Unforgettable……forever etched in my mind

Recently I was at mom’s and there was a card left on the counter. I had already heard about the card. Alex told me about it! knew it if it brought tears to his eyes, I was in trouble. It was just a good thing that no one was there.

I knew Mom had left it there for me to read. So, I picked it up and began to slowly read the words Dr Anthony had written to Mom. It began something to the effect that it was way over due but wanted to let her know what a privilege it had been to have known Ned. His words were, “I think of Ned often. He is etched in my heart.”

As I read those words, all of the things that people said about him come flooding back.

A few days prior to his death, I asked family, co-workers and friends to tell me 3 words that came to mind when they thought of Ned. The response was overwhelming and we were able to read all of them to him prior to his death. He knew he was well-loved. In fact those at the Elizabeth House knew how loved he was. During his eight days there, there were more than 100 people who came to visit him.

At Ned’s request, I spoke at his Celebration service. I told the crowd there I was perplexed when he insisted that I speak on his behalf because he frequently gave me a hard time about my excessive talkativeness, dubbing it often as “diarrhea of the mouth”.

As I began to prepare for what God would have me say, I asked specifically for one word. Actually, I asked for a song with a one word title to best describe him. Almost instantaneously, the song, “Unforgettable” popped into my head. “That’s it. Precisely.” Then I began to pray over the scripture passage to use and one of my all-time favorites resonated clearly, Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.”

As God began to weave my thoughts with words, even I was shocked how quickly it all came together.

One of the most important aspects was not to just let people know what I thought about Ned but to also share how others including family, friends and coworkers felt about him.

Listed below are the things people said:

Unforgettable in every way!

Family:

Mom- love of my life

Terry- loyal, family, Nitro

Kristi- selfless, giving, caring, stubborn

David -loyal, dry, caring

Ryan – hardworking, devoted, stubborn

Matthew – my hero

Alex -stubborn, generous, dynamic

Amy- stubborn, strong, caring

Zach- stubborn, caring, strong

Haleigh -ornery, loving, stern

Marshall & June- stubborn, generous and rabid Florida St fan

Jennifer- love for Ann, stubborn, Seminole fan

Mark-smiling, fun-loving, and family oriented. Maxine-musical, faithful, and funny

Co-Workers

Amber- stubborn, loving, Ann

Mike Miller — Do you know how hard it is to describe Ned in 3 words, well here it goes: Friend, Mentor, and Blessing

Elizabeth Kohl — Great sense of humor, Compassionate, Down to Earth

Stephanie Cantwell — I can’t do just three! Wonderful Godly example as a supervisor, leader, husband, father and grandfather. We always knew where he stood but even when we were in the wrong he would discipline with a gentle heart and hand. It was a true pleasure to work with him and call him a friend.

Chris Denny

Here are my three words for The General; grouchy old codger! No not really, he was an example of a solid Christian man who lived his life setting that example, true to his faith and a very kind and caring soul. Once you found it! ūüėÄ ok that was more than three but I couldn‚Äôt think of single words to express what he represents to me.

Steve Carter — FAITHFUL, ENDURING, HONORABLE

Jerry Rice ‚Äď Faithful loving husband

Cheryl Griffin ‚Äď Happy Papaw Nedward

‚Äď Humourous, Direct, Humble

Jerry Hartline ‚Äď Loyal, Stubborn, Definitely a Christian

Cecelia Rossell ‚Äď Stubbornly loving and caring

Friends

Doris & Robert- supportive, wholehearted, prompt, outspoken

Jim & Retha- OK Kelly. I talked with Retha. Here’s what we came up with.

Integrity – he always wants to do the right thing. You couldn’t get him to cheat if you wanted to.

Kindhearted ‚Äď beneath that sometimes rough appearing exterior, he would do anything for you we have observed.

Missions ‚Äď nobody could do it like Ned, and nobody ever will.

Bob & Carol Friend loyal honest direct. Talented, committed, Nitro

Robert & Norma Ned was a Friend, Christian servant, Missions-minded, Faithful, Focused, Organized, Dry, Frank, Competitive, and Meticulous.

It’s evident that Ned’s life had a profound effect on everyone who knew him!

I think most of us will agree that his stubbornness, while sometimes, abrasive, was the driving force behind the last 19 months of his courageous fight. He touched the lives of many, including those who took care of him.

He loved with great passion! He never did anything half way! He always finished everything he started including finishing his earthly race with dignity and pride!

What he said the day he decided to allow Hospice to care for him!

He left a mark, one way or another, on everyone he encountered. He passing is leaving a substantial void but his legacy is one to be admired and mimicked. Be who you are, no matter who you’re with and no matter where you go!

Ned Whitmire. You truly made your dash count.

Enjoy celebrating your 1st birthday in Heaven. For those of us you left behind, it’s still difficult to do life without you. You were such an integral part of all of our lives. We wouldn’t wish you back but knowing you’re waiting for us makes the desire and taste of Heaven sweeter every day.

It all began with Fireworks

It all began with fireworks. I guess the should’ve known they were destined to become one!

On July 5, 1976 Mom took Kristi, age 5 and David, age 1, to the fireworks show at Brevard High School. They were delayed a day because of a monsoon rain on the 4th of July. Little did she know that God already had been working behind the scenes to make sure that Ned would be at the very same place with his two nieces, Sheila and Jennifer.

Mom and Ned had both grown up in Brevard and actually attended school together and graduated from Brevard High School in 1964. So, they knew each other but they had never been friends, just acquaintances. In fact Mom wasn’t really impressed with him in school because she dubbed him as the “class clown” and he was in trouble a lot!

