A Point In Time


Monday, October 09, 2006


Everybody comes from somewhere, and some are lucky enough to be able to trace their family history back through the ages. I can't follow mine completely, but enough to make it interesting. Ironcially, I never knew any of this as a child but it would have really been cool! Once you read this story you will understand. The family would talk sometimes of Uncle Peter and that he married an "Indian Princess", but that was about it. His history went back somewhere in the 1600’s or 1700’s we thought, but no one knew for sure. Of course, thoughts tend to proliferate when you begin to think about history and our forefathers along with the travels of the Pilgrims and how this great country was settled.

The information reflected that the paternal side of the family had descended from a long line of Native American lineage. This was always suspected, but never really proven. Of course, in the US, it is not be unusual for many people to have some Native American ancestry. My maternal grandmother, who died long before I was born, was of Cherokee and Spanish descent. My maternal great grandfather's surname was Hernandez, and there was also Libby showing a Dutch connection. We tried to research the maternal side of the family but it went in so many directions that it was literally impossible to follow. So before you decide to do delve into your genealogy, be warned that it can be a daunting task.

On my father’s side, the sleuthing was different. Family discussions of Uncle Peter would include that he came from France. Peter had allegedly married an "Indian Princess", so since it sounded like some Pocahontas story that you read in grade school, we just passed it off as folklore. As with many folklores however, there is some truth…..

I discovered that we could trace the family back to the Wampanoag tribe and Chief Massasoit. The tribe stretched throughout the Northeastern continent in the 17th century and was one of the largest tribes of the time. Massasoit was born in 1580 and was the Chief of the Wampanoag when the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. According to Wikipedia:

The first American Thanksgiving was a feast that took place on an unremembered date, sometime in the autumn of 1621, at Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts. In 1620, a group led by separatists from the Church of England, who were heading for Virginia, instead landed at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, for uncertain reasons. In the autumn of 1621, they celebrated a three-day harvest feast with the native Wampanoag people, without whom they would not have survived the winter of 1620.

Massasoit had two sons; Wamsutta, afterward named Alexander, who eventually succeeded his father as head of the tribe, and Pometacom, alias King Philip who became famous in his own right through the King Philip’s war. Which, for that time period was a very bloody battle between the Wampanoag tribe and the colonies of the time.

Along this timeline, W. William Austin came into the picture. Bill was a “Famous Indian Scout”. Other than that, there is not much recorded history. Bill Austin - "Famous Indian Scout" married and American woman and they bore a son named William. William (the son) was captured by the Indians in 1675 when he was about 5 years old. According to documentation that I discovered he married the daughter of Wamsutta (King Alexander) and he and his Indian bride bore a daughter-Mercy. Our connection came in when Mercy, daughter of William Austin and Indian Princess (daughter of a “King”) married James which is the son of Uncle Peter. As history was in those times, the details are scarce and sometimes fabricated or confusing.

That, I suppose, is what makes life interesting.

I guess the real truth is that is really does not matter where you came from. In the US, we are simply a melting pot of the world. Sadly, there are those that can never trace their family ancestry. They know that they came from Spain, or France, or Africa but that is all they know. We can’t trace our lineage to France although it has been tried.

What matters is where you are going, and that is what makes a difference. The fact of the matter is that you are here today for a reason-a very special reason. You were placed on this earth at this place and time for a purpose and each of you are a part of the plan. Each and everyone of us is here because it is part of the plan. We can't all be President. We can’t all be famous or rich, or powerful. But each of us is unique in everyway. There is a beauty inside each person.

I know that some that read this will not understand. I also know that not everyone has the same faith. Some believe in God, some in Allah, some in a higher power, and some don’t believe anything. Whatever your belief, it is your choice. I will tell you however that I believe that God has a plan for everyone whether you believe in Him or not. Each person in the world has a talent. Sometimes you need to find it, but it is there. One reason that you are here on this earth is to share that talent, that gift that you have been given. It may be music, creativity, speech, care, intelligence, or, believe it or not, physically disabled. Every person born unto this world has a purpose. The point is that you are here to help, or influence someone in your path each day. It took many years for me to understand this, and even now I question many things.

