A Letter to my Seven Year Old Self

Please don’t misunderstand when I share this. I am not searching for sympathy. This girl imposed enough of that on herself when she was younger. I also used it as an excuse for my poor choices and bad behavior.

Why am I sharing?

Maybe this will help someone else. Maybe there’someone out there who’ve walked in my shoes. Maybe you too, have felt worthless or useless. Maybe like me, someone has made a promise they were never meant to make and it’s caused confusion and delusion. I don’t know, maybe someone just needs to hear that ”You are loved and worthy.”

This to me was a freeing exercise to do.

To my Seven-year-old self,

Little girl, you’ve placed the weight of the world on your shoulders. You have chosen a burden and responsibility much too great to shoulder. In fact, you can’t possibly do this. Not only are you not an adult, and trying to do adult things, you need to allow others to care for you.

I know you made a promise to your Daddy the night before he died. I know you intend to keep that promise. That’s how you are. You always strive to do what you say you will. But your Daddy didn’t mean it in the literal way you took it. He just wanted to reassure you that he had faith and confidence that you would do the right thing by helping your Mom, not trying to take his place.

Sweetie, you spent many hours angry and frustrated because you were a child trying to be an adult. You didn’t always enjoy the carefree life a child of seven often does. You grew up way too fast.

Your anger translated into hidden tears at night. It also wedged a gap between you and your Creator, God and your family members. Often times you would burst into fits of rage and no one understood because you never let anyone in your world. You kept it bottled. Plastered a smile on your face and pretended all was well.

You didn’t break the promise to you, Daddy. He is not disappointed with you. Your mom isn’t disappointed with you and your siblings are not disappointed with you. You are so loved.

A Celebratiom of Life

Monday was a beautiful spring day in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Crisp morning air followed by blue skies and sunshine. A gentle breeze to keep it cool and comfortable. A perfect day to celebrate a beautiful life.

When my grandfathers younger sister died in August of 2017, on the way home from her service, Mom told me that when Popaw died she wanted me to speak at his service. Little did I know what a task and challenge I would face.

Popaw took his breath last Tuesday. I had almost a full week to prepare. One would think a week would be enough time. Normally, it would. But this was not normal.

Stories and memories were swimming in my mind. I could barely finish one thought before another would interrupt. Not one story won. Each story held a specific and special meaning and not one more meaningful or important than the next.

How could I tell one story without telling ten? Honestly, I struggled. There’s no way to choose just one and we hadn’t the time for more.

So, instead, I chose to speak about the character man Popaw displayed because his character has had a profound impact on my life. So, I asked family members to send me three words that came to mind when they thought of him. Here’s the list.

Mom, Aunt Trisha, and Uncle Onald: kind, faithful, pleasant, Godly, easy going, trustworthy, loving

Kristi: giving, loyal, wise and intelligent

David: Hero, unconditional love, father.

Ryan: kind, wise, patient

Matthew: observant, loyal gentle

Alex: calm, wise, virtuous

Amy: generous, tender-hearted, earnest

Zach: Generous, loyal, caring

Terry: hero, wise, loving

Me: generous, wise, joyful

As I prayed and thought over these words, I realized they all had a commonality. They all speak to the character of the man behind them and his integrity. Popaw was man-marked by integrity. Integrity derives from the Latin word integer meaning whole or complete. Popaw was the whole package. But his full wholeness was not realized until April 23, 2019, when God called him home. At that moment Paul’s words in Philippians 1:6 became Popaw’s reality, ”For I am confident of this thing, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”

Popaw was a humble, gentle and kind man who exercised patience, generosity, and wisdom throughout the course of his life. He was a man marked by unconditional love, faithfulness, and complete joy.

I rarely remember a time I didn’t see him smile. His smile was infectious and kit up a room. In fact, at the very moment, he breathed his last breath Robert, a family friend, and I were standing over him talking about his sweet smile.

Popaw knew his strengths and weaknesses. He was not a perfect man but he was truly a blessed man. I am not speaking from a monetary perspective, although he always had enough. When I say blessed I am talking about the constant joy that welled up in him and spilled into those who knew him. This is not a common joy but one that comes from knowing the Lord.

