A Heart-Wrenching Decision

Tap.Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. The sound of Sammy walking endlessly around the house for three hours. I would doze off from time to time, but I was attuned to his wandering until finally, it stopped. The silence was almost deafening and fear of the unknown began to set in. I lay in bed paralyzed with fear. Finally, I dared to get up.

As I entered the kitchen from our bedroom, I looked for him in his bed or laying on the rug. I even glanced at the couch thinking he may have mustered the strength to jump. He wasn’t there. I walked across the kitchen and into the hallway. There he was laying in the hallway, still and motionless. I began to cry and called for Terry. I couldn’t bring myself to pick him up.

Terry picked him up and found he was still breathing. He’d just exhausted himself with his pacing. Terry handed him to me. I hugged him and cried happy tears because he was still with us. I cried ugly tears because I knew it wouldn’t be much longer. This was his fifth day, maybe sixth day, without food and very little water. Most of the time he would slowly walk to the water bowl and stand over the bowl, gaze and dip his head enough to wet his mouth. Almost like a human at the end of life who needs to be given a wet sponge just to keep their lips moist.

I already had an obligation in Hendersonville that morning and believe me, I delayed until I could delay no more. Looking for any excuse to linger longer but I knew Terry would be with him. We had already decided the day before that he would not be left alone.

I prayed on the way up Hendersonville that God would take away the decision I knew in my heart of hearts we were going to have to make. But at the same time, I didn’t want that to be the last time I saw my little boy. The struggle was real but I had to leave it in God’s hands.

As I headed back home around 2:00 pm, I had not heard from Terry and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Honestly, I didn’t want to know, especially if the news was bad because I knew I couldn’t drive home. So, I didn’t call.

When I pulled into the garage Terry was coming outside and then I saw him, Sammy following Terry, albeit extremely slowly, to greet me. Just like he always did. I scooped him up, kissed his little head, and whispered a prayer of thanks to God.

He settled in my arms and then we just sat together as usual on the recliner. He fell asleep and seemed very settled but it only lasted for about an hour. He awakened and began pacing and wandering again.

Terry and I watched him wander about aimlessly and I asked him,
“What time does Bonnie Brae close? We can’t put him through another night of this.”

“5:30 I think.” Remembering what he was told the day.

“It’s time,” I said. He knew it. I knew it. Sammy knew it.

He called around 4:15 and they told us to come at 4:30. So, we had to walk out the door without stopping to pass go. I put Sammy in his favorite bed and carried him to the truck, crying the whole way.

Terry finished answering questions about Sammy and giving them the information needed as soon as he was off the phone we both wept for the rest of the trip. Honestly, I don’t know how even saw beyond his tears. Sammy, for the first time in two days, was so peaceful. There was not a hint of angst in him. He lay on my lap in his bed and didn’t move a muscle. He was tired and I think he knew his fight was over.

We were so emotional walking into the clinic and the receptionists were so kind and compassionate. It was obvious they felt our pain. They quickly whisked us into a room and it wasn’t long before Dr. Fitch came in.

He knew this was not a decision we had made lightly and he was not going to try to talk us out of it. Several articles I’d read over the past few days said, “You know your pet better than anyone and you’ll know when it’s time.” He did listen as I told him of the events leading up to our decision (a story for another time). He went over the formalities and explained the procedure. Stepped out of the room and gave us a few more minutes with him. Again, Sammy never moved a muscle. He lay still and quiet in his bed. He didn’t raise his head. He wasn’t nervous. He was at peace.

As the sedative was administered, Dr. Fitch had warned, he may resist and flinch a bit. Then as the sedative moves through his body, he will most likely have some muscle twitching and pee. That did not happen either. Sammy didn’t flinch when he gave him the shot. His muscles never twitched and he didn’t pee.

After about 5 minutes or so he came back into the room to administer the IV to stop his heart. I lifted him out of his bed and gave him to Dr. Fitch. He laid him on the table, Shaved a little bit of hair from his leg, and inserted the IV, while Terry and I stood beside him with our hands on his head. It didn’t take long for his heart to stop. Dr. Fitch and the vet tech hugged us and left us alone for as long as we needed. We bawled and clung onto each other, petted our boy, and kissed his head one final time.

