Tag Archives: love

And So This Is Christmas

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A_Christmas_CarolI just finished watching my favorite version of A Christmas Carol. In this rendition, Captain Jean Luc Picard plays the part of Scrooge and brings such a weightiness and excellent acting to the part that I tape the version each year to watch on Christmas Eve. As I told a friend of mine while chatting on Facebook tonight, I believe Dickens’ novella is the greatest story of a man finding redemption to be had outside the pages of the Bible. He starts the movie a hard-hearted miserly old . . . well, SCROOGE, but four ghosts later, he is a changed man who knows the meaning of Christmas isn’t presents or even family. The true meaning of Christmas is redemption.

Scrooge can find redemption for the same reason we all can, because a little over two thousand years ago, God was born in the flesh to a teenage virgin girl huddled with her betrothed in a dank odoriferous cave converted into a makeshift stable behind a cheap motel in the backwater town of Bethlehem in the equally backwater region of Palestine. That girl then wrapped God — creator of the Universe — in clean, but frayed cloths and laid Him in a feed trough and probably sang Him to sleep. Royal robes to old rags; angelic choir to a mother’s lullaby. All so that He could undo the tremendous mess His most prized creation had gotten the world into. He came as a baby with one purpose in sight — to die on a cross and save the world. Everyone born WILL die; He was born TO die . . . and save us all.

Atheists, scientists, other religions’ leaders down the centuries have tried to disprove that teenage girl ever had a child named Jesus. They’ve tried through time to say He never existed, and when they failed in that, they tried to say He existed, but He wasn’t God. I think they’ve failed at that as well.

See, the name of the holiday (holiday = holy day) is Christmas. Literally, that means Mass of Christ. Now I’m not going into all the theological historical arguments about Christmas being a usurpation of the pagan Saturnalia and Jesus not being born in December. I know all of those arguments and if you insist on hashing them out, give me an email in the comments and we’ll talk. Now, back to the name. A mass is a celebration so Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ. It’s right there in the name.

The name isn’t “Toymas.”

It’s not “Santamas”

It’s not “Treemas” or “Partymas” or “Frostymas.”

It’s not called “Shoppingmas” or “Retailmas” or “Giftmas.”

We don’t sing about “O Shopping Night” or “The First Black Friday.”

We don’t because no matter how much the rising tide of secularization tries to wash away anything Christian to do with Christmas, they haven’t thought to change the name. They’ve tried a time or two. Years ago it started with “Seasons’ Greetings” and today the most PC among us go with “Happy Holidays” (again:  holiday = holy day). Christmas is still on the calendar though. The name of the Federal holiday (holy day) is “Christmas” and not “Winter Holiday.”

The Roman Empire was one of the mightiest political entities ever. They tried to kill the holiday in the womb and stamp out Christianity, but they couldn’t get it done. Neither could Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, or Mao and they ALL had more power than any of our Presidents have ever possessed.

Every gift you run around buying? You are constantly reenacting a central part of the Christmas story — the Magi bringing gifts to the Christ child. Every scrap of “holiday” music you listen to from Halloween to December 26th? Reenacting the angelic host announcing to the shepherds the birth of the Christ child. Wrapping all those gifts? Just like Mary wrapped our ultimate gift.

So try to stamp it out. Try to humbug it like Scrooge did, but at the end of it all, despite the best efforts of generation after generation of genuises, the message of Christmas is still Christ is Born. To quote the greatest showman wrestler of all time, Mr. Richard Fleer, aka Ric “The Nature Boy” Flair, “Whether you LIKE it, or DON’T LIKE it, sit down and LOOK at it, because it’s the best thing going today!”

Can I get a “whooooo?”

Love y’all, keep those feet clean, and Merry Christmas.