Take some time to find your place. It is there and waiting for discovery. Once you find it, it will open your mind and your heart like you have never seen.

Many blessings......................


Many years had passed since WWII and life for the most part, was good. The spread of Communism in Eastern Europe, China, and Korea continued into the early 50’s and still, most folks lived with relative peace of mind. Of course the horrors of war were resonant in the minds of all adults. Some called WWII the last war of purpose and that world relations were improving.

The threat of the Cold War was still present, and every other Saturday the town would sound the Air Raid siren at precisely 1:30 PM as if to remind us that we all could be gone in a matter of seconds. To keep us safe, our schools would have us hiding under the desk at random times during the month in order protect us from an enemy bombing as if it were to occur at any moment. It was as if at any minute rockets from the USSR would be launched towards us and Armageddon would be here but yet, oddly enough, we all felt safe and life moved on with it steady beat.

It was a simple time. There was no complexity of computers or online anything. As a kid in the neighborhood you would fashion sling shots out of wood and a piece of old tire tube, or build a fort in a tree with left over wood scrounged from the neighborhood. Baseball was the all time sport, and tag football would breakout in empty lots between houses. Perhaps you would built a hand pushed Go-Cart, or put high bars on your bicycle. Technology, as we have come to know it, simply did not exist.

I never knew what we didn’t have until long after I had grown. There were no centrally air conditioned homes and when I think back about growing up in Florida one wonders how they made it. There was no CD, VCR, DVD players, big screen TV, Camcorders, Digital Cameras, or Microwave ovens. There were cameras, of course. The camera had been around for a long time and we had a pretty good one. In order to have our picture taken, mom would ask one of us to hold up a finger in the air so she could focus the picture. Color TV was a rarity and no one paid for TV channels. Of course there were only 3 channels to view so who in their right mind would pay for that? For that matter, no one paid for water. If you wanted water, you would put it in a glass from the cupboard and turn on the faucet or drink it from the water fountain at the store – unless you were a black. What a horrible thing. I can recall being in a department store and seeing the separation. There was a sign above the water fountain that said “Coloreds Only” and another that said “Whites Only”. The store bathrooms dictated the same law. I always thought it was odd in that many of the workers that my dad worked with in construction were black and I would work with them. As a side note; some may take offense to the term black but I simply don’t believe in hyphenated people as in African-American any more than I would call myself French-American. I was born here and if you were then we are simply American-not black, not white, not red. The common term today in that there is such a mix of cultures in the US is “people of color”. While there is still prejudice in this country, and in the world, I pray for the day where it no longer exists. Personally, I think everyone has color and it is shameful that there are distinctions.

We are all God’s children.

It was the 50’s and as an adult supporting a family, there was not a lot to worry about except your next paycheck. There was mom and dad, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and all the cousins. A basic workingman’s atmosphere where you earned every penny with every bead of sweat that ran down your back. There were no trappings of monetary success-just clothes on your back and food on the table. Sure, there were those that were worse off and some better off, but for the most part, you were rich or you were poor. There wasn’t much of a middle class however it was growing in the wave of prosperity caused oddly enough, by communism in other countries. Some say it was due to an increase of defense spending and the building of our military strength.

We blessed our meals, and went to church on Sunday. Not every Sunday, but most. I never really knew what “going to church” meant until years later. Even as a young ten, church was somewhat of a passing fancy, but interestingly enough, I somehow came to know God. Religion was more of an obligation rather than a place of fellowship. Looking back, I believe that religion was the cause of turning many people away from Christianity or if you prefer-faith.

You were either Baptist, or Pentecostal, or Catholic. Perhaps Methodists, or Lutheran, or perhaps Jewish. You didn’t hear much about Buddhism, Muslim, or other religions. But it seemed as though no one could get together and decide on which religion would be the best – as if there was a best. It wasn’t enough to love God or Jesus Christ. It wasn’t enough just to be in spirit or to have faith. Even then, I thought it was all wrong and the interpretation wasn’t how God had intended it to be.