Last week our Pastor, Bruce Frank, said, ”Until Jesus is enough for you, nothing will be enough for you.

I am here to tell you that Jesus was absolutely enough for Popaw. This is why his life was marked by integrity, wisdom, and kindness. He knew the joy of being content no matter what.

His life exemplified the following:

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward, you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. —Psalm 73:23–26

Where Hope is Found

On Saturday we celebrated Popaw’s 92nd birthday. Due to an early morning fall and trip to the ER, nothing serious, our plans changed from going to Moms to celebrating in his room at The Bridge. (The assisted living facility where he resides.)

As I rounded the hallway towards his room, a flashback filled my mind’s eye and suddenly it was last year, Friday, October 13, 2017.

Ned had been transferred from the The Lodge to The Bridge. His room, not by chance, was directly across the hall from Popaw’s. It was his first day there.

I was scheduled to meet him and Mom back at the hospital for an echocardiogram. I was there 15 minutes early. I sat down and waited. Surprised by the fact they weren’t there, cause Ned is never late. Always early. Never late. I hemmed and hawed a few more minutes before calling Mom. She didn’t answer. So the next best thing, call Ned.

“Hey, are y’all on the way to the hospital?”

“No. Your Mom’s gone to Walmart. I bet she forgot.”

I put him on hold, Talked to the receptionist, explained the situation. Told her I’d go get him and bring him back, She assured me time was not of the essence and not to rush to get him back.

Got back on the phone with Ned and told him I’d be there in a few minutes.

Don’t you just hate it when they tell you not to rush and you rush anyway. I mean he was already late and I hate to hold people up. I wheeled my car into the parking lot at The Bridge. Briefly I thought of leaving my vehicle unattended under the breezeway but decided to park instead. Good thing I did.

To be honest, I was half expecting to see Ned in the downstairs lounge area waiting for me. Simply because I had told him to stay put in his room and I’d come get him. He wasn’t there. Hopped on the elevator and went to the 2nd floor. As I rounded the corner, I noticed that his door was slightly ajar. I walked in and he wasn’t there. His walker was there…..but no Ned. I peeped in Popaw’s room and he wasn’t there. So, I began my descent down the hallway and thats when I saw him. He was staggering and holding on to the railing with one hand. It was apparent he had no idea where he was. He saw me and said “I was trying to get to the elevator to find you”. Yeppers, he didn’t listen. He didn’t stay in his room and if he’d been more familiar with his surroundings would most likely have been waiting for me.

He was so weak he could barely walk. I gave him my arm and told him to keep using the rail with the other hand. We made it back to his room. Exhausted, he sat down in his wheelchair. I told him we didn’t have to rush to take his time. He began complaining of nausea. Vomiting and nausea were his latest symptoms. He stood to grab hold of the walker and suddenly hurled everything in his stomach into the sink. He sat back down. I finished cleaning the portion of the mess he couldn’t clean. Then I told him I was calling to cancel his appointment. He agreed.

We continued to sit there for a spell before he got sick again. After the next episode, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Can’t someone tell me what’s wrong with me?”

I have to admit. I almost broke. I couldn’t break, not in front of him. It took every ounce of effort and will in me not to burst into tears. The past seven weeks had been such a roller coaster for all of us, especially for him. He’d been poked, prodded, X-rayed, and examined more times than I can count.

I looked at him and said “I am doing all I can to help the doctors figure out what’s going on. I’m trying the best I know how.”

At that moment, we both knew it was the cancer invading his body. We knew it wasn’t going to get better but as long as the doctors gave us a shred of hope, we clung to it. It was all we had.

As it turned out, his stay at The Bridge was short lived. He was there two nights. They couldn’t control his nausea and vomiting and had no choice but send him back to the hospital.

As I’ve reflected on this day, I am reminded that Ned was never without hope. Although there were times when the cancer and side effects from the drugs, looked bleak, hope was always present. There was hope for the drugs to eradicate the cancer. There was hope when the cancer went dormant for awhile. There was hope when the cancer returned that it was still treatable. Even when the new drugs failed to deliver and his problems surmounted, he still had the hope of eternal life with Christ because of his decision to place his faith in Christ. It’s the same with all of us who believe. Our lives may feel like they’re falling apart but Jesus is the hope of the world. He is the reason we can have hope to face another minute, another hour, another day. It is only this hope that assures us of our eternal destination.