 

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Let Us Join With Rachel As She Weeps

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Rachel weeping I was all prepared to write something funny or something Christmasy as would befit the season, but this morning’s events in Connecticut have jolted me from that path and brought new sadness as well as sadness of memory to what should be the most wonderful time of the year. Earlier this morning, 24-year-old Ryan Lanza went into his mother’s 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered a kindergarten classroom in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shot and killed his mother, and opened fire on the children. All we know for certain at the moment is 18 children — all under age ten — are dead along with eight of their teachers. Those numbers could rise. Lanza’s mother was found dead later.

This hurts me on more levels than I can adequately express. For one, I was a high school teacher in the black days of Columbine and the spate of copycat killings which followed. My colleagues and I talked about little else during that awful period because we were completely aware it could easily happen to us. We all knew students — TAUGHT students — who were ticking time bombs whom we were powerless to help. I must have run over an attack scenario in my mind hundreds of times. I even set up my classroom to provide maximum cover for students should someone think the unthinkable. The school supposedly had a plan; I know I did and I told my students if they heard gunshots they only had to remember one instruction, “follow Coach Wham.” My children knew how seriously I took the phrase in loco parentis and if anyone was getting shot, it would be me or over my dead body.

As someone who struggles with mental issues of my own, I also hurt because I KNOW this young man had to be mentally disturbed in some way, shape or form. Normal, well-adjusted people do not kill innocent babies in cold blood; they simply don’t; not even in wartime. That’s why the epithet of “baby killer” is one of the most terrible insults anyone can spew at a soldier. I have no idea what will eventually come to light, but I’m willing to bet someone somewhere is thinking right now “I KNEW this was going to happen. I saw all the signs.” I know what it feels like to cry out for help in all the wrong ways and to feel so helplessly out of control and at the mercy of my own mind. I’m just thankful that my anger has always turned inward because I can’t imagine doing something like this on the worst unmedicated day I’ve ever had, but at the same time I ache terribly for someone so consumed he could find no other means towards peace than this massacre which ended with him taking his own life.

This tragedy disturbs me and angers me as well because I am a gun owner and a gun supporter, but I know it won’t be long until some politician tries to make a name for himself by leading a crusade against firearms. First of all, it makes me want to puke whenever I see some little political worm making political hay out of a tragedy like this. It cheapens the deaths of these innocents and it paints even more innocent people with an unfairly broad brush. I will soon be 42 and been around guns all my life, but I have yet to see one that could act of its own free will. Legislators can ban anything they want but until they can ban evil and hatred from the human heart they don’t have a chance of stopping violence because laws do not affect people who have no intention of following the laws in the first place.

Most of all, however, this awful episode deeply saddens me as a Christian. I know, as surely as I know stop signs are red, people are going to start throwing out expressions like “Where’s this ‘God’ of yours now?” They’ll ask, “How could a God who’s supposed to love us let this happen to CHILDREN?” They’ll claim, “I’ll never follow or believe in a God who is powerless to stop this kind of evil.” And it will go on and on. Atheists like Richard Dawkins have a field day whenever a tragedy like this occurs because they point at it as proof God doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, too many people won’t look for answers and will believe this wrong thinking.

Where was God? He was where He’s always been — sitting on the throne of Heaven completely aware of everything that has ever happened, is happening, or ever will happen from eternity past to eternity future. The hard truth is, God knew this was going to happen before the plan ever became a thought in the poor deranged gunman’s mind. What so many people fail to realize is “knowing” something isn’t the same as “causing” something.

So, why does God “let” these things happen? That’s a have your cake question. Sure, God can “make” His creations (that’s us) do whatever He wants us to do, but that’s a one way street. Make us do something once, we’ll be made to do everything forever. It’s free will. We all praise and love the idea of “freedom” and “free will” but most of us don’t want to acknowledge the fact that “freedom” means just that — and if we’re free to do good; we’re also free to do otherwise. Without free will, we would never have anything like school shootings, but we’d never have anything like the Mona Lisa or the Empire State building either. Free will is all about choices and in order to free us to make good choices, God had to acknowledge some of us would make bad choices. We can’t have our cake and eat it too.