We lived in a 2 bedroom 1 bath house until Dad finished off the carport creating another bedroom. Sometimes relatives or traveling friends were in town and of course they stayed with us in that hotels were not an option. There were many mornings of waiting in line for the bathroom or having a number of us in there simultaneously brushing hair, brushing teeth, or putting on makeup. Amazingly we somehow survived. There was never had a hair dryer nor an electric toothbrush. There was no Jacuzzi and forget a Spa. We did have a 3 foot deep above ground pool with a make-shift slide that was from a busted swing set. You made your own entertainment, pure and simple. Movies were a rare treat and rare occasion, but mostly we would pile into the station wagon and head to the beach or camping.

The back yard of the house was huge and home to stand of giant Guava trees with a small patio for parties. The Guava tree produces a soft fruit and once it ripens, not only is it a tropical treat, it becomes an excellent weapon of choice when playing war games with your buddies. Getting hit with the projectile was no more than a water balloon impact, and yet it certainly made a mess. After picking sides we would build our fortresses of barrier from scrap plywood or anything else we could find, and the challenges would begin. A waterfall fountain pond lay in the corner built by my Dad, my brother and I by forming cement and coral rocks.

The weekend was filled with the neighborhood kids from many blocks around. We would hang out at the city park, play games – basketball, softball, billiards if it was too hot for outside, or you wanted to hustle a few quarters. Video games did not exist in machine form or on your TV.

The favorite parental line of the time was “get outside and play”. The only real rule was that you were not allowed to fight, stay out of trouble and be home before the street lights came on. It was a simple neighborhood, a simple time, and a good life.

What I learned through those times, and beyond, brought me to this day. I have learned over the years it that yesterday no longer exists, today is only the beginning and everyday is a journey and everyday I learn something new. Life is what you make of it.

It took many years for me to meet my dad. Not that he didn’t live with us, but just because he was a really quiet person and never said much. He was a gentle man of broad stature with strength of hand that could crush. A chest of hair so thick you could comb it, and arms like cannons. He is the same today as he has always been – a little smaller, a little weaker, but the same gentle man. We grew up with stories of his adventures and how he ran from his Aunt as a child. She was, according to legend, a physic of sorts with the ability to conjure up spirits of the dead. We visited her house once. It was creepy. She had died years earlier, but the stories he told us of Uncle Al and the white hat, the piano that would play by itself, the rocking chair where my Uncle’s spirit would sit was still there. The roof had partially collapsed, and much of the house was in shambles, but it had been left exactly as it was when Dad was a child, and she was alive. The story of Uncle Al was that he would pass by the house on a regular basis. If you were looking out the window you could just barely see the top of his white hat as he passed. The oddity was that Uncle Al was dead and had been for a long time.

Father was a natural craftsman. When he finally settled and began working in construction, the natural ability came out. His ability to craft and create always amazed many around him. He is good with his hands and can spot a crooked line a mile away. He was born during the Depression and on his own since he was about 14 years old riding the rails along the east coast learning about life. I guess that during that time, that was not unusual.

During time of our parents, many young minds never had the opportunity to go to college, much less graduate high school. They simply had to support the household because there was no choice if you wanted to survive. It was a time when America worked with their hands, and we were proud of it.

Construction was the family business. While it was hard work, you didn’t need an education, and all you had to do was show up and work hard. It was a tough life, but you made a living. There were times when there was too much work, and time when there wasn’t enough and sometimes Mom worked to help support the family. Dad was a Plasterer and each summer I would work with him. It was always an adventure. I enjoyed the money, keep the muscles built up, all while meeting some of the most interesting characters.

Harvey reminded me of Mr. Atlas, and it seems like every time I saw him he was wearing stilts so he could attach the plasterboard to the ceiling. Those stilts made him look 8 feet tall, and since he would wear them all day, I rarely saw him at a normal height. He was always kind and had kind words.