At the fireworks show, Kristi sat with friends Betty and Larry Owen. So Mom found herself and David a seat. A few minutes later, Ned saw her and sat down beside her. The last time they’d seen each other was their Class Reunion a few years prior and Ned was engaged and Mom was pregnant with David. Mom naturally assumed he was married and that Sheila and Jennifer were his children.

They talked. Ned’s dad had passed away in March after having colon cancer. Mom told him Daddy “Mack” had died in April, of course Ned already knew that. In fact Mom said that’s probably why he came and sat down beside me! (She’s probably right). Mom said he held David throughout much of the fireworks. Oddly enough when they said their goodbyes, he didn’t ask for her phone number.

After their encountered, Mom said one night she fell to her knees and begged God to bring her someone to help her. She recognized she couldn’t raise three children on her own. And wouldn’t you know, a few days later Ned called. He actually used a telephone book to find her number. He told her The Letterman were going to be in Asheville and asked if she wanted to go with him.

Her response. Wait for it…….”I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my Mother!” I still find this hilarious. Mom is 30 years old and has to consult with her Mom. It wasn’t for approval as much as advice. Mom was afraid of what people might think. My grandmother told her that she shouldn’t worry about what others thought. If she wanted to, she should. Best advice Colleen could give her daughter. So, she accepted Neds invitation and they went to see The Letterman in concert in August.

My Mom had made a promise to herself not to marry until two years had passed after Daddy’s death.

After a year she and Ned were continuing to date exclusively. Mom was sickly at the time. All the stress of Daddy’s death coupled with raising three children on her own began to take a toil on her body. She ended up in the hospital with phlebitis.

During her hospitalization Ned stood by her side. In fact, as he tells the story to me, “I knew she couldn’t run away, so I decided that was he perfect time to propose.” She said, “Yes!”

It was decided they would marry on June 10, 1978. Mom said even up until the day before the wedding she asked God to give her a sign if he wasn’t the one. Obviously, Ned was the one because the wedding went off without a hitch. Ned would often tell her, “You know that the say, third times a charm.” He said this to her because he had been engaged twice before.

You just never know how powerful a fireworks show can be when God is orchestrating the details of your life!

Learning about the Good Shepherd

I had a plan to write a New Year’s blog which was obviously interrupted. That’s the thing I’ve learned, sometimes God stops me. He puts ideas and thoughs on hold or changes the direction of my writing entirely.

As 2017 came to a close, I was reminded of how it began. Laughter and joyous celebration. The anticipation of a new year. The thankfulness in our hearts because Ned was doing well and looking forward to sharing another year with him.

As we moved into February, I ¬†felt¬†the spirit of God working and moving in our lives. During this time, I received an unexpected text from a dear One asking me to pray about starting a Bible Study with her. ¬†I didn’t need time to think or pray about whether this was God’s will or desire. ¬†I had already been praying for a year and a half for God to open up the doors for a Bible Study.

In March we began our study with Finding I Am by Lysa TerKeurst. In this study, like the title suggests, we were encouraged to find and explore the I Am statements that Jesus makes about himself through the Gospel of John.

The most memorable declaraione for me,personally, is the following:

I am the good shepherd .

John 10: 11-18 New International Version (NIV)

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14¬†‚ÄúI am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me‚ÄĒ 15¬†just as the Father knows me and I know the Father‚ÄĒand I lay down my life for the sheep. 16¬†I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17¬†The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life‚ÄĒonly to take it up again. 18¬†No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

It reminds me of my deep need for a shepherd. One who protects me from danger. One who looks for me if I lose my way. One who calls my name and I hear his voice and I know Him and He knows me. Most importantly one who is willing to sacrifice His life for me. I am just a sheep in desperate need of shepherd.

It’s no coincidence that at the time we were studying this particular statement that Ned’s condition would begin to turn iffy. His breathing quickly becoming more labored. CAT scan would reveal swollen lymph nodes. Bronchoscopy and biopsy confirms cancer has returned. His fear. Mom’s fear. Our greatest fear confirmed. Our hopes quickly dashed. Disappointment set in. But wait! There is hope. Hope is always there. Why? Because Jesus always there. He is our Good Shepherd and He will never leave us, even in the most trying and difficult of days.

A few days before Ned’s CAT scan would reveal the swollen lymph nodes, Alex graduated from Blue Ridge Community College with his Associates degree. Mom and Ned were able to be there to celebrate with him. Ned was complaining o shortness of breath but still managed to walk a mile to watch Alex graduate. The blessing and joy of being there for Alex, outweighed any struggles he was having that day, Again, the Good Shepherd providing for his sheep.

At the close of May, our daughter Amy would make conference for WCU Track & Field . Mom and Ned were unable to attend this event. However, Terry and I were able to go for the two-day event and watch as Amy finished 9th in Hammer Throw, 7th in Shot Put, 8th in Discus and Javelin Throw, We had a more cause to celebrate and see how Jesus was graciously caring for us.

The molecular testing on Ned’s biopsy showed that he was. “Great candidate” for the drug Keytruda. His efficiency PDL-1 rating was 90% indicating the overall response of his cancer to the drug would be favorable. The overall side effects were substantially fewer, a lot less than his previous chemotherapy treatments. Overall response of current patients using the drug e was also favorable.. Obviously there were risks and they were clearly and audibly disclosed. I sat in the office with Ned as Kate Kennedy, Dr. Anthony’s P.A., discussed them. The percentage of severe risks were extremely low, The drug, by all appearances, would be a perfect match for him. On June 13th I sat with him while his first treatment was administered. He was excited at the possibility of this new treatment being just right for him.