On January 5, 2023, around 5:00 pm our Sammy boy left this earth and our hearts will never be the same. It may not have taken long for his heart to stop beating but it’s gonna take a long for our hearts to stop grieving. He was our constant companion for the past 14 years.

As much as my heart is grieving, I simply cannot imagine the grief of losing a spouse or child. The pain of loss is so much more than I am experiencing right now. I cannot imagine walking into an empty house knowing Terry would not be coming back. I cannot imagine knowing that I couldn’t pick up the phone and call my children. I cannot imagine knowing that my children would never walk through my door again. And for those whose pets are their children because they have none. For those whose pets are their constant companion because they have none. I believe their loss goes to a much deeper level that I probably don’t understand. Yet there are times in life when God chooses to use things to give you deep empathy and compassion for others, I believe this is one of them.

Sammy “little boy” Yarborough
October 22, 2008 -January 5, 2023

A New Home

On December 1, 2021, I knew the end was near and that Aunt Trisha would soon be departing from this world. But she didn’t know, she never really accepted the fact that she was dying until that day and I believe that was God’s gift of grace to her. All she could think and talk about was going to her new home, her condo in Hendersonville.

Often throughout my visits with her, she would say to me, “I keep asking God, ‘God, why did you make everything so easy for me to find a place in Hendersonville and sell my house here if I was going to get cancer? I just don’t understand.”

Mostly I would just respond, “I don’t know either.” But one day about midway through her four-month battle with pancreatic cancer, I had been pondering on John 14:1-3 and as our conversation landed back to her lack of understanding what God was doing,

I said to her, “All I can figure is that God did all of this to give you hope about the new place He’s preparing for you in Heaven. I believe He orchestrated all of this so that you would have something to look forward to. I think He allowed you to come and enjoy your new little place for three days because He is showing you that the place He’s preparing is far greater.”

Perplexed and still uncertain she said, “But why? Why now?”

“I don’t know the answer to that but here’s what I know He promises in His Word, ‘Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.’” John 14:1-3 ESV

As I quoted the scripture to her, a peace washed over her and she said, “Maybe you’re right but I just don’t think I’m ready to die”. And she wasn’t at least not on that day or for another couple of months but on December 1, she finally accepted that cancer had invaded her body and her time was short. No one but God knew just how short it would be but I can assure you that on December 4, 2021, when He called her home she no longer thought about the sweet little place she wanted to call home because her new dwelling was far greater than her mind could conceive and her questions were put to rest.

As I think back over the four months, I realize that God gave her hope. When He helped us find and purchase her place in Hendersonville, He gave her hope of a new place, a sweet special place, just perfect for her. When He allowed her to come to her special place and stay for three nights, the hope of coming back was always at the forefront of her mind. And when she decided to allow Hospice to manage her care, He gave her hope of coming home. And what He was accomplishing the entire time was preparation for her homecoming with Him in Heaven.

Maybe today, you have a lot of questions running through your mind about what God is doing and why, maybe you don’t have a clear understanding of what He’s up to. Can I encourage you today? He is always up to something good and it is always far better than we can hope or imagine.

True Compassion

How many times as a child did you threaten to run away from home or a situation just because your feelings were hurt or you weren’t getting your way? I threatened countless times but I never actually did it. However, I have a child who ran away. Not from home but ran away from school one day. Yes, you read correctly. He ran away from school one day.

Why did he run away and where did he go? He was only a first grader and six years old. At that age, no one would expect a child to run away. But we are not talking about any child. We are talking about my child, Matthew. The fearless, independent child with a vehement determination.

He felt slighted by his teacher. He got his feelings hurt, which for him at that time, was common. Although quite stubborn, he was also highly sensitive. A people-pleasing fella who didn’t like getting in trouble. He was sensitive to the reprimand given by his teacher and so when she wasn’t paying attention, he made a run for it.