During the day the lunch wagon would drive up to the job blaring their horns and alerting us and sounding like the arrival of Gabriel. Like zombies from the movies the everyone would drop their task and head for the sound of blaring horns. That was when I would hear a screaming voice; “BOY! GET ME SOME COFFEE!” It was Milton, one of the other plasterers. I would quickly stop whatever I was doing and run over to him. He would flip me a quarter and I would run to the truck as quickly as I could to satisfy his command. After a few feet of travel I would hear; “BLACK AND HOT NO SUGAR!” Forcing my way to the front of the crowd the lunch man would hand me the coffee. With a balancing act that only a circus performer would appreciate, I would forge my way through the men and delicately dance across the rough ground with an open Styrofoam cup of the hottest coffee known to mankind. Approaching Milton and holding the cup with as few fingers as possible to save my skin from blistering he would look down at me with a stern look, “Whut the matta boy? Too HOT for ya delicate hands!” Taking the scalding cup into his worn and calloused hands he would englut the torrid brew down his throat like a cold glass of water, smack his lips and stare back at me with a glare that would scare the biggest man. “Ahh that was good and that’s how a MAN drinks his coffee” he would boast.

There two Italian brothers that smelled so badly that one could assume that the never bathed. Both smoked cheap black cigars all day, and during the entire summer, wore the same clothes each to work in and flat caps on their heads. With the body odor, and stench of cheap cigar, it didn’t take much to find these two. My happiest days were when the wind would blow the opposite direction. All day they would chat in their native Italian. I don’t believe that either one spoke English, but they worked hard and that is all you can ask for.

After that last summer before graduating from high school, I lost all contact with these men and their lives. I left my childhood and it’s memories behind, finished school, and developed a good career far from the heat of the day in the construction business.

As I left my house early one morning I noticed a slight breeze. It was unusually hot for this time of year and the sun was just barely peeking over the tops of the houses in this quiet neighborhood. I waved to my friend Ted who was walking his two Spaniels nearby. “Good Morning Ted!” I called out. He waved and smiled. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a gentlemen was standing on a platform while repairing the eave of the roof at a house down the street. Not thinking much more about it, I turned and walked toward my car while the warm summer breeze surrounded my face. Suddenly that soft breeze held my nostrils hostage like the strong hands of the men that I worked with so long ago. I paused and closed my eyes for a moment. The odor of stucco mix that I had known as a child slapped me without warning, and then another aroma filled the air; the smell of cheap cigar.

Odd how things like that will take you back.


It was the definition of a seasonal change in this tropical paradise called Florida on that October morning. The weather was cooling and beginning to dry out. The sun was just barely launching its blaze across the river of grass called the Everglades. I woke up to the songs of the crickets and katydids surrounding me and the smell of campfire burning pine. My preference would have been to have slept a little longer but the cot was uncomfortable and not like sleeping in the comfort of your own bed. I pulled on my pants and slipped into my boots. Unzipping the door of the canvas tent and I stepped out into the dew covered grass.

I could see his outline in the haze as the soft morning haze hovered over the damp ground. He had taken an old tree stump, cut from a large loblolly pine tree that had been felled long before we arrived. Turning the log upright he used it as a seat. A small fire was flickering in front of him and his old beat up coffee pot was swinging just above the fire keeping it hot. Reflecting the light from the flames, his shadow spread across the grassy ground and danced along the edge of the clearing just beyond the tent where we had slept the night.

“Good Mornin,” I said while rubbing various parts of my body as if to jumpstart them into moving fluidly. Through a half yawn and a full stretch I moaned, “What’s for breakfast?”

He was a uncompromising man of few words and looked at me as he usually did with his head still facing the fire while raising his head just enough to see me by lifting his eyes. With a cold as steel and resolute look he recoils, “Ya catch it.” I glanced away as if hit by a stone, but knowing that beneath this shield of unrelenting armor was the heart of a gentle man. I stood there watching the flames of the fire echo from his leathered face lined with the years of hard work. Making his life starting at only 12 years with riding the rails through the Depression, trying to simply survive in a world when he should have been playing stickball with his friends.

Earning a dollar anywhere he could, he was a Steeplejack in the Northeast, then worked on a dairy farm. Later in life he turned to the construction business building skyscrapers and monuments to the rich men of power and authority. He worked hard everyday in the sweltering sun to support his family, and I knew that this weekend meant a lot to him.