It wouldn’t take but a few days before Ned developed a rash and intensified cough. Side effects, common ones, from Keytruda. Fortunately, the initial dose of prednisone cleared his rash. It didn’t do much for the cough. After the second round the rash returned and the cough remained. It was irritating and uncontrollable at times. There would be random outbursts. Periods of lull but nothing completely diminishing the cough. This time they gave him more stronger dose of steroids and added some cough suppressants. The cough becoming a total nuisance began causing pain in his right side and back. But it was too early in the ballgame to make a judgement call on the effectiveness of the Keytruda. We all felt highly confident in the advice and assessments given from. Dr. Anthony and Kate. We knew Ned was in good hands. Another wonderful provision from our Good Shepherd.

The day after Ned’s third round of Keytruda, Alex went over the visit. He was leaving for college on Friday. He came home and said, “Mom, Papaw is pitiful. I’ve never seen him so weak. Something is right”. I told him it was probably just due to the treatment from the previous day and I would check on him the next day.

Wednesday was a better day. I didn’t get too worked up. He said he just felt tired and if he could get rid of that “stinking aggravating cough, he would feel better”.

I decided to start researching every medication and supplement he was currently taking. Looking at all the common and non-common side effects. Dang! Getting that involved in drugs and their side effects will cause you to question the value of medication.

On Friday, Alex and Amy both went to visit before Alex’s departure. They came home saying , “Mom, Papaw isn’t well. He’s so weak he struggles to get out of his chair.” Now, one thing to understand about my kids is they’re not the melodramatic type. If anything they are fairly low key and don’t get worked up quickly. So, I knew it wasn’t good,

We decided to go by on Saturday before we took Amy to school, just to check on him. He said he felt a little better but I wasn’t convinced. He looked terrible. His side and back were in excruciating pain. He wasn’t able to sleep in his bed. He found more comfort on his chair or the couch. When we got ready to leave with Amy, she bent down to give him a kiss. That wasn’t good enough for him. He said, “Hang on, I’m getting up so I can hug you before you leave.” At that moment, when I watched how challenging it was for him to stand, I knew things were on a downward slope. This just wasn’t our Ned or Papaw.

Due to taking kids back to back days to college, Terry and I already decided to forgo driving to Greenville to church. We went out for a celebratory breakfast and predetermined to go check on Ned. Before we got to our breakfast destination I got a picture test from Mom. Ned was sitting slouched over at the table. Arms crossed and head down. Caption read: He tried to come sit and take his meds.

As soon as we get there, their dear friends are already there checking in. They had seen a substantial decline since Thursday. They were concerned. We were all concerned. Ned was being stubborn and refusing to let Mom call the doctor.

Did I tell you that Ned met his match for stubbornness when he crossed paths with me? If not, he did! I didn’t just insist he call the doctor. I called for him. With him in the background saying, ” I don’t know why you’re bothering to call. There’s nothing they can do.”

Dr Anthony was quite perplexed when I shared with him the radical decline. He tried to get Ned to go to the ER. Ned convinced him that he didn’t need to go and would be ok until he saw him the next day. Reluctantly, Dr Anthony agreed.

Thus began the poking and prodding to find the cause. After researching Ned’s symptoms and side effects Keytruda as well lab results. It was discovered that Ned’s body was not tolerating the Keytruda and it was creating an adrenal insufficiency.

Obviously, Keytruda would be stopped and full intent to go back on chemo drug Alimta. However, the symptoms needed to be managed first. The only problem with symptom management was the need for other drugs. The need for other drugs constituted various other side effects. Yet, hope remained.

A bone scan revealed 3 distinctive spots not present during a previous bone scan. The cancer was now metastatic and would need to be addressed sooner rather than later. However, Ned’s body was not strong enough for treatment due to the side effects from Keytruda. Keep in mind the side effects Ned had were not common. Only a very small percentage of patients develop these issues. Like the rarity and uniqueness Ned’s cancer, his body reacted to drugs the same way.

On September 13, Kristi, my sister would call and FaceTime me to show me how pitiful he was. He had barely talked, wasn’t eating, couldn’t get comfortable. He and mom sitting on the couch. He was slumped over and she was sitting with her arm around his slumped shoulders. I told Kristi that I was calling the doctor.

This call would result in EMS coming to get him. He would not return home. Well, not his earthly home.

At some point, God will probably open my mouth to share about the last 6 weeks of his life but many parts of that story are still raw and painful. Suffice to say, he was blessed with good care everywhere he was taken. Jesus, the Good Shepherd continuing to provide.

On October 29, God called him home and he gladly went. His body was tired. His fight was long and hard. We Had hooked beyond all hope that God will heal him here on earth. God said, “No! His work is done here and I want him with me”.

All during and through Neds illness and death our family witnessed a huge outpouring of deep love and support from family, friends and former co-workers. Again, The Good Shepherd giving us all we need. Protection. Food. Love. Comfort. Sacrifice.

The key thing about Jesus, The Good Shepherd, is that he was willing to lay his life down for yours. When dark shadows refuse to reveal light. When the tests are screaming bad news. When your bank account is dry. When your hope runs on empty. When you feel like you can’t go on. Remember. Jesus paid it all. He felt everything you are feeling. He’s the only one who fully knows and understands. Because of the high price he paid for us, He is our hope. He is our joy. He is our Good Shepherd, if we’ve put our hope and trust in Him by inviting Him into our hearts.

Look how David so eloquently describes the Lord as his Shepherd.

In closing, 2017 will go down in the yearbook as one of the most difficult years on record for me and for my family.  However, even through the most challenging times, the many tears we cried, watching our loved one lose his life, Jesus was and continues to be our constant source of strength and hope.

A big thank you to all who continue to read my blog. ¬†I’m not sure where 2018 will take us, but I know that God already has it mapped out. ¬†As He leads, I will continue to write.