Dear friends, if today finds you without hope and in what seems a hopeless situation, turn to Jesus. He is your only hope.

A loss of innocence

A “loss of innocence” is a common theme in fiction, pop culture, and realism. It is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child’s life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or suffering in the world around them.

I’m just going to go ahead and give you fair warning.  This whole subject makes me want to curl up and cry like a baby. Honestly, I have a time or two.

I’m not sure at what age I realized that my life wasn’t normal and did not look anything like others my age.  I think my awareness began long before it should have.  I know by the time I was four, I was keenly aware things were not like my peers.

By the time I was one, my mom discovered a hideous mole on my dads back.  She encouraged him to have it checked out.  He did and it was malignant.  Melanoma. They removed a large portion around the perimeter of the mole. The portion was so large, it looked like a crater to me.  My little hand fit in the crevice of the dug out space.

Getting clear margins and feeling hopeful, the doctor said, “All should be well if you see no signs within 2 years.”

Nearing the end of the 2 years, another spot appeared.  This time, the cancer had spread.  Chemo would be necessary.  Considering the year was 1972, the best facility for treatment was at Baptist Hospital (aka Wake Forest Medical Center) in Winston Salem, NC.

Thus the journey began.

An entire week, every month, my dad would go for treatment.  Sometimes we would go but not often.  My dads brothers were gracious enough to take turns driving him and picking him up.

In addition, my aunt and uncle who lived in Winston helped with his care as well.  Days turned into weeks and weeks into years.

His body was worn and beaten.  He allowed them to try new treatment drugs on him in hopes to help others, not himself. He knew his time was coming to an end and so did I.

I think my mom tried as best she could to keep life as normal as she could but let’s be real, how many 5-6 year olds do you know whose parent is on chemo and gone for a week every month?  I didn’t know any at the time.  Not one of my friends and I’m not even sure they knew or understand how different my life was than theirs.

I learned, even then, to pretend that I was tough and strong. I could be like the others. You know, “fake it till you make it”. All the while, the voices in my head were screaming, “You’re different, You’re not like them.”

Then it happened, during a routine eye exam in Kindergarten, my teacher discovered I was not seeing 20/20. She informed my Mom. Mom took me first to an optometrist who had no couth told me I needed glasses pronto.. In fact, he was such a nice guy, Mom and I both left the office in tears.

Fortunately, we were given another recommendation and that’s when we met Dr. Gleaton. Not only did he have a terrific personality and calming nature, he also explained the necessity of glasses. Unlike the previous bully, he told me I had a “lazy eye” and would need to wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen the lazy one. By the time we left his office, I felt good about having glasses. Until I actually wore them for the first time.

Oh, the sneers and jeers. The jabs. The taunts. The snickers. I sat on the bank with tears streaming for what seemed like hours. Day after day. It made me see how cruel this world can really be and I was just six.

Now the voices were louder and eviler than before. Not only did I feel different. I felt unattractive, unworthy and yes, even unloved.

Here I was a kindergartner with a dying father and now being made fun of because I had to wear glasses with a patch.

Want to know what I learned? It’s called stuffing. Yep, just hide what you really feel and pretend you don’t care, even if your heart is being ripped to shreds.

On one hand, my father was sick and dying. I saw the cruelty of the disease stripping away his energy and zest for life. I saw how the chemo weakened his strong body. I had no one I could talk to, no one who understood. I don’t even know if anyone had any idea how aware I was.

Then my friends basically turned their backs on me., except one. It was just plain hard being a six year old for me.

Do you know what that year at the tender age of six created? A little thing called insecurity, which actually isn’t so little at all. Insecurity has followed me most of my life. There have been times when I’ve felt less insecure than others; but it’s always there, lurking about, waiting to pounce like a lion.