His arms were immense and defined from years of laborious work. When he pulled the steaming hot coffee mug to his face and I could see his brawny arm muscles define themselves while stretching his sleeves as if they were about to burst. Without a word, I turned and picked up my fishing rod and headed to the water. Nearing the vast expanse of river grass ahead of me I could see the streaks of red, blue and gray from dawns creation shooting towards the heavens like a 4th of July celebration. Quietly sneaking down the path to the water the sticks and grass clicked gently beneath my feet warning the fish that I was on my way. Hardly able to hold my excitement, I thought about the catch and couldn’t wait to wet my line with that first cast. Fishing was my favorite, and truthfully, I was getting really hungry.

Approaching an open space near the water, my eyes were drawn to the sound of the Osprey’s call. Gliding gently overhead his sharp eyes spied every move below in search of sustenance. The Great Heron walked the waters edge while sharing the space with two small mud chickens that would paddle behind his longs legs as if to chase the big bird along in his quest. I stopped and watched the Heron as if out of reverence.

Quietly and ever so elegantly the long thin legs pushed through the water without a sound. The intensity of the his gaze never leaving the water while meandering, as if floating through the surface. Without warning this majestic creature shoots his head into the dark water with lightning speed and as he pulls his head back, a small fish wriggles at the tip of his massive yellow beak in an attempt escape his infallible grip of death. This small meal foreordained to satisfy the need of the Great Heron as the cycle of life in this wonder called the Everglades moves on without approbation.

With a fling of his long graceful gray neck, he flips the fish in the air and catches it perfectly, head first. I wanted to applause as if at the circus watching a juggler toss his art into the air! The big bird glances in my direction to see me standing in the shadows, and with a slight bend of his powerful legs, his wings spread across the great waters, and with a graceful push of the air he sails off in search of a less human populated area.

Replacing the presence of the Heron with my own the mud chickens showed their displeasure and cackled as if to tell me that I was disturbing their personal territory. Perhaps I was. I glance towards them and pay them no mind. Shortly afterwards they accept me and continue to quietly glide back and forth across the smooth black water. At the bend of one of the many streams that run throughout the Everglades I gaze over the black water looking for the right spot to grace my first cast.

The great expanse of river grass lay before me while the gentle current of water moved quietly and unwearied towards the northwest bending gently through the grass and the small cypress that lined the rocky banks. A natural stream, untouched by man, flowing long before I arrived, carving its life through the limestone and rock affected by thousands of years of the caressing tender hands of nature. This was a natural world where man was the invader presenting himself to conquer all in his path.

Engulfed within all this glory and natural beauty I could not help but think that perhaps hundreds of years before me, this gentle watercourse did not have a road within walking distance. Eventually a small footpath was worn well by the natives of this land, and that this was just a tiny tributary flowing south from Lake Okeechobee continuing a meandering passageway to the river and onto the ocean. To the west a small village that worked the land to survive and found this small torrent to traverse between trading posts or other villages throughout the boggy vastness and south to the Miami River or perhaps across the county seat to Chokoloskee Bay. I thought about the Tequesta and the Calusa Indian tribes. They spread across the Atlantic coast from north of Palm Beach to Miami and on to the Keys with a village on Cape Sable at the southern end of the Florida peninsula in the 16th Century. They had built their villages and cared for their families at the mouths of these rivers and streams creating what would become their history. Throughout the area and on inlets from the Atlantic Ocean to inland waters, and on barrier islands and the Keys they hunted, traded, and lived among this natural beauty.

Today, nothing much is left of these great tribes except some artifacts and shell mounds. Lost in the details in the name of progress as the new pioneers came to conquer and build cities with concrete monuments to their own existence these peaceful people were destroyed. Their spirit is kept alive by our writings and pieces of existence swallowed by mother earth.

I cast my line with perfect precision across the black water to a small stand of river grass. I had seen some action on the surface and felt that it was a good choice to start. I knew that in this sport, talent played as well as luck, and it was, after all, called fishin’ not catchin’. Of course, I came up dry, but that was the funny thing about the elusive Bass. Whether a he or a she, they both had one thing in common and that was a mind of their own but I knew that their was a catch in that shallow. I could see the small swirl of a tail and that presentation was the key to breakfast. Too close and you will spook the prey. Too far and the cast is wasted. The cast had to be perfect.