When Mrs. Tribby discovered he was gone, she sent Marcie Burlett, her TA, out to find Matthew. Luckily, they knew where he would go but he arrived at his destination before Marcie could catch him.

I was in the kitchen when I heard the screen door open, I walked around the corner to find an out-of-breath Matthew.

“How did you get home?” I inquired.

“I ran away from school.” He replied.

“Matthew, you know you can’t just run away. I’m going to have to take you back to school.” I told him.

Suddenly there was wrapping on the door and there stood a winded and scared Marcie. “Oh, I am so thankful he’s here. We assumed and hoped this is where he would come.” Then she bent towards Matthew and said, “You scared us. You know you can’t just run away from school, right?”

“I know. I just got upset and wanted to come home to my Momma.” Matthew replied.

Obediently he walked back to school with Marcie. Once there Mrs. Tribby made sure that he understood how scared they were. The dangers of running away and the importance of talking through things and not leaving things unsettled. She assured me later that he understood and I would no longer be receiving visits from Matthew midday.

I am fairly certain, to this day, Matthew has been able to endure hurtful and confrontational issues more appropriately because of this lesson learned in his early years.

As I contemplate the significance of this experience I am reminded of how compassion truly works. Mrs. Tribby and Marcie both acted with great compassion. They understood why Matthew ran away but they didn’t tell him it was okay. Just the opposite, they made it very clear that what he had done was wrong and there was a better way to deal with the situation. They also made it clear they loved him and wanted the best for him but they did not allow him to stay at home, nor did I. He needed to go back to school to work things out.

Often we talk about compassion but we fail to show compassion or true compassion. True compassion understands or empathizes with why we make certain choices. But compassion does not appease the choice, when the choice is wrong or can bring us harm. Compassion calls it out. Compassion tells you when you’re wrong but compassion never hangs you out to dry. No. No. No. Compassion speaks the truth in love and then says, “I am here to help walk you through the process of making things right.” Compassion takes courage and commitment.

The Tale of Two Pups

Once upon a time, there was a little Princess named Amy. For her first Christmas, she was given a stuffed animal. This wasn’t just any stuffed animal. He was called “Praise Puppy”, made by Gund, exclusively for Family Christian Bookstores. She was immediately enamored with him. She slept with him under her arm while sucking her thumb. Puppy, as she would call him, became a necessity. He went everywhere with her.

The one time he got left behind, she was so unhappy, her brother, Ryan went to the hotel’s gift shop and purchased her a little TY dog named, Taffy. Taffy became part of her family too. They were inseparable as far as Amy was concerned and where she went they were sure to tag along. She even took them to sleepovers until it was not cool to bring your stuffed animals. But she was never too cool at home not to sleep with them. She always slept with Puppy and Taffy tucked under her arm. She often went to sleep picking Puppy’s belly. Poor thing, he has the bare spots to prove it and his neck is limp from her squeezing him under her arm. (Taffy is frail too).

Then one day she went away to college. She left behind her Puppy and Taffy. In her estimation, she had outgrown them. However, within the first six weeks of college, she was miserably homesick. Something she was not prepared for and neither was I. I asked her if she wanted me to bring her Puppy and Taffy because I knew in a small way they would be a huge comfort to her. She happily agreed.

Puppy and Taffy remained with her throughout her college years and even when she went to Charleston to begin grad school, Puppy and Taffy tagged along too.

This past Christmas, I wanted to find something unique and special for her. Something that she would not anticipate or expect. Something that would surprise her, maybe even blow her mind a little. (That’s a hard thing to do.) However, a fleeting thought passed through my mind, “What if I could find a new, never used Puppy.” Fortunately, the search was easy and I found a new, never-used, bagged Praise Puppy.

Can I be honest here? He was not very costly but I was more excited about giving him to her than the costlier gifts. Honestly, I could hardly contain my excitement. Little did I know how much this gift would mean. It wasn’t until I was writing out her clues for the scavenger hunt that I realized the impact of this gift.