A new understanding

For the longest time I never understood how folks could become so attached to their animals. Let’s face it, growing up with a Basset Hound is not what I consider to be the ideal family pet.  She wasn’t a bad dog, she just wasn’t that stereotypical, picture perfect dog that could be classified as “man’s best friend.”  Of course, she was never allowed in our house, only the basement part of our garage and only when it was frigid outside, or she was in heat, or when she had pups. How could one get so attached to a creature that spent most days roaming the yard or woods?  Duchess wasn’t a dog who would just sit and enjoy being petted. Plus, she smelled, as most hounds do,  and she hated baths.  As soon as she was out of the bath, she was running to find dirt or grass so she could roll around and dirty herself up again.  In other words, she just wasn’t a dog that captured your heart, at least not for me, my sister and brother may disagree.

Anyway, when Terry and I were first married, we took in a stray cat because he refused to get the boys a dog. To be honest, I am not a cat person.  I learned to like them because of my children.  In fact, you learn to like a lot of things for those you love.  We’ve had several cats and buried several cats.  A couple even ran away, maybe for better food or for more adventure. Who knows.  Anyway, I just don’t have a particular fondness for cats. Obviously, I was sad when one of them died or went missing, but not completely heartbroken.  I was more heartbroken for my kids because they were heartbroken.

Finally when Amy turned 10 Terry decided it was time to get a dog.  The dog would be “her” Christmas gift. One afternoon before Christmas, Alex, Amy and I went to the local pet store to scan and look at the puppies.  There were plenty of cute puppies to choose from but the Bichons caught our eye.  I don’t know if it was because they looked like little cotton puff balls curled up beside one another or if their cute little black noses and eyes(Side note: Bichon’s do not have fur.  They have hair.  It actually grows like our hair, which is why it has to be cut every 5-6 weeks) Maybe it’s because I knew ahead of time the breed is hypoallergenic and that was important to me. Needless to say, I gravitated to the Bichon and even took a picture of Amy holding him.  Sent it to Terry.  He said, “We’ll see.”

A few days later, December 24, 2008, Terry and I went back to the pet store to peruse and find the perfect dog for Amy.  Again, we were surrounded by multiple choices and some really adorable dogs.  Of course I migrated toward the Bichons and finally persuaded Terry to come look at them and then it happened.  I encouraged him to hold one and I held the other one. After a few minutes the owner came over to talk to us.  He was telling Terry all of the benefits to having a Bichon, just like I had previously told him. It also helped when he told us the breeder was going to lower her price because it was Christmas Eve.  Terry chose the one he wanted by putting them both back in the crate and observing their behavior.  He chose the more calm one.

That happened nine years ago.

Remember the dog is for Amy, right?  Amy didn’t pick the dog.  Terry picked the dog.  Amy didn’t name the dog.  Terry named the dog.  So who’s dog is it anyway?

Most days he’s my dog.  Oh, he loves to curl up on Terry’s lap when he’s home.  Terry says, “He’s the only dog I know that can make you tired because he’s tired.”  I have to remind him that a Bichon Frise means “curled up lap dog”.  He definitely lives up to his breed.   He follows me.  When I get up, especially if I’m heading into the kitchen he follows me. There have been times when I’ve had to cook with him on my hip just like when my children were babies. If I’m not holding him, he lays on the floor and watches my every move.  Of course he’s hoping I’ll drop something so he can scoff it up. He’s always excited to see me when I get home.  He comes to me when he needs to go outside.  He lets me know when he’s out of food or water, which doesn’t happen often, just every now and then. He takes care of me when I’m sick, or at least he thinks he does.  He just curls up right beside me or on my lap and won’t leave my side until I get up. He’s highly protective of me.  He’s the best watch dog. His bark is annoying and aggravating but no one is getting in my house without warning. I absolutely adore him.  All of the kids accuse me of loving the dog more than I love them.  There may be some truth to that.  He’s always delighted to see me.  He doesn’t talk back.  I can hold him and love on him anytime I want.  He will always stay little and he will always need me.

Now I completely understand how people become so attached to their fur babies.  They truly become part of the family.  I really can’t imagine what it would be like without the company Sammy provides for me.  I know I will miss him terribly when he is no longer with us because he is a part of our family.

There are many things in life that we do not understand.  We don’t understand because we don’t have the experience.  Experience is a teacher.  Once we’ve learned by the experience, then and only then, can we share the lessons we learn and impart knowledge and wisdom gained along the way. I know wheat it’s like to watch a parent suffer and die. I know and understand from the standpoint of a young child and older adult.. However, I don’t have the foggiest clue of what it feels like to lose a spouse or child to death. I can pray for them, empathize with them and point them to others who’ve had that experience but I cannot impart any great knowledge or truly understand how it feels. It would be a travesty for me to try to impart some wisdom or truth into something I know nothing about. On the other hand, it’s a travesty if I’ve been given wisdom and knowledge and refuse or neglect to share what I’ve learned with others who are facing similar situations. Remember people need people. We were not designed to go it alone. God never intended for us to do life alone.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.. James 3:17

First Week….First Christmas tree and first sleepless nights!

Our story continued……

Our first week of marriage had some rough spots. So, if you’re under the impression that we’ve somehow just sailed through the past 23 years, I’m sorry to disappoint you and tell you that we’ve had our share of struggles.

Obviously our honeymoon couldn’t last a full week because of Christmas coming. We headed to Murrels Inlet on December 17 and returned on December 21.

Since we had closed on the house the 7th of December, we were all set up and ready to move in. We picked the boys up from my parents and went to our new home.

We didn’t have a Christmas tree and I wanted to put on in the picture window. I asked Terry if he and the boys would go find us a tree. In the meantime, I could finish unpacking those few remaining boxes and get the lights and ornaments ready for the tree

When they arrived back with the tree, I was disappointed, to say the least. The tree poorly misshapen, dry as a bone, needles falling with each move. Terry assured me that was the best they had to pick from. It reminded me of the Charlie Brown tree, only larger and a little more full.