I had to be perfect.

The Bass is an opportunistic creature and will bite just about anything in their path but if you are not careful they will be gone. Many times it is just out of pure meanness that they bite because they don’t want it there, and that is what I was counting on.

I cast my line in a different direction as if to say, “I don’t care that you are over there”. After giving my prey a period of relief, and I think a lapse of memory, I reeled in and prepared to cast once again. This time in the exact spot that would force my prey to react.

Preparing my presentation, I could feel the pressure of the lure as the rod gently passed my head. As the lure rounded, I felt the flip of the pressure and my attempt to release the trigger at the opportune time for the bait to land perfectly without force. It had to be perfect. I watched the lure float through the air as if in slow motion, the sun’s first rays hitting it with a brilliant reflection. Floating through the morning dew as if being carried by a magical hand to be delivered at the doorstep of my breakfast. I watched in earnest amazement as my line, every so gently, floated across the air above the black water guiding my tasteful and beautiful lure it all it’s glorious colors across a small limb only to dangle mere inches above my prey’s grasp.

I closed my eyes in pure exasperation.

I give the line a tug and a small tree branch waves at me as if to say, gotcha, now go away. I pulled the line straight, and leveled my rod pulling tightly and stepping gently backwards until I heard the snap and unmistakable zing of a line without lure flying towards me at the speed of light. Covered in monofilament, wrapped around my cap and feeling a bit dejected without my breakfast, a hand touches my shoulder.

“Whatcha doin?” He asked as if he had not seen anything.

“Fishin’, what else,” shrugging my shoulders trying to be as tall as possible.

“Squirrels?” As he scans the water.

“Yup” I said without hesitation and all the bravado of a master hunter, “but he got away.”

I mustered all my strength to show him that I had not failed to catch breakfast, but I was just, sort of, delayed a bit.

He kneels down to look at my rod only to see that the line had stretched and would have to be replaced. Without condemnation, he silently takes up his rod.

“Mind if I give it a try?”

I looked up at this big man standing next to me and said with confidence,

“I don’t think the squirrels will mind.”

With an unyielding look of determination and fierce focus on his face that I had seen a hundred times before, those steel blue eyes threw a gaze across the black water. I watched his arm glide gently to his side as he flicked his wrist with the precision of a master, landing his lure in the perfect spot.

The lure hit the water and the line softly stretched across the expanse falling onto the water. I watch the lure dive below the surface in a splash and bob to the surface. Within a split second the tip of his rod strains and he pulls it back, his muscles bulge from the shirt.

A large Bass clears the water and leaps into the air reflecting the acrobatic talents of the best circus performer. After a few glorious minutes of a gallant fight, he reels this masterful creature onto shore and looks at me with a slight grin, and says, “That’s one.”

Again and again his perfect cast floats across the water landing without effort and each time repeating the acrobatics. A life of struggle, a life unbalanced, a life pursued but persecuted by so many, a life not easy culminates in the eyes of a child as a hero comes to the rescue.

My father and I walked back to the camp that morning with the warm sun at our backs and our future ahead of us. As we came around the corner I could see the campfire burning with a hint of smoke coming from the embers. I lay the bounty of fish on a large rock and he pulls his long knife sharpened by years of delicate use from a well worn leather sheath on his belt. With the skill of a surgeon he filets our catch. A well worn and seasoned skillet lays waiting for the abundance provided by nature, and a pot of grits slowly bubbles up.

It was a good day.


It was our the day of the first year in high school. The last three years to be spent in public education. Living on the border of two cities, we had a choice of high schools to attend. We could have stayed within the progressive choice and remained within the city school system we began with. The other choice of school was actually in the city we lived in and it provided the schedule that we wanted. The choice was simple for us, however all of our friends that we had grown with through elementary and junior high school decided to remain in the natural progression of school districts. Of course, this meant meeting a whole new set of kids, but that was cool!