Friends, I think we all need to be reminded as I reminded Amy on Christmas morning:

  • You are rare. God made only one of you and you are uniquely made. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 13-14
  • You are new. When we believe in Jesus we are made new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • You belong to Jesus and you will be with Him forever. “But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2. “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16

The Unfairness of Life

Often we don’t understand why things happen the way they do. I mean it doesn’t make sense when one is healed and another one isn’t. I know I struggled with this for many years. I could never figure out why God would take a 36-year-old man away from his family. But then I would. hear stories of how God healed others in similar situations. It just didn’t make any sense.

I wrestled with this well into my adult years. A seven-year-old can only understand so much. And to be honest, there is still a mystery in it all for a fifty-three-year-old.

The issue I wrestled with the most was the unfairness of it all. It just didn’t seem right to me that God would take my Daddy away from his family, especially considering my brother was only nine months old. Sometimes it still doesn’t seem right but what I’ve discovered is that there is nothing fair in this life. Life does not delve out the same thing to each one of us and we must learn to take what’s given to us and make something from it. Like the old proverb says, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” The problem is sometimes we get stuck and moving forward and moving on feels almost impossible. Instead of wondering about the big picture, maybe we just need to remember to put one foot in front of the other. It’s a one step at a time mentality.

My biggest hangup for years was that I would move forward and then I’d fall off the rails. I felt defeated and it seemed that I had made no forward progress. What I didn’t realize then was that I was not going backward, I just needed more time to process before continuing to move forward. Because I felt defeated, I refused to move at all. This constituted a lot of anguish and unnecessary grief not just for me but for others around me. In fact, at times, I felt like I was the only person in the world who had ever been through losing a parent at a young age. I most certainly was not but when you’re stuck, not only do you feel that way, but you give others the impression and implication you feel that way. And guess what? It’s really hard to help someone who feels defeated and cheated by life.

This is where the rubber met the road for me when I realized that I felt defeated because I felt cheated. I felt cheated because I had not grown up with the man I called Daddy. I felt cheated because all of my memories of him were limited because of my age. I felt cheated because my life didn’t look nor feel like those around me.

Friends, that is why I stayed stuck for a long time. But here’s the thing, no one but me could change the way I felt. My grandparents, parents, friends, extended family. No. No. No. I had to be the one to change the way I felt. I had to start looking at things differently. And to be quite honest, it wasn’t until the birth of my first child, that I began to view life differently. Why the sudden change?

As life was growing and forming inside me, my spirit was awakened and renewed by God. I realized that I had a need and no one but God could meet that need. That’s when I decided to make a change. A change that would not happen outwardly for a long time and still has a long way to go but a change that would transform me on the inside. A change that would eventually help me to see that I wasn’t cheated at all. No, I was given another man who would take exceptionally good care of me and my siblings. A man who would love my mother and delight in her. A man who would teach me that whatever you do, don’t do it halfway, give 100 % of yourself 100% of the time. (A lesson I hope to never forget) A man who would love my children, his grandchildren, as much or more than my biological Daddy would have. I wasn’t cheated at all….I was given far more than I deserved.

My life is messy. It will always be messy. There will always be times when life seems unfair and there will be times that I will again feel cheated. But as Martin Luther King, Jr said so eloquently, “I may not be the man I want to be; I may not be the man I ought to be; I may not be the man I could be; I may not be the man I truly can be; but praise God, I’m not the man I once was.”

Maybe you too have felt that defeated and cheated by things that have happened to you, circumstances far beyond your control or maybe by poor choices you’ve made. Maybe life has given you a bunch of lemons and they’re hard to squeeze but you’re the only one who can squeeze the lemon. Maybe you have to take it one section at a time and maybe that section is so small it seems pointless but the idea is to squeeze it little by little until you make your own lemonade.

The Thread of Hope

As I reflect on 2021, one word comes to mind. Hope.

In January I decided that Hope would be my word for the year. No resolutions to break within the first few weeks. No promises were made to others I could not keep. Just simply the word “HOPE”.

Hope that transcends the darkest of days. Hope that holds you together when your world is falling apart. Hope that tomorrow will be better than today. Hope because it’s the red thread that God weaves throughout the contents of the Bible.