I have these voices that tell me time and again:

  • You’re not good enough
  • You’ll never be pretty enough
  • You’ll never escape your past
  • You are not worthy

What I’ve learned over the past 26 years, is that these voices will come but they don’t linger very long. I have weapons to fight against them now. I have the voice of truth echoing in my ear:

  • You are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 3:20)
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14
  • You are forgiven and free (John 3:16)
  • I paid a very high price for you and I say you are worthy (I Corinthians 6:20)

A loss of innocence at such a young age has always been a challenge for me. There was a point several years back when I heard or read something to the effect that it is important to grieve the loss of innocence when it’s been stripped from you. I’d never really contemplated the need to grieve over what was taken from me as a child; however, the more I thought about what was lost, the more I realized I needed to grieve. By taking time to grieve, it has given me some real insight to how this substantial loss has influenced and affected many areas of my life. A life that God is in the process of helping me break free

A Wave of Emotions

I was totally unprepared for what happened yesterday. Totally caught off-guard but I also know there’s potential for a wave of emotions to flood at any given time. I just didn’t expect it to be yesterday.

As I was driving to Moms yesterday, I was listening to 106.9 (The Light). They were talking about Billy Graham and his humility. In this particular segment, they were talking about the fact that Billy and Muhammad Ali were friends. In fact, Muhammad was invited to Billy’s house in Black Mountain. Muhammad expected to be chauffeured to Billy’s house. That didn’t happen. Billy Graham picked him up in his Oldsmobile. His house was a simple log home, not extravagant like Muhammad Ali expected. Just the true humility Billy Graham displayed, time and time again, caused me to pause and think and cry a little because I realize how shallow I can be times. How superficial my wants and desires truly are. So, I am already emotionally charged.

As I turned down the road I’ve been down thousands of times and entered the driveway to my Mom’s. The garage door opened, the familiar sight of two cars parked in their particular spots. Suddenly, at that moment, all my mind could conceive was, “I want him to be here. I want to walk through the door and see him sitting in his chair. I want him here to celebrate Mom’s birthday.” But he wasn’t there and I knew it. I had to pull myself together before going in. After all, it was Mom’s birthday and I was there to celebrate with her.

Later in the evening, after telling a friend and Terry about my episode, I came to the conclusion that there will be days like today. There’s no rhyme or reason why it hits you suddenly and there’s no preparation. You just have to let the emotions come as they will and know it’s ok. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to want to see your loved ones again. I think that’s what makes our desire so much stronger for eternity in Heaven because we know that we will never have to say “goodbye” again.

An Unforgettable Life

I always say that when you believe in God, there is no such thing as coincidence. Everything is ordered and ordained by God, including discovering my Senior writing project from 1987. I found it yesterday and I know that it’s what I am suppose to share with you today.

A little back story before I get to the rewriting my story from 1987. I dearly love my Mom. She and I are not what some mothers and daughters are. We are not besties. We never have been. She always desired to be my best friend but we have always been vastly different. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not close. I would do anything for my Mom and she would do the same for me. I have a vivid memory. It’s scary sometimes. I remember vividly when my Mom was pregnant with my brother and when my dad died. I remember hearing her cry at night, when she thought I was sleeping. I felt her grief and agony when Daddy died. I had to be strong. I had to be brave. I had to hide my tears because I knew my tears would bring her more grief.

Doing this project during my Senior year of high school, really helped me express and release a lot of feelings I harbored and stuffed over the years. While this did not bring ultimate healing for my heartbreak over losing my Dad, it helped start the process.

I am now 49 years old, I turned in the final draft on May 18, 1987.

An Unforgettable Life

By Kelly Reese

I can remember back thirteen years ago when I was carrying my third child.  Many sleepless and restless nights, I lay crying for fear of my baby’s birth and my husband’s death.  Yes, it is still very clear in my mind.

When I first felt the flutters in my stomach, I ignored them.  Then the weeks and months passed, and the fluttering was still there.  My mother said, “Ann, you are crazy if you think that you are pregnant.  There is no way.  You are just overworked and tired from Mack’s illness.”  So I decided that she was right, until I went to the doctor.

The doctor informed me that I was over three months pregnant.  I was terrified.  “What will I tell Mack?  What will he say?” were my thoughts.  I hoped that it was just a dream, but it wasn’t.  When I told Mack the news, I wept frantically.  He put his strong arms around me and looked at me with his big blue eyes and said, “Don’t worry, God will take care of us.  God has given us a gift.  He has a purpose for this baby.”  His reassurance and understanding gave me temporary relief; however, I was still scared to death.  I was more frightened my husband would die before the baby was born.