Once we got the tree set in the stand, we realized the trunk wasn’t exactly straight. It had a slight curve which caused it to be cattywampus! A clearly defined lean-to the right. (If I ever find a picture, I’ll share it). We straightened it with the base as much as we could.

Finally, the tree was ready for lights and decorations. Now, I have a thing for blown glass tree ornaments and had purchased a ton of these before Ryan was born. Since the boys were both small and wanted to help, I knew better than to let them hang the ornaments. I hung them around the middle and top and let them hang the non-breakables around the bottom, where their little hands could reach.

Once decorated, the once frail looking tree, had life. Our first tree! We were all proud of it. The only foreseeable issue was the lean-to and the distinct possibility the tree could topple.

We had thoroughly enjoyed our first full day as a family of four. Then came the first night.

Considering that the boys and I lived with my parents and Matthew didn’t sleep through the night. He was accustomed to getting out of bed and crawling in the bed with me. If I wasn’t home, he crept downstairs and got in bed with Mom and Ned. Terry was well aware of this and had already told me that Matthew was not sleeping with us.

“He’s 3 years old and old enough to be sleeping by himself ¬†Besides, he’s in a bad habit of not sleeping through the night becasuse you and your parents have allowed him to get in bed with you. ¬†I’m not sharing my bed with a 3 year old. ¬†I’m sharing my bed with you.”

We tucked the boys in ¬†They shared a room because that’s what they were accustomed to, even at Mom’s. ¬†They went to sleep right away. ¬†Terry and I went to bed. ¬†He locked our bedroom door to keep Matthew from coming in. ¬†We had nightlights all over the house, thanks to Mamaw. ¬†Like clockwork, around 2:00 AM, Matthew gets out of the bed. ¬†Our house was small and I could hear the pitter-patter of little feet, not to mention, we had some creaky floors. ¬†He came to the door and turned the knob. ¬†It was locked. ¬†He knocked gently on the door.

Terry said, “Matthew, go back to bed.”

At this point, he started to cry and knocked louder. ¬†Terry kept reassuring him he would be fine and needed to go back to bed. ¬†I was crying too. ¬†It was breaking my heart to hear him cry but I knew I had to break the cycle. ¬†It’s just hard and especially when Matthew was my baby, at the time.

After a few minutes the crying ceased,  I drifted back to sleep.  The next morning we were up early.  Upon opening the door, we found Matthew curled up outside our bedroom door with a blanket.

The next night, the same thing, only there was less crying and Matthew did go back to his room  The third night, he came and only a gentle knock at the door.  No crying.  He went straight back to his bedroom.  That was the last night he got up in the middle of the night. From that point on, he slept straight through the night, at least when he was home.

I remeber telling Terry I felt like he was ripping my heart and Matthew’s heart in pieces. Truth is, he was. ¬†It needed to happen. ¬†We just weren’t ready, at first. ¬†It was traumatic for all of us. ¬†Terry didn’t want to hurt either one of us. ¬†He just knew what was best. ¬†I hade to learn to trust that about him and so did Matthew.

We had a wonderful first Christmas and our tree was still hanging on, by a thread. ¬†We planned to take it down on Decebmer 28. ¬†It didn’t quite make it.

The boys were rough-housing, typical boy stuff you know? ¬†They can’t help themselves. They dashed through the dining room into the living room and somehow Matthew’s hefty little self hit the tree. ¬†Still, to this day, have no clue how it happened. ¬†It just did and suddenly, like the great mulitude of angels singing, there was a great mulitude of cracking and breaking of glass. ¬†Remember, I had all those lovely blown-glass ornaments around the middle and top section of the tree. ¬†The thud. ¬†The crash. ¬†The breaking of glass. ¬†I knew what happened and in a fit of rage, I screamed at both of the boys. ¬†Sent them to their rooms and started crying over those shards of broken glass.

I didn’t think one time about the fact that neither one of them had been injured or cut by the glass. ¬†At that moment, all I could think about was my lovely, beautiful ornmanets destroyed.

I was so angry that I made Terry angry.  He didnt yell and scream at the boys but he did give them a good talking to.

Then he and Matthew both tried to console me. ¬†Matthew said, ‘Momma, I’m sorry. ¬†We can get you some new ones.”

I didn’t want new ones. ¬†I didn’t want to be consoled. ¬†I just wanted to be angry.

A little while later, after I finally calmed down, Terry came to talk to me.  He let me know very quickly that I had behaved like a child.  Sadly, I knew he was right.  He also reminded me that the cattywampus tree was probably destined to fall anyway.  He also reminded me that those boys were little.  They were going to play rough.  Things were going to get broken.

After this incident, I would love to tell you I never had a childish outburst again, but that would be a lie.  What did happen after this particular outburst was my attitude towards things of value began changing.  I began to see the importance of lives over things.  I began to see that the hearts and lives of my children were far greater than any blown-glass Christmas ornament on my tree.  I slowly began to change my perspective.

The other valuable lesson through our first days together was learning that Terry and I had to communicate. ¬†We had to talk about our feelings about things and we had to work them out. ¬†We didn’t always have to approve of eachothers behaviors or attidudes but we did have to learn to effectively communicate. ¬†If we were going to make this marriage thing work, we had to talk but more importantly, we had to learn to put God at the center of everything. ¬†It was a choice that we had to make then and one we are still making today.

The Proposal and the Wedding

The Proposal and Wedding

“Ephesians 5:31Amplified Bible (AMP)

31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall be joined [and be faithfully devoted] to his wife, and the two shall become [a]one flesh.