Finally, let me say one thing to those who can’t believe God could allow / do something like this AND to all the parents who lost their precious children in this horrible tragedy, God understands EXACTLY how you feel. He is a parent. He had an only child too — a son actually — who was also killed by hate filled, unfeeling men, with one important difference — God DID allow His Son to be killed. God knew from eternity past that His only beloved son would die, and He knew He would STAND ASIDE and allow it to happen even as that Son begged His Father for rescue. God the Eternal, Perfect Father watched His son die so that we could live. I do not pretend to understand it, but I know it is so. So for all the parents and loved ones who lost children today, understand that you are understood by the One who catches your tears in a bottle. If you will reach out to Him, even in this darkest hour, you will find Him waiting to comfort you.

Go Rest High on that Mountain, Papa John

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Papa John on Mama's wedding day.

I’ve found it exceptionally difficult to look out the window all day today and see such a beautiful cerulean sky with the Sun shining warm and high.

Five years ago on this day, rain fell so hard and so long that it made a rivulet beneath the funeral tent where I stood giving Papa John’s eulogy. It rained so hard the canvas of the tent sounded almost like a ten roof. I couldn’t see the highway only twenty yards away.

When the time came to leave, Budge and I drove out of the cemetery and I couldn’t think of the words or tune of a single hymn or gospel song. All I could think about were the words to Stevie Ray Vaughn’s signature song . . . “The Sky Is Crying.”

As unbelievable as it was to me, my Papa John – Mama’s father – was gone and it seemed as if Nature herself was taking part in our grief.

It’s taken me five years to write one word about Papa’s death because all these years later, that wound is no less open, raw and putrescent than it was the day Papa John passed away.

I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with Papa John as I did Granny and Papa Wham for a variety of reasons I will not discuss here. However, of all my close ancestors, I share more traits and characteristics with Papa John than I do any other relative. Some people who read this might not like that. The person writing this doesn’t really care if they do or not.

My Papa John was special. He faced down more calamity and disaster; overcame more ill will and hard breaks; and fought off more despair and personal demons than any man I’ve ever known. Whenever I think of Papa, I think of the quote some attribute to Rabelais “What cannot be remedied must be endured“. My Papa John endured where others would have fainted, if not fled in terror at what was happening to them. Death alone could stop him and even then, he didn’t go without a fight.

Papa was a Pentecostal preacher. He was never happier than when he was at the front of our little white church playing his guitar or delivering a sermon. When he wasn’t preaching, he was busy doing the Lord’s work and when he wasn’t doing the Lord’s work, he was working in textile plants all over Laurens and Simpsonville, SC.

Papa worked hard, but he never had anything to show for it. I’ve seen him give the coat off his back to someone who needed it more than he did. He was big-hearted and generous and kind and the world hated him for it. He was slandered and lied about and run through the petty small town rumor mill over and over — because he was good to people.

Throughout all the false accusations and tribulations in his life, my Papa never lifted a finger against anyone. He didn’t have to. God had Papa’s back. Oh, I know a lot of you reading this, especially members of my own family probably don’t believe that, but again, ask me if I care. You weren’t there. You don’t know as much as you think you do. What I know is everyone — man and woman, kin and stranger alike — who mistreated my Papa John either had to come to him to apologize on bended knee or else died in horrible, Old Testament ways. One wagging tongue silenced itself with a blast from a 12 gauge shotgun. Another died choking while drowning on his own blood. A family member who spoke too harshly about things which weren’t her business one too many times died of a horrible wasting lung cancer . . . and never smoked a day in her life.

Believe what you want to.

From the time I was 13 until I was 35 and he passed, Papa had MULTIPLE strokes and heart attacks. I was with him the night he had his first stroke in our church parking lot. I was 13 and didn’t know what the change in his voice meant and neither did he. The ailments took his body, but Papa never succumbed to the slightest bit of dementia. Until he lapsed into his final coma, he was as sharp as the kitchen knives he used to keep to cut radiator hoses.

For years before he passed away, his left hand and arm were completely useless. He drove his car with a steering knob. His left leg was halt and somewhat withered. He walked anyway.He never stopped. He endured.