January 1, 2021, rolled around Terry and I were recovering from COVID. Finally, on January 7, we were well enough to travel to Charleston and have Christmas with our family. And so, Christmas happened in January with health restored and hope for a brand new year.

We welcomed February with some special celebrations. Amy’s 23rd birthday and Mom’s 75 birthday. We also celebrated Alex’s “big boy job”. He was hired by Lennar Homes as an Accounting Coordinator.

On March 6th we had the opportunity to go see Amy complete in her first track meet as a Charleston Southern Buccaneer. We were simply thankful to go because there was much uncertainty with COVID restrictions. During that meet, she was disappointed in her performance but hope was born because she was coming out of a 12 week back injury.

In April, we attended a few more track meets and watched live scoring online for those we could not attend. Each meet she improved, it was a steady improvement and her back was holding steady and there was hope for a good ending to her collegiate career.

In May her collegiate career ended with a first-place finish in the Shot Put in the Big South. She finished in the top 10 of all four events and was the only thrower for Charleston Southern competing in all four events. While this was a big deal, she was feeling disappointed because her numbers were not quite good enough to qualify for NCAA regionals. Then came the realization that college athletics had come to an end. But not all hope was lost, she continued her classes through the summer and began the hunt for a job.

In June we made several trips to Charleston and we met a very special couple who had graciously taken Amy under their wings and had become her “Charleston family”. During June, a condo in Mom’s neighborhood came on the market, and Aunt Trisha fell in love with it. Now, there was the hope of her moving here, being closer to her family especially Mom.

July ushered in a job for Amy and shoulder surgery for Ryan. Within the first few weeks of Amy’s job, she knew it was not the right fit for her but she trekked on. Ryan’s shoulder surgery was successful and we had the opportunity to spend a few days with him and Alex. We were also making forward progress with the purchase of Aunt Trisha’s condo.

By early August Amy was actively seeking a new job and Aunt Trisha was beginning her health decline. I too discovered a spot on my nose, which turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma and required surgery. Immediately following my surgery, Aunt Trisha was transported via helicopter to Wake Forest Baptist Hospital. The week following on August 20, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, an inoperable tumor, and had a gastric bypass in hopes of allowing food to pass through. The surgery was a huge success but her body didn’t immediately cooperate. However, the doctors always assured us there was hope. We even closed on her condo the day before her big surgery. Now, she had a home in Hendersonville. And also, Alex was promoted to Staff Accountant. So, even amid some difficulties hope remained.

By September, Aunt Trisha was still up and down. She remained in the hospital through September 16 until she was ready to begin rehabilitation. Amy was offered a job as a recruiter at High Hampton. I picked Aunt Trisha up from rehab on September 27 and brought her to her new home in Hendersonville. She was thrilled with her new place and thought it was just “perfect” for her.

In October we celebrated Amy’s new job and move with her “Charleston family”. At the same time, Aunt Trisha was taken back the hospital. This time with pancreatitis. She was kept in a holding room in the ER at Advent Hospital until they had a room available for her at Wake Forest. When she was finally taken back to Wake Forest, they found another blockage and had to perform another surgery. During this surgery, she bottomed out three times on them. They resuscitated her with fluids all three times which caused her to be placed in ICU for several days. About mid-October, she went back to rehab for less than 24 hours and returned to the hospital only to have another surgery to untwist her bowel. However, the doctors kept hope alive by telling her she had no further blockage and should be eating normally soon.

On November 2 she was released for rehab again. Things were improving for her. She had regained mobility and was working hard to regain balance. Her food intake was slow but she was eating. She was looking forward to her appointment with Dr. Shen on November 30 for him to see her good progress but sadly she wound up back in the hospital on November 28. For her, hope seemed to be fleeting for life here on earth but her eternal hope never waned. And all the while, I watched as she grew weaker and wearier, I clung to the hope that God had been and would continue to be merciful to her and His faithfulness would be evident.