If memory serves correctly, the¬†closing on the house was on December 7th.¬† Thanksgiving came and went without a proposal.¬† Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed.¬† However, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was talking¬†my sister on the phone and she asked, “When are you getting married?”¬† I told her that I was clueless and she asked to talk to Terry.

After a few minutes, Terry handed the phone back to me and she was screaming, “Oh my gosh, you’re getting married December 17th!!!”¬† Stunned¬†and a¬†little confused, I said, “Really?¬† He hasn’t even asked me, but he’s already set the date?¬† Ok!”

So I get off the phone and Terry says, “Well I had to give her a date because she’s coming home from Texas and she wanted to plan her trip around our wedding.”

“Maybe he’s not going to ask the old-fashioned way and maybe he’s not even giving me a ring.”¬† I thought silently.¬† Oddly, I was ok with that.

The following weekend was my birthday, but I was already committed for the weekend performances of the Messiah; so any celebrating had to wait.

On Monday Terry asked if I would go eat with him at Red Lobster.  As we drove to Greenville, our plans for the wedding were coming together (yes still without an official proposal).  We were going to have a small family wedding in the chapel at First Baptist.

We finished our meal and ordered dessert, as we were finishing, Terry moved his right hand across the table and turned his hand over, revealing a diamond ring he was wearing on his pinky finger. Oh the elation and excitement, I thought my heart would pop out of my chest.¬† Then, he asked, “Will you marry me?”¬† By now, several other patrons realized what was happening, so of course, all eyes and ears were on me.¬† “Of course I’ll marry you.”

And so it was settled…ring and all…December 17, 1994

Obviously, we didn’t leave ourselves much time to prepare or plan. The good news was that Mom had frozen a ton of leftover goodies from my sister’s wedding in April. ¬†We decided that we were not going to have anything elaborate. ¬†It was the second time for both of us.

The Chapel at First Baptist Hendersonville would serve us well.  The perfect place for a small gathering of family.  Immediate family only.  We had to draw the line somewhere.  Keep in mind that Terry comes from a large family.  His Mom and Dad had 6 children and Terry was the baby.  All of his siblings were married and had at least one child, at the time.

Besides, we couldn’t just pick out a few friends and not invite the whole lot of them. ¬†We would hurt people’s feelings. ¬†We just had no cut-off point. ¬†Aside from that, we were funding the wedding ourselves. ¬†My parents had already paid for one large shindig. ¬†We had just purchased a house. ¬†I was only working part-time. ¬†We just couldn’t justify spending a ton of money we didn’t have.

Our plans were made and everything was coming together. ¬†Anticipation and excitement filled the air. ¬†But wait…..a honeymoon. ¬†This discussion would become another source of contention between us.

Keep in mind, we were getting married only a week prior to Christmas and going somewhere for an entire week was out of the question. ¬†Terry kept saying let’s wait and we could just do a honeymoon later. ¬†I didn’t like that idea. ¬†Kristi had been telling me about the cottages in Gatlinburg. ¬†When I checked pricing, Terry erupted in an emphatic, “NO! ¬†We are not spending that kind of money for a few days.” ¬†Disappointment set in. ¬†Again, I knew better than to pitch a hissy fit and cry. ¬†I wouldn’t get my way. ¬†I just sucked it up and decided I would be ok with waiting.

Then it happened. ¬†Clear out of the blue. ¬†The Sunday evening before our wedding we were sitting in church waiting for Pastor Steve to preach. ¬†We sat beside Andy and Alice Lawson. ¬†Alice was a former English teacher at Hendersonville High School. ¬†Yes, one of Terry’s former teachers. ¬†She loved him. ¬†Her sweet husband Andy, a Nationwide Insurance Agent.

Alice put her hand on Terry’s knee, patting it gently and said, “We are so delighted to hear about your impending wedding. ¬†We are just thrilled for you both.” ¬†We graciously thanked her and then she leaned into Terry’s ear and asked, “Do you and Kelly like the beach?”
“We love the beach.” he replied.

“Do you have honeymoon plans? ¬†I know your engagement has been short-lived.” she inquired.

He responded, “No, actually we don’t have any plans.”

Instantly, she leaned over Terry and spoke directly to both of us, “Andy and I wanted to do something for you. ¬†We have a townhouse in Murrells Inlet and we would like for you to go stay there for your honeymoon. ¬†We will get the keys to you this week. ”

If I had any doubts, they suddenly disappeared.  I knew we were doing the right thing and I knew, while our timing was questioned by some, was the best time for us.

The day before the wedding, I made one change. ¬†I called Pastor Steve and told him we were going to add one more song. ¬†I felt very compelled to sing the song, “I see Jesus in you”.

I awakened the next morning to a brilliant Carolina blue sky and sunshine in my eyes.  A flutter of joy in my heart and a little skip in my step.  It was going to be a great day. It was, after all, our wedding day.

Last year I asked Terry a question I’d pondered for awhile. ¬†“You were so certain I would say “yes” to your proposal that you planned the date of our wedding before you asked me. ¬†What would you have done if I’d said “No!”?

He replied, “It never really crossed my mind. ¬†I don’t know. ¬†I guess I would’ve been sad and had to take the ring back. ¬†I’m so glad it didn’t happen that way.”

No doubt it’s been the best decision I made for myself and my two precious boys 23 years ago today.

The lyrics to the song I sang go as follows: ¬†I see Jesus in your eyes and it makes me love you. ¬†I hear Jesus in your voice and it makes me listen and I trust you with my life because you’re his. ¬†I see Him in you….”

This is far from the end of our story. ¬†This is only the beginning……

House Hunting and Marriage Talk….