For three months I cried, until I finally accepted the fact that this baby was coming regardless of what I wanted or how I felt.  Mack was always supportive, although his condition worsened.  The girls helped as much as they could.

My oldest daughter, Kelly, was six at the time.  She knew that her father was dying and seemed to understand why.  In fact, sometimes I think she understood more than I gave her credit.  Maybe she understood even more than I did.

At the end of the nine months, the baby finally arrived and Mack was still alive.  The night before David’s birth was restless and uncomfortable.  I knew the baby wasn’t going to wait much longer.  It was almost as if he were saying, “Mommy, it’s time for me to live in this world, but I’m scared.”  The next morning I had to go to the doctor. Immediately, he sent me to the hospital.  That afternoon, June 23, 1975 fireworks could have exploded, even though, it was the 4th of July, as excitement and jubilation filled the room.

After cleaning the baby, the doctor brought him to me.  I asked, “What is it?”  The doctor refused my plea and handed my the baby wrapped in a blanket.  “Find out for yourself, ” he said.  With Mack by my side, I carefully unwrapped the small bundle of joy, and to my great surprise it was a little boy.  I cautiously glanced at Mack, who stood with tears in his eyes, as he said, “I told you God had a plan.  I may die before morning, but at least I know I have a son.”  His joy in trusting God made me feel ashamed of my reactions before David’s birth, and I began to cry.  Then I looked at the baby, and he looked at me with glowing blue eyes as if he were saying, “Mommy, I know how you felt, but you love me now.”  And I did love that miracle in my arms.

The months passed quickly and David grew strong and healthy as Mack grew weak and frail.  David’s birth brought such joy into our lives along with many changes.  The girls helped me take care of him and Mack as much as they could.

Mack became weaker and weaker.  The doctors knew his time was drawing near.  But Mack wouldn’t give up without a fight for his life.  He knew that he couldn’t change the circumstances or make them go away, but he refused to give into death.

Seven weeks before his death we were taking a trip to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.  After arriving, Mack’s legs began to get weak.  By the time the nurse arrived to take him to his room, he was paralyzed.  They kept him in Winston-Salem for the next week; then upon his request, moved him to Pardee Hospital in Hendersonville.

I spent many hours traveling back and forth to the hospital, taking the children at least five times a week to visit him.  In fact the visited him the night before he died.  Evidently he knew he wouldn’t see them any more because he told the children how much he loved them.

The next morning I left early for the hospital.  When I arrived, I knew that it wasn’t going to long, especially when I heard Mack saying things that did make sense.  Then with those radiant blue eyes he looked at me and said, “I hope that one day they will find a cure, but it won’t be while I’m alive.  I love you, Ann.”

Mack died on April 5, 1976; he was thirty-six year old.  David was nine months old. Later in the day,  I thought, “Lord, I’m too young to be widowed and left with three small children.”  Then I remembered what Mack told me, “With faith in God, miracles can happen.” I turned around teary-eyed and watched my little miracle sleeping soundly in his crib, knowing that my husband was right.

After two years I remarried; but since the beginning of my last pregnancy, I have had an unforgettable life

Give me a few days to gather my thoughts and I will share what I had to say about the man who raised me and I call “Unforgettable”

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 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and 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—only 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.

Alex’s friend Derek: A life that made a difference!

Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. ”

“Ok. Glad to know you’re safe” I replied.

He said, “I think the accident just happened and if I had not stopped by the house to change clothes, I might have been part of it.”

He was headed out to dinner with friends and had been at work. Not wanting to wear his work clothes, had stopped by the house for a quick change.

I called Amy to make sure she wasn’t involved. Fortunately, she was no where near Kanuga Road. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home.

I called Terry to tell him a bad accident had happened and traffic was diverted. As soon as I got out of the car, at our house, I heard MAMA whirling above. At that moment, I said to Terry, “Dude, this is not good. I hear MAMA! We need to pray for the people involved!