December came like a whirlwind, on December 1, Aunt Trisha decided to allow Hospice to take over and on December 2, she was transported to Elizabeth House in Hendersonville. In the evening hours of December 4, God called her home. God was merciful and God was gracious to her. Just as I had hoped and prayed. During the month, we celebrated 3 birthdays and an anniversary, and Christmas. On Christmas Eve we took Mom with us to church for a beautiful Christmas Eve service. Then she took us all to one of our favorite local restaurants, The Hare and Hound, for Terry’s birthday. Christmas Day was wonderful and so warm we sat on the porch for several hours and just enjoyed our day. At the close of December, we found ourselves back in Charleston…the same place we began 2021. This time to celebrate with our sons who were not able to come home for Christmas and also celebrate the engagement of Matthew and Lindsey. And so there it is, the thread of hope weaved throughout the year.

There are always going to be moments of disappointment and some may come with deep and sometimes seemingly utter despair but what I’ve learned throughout the past year is that hope is alive. It is living and active. Sometimes it comes in big waves and sometimes it’s a small as a grain of sand. Hope is that one word that promises a better tomorrow because hope looks forward with anticipation. But there is only one true source of hope and my hope has a name, Jesus. He is Hope for all who truly believe.

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Give Me Your Hand

Hopefully, by now you all know that I am very much a realist, and I don’t live in a dream-world facade. My world and my life are about as far from perfect as it gets. However, I try to find good humor in things, especially hard things. I try to look at the brighter side of things and find meaning in the little things. I don’t discount or hide sadness or hard times behind humor, I just know that a day without laughter is not a day lived well for me.

On my first visit to see my Aunt in the hospital back in August, I bounced in her room like a happy-go-lucky Tigger. I quickly walked over to kiss her on the cheek but in my eagerness to kiss her I clumsily stepped on her feet. She quickly withdrew from me causing me to almost lose my balance and fall right into the chair with her. We both had a good belly laugh at the situation.

Later in the day as I was leaving I started towards her again. Quicker than a wink, she thrust her hand out and said, “I think it’s safer for you to just kiss my hand.” From that time until the day of her passing she would always give me her dainty little hand to kiss.

On Saturday, December 4, when Terry and I got to the Elizabeth House her nurse told us that she had been so sleepy they couldn’t get her to take her meds. Finally, we aroused her enough for the nurse to get them down but her eyes remained mostly closed. She would answer a question and she chuckled a few times so I knew she heard us. Before we left, I said, “Okay Aunt Trisha Terry and I are leaving. Give me your hand so I can kiss it. She pulled her hand out from the covers and held it up for me to kiss.” Although that would be the last time for me to kiss her dainty little hand, I still have to chuckle when I think of how quickly she responded to my request.

Moments like these are the ones I will treasure forever. These moments bring me great joy and comfort amid sorrow. These remembered moments remind me that even in the hard times of life, laughter and joy can be found. It’s not focusing on what you’ve lost, it’s remembering what you had and being grateful for the little things and precious memories.

Hope and Anticipation

On Wednesday, December 1, Aunt Trisha’s Pastor, Suzanne, came to visit. She arrived shortly after Aunt Trisha decided to have Hospice manage her care. A visit already planned before the decision was made, a divine appointment.

As Suzanne talked with Aunt Trisha, she asked her if she was at peace with her decision and she replied, “Yes.” Then she asked her if she had peace in knowing that God would be soon coming to take her home. She acknowledged that she did. Afterward, Suzanne said, “Now Pat, you know we are in Advent Season. A season of waiting and anticipation of the arrival of Christmas. Also, for Christians, it’s an anticipation of His second coming. But for you, you are awaiting His coming for you. How beautiful that you are waiting to be made whole again.”

Friends, I must tell you, I was completely blown away by her statement. I, too, am doing a study on Advent, but I had never put it in the context Suzanne brought to light. In that moment of wisdom, there in that hospital room, peace, joy and hope permeated the room and any fear of death removed.

When you watch someone go through as much as I witnessed with her, it is such a comfort to know that she no longer is struggling. She is made whole. In fact there’s a beautiful promise we find in Revelation 21: 4-5 “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

As you celebrate Advent this year, remember it’s not just about Jesus’ birth, or even His second coming, we too, can anticipate the day that He will make all things new and that includes us who believe in Him.