After meeting Thelma, everything started falling in place.¬† We started talking more about getting married and what that would look like.¬† The most important thing for Terry was that we had a house to live in, especially since our current living conditions would not make for a great start to our “new family”.¬† (The boys and I lived with my parents.¬† Terry lived with Thelma)¬† Both of us knew that living with our parents along with 2 boys would not work.¬† So Terry began the house search.¬† Little did I know that almost every Sunday after lunch, we (Terry, myself, Ryan and Matt) would be riding around looking at houses!¬† Sometimes it was fun, and other times it wasn’t.¬† Just ask Ryan and Matthew how much they enjoy “house hunting”.

Finally, after much looking and frustration, Terry found a house he wanted to look at but he didn’t take me with him the first time.¬† The funny thing about the house and the whole reason he wanted to go look at the house was because it had no washer and dryer hook-ups.¬† In other words, curiosity got the best of him.¬† When he previewed the house with our realtor, the homeowner just happened to be at home.¬† Strangely enough, the homeowner requested to be present at all showings because they wanted to know who was potentially buying their home.¬† Of course, Terry knew the homeowners, not only did they own Miller’s laundry (hence no washer/dryer hook-ups), but they knew me as well.¬† As Terry was completing his preview of the home, Mrs. Miller looked at him and asked, “So are you going to marry Kelly?¬† Is that why you are looking for a house?”

Caught a little off-guard, Terry replied, as only he can, “You never know.”¬† (Oh my gosh, even writing this makes me chuckle, even after all these years.)

During some of our rather long conversations, we both realized we were carrying¬†a lot of baggage from our previous relationships.¬† Things that he did or said would sometimes just send me over the edge and cause me to fly off the handle.¬†One of the things that irritated me the most was when I was trying to plan something and I would say, “So are you coming or not?”¬† The response at least 95% of the time would be, “Well I might.”¬†¬† Which means¬†“no” in¬†Terry’s vocabulary. It took me months to realize that he was very non-committal especially when it was something he really didn’t want to do, and again I realized that he was so dang stubborn that I was not changing his mind.¬† Believe me, I tried every trick I knew to try to guilt or persuade him to do what I wanted him to do…nothing doin’¬† his mind was made up and it wasn’t changing (guess that’s where our kids get their stubborn streak )¬†Dang it, even the crying didn’t phase him.¬†(Revelation:¬† You can’t put Terry on a guilt trip.¬† It just doesn’t work. If anything, it makes him more stubborn and determined)

The problem with him being so non-committal worried me because I kept thinking, “Well, what makes me think he will commit to you and two boys.”¬†However, there was something even deeper within my being that told me “This guy is completely trustworthy.¬† He is faithful and he is committed.”

After another couple of looks at the house and  a few others, Terry opted to make an offer on the Longview house.  His offer was accepted and so now, he had a house.  To this point, marriage had been a prominent subject, but there had still been no proposal, much less a wedding date.  The closing on the house was scheduled to take place on December 7, 1994.

Meeting Thelma….our story continued

Anniversary Week

As we turned the vehicle around and starting driving toward Thelma’s house. Suddenly, I got nervous, my hands were shaking and clammy and a host of questions started flooding my mind. “What will she think of me? Will she like me? What will she think about the fact I have children?”

Terry looked over, sensing my nervousness and said, “Oh, don’t pay too much attention to anything my mom says. She just spouts out without thinking sometimes and doesn’t mean anything by what she says. We won’t stay long, ok?”

We pulled up to 737 Buncombe Street and climbed out of the truck. Still shaking on the inside, I followed Terry to the door and stayed behind him until we were in the door.

There she was, sitting in the chair in the living room. The thick dark hair framed her semi-wrinkled face, her deeply recessed brazen brown eyes revealed a strong-willed independent woman; yet, despite the weathering of years, she remained an extremely attractive woman. “Hey Terry, who’s that with you?” she inquired.

“Thelma (as he commonly called her) this is Kelly.” he replied

“Oh, that’s the girl who kept calling. The one you and Marie keep talking about.”

After shaking hands with her, she invited me to sit down and talk. We talked the normal small talk first to break the ice. The conversation turned to her family, mainly she spoke of her deceased husband George (Terry’s dad). She talked about his passive gentle nature, his wittiness and her deep love for him. At this point, he had been dead almost 3 years. He died in the summer of ’91 with congestive heart failure. It was obvious that she missed him terribly. Fortunately for her, Terry being single, moved in shortly before George’s death and he provided companionship for her.

Then the conversation turned to me and the boys. She was genuinely interested in as many details about them as I could provide. However, I could sense an uneasiness developing with Terry as the conversation deepened, possibly fear of what would expel from her lips.

Finally he looked his nervousness got the best of him and he looked at me and said, “Ok. It’s time to go. I need to get you home.”

As I turned to shake her hand, she looked at me and said, “I can tell you really like my boy and he really likes you.” Surprised by her comment, I had no response but quietly in my mind I wondered, “How could she tell?” (What I would later learn was that my mother in law was a very perceptive individual and had a great sense of character judgement.)

To Terry’s relief, she had not been as abrasive as he had forewarned. In fact once we were in the car, headed back to my house, Terry said, “She likes you. I can tell.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

“If she didn’t like you, she would not have talked to you as much as she did. Believe me, you would know if my mom didn’t like you. She doesn’t hide her feelings well.”

She did like me and she readily accepted me and the boys as her own. There’s much to tell about the woman I was privileged to call my mother in law, but that’s a book itself. Suffice to say, on December 27, 2001 Thelma’s body succumbed to emphysema and I am very thankful and blessed that she was a part of my life for almost 8 years

Here is another blog post I wrote about Thelma, if you want to read it.

The Great Debate…..all about the first kiss

Anniversary Week

For 23 years now, Terry and I have debated this portion of our story. This debate has led to multiple conversations between friends and family. Obviously anyone who hears his version is apt to side with him. I guess it really doesn’t matter so much now, it’s just fun for us to banter with one another in an effort to keep the debate going.