Everyone arrived home safely and the next morning, I woke up with the accident on my mind. There was a feeling of uneasiness about it and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

I drank my coffee and finished my Bible Study. Then I began to research about the accident. Here’s what I found Wreck on Kanuga. As I read and listened to the accident report. I began to well-up with tears. The teenager, Derek, wasn’t doing anything wrong. He had left work and was heading to get gas before going home.

I didn’t know this family or the young man, or so I thought. I just knew my heart was in shambles for this family.

I remember telling Terry when he got up how heavy my heat was for the Miller family. I told him I couldn’t imagine what his parents were going through.

I went to get ready and suddenly, while blow drying my hair, like a ton of bricks, it hit me. Derek is Alex’s friend from work. Derek is the one Alex eats out with all the time. Derek is the young man I met one night while I was out having dinner with a friend and Alex and his friends were eating there too.

By the time I was finished getting ready, Alex was up and knew that his friend had been killed the night before.

Talk about a somber moment. He said, “Mom, I was most likely the last person to talk to Derek! He finished his shift, a little before me and asked if I wanted to go out and eat. I told him I already had plans for that evening but we could go out after all the next day because we were both scheduled to work.”

Alex was heartbroken. Devastated. He knew that God had spared him because of his couple of delays. He was shocked and dismayed. Shaken badly.

There was nothing that I could do or say to take away the deep pain my child’s heart was feeling. Now, not only was my heart breaking for the family, my heart hurt deeply for my son.

Over the next few days, I observed as Alex processed his grief. He didn’t sit around and wallow in his grief. He went to the Millers. He spent hours with Derrick’s Proverbs 27:17 NIV

As iron sharpens iron,

    so one person sharpens another.

Last year on December 22, I was coming home after taking dinner to Terry. Instead of my usual route to come home, I took a detour. I needed to run by Walgreens and pick up a few items.

While in Walgreens, I heard screaming sirens. Multiples! I could tell from the direction of the sound they were headed in the direction I would be traveling.

Immediately, as always, I began to pray that my children were safe and for protection for whoever was involved.

As I was leaving Walgreens, Alex called!

“Mom, where are you? There’s been a terrible wreck on Kanuga Road. You can’t get through, you’ll have to go around the other way. “family. He grieved with them.

As the time approached for the memorial service, Alex told me that he felt compelled to speak on Derricks behalf. So, he had taken the liberty of calling Derricks brother, Colby, and mentioning it to him. The family was elated because they had been praying that one of Derek’s friends would speak.

We watched as Alex prepared his testimony about Derek We listened as he read us what he was going to say. Although we didn’t know the family, personally, we went to the service to support our boy.

As he concluded his Eulogy, I will never forget what he said about his friend. “The thing that I am going to miss most about Derek is seeing Jesus live in him!”

It doesn’t matter what age or stage of life you’re in, remember the impact you can have on another’s life. This young man was 17 years old and he had an impact on his friends and others. They noted and saw the difference that Jesus made in him.

It’s not about a degree or pedigree. It’s about the difference that Jesus makes when He’s invited to come into our lives. It’s not about impacting the world. It’s about impacting those that God puts in your path. He can use you, just like he used Derek in Alex’s life.

Whole and Beautiful

At times over the past few weeks, I’ve felt a certain disconnect. So much so, after being around my family the other evening, I called my friend to talk it over with her.

She said, “It’s very normal. You’ve been through a lot of emotional upheaval the past few weeks. It’s your way of coping Its ok. Just know that it won’t last!”

Sometimes, I would prefer if my friends were wrong. But then again, that’s why I call the trusted and true because they know.

The above conversation took place on Wednesday evening. By Thursday morning, I was a mess.

Terry said, “What’s wrong! Why are you crying?”

Between sobs I said, “I miss him.”

“I know. I miss him too. I miss my Mom and Dad too. It’s ok to cry. ”

After I dried up, I recalled the conversation from a few nights before with my cousin, Greg.

It was Monday. The evening before my Uncle Howard passed.

Standing by my car with my door ajar. Greg said, “There’s something you need to know. I need to tell you”

My ears were perked and ready.

“On Saturday evening, Dad was standing, in his own strength. Suddenly he fell back into my arms and stopped breathing. I just knew it was the end. I held him for a few minutes. He began breathing again. I got him back into bed. Then he sat straight up and said, ‘I don’t know why God brought me back.’ Greg was confused at his comment and questioned him further. Uncle Howard responded, ‘I went to heaven. I saw Mack (my Daddy) and Linda (their sister) and they were beautiful. I just don’t know why God sent me back'”

Fighting to keep composure to drive home, I looked at Greg and said, “I know because somebody needed to hear this.”

Maybe it was me! Maybe I needed confirmation that all those who’ve gone before me have been made whole and beautiful. Maybe you need the same confirmation. Maybe someone who’s dying needs to hear, if they’ve given their heart to Christ, they will be made whole and beautiful. I don’t know who needs to hear it but someone surely does and maybe it’s just me!

18….5….8

I’m not giving measurements here I’m proving a point. The point being. I wasn’t meant to be there!

Be where, you ask?

Be at the bedside of Ned, my dad, the night he died.

At the midnight hour on October 29, my sister and I left the Elizabeth House. Ned was snoring when we left. Our brother, David was staying in the room with him, while Mom and her friend Norma slept outside the room.

Exhaustion overwhelmed me on the 10 minute drive home. Stepping into my house, I knew I had to get in the bed.

In typical fashion, I plugged my phone up! It stays in my kitchen. I always keep it on vibrate. I detest the ringtone and have trained my ears to hear the moan.

Terry’s phone sleeps beside mine and his irritating ringer is generally always on.

Amy was also home with us that evening and she sleeps with her phone, like most teenagers do!

In other words, a call should be heard. Right?

Wrong!!!

At 2:30 AM, drowsy Amy comes into our bedroom, crosses in front of the bed, and over to her dad’s side and starts, “Mom, Mom you need to wake up. You have a phone call”. She hands me her phone and the first thing I do is hit the end call button! (That’s how out of it I was.). I hand her the phone back and say call!

After a couple of rings, my brother answers and says, “Sissy, he’s gone.” He can’t talk and hands the phone to my sister who says, “We’ve been trying to call you. Daddy died at 2:00! We’ve called the funeral home and they’ll be here to get his body in about 30 minutes. Do you want to come see him before they take him?”

I blurted out a quick and emphatic, “No! I said goodbye earlier and he was breathing. I don’t care to come.”

Upon hanging up, I tried laying back down but the tears kept flowing. I knew Terry needed sleep and if I kept crying, he wouldn’t get any. So, I got up!

Tears streamed down my face. It was the ugly cry. I fought back the urge to thrust myself to the ground and scream. (If I’d done that Amy and Terry neither one would’ve been sleeping).

Between sobs, God reminded me of two very important things.

First, at the very beginning of Ned’s 19 month journey, I had asked God for a few very specific things. One that He would show me when to go and when not to go! Two that I would go with the right attitude and heart and never, ever go based on guilt. Three that He would always get me there right on time, every time!

Second He reminded me of the anger and frustration I felt towards my Mom after my biological Daddy died. I saw him the right before his death. I was not allowed to go to his funeral. I remained embittered with rage, directed at Mom, for years because she didn’t allow me to go. She would always say, “I didn’t want you to remember him that way. I wanted your last memory of him to be a live memory.

Just then it dawned on me, God had orchestrated this whole thing, 41 years ago. He knew I didn’t need to see either Dad dead but alive. He knew my last memory of both should bring me joy! Joy that the struggle had ended and “He (Jesus) will swallow up death in victory” Isaiah 25:8

The numbers above represent the number of calls made between 1:00AM and 2:30AM on Sunday October 29, 2017.

My phone was called 18 times. Terry’s phone was called 5! Like afore mentioned, Terry’s annoying ringer is usually on. However, because he had been with me at the Elizabeth House, it was turned off. Amy’s phone, which sleeps on her pillow was called 8 times before it woke her up!

Was I suppose to be there?!! Absolutely, positively NOT!

I trusted God to take me and without fail or falter, He did. Every time and right on time. It was never his intention or plan to have me there when Ned took his last breath. Just as it was never his intention or plan for me to see my daddy lying dead in a casket.

The lesson I learned is that when I ask God and believe that He is good to keep his word, He will not disappoint or fail me. Never!!!!