Dear Daddy

Here we are again, another year to remember and celebrate the day of your birth. And yet, a constant reminder that for the biggest part of my life you have lived with Jesus, and I have only fragments of juvenile memories.

Some would argue that I was too young to remember as much as I do and that I may be transposing dreams into memories. However, these nuggets of memories are far too real to be merely dreams.

Maybe it was the trauma of it all that caused me to remember. Or the realization that I wouldn’t have you around long and so I fought hard to remember, especially the touch of your hands, the warmth of your hugs, the way you would tilt your head back when you laughed, your eyes how they’d twinkle when you grinned. The sternness of your voice. (You never had to ask us twice to do something…..ever). The tenderness of your love.

Although your physical presence has been gone for 45 years now, there’s still a part of you living inside of me. And can I just be honest, in the past six months I have felt your presence more than ever? I think it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time at Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem. Albeit much different than when you were there, my thoughts of you being there caused me to wonder…..

Did you know the last time was the last? Is that why you asked your brother, Butch, to stop by the river in Old Fort so you could walk the river bank and hear it’s rush one more time? Is that why you had Mom come with you? I think the answer is, “Yes.” You did know. You knew your health was deteriorating and the inkling that something just wasn’t right.

What you didn’t know. You didn’t know they would find an inoperable tumor resting on your spine, which would quickly paralyze you from your waist down. You didn’t know that you would spend the last seven weeks of your life in Pardee Hospital. But to you the unknown didn’t matter because of the hope you had in Jesus. You knew that death was only a shadow and that you were going to start your new and eternal life in heaven with Jesus. You knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would be healed and whole. And this knowledge is how you were able to endure so much. You knew that your suffering would not be forever and you knew your suffering would be used to advance the gospel. You rested with the calm assurance that God was Sovereign above all things because your hope was being refined through your suffering.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

1 Peter 1:6-9 NIV

I am grateful.and blessed to have the fragments of memories but I am overjoyed to know that while your physical presence has been gone for 45 years the fragments of memories help remind me that a part of you still lives within me and the hope you had in Jesus is the same hope I have in Him today. Oh, how blessed I am to have had a dad like you.

When The Harvest Comes

This picture I have saved for four years now, waiting for the right time to share. Today seems the perfect day for this story.

This sweetheart belongs to Amber, her name is Kelland. Amber was Ned’s partner, sidekick, bodyguard, and good friend for many years. Mom always said,” As long as Amber was with Ned on an assignment, I never worried. I knew he was safe with her.”

When Ned moved into the Elizabeth House, Amber was one of the first ones calling and asking what he wanted. She brought him all kinds of goodies including peach and chocolate ice cream from Whit’s. She’d worked with him long enough to know his likes and dislikes.

On the evening of October 26th, Kelland came with Amber to see Ned. It was the day after his big rebound and he was being kept comfortable. Kelland was a little nervous about seeing Ned so Amber sent her to the waiting room to entertain herself. When Amber went to get Kelland to leave this is what Kelland had written.

Every time I see this a tear trickles down my cheek and it’s okay. It’s an endearing reminder that Ned was well-loved by many, including this precious child.

It’s also a reminder of the simplicity and honesty of a child’s heart. She didn’t feel comfortable seeing Ned because there was too much uncertainty in her mind about how he would look but she wanted him and others to know that she loved him.

But there’s more to this story: Ned was always faithful to share his faith and in doing so, he encouraged Amber and Jason to get involved in a church. On his birthday April 21, 2018, almost 7 months after his death, Amber FaceTimed me.

She said, “Kelland, tell Kelly what you did today!”

Kelland replied, “I asked Jesus in my heart today.”

“Kelland, you gave Ned the best birthday present he’s ever had,” I said.

What a perfect reminder that our lives are intertwined with others by God’s design. We should never take lightly the great responsibility God has given for us to build up one another and to encourage one another in the faith. You never know when the harvest is coming.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV