then the trip will be delayed to August or September.

I had a good Father’s day.  I talked with my daughters and grandchildren.  After church Janet and I went out to eat – came home and took a long nap.  

From: OTHO EAKIN [] 
Sent: Wednesday, July 26, 2006 10:07 PM
To: Reggie Eakin
Subject: checking in

Hope this finds you getting some sleep you have been in the air for some time do you have a good seat my day hasn't been all that good couldn't seem to keep cough under control see the lung Dr. on the 31st good night

Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2006 5:23 AM
Subject: RE: checking in

I’m in Icon, Korea.  I lost 12 hours when I crossed the dateline.  I’m in the second floor lounge looking at the rain through the windows.  My plane leaves at 8:45PM – it’s 4:30 PM now.  I’m trying to stay awake.

From: OTHO EAKIN [] 
Sent: Tuesday, August 01, 2006 3:32 PM
To: Reggie Eakin
Subject: Lung Dr

Bringing you up to date Dr my lungs were in serious condition that I have one year and two at the most to live that I should start making plans to live with some one or some one to live with me I don't know if OE will be able to help me I will call him in a few minutes 
Love Otho

Sent: Wednesday, August 02, 2006 4:42 AM
Subject: RE: Lung Dr

You may need to reconsider assisted living arrangements.  You may come to the time when there is no other choice.  It is very difficult to live under a roof that is not your own roof – after you have been on your own.

You have lived longer than Edna, John, or Mom and had a better quality of life than poor Edna ever had.  There is much to be thankful for and celebrate.  Janet’s parents died when they were 62 and 69 years old.  I hope that I am able to live on my own as long as you have.  I hope that I have 20 more years to live and be able to celebrate 81 years of life.  

Those life and death choices are not ours to make – they belong to God.  We accept them, do the best we can, and celebrate our blessings.  The circumstances in which we live may not be to our liking, but how we live in those circumstances is our choice.

You face some difficult choices – make the most of enjoying the time God has given you.

Love, your brother

Sent: Friday, August 04, 2006 12:33 AM
To: Reggie Eakin
Subject: Re: Answer to prayers

I have been asking God to help me what to do I got my answer today Warren and Dorothy came by after supper told me that when my lease runs out they will have a place in their home for me that was a wonderful gift from God I will have to get rid of a lot of my things that I don't really
   How was your day today and when do you leave there it's12:30 am time to go to bed
 Love Otho

Fri 8/4/2006 3:04 AM
I am in Germany now at our warehouse in Nueradre.  I will leave Saturday morning and arrive in Atlanta on Saturday afternoon.


To: 'blizzard' 
Sent: Tuesday, September 26, 2006 2:30 PM
Subject: Otho Eakin 

I spoke with Mr. Keesling today.  Here is what I learned.

1. Otho did visit with Mr.Keesling.  The cemetery and grave opening are in order.  The Funeral home in Florida will not issue a credit for the coffin.
2. Mr. Kessling contacted the Florida Funeral Home and they will ship Otho’s coffin to Nelsen Funeral Home only after he dies.
3. The Funeral Home is precluded by law from accepting a pre-payment from me.  Another agency (insurance company) can accept prepayments.
4. Your power of attorney terminates when Otho dies therefore you could not make funeral arrangements after his death.  Only the next of kin can do so.
5. I asked if the Funeral Home could accept the endorsed insurance policy toward payment of the funeral costs.  They can accept the endorsed policy if the insurance company allows it.  He would need the information on the policy so that he could call them. 

He suggested that it would be best to make arrangements prior to Otho dying.  If you could stop and talk with him it would be helpful. (I plan to be back up there October 13 and 14.  One of my employees is taking FMLA to care for her Mother who has terminal cancer.  I have to work around the weeks that she stays with her.)  

I should have made time to come to Virginia sooner and gone over everything with Otho.  We are asking way too much of you and Dorothy.   Let me know what you think.


Sent: Thursday, November 02, 2006 8:44 AM
Subject: Visit

I’ve talked with Otho and he is in isolation.  Staff infections usually take a long time to clear up.  Janet and I are still planning to make a trip to Virginia on Saturday 11/11/06.   Janet got a bacterial infection during our last visit and it took about two weeks to clear up.  I think it was from the germs Otho was coughing into the air.

We are going to drove up Friday night after work stopping when we get too tired to drive.  So it will be Saturday before we arrive.

Are you going to be in town? And can we talk?  


Sent: Wednesday, February 07, 2007 9:18 AM
To: 'blizzard'
Subject: RE: Fw: Reggie Eakin
Thanks for the update.  Monday was Otho’s birthday.  He would have been 82. 


Now I am alone with my childhood memories
– there are no others who share them.
 Otho was the last my parents family except for me.
 I write them here so that others may know them from my words. 
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