I could fill a book with my papa’s life, but most people — even many who knew him — wouldn’t believe parts of it. He was a mystery to most people. I don’t have space or time to talk about cars and restaurants and the Harakin Pine Woods. I could make an entry about Papa in this blog every day for the rest of my life and the half wouldn’t be told.

Papa John didn’t measure success in dollars and cents. That confused lots of people. People might not have known how to take Papa, but they knew who to turn to for help. He never stopped his ministry. When he could no longer stand in a pulpit, he’d sit in a Waffle House at 3:00 AM talking to a stranger about God over a cup of coffee. Five years later, Mama and I are still finding out about lives he touched that we knew nothing about.

Here’s what matters though and here’s what you need to take away from this post about my grandfather. He didn’t have a bank account. He never owned a house. His only possessions were his bible, a few clothes, and a hand-me-down Ford Fairmont. The day he died, he had one $5 bill in his wallet. As I said at his funeral, according to our vision of “The American Dream” he had NOTHING to show for his life. Some people might have looked at him as a complete failure.

I’ll tell you what he did have though — in the middle of a driving rainstorm that would turn to sleet later that day — he had more people at his funeral than the Fletcher’s Mortuary tent could hold, but the people came anyway and stood in that driving rain to pay a last visit to a man who had a heart no one could measure.

THAT is what you need to know about Papa John. That and the fact that I loved him more than breath and since his death nothing has been the same and never will be. Men like Papa John leave a hole too big to ever fill on this side of the Jordan River.

Rest on the mountain for a little while, Papa, and look for me . . . I’m trying.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

 

Three Lessons on Valentines Day

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I’ve been sitting here with Budge as another Valentines Day wends its way to conclusion . . . at least here in the Eastern US Time Zone. Any of y’all who may read this out on the Left Coast still have time to make at least SOME last-minute plans. We’ve never been great fans of Cupid’s Day. Budge worked at a florist shop for a little over a year so if I even mention bringing her a dozen roses, I get the “withering stare.” She took a break from her diet and we had a nice supper together.

Still, not many days evoke the humorous and the serious from my memory quite like Valentines Day. I taught high school English in a rural, blue-collar high school for ten years and Valentines Day always produced a few surprises. I remember one young lad who began coming to school dressed in khakis and button down oxfords instead of his former ratty t-shirts and blue jeans with the dip can ring on the back pocket. I held him after class one day near Valentines and questioned him on the quite noticeable change in his attire. He said, “Coach, it’s the strangest thing. Ever since me and ____ started dating, she’s taken some of her check from her after school job and bought me clothes. She knows my size and everything. Does that mean she’s got it bad for me, Coach?”

Now, as an aside, please remember that this was a rural high school. Graduation was nowhere near assured for many of these students. I had several walk across the stage as first generation diploma bearers during my tenure. Also, college was somewhat of an undreamed of luxury for this hard-working community. That meant that high school romances were quite often precursors to a married life. The girls especially seemed to realize this more than the boys and they would lay claim to the best of the crop of young men by the junior prom. So that meant my young buddy’s question was not unfounded.

I smiled at him and said, “Son, learn something from me right now that’s never going to be on a test. None of those clothes, right down to those nice new ropers you’ve got on has a THING to do with you!” Seeing his quizzical expression, I continued on, “Nope, it’s ALL about her. See, you have become an ‘accessory’ now. You are just like a handbag or a bracelet. It’s your job in life to make sure SHE looks good when y’all walk down the hall or the mall together. You ever been to a jewelry store and seen all the diamonds?” He nodded. “Well, then. Think of yourself as the black velvet cloth her diamond lies on. You make her shine.” That seemed to register with him so I asked him what he’d gotten his new beauette for Valentines Day. His reply was one that would run ice water through any “attached” man’s veins.

He said, “She told me not to get her anything. She’s real easy on me like that.”

I said, “Son, tell me you got her SOMETHING — card, candy, SOMETHING!”