Here’s the real story.

So, as we headed for the door Valentine’s evening to say goodnight, I had to walk into the garage to lock the door. As we ventured into the garage, we continued to converse. Finally, I told him he had to leave because I knew those precious little boys would be up with the rooster, and I needed sleep to keep up with them. He turned to leave and gave me a gentle hug. I think my heart skipped 5 beats. It was just a hug, I told myself….no big deal.

This is where our stories conflict, after we hugged for a minute or so, he just stood there glaring at me. Then pulled me to himself again and kissed me. The kiss like his hug, was gentle and full of passion. At that moment, in that one kiss, I knew this was the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. How did I know? I just knew, simple as that.

Obviously, he says exactly the opposite and he tells everyone, “You just wouldn’t believe. She couldn’t keep her hands off of me. She kissed me first.”

We do agree that night was a new beginning for us both.

Even though deep in my heart, I knew Terry was the one for me. I still wasn’t ready to completely trust and give my heart away. I carried way too much baggage from the past, my heart was derelict condition. It would take much more than a passionate kiss to convince me to trust completely again. Perhaps in time, just not immediately.

We continued our late night meetings and dating on the weekends. Sometimes the boys went and sometimes they didn’t. I was fortunate enough to have grandparents and parents who were willing to keep the boys and from time to time, hire a babysitter.

In April, my sister got married. Terry was a lifesaver during that time. Not only did he take me to this swanky kids clothing store to buy the boys outfits(which would later be worn by Alex for a friends’ wedding) for the wedding. On the wedding day, the guest book was inadvertently left at home and when it was discovered it was far too late to run back home and pick it up. So, Terry went downtown and bought a new one.

Trusting him was becoming easier and easier, but something still bothered me. Until now, he had met all of my family including the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I only knew Tom and Marie (Terry’s sister) and their two boys. I had not met his mom Thelma.

After a date one night, inquisitively I asked, “So, when do I get to meet your Mom?”

“I don’t know” was his response.

“Are you embarrassed to for me to meet her? My gosh, we’ve been dating almost 3 months and you have never once taken me to meet her.” I fired back.

“No, it’s not you. I’m just not sure how you will take my mom. She’s different. She’s very forthright and brash at times. But if you insist, I’ll take you to meet her.”

He turned the truck around and away we went to meet Thelma. (of course I must end here because this is a chapter all its own)

Hope and Expectation….Our Story Continued

One call led to another and plans were made for the following weekend for Terry to come over to my parents’ house and have dinner. However, this was not a date, a singles gathering had already been planned and he agreed to show up.

The night was full of fun and laughter. He lingered after the other guests left. During the course of that conversation, I learned he knew more about me than he initially disclosed. In fact, he had seen me before I ever met him personally.

He told me that during Christmas with his family, they were watching the newly taped version of the Messiah we had done that year. While watching the TV screen, he saw me, pointed me out to his sister and asked, “Who’s that girl?” So, Marie proceeded to tell him that I was divorced and had two little boys.

There were two things that amazed me from learning this from Terry. The first was that he actually picked me out of the crowd and pointed to me on the tv screen. (Keep in mind we were dressed in full period costume, even our heads were covered.) All he could really see was my face. The second thing that struck me was that after learning I was divorced and had two children, he still had an interest in meeting me.

When he left that evening, I found myself beginning to wonder if he would call again. There had been no hint of affection during the evening, but there was no indication that he had been turned off either. The next couple of days, I found myself rushing to answer the phone every time it rung, especially late in the evening. I was elated when I heard his voice on the other; however I didn’t allow my excitement to exude into our conversation. I maintained complete composure, almost to the point I had myself convinced it was no big deal….but it was.

The following Sunday night we decided that he would come over and I would cook for him. You know, they say the best way to a man’s heart it through his tummy. This would be his first encounter with my dad and also the first time since our outing to the park that he would have some time with the boys. As the events of the evening unfolded, it still amazes me that he came back.

Our normal Sunday evening routine was going to church and coming home afterward for a light snack supper, usually consisting of popcorn, chips, crackers, etc. After the initial painless introduction to my dad, it seemed the evening go off without a hitch. Until my dad realized that I was cooking and were off the norm, suddenly he began ranting and raving about how we didn’t cook on Sunday night and he wasn’t the least bit happy that I was cooking. Not only was I embarrassed, but felt certain that after that evening Terry would never show up on my doorstep again. Fortunately, the remainder of the evening turned out well. (Terry will give his version of this story because this is how Ned became known as Nitro)

The next day was Valentine’s Day and I had no expectation of talking to much less seeing Terry after Sunday evening; however, around 6 pm he called to ask if he could come by after work. Now after work for him was 11:30 because he was working second shift at the time. After the evening before, I wasn’t about to say no. So around 11:30 he showed up with a smile on his face and hands behind his back like a child trying to hide candy from his mother. As subtly as he could, he took the package from behind his back to reveal heart-shaped sugar cookies that he had picked up from Ingles.

“Happy Valentine’s Day. I didn’t a chance to get anything for you, so I thought I would at least bring you some cookies.” He said rather awkwardly, as if embarrassed by his gift.

“Thank you but I really didn’t expect anything you really didn’t have to bring anything.” I replied. Silence fell and it was almost a deafening silence. Suddenly I realized how foolish my statement had been to him. Why couldn’t I have just said a simple thank you? So, I tried to explain away the reason for my reply. Fortunately my explanation seemed to appease him.

We would spend the next few hours talking about our past relationships, hurts and hang-ups. Finally, I was growing weary and knew that early morning was coming quickly. So, we said our goodbyes and he headed out the door. I followed behind to lock the door.(more to come)