“No, Coach, I told you she told me not to.”

I let him in on the secret. “Son, lesson two for the day. When a girl y’all’s age says, ‘oh, don’t get me anything’ she means she’s not going to TELL you what to get her. This is the test of how well you know her. She’s going to find out now just how well you’ve been paying attention on y’all’s dates and stuff.”

He looked stricken, “But she SAID . . .” I cut him off, “Son, I know what she said and that’s just it. She’s testing you. Now you can take her at face value and not get her anything and pay the price, or you can hit up Wally World and get her a teddy bear and a cute card.”

Nodding, he asked me, “but, Coach, why didn’t she just SAY all that?”

I gave him the last lesson for the day, “Son, she’s a female. Females are smarter than us. That’s all I know.”

He did get the teddy bear and cute card and about four years later I had the pleasure of officiating at their wedding.

It’s the truth, ladies. Y’all are just smarter than us.

Love all y’all and keep those feet clean!

What I Want for Christmas

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Today is Christmas and everyone who survived the rush and crush of people are gathered around trees or tables with friends and family swapping stories, opening presents, eating, drinking, and generally making merry. It’s been a common custom for people to exchange lists of gifts they would like to get from their significant others while children practice their penmanship on those all important letters to Santa. I thought that, in the spirit of the season, I’d like to make out a list of what I want for Christmas this year. Just for fun and variety.

I want to eat Christmas dinner at Papa and Granny Wham’s. I want Papa Wham to say the blessing — his blessing — the same one I can still recite in my head: “Father, pardon us of all our sins; we thank you for these and all other blessing, in Jesus’ name, Amen.” I want to eat Granny Wham’s bone dry turkey and her dressing that she never put onions in because she knew I hated onions. I want Granny Hughes’ English pea dumplings as a side dish. I want one of Aunt Nell’s cakes.

I want us all sitting around a huge table. I want Papa Wham at one end and Papa John at the other. I want Granny Wham to sit down and not walk around with the tea pitcher asking to fill everyone’s glass for the twentieth time. I want Budge next to me and Mama and Rob, Mama Lowe and Jessie, Travis and Dani, and Chloe stretching down from Budge’s side. I want Chloe to have a bottle of cereal held in two good hands. I want Daddy and Teresa, Nick, Keri, and Mason on my other side stretching up the table. I want Daddy to be holding Mason and genuinely happy, smiling and at ease instead of on a ragged emotional edge because of Vietnam rooted PTSD.

I’d say I want Mama and Daddy still together, but even my wildest fantasies have their limits. Also, wishing carelessly can reduce happiness as much as expand it. For instance, had Mama and Daddy not divorced, MAYBE some things in my life would have been better. Maybe not. However, no divorce would then mean no Rob. No Rob; no Baby Huey; no Baby Huey; no Dani and without them both I wouldn’t have my beautiful baby niece, Chloe. It would be the same story on my other side as well. No Teresa would mean no Nicholas; no Nick would mean no Sissy; no Nick and no Sissy would mean no precious baby Mason.

Unfortunately, Mason and Chloe don’t completely erase the pain, anger, and frustration of a busted up family and all the excess arrangements and holiday misery such a lifestyle brings with it — memory is a killing thing in that regard, but they DO give the pain, anger, and frustration new and happier context. They’ve given meaning to the madness. Having those two bright eyed centers of the universe giggling and laughing at the table make the tears worthwhile.

Then I want Aunt Judy and the family she’d have sitting next to Aunt Cathy and Uncle Larry and Blake and Zack and Ashley. I want them all sitting right across from me. I want Granny Wham sitting next to Papa Wham and Aunt Mary and Uncle Carroll sitting — happily — side-by-side next to Granny.  I want Aunt Polly, Aunt Nell, and Aunt Mot — The Three Sisters — sitting together. I want Shane and Ashleigh sitting together nearby. I want little curly-locked Gabriel sitting on his all-grown-up Uncle Scott’s lap.

I want Dad and Sandy nearby — and quiet for a change. I want Missy and Charles and Jackson and Harry somewhere close by. I want Richard, bright-eyed, unhaunted, happy and sober, sitting next to Ki-Ki with Ryken on his lap. I want my beloved Kayla with her mom and stepdad, PJ and O.J,. there with the boys and Celeste, calmly smiling, eating and talking instead of screaming and fighting. This is another case of wishing for wholeness would mean wishing away much happiness. In some convoluted “perfect world” Rich and PJ wouldn’t have divorced and Kayla would have grown up in a stable family, made excellent grades, and gone to a fantastic college on a soccer scholarship. However, if that were true, Budge and I wouldn’t have Ki-Ki and Ryken in our lives, so — as painful as the road my be — I’ll take the demonic with the divine and keep on keeping on.

I want Laura and Rachel and Jen and the rest of Budge and my Florida family sitting with us around the table. I want to sit next to Grandma Sims and ask her if Dad was always as stubborn and hard-headed as he is now!

I want Papa John to read the Christmas story out of Luke from Papa Hurley’s huge family Bible. I want Uncle Claude to pray for us all after the meal. I want Aunt Mildred sitting with him, calm and well. I want Aunt Betty and Uncle Raymond and Rhonda next to Granny Hughes. I want Mama singing Christmas carols (instead of hacking and coughing) with Aunt Lib and Big Granny while Papa John plays his guitar and Aunt Margie plays the piano. I want Jenny there with Bubba and Diane. I want Bluford and Chad, Connie and Gen all sitting together. I want Aunt Margaret passing around her biscuits with one hand while holding Uncle Leroy’s hand with the other.

I want Brooke and Smallwood, Daniel and the Sledzianowski Brothers, Angela and Christian, and of course, my buddy Tina all sitting near me. I want Coach Candler and Mrs. McCuen and all the rest of my Woodmont family sitting around the table and tree with us. I want Maureen and her 3 boys and Dr. O and his three girls with Lance and my District 56 family with them too. I want my “sister” Laura sitting with Cameron and Jacob, smiling and not worried about paying bills or being alone anymore. I want Erica sitting hand in hand with David, happy and satisfied.

I want us all together and happy one more time.

That’s what I want for Christmas.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Hug and kiss the ones you love today. Next Christmas might be too late.

Of Tragedy and Old Friends

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I stopped by Kentucky Grilled Chicken (?!?!?) today for a three honey BBQ snacker snack at lunchtime. I was done with the tater wedges and halfway through my second snacker when an old friend showed up in the KFC (KGC . . . KGB . . . ???). Now when I say “old friend”, this chicka is quite possibly my second oldest friend in the world. She and I literally have known each other from right near the cradle. We went through twelve years of grade school and K5 together. I distinctly remember talking her out of playing with the toy kitchen set in Miss Coggins’ room so she would come play in the sandbox with me. Birthday parties, McDonald’s parties, swimming dates. We go way back.

For the purpose of this story, her name will be Nadia. First, I don’t want her real name plastered all over the Internet because she’s a private person and second, I didn’t go to school with anyone named Nadia at any time that I can remember, so people won’t be running to the old yearbooks (as if they cared) to see who I’m talking about.

Nadia was one of my first kindergarten crushes. I thought she was beautiful with china blue eyes and long snowy blond hair, but even more, she was cute and funny. She was a lot like me. Her parents were the first couple in my dinky little home town to get divorced after mine broke the ice. It wasn’t much of a loss for the family since her dad was, as Papa used to put it, “not worth the powder it would take to blow his brains out.” Still, not much ever seemed to get her down. She was the middle child of three, then the second oldest of four when her mother got a bit of a surprise when Nadia and I were beginning sixth grade. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only surprise Nadia’s family would get that year.

Nadia was the most graceful gymnast I knew in my short life. She was athletic all around — great runner, champion swimmer, etc. — but her true gift lay on the floor exercise platform. I still recall our sixth grade talent show when she did her floor routine and absolutely floored everyone else. Her dream was the Olympics. She had her sights set on Los Angeles and 1984 and none of us, young or old, doubted her ability or commitment. We joked in math class about how much tickets to LA would cost. Our closest airport wasn’t even equipped for that kind of trip then. Nadia had big dreams and we all dreamed with her. Somewhere boxed up I’ve got a wallet sized picture of her in her leotard with her rhythm hoop. She’s smiling that spotlight smile and looks for all the world like she was posing on the podium getting the gold medal.

If iPods had been around in 1982, I don’t doubt for a minute she’d have made LA. Nadia, her mother, her mother’s best friend, and Nadia’s three sisters, including the baby, were on their way home in a car driven by Nadia’s oldest sister, who had just gotten her permit. The cassette they were listening to reached the end and automatically ejected. It came out of the player and fell to the floor beneath the sister’s feet. When her sister glanced down to mark where it fell, the car was in the beginning of a curve and drifted into the path of a fully loaded gravel truck  from the local quarry.

The Highway Patrol statement said there were no skid marks visible from either vehicle. Neither driver had touched a brake pedal. The truck was stopped by climbing atop the car and sliding several hundred feet until both vehicles went into the ditch. The truck driver was physically unscathed and everyone, including Nadia, have always maintained there was nothing humanly possible he could have done to avoid the collision. In any event, I heard the accident drove him to the bottle. Whether that is true or not, I can’t say. You’ll hear anything in a small town.

What is a fact is Nadia’s Olympic dream ended in a tangle of sheet metal and diesel fuel. Her spine was severed right below her belly button. She would never walk again. Her mother, the friend, oldest sister, and the baby, who wasn’t in a car seat because she didn’t have to be in those days, all died at the scene. Nadia’s next sister, seated at impact between the friend and Nadia, walked away with a cut over her left eye that required five stitches.

I don’t know many well adjusted grown men and women who could have withstood a tragedy of that magnitude with all mental flags flying, but Nadia seemed to. I don’t pretend to know what nightmares have ridden roughshod through her dreams these last thirty years, but I know she took to her wheelchair like the proverbial duck to water. After some therapy, she was riding rings around her grandmother and grandfather’s home. She even came back to school and finished the year.

In those pre-Americans with Disabilities Act days, our beloved principal and several of the more “handy” fathers came to the school several days over the winter break and built ramps to every place they could imagine Nadia wanting to go. She was given a key to the faculty bathroom because it was the only restroom in the school large enough to accommodate her and her wheelchair. One of her trusted friends would always accompany her in case she fell making the transition from chair to commode and back. That’s how we did it back then. We took care of each other.

Nadia was the first handicapped person I knew up close and personal. She could have been the poster child for how to deal with the biggest poop sandwich I’ve ever seen handed to one person in one lifetime. She was, and still is, a survivor. She and I graduated the same night and I lost track of her for some time. Then I started running into her at local stores and such. She was still pretty as ever. In time’s due course, she married a very kind and decent man. He was with her today. They have four children and the oldest was graduating tonight, just as his mother and I did these twenty years gone.

So I told y’all Nadia’s story to tell you, and myself, this little tidbit — it could ALWAYS be worse. What’s more, when it GETS worse, it’s up to you how to handle it. If anyone in this world has ever had a right to end up hooked on drugs or completely depressed or suicidal, Nadia was that person. That wasn’t how she rolled, pun intended, though. One dream and most of her family had died, but the woman I saw today still had a head held high and her china blue eyes still sparkled. The snow blond hair had some grey streaks, but mine does as well and my life has been a cakewalk compared to Nadia’s. So don’t take anything for granted folks. Life moves at the speed of love and it moves by very fast. Nadia is moving right along with it. She’s been an inspiration to me for going on thirty years now. I hope her story inspires some of y’all as well.

So, love y’all bunches and now that summer’s here, when y’all come in from chasing fireflies, don’t forget to wash your feet! 🙂