I had spent the last of the dog days of summer with Tommy and Pete exploring the neighborhood, surfing the beaches and just hangin’ in the Keys. Our last summer sun of innocence was extending beyond the horizon and out of our touch and for the last time, bidding farewell to our youth. The summer sun, where they learned about life, love, surfin’, and hangin’ had set for the last time and without warning it was gone. Pete was heading to Portugal to study for a medical career as a Doctor. He was a couple of years older than Tommy and I and it was as his parents wished. Tommy and I were about learn that there was more to life than surfboards, tans, long stretches of beach and cute girls in bikinis.

It was the time of culmination. The certainty of youth merging at an unrelenting pace towards the unrelenting reality of adulthood. We were in a time of opportunity that the world would probably never see again. We had come busting through the 50’s, and survived the turbulent 60’s. We watched the British invasion with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Survived Woodstock with Hendrix, Joplin and so many others that have left us with just their songs. We watched as President Kennedy was shot in Dallas and cried with the First Lady. We witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak of the prayer of coexistence of all races, all religions, and all cultures and only then would we know true freedom. We watched intently as Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The first lunar landing. Sadly, we lost too many of our loved ones in the Vietnam War. We had grown through the decades and the curtain was closing on the 70’s. It was time to move on. Some of our heroes and legends followed us, others remain forever in our memories.

We were growing up, as they say, in what would be a flash of time, high school would be gone, childhood lost, and innocence abandoned. Our lives were about to change forever. On to college, on to careers, or on to work at the burger counter. It was our choice. But there they were, two friends that swore allegiance to friendship forever finishing up our first day and headed to the bus bench and back to home.

It was a beautiful afternoon with the sun shining brightly. Tommy and I hustled to the bus stop discussing the day’s events, the new school, odd habits of our teachers, babes in the class, and thought about the fun we had during summer break.

Crossing the highway and approaching the bus bench, we both notice a lovely girl sitting there waiting for the bus! Our lucky day we thought, poking each other in the ribs! Go figure! What were the chances of two skinny teenagers finding a goddess in the midst of this boring town? It appeared however that the gods had shined down upon us! She was going on the same bus as we were!

I looked over at Tommy, “This high school gig ….” and before I could finish Tommy interrupts “ain’t so bad after all!”

Our first objective was to dazzle this young lass and ensure that she actually understood that we, uh, I mean that I was interested. First, this girl obviously did not live in my neighborhood. My guess would have been heaven, but being hypnotized from the beauty, and stepping off the curb onto the street then being jolted back to reality with the sound of a screaming horn alerting me that I was about to be hit, I came back to earth. Thankfully, the driver was paying attention.
Getting back to reality, and realizing that she had just watched me make a fool out of myself, we approached the bench cautiously and casually as if she wasn’t there. Just another day, and another bus ride towards home.

We stood there. Me looking at Tommy and Tommy looking at me, and taking turns with motioning our heads towards the beauty and mentally telling each other to say something!

Something cool of course.

All we could muster were pokes in each other’s sides and stolen glances as any goofy teenage boy would.

With the confidence of all young boys, the closer we had come to seeing this Miss, the more we looked away. We couldn’t stare because that just wasn’t cool. We had to be careful of what we said because the wrong thing could kill the deal! Tommy and I were so busy trying to figure out what to do, that as close as we were, we had not really looked at this stunning beauty except from the distance when we were crossing the street.

What had seemed like ages ago, that passage from childhood to young adult, the summer of innocence when you realize that from now on your life’s focus will change from something other than playing the guitar and dreaming of rock stardom, surfin’ and hangin’ at the beach to more serious matters, there we stood. Rather than thinking about the next Led Zeppelin concert, or the waves, or sand between your toes, you’re thinking about your life, your career, and your future with the one that is the one you have to marry. What was wrong with me! I felt funny in my stomach.

She sat on the bus bench with her long sandy blonde hair and big blue eyes reflecting ever bit of innocence that young women hold. She could cast a spell and leave you speechless and all it took was a glance. A big smile that said hello like I have never seen. All that Tommy and I could do was act as goofy as two teenagers would when within the presence of such beauty.

I was in love and I didn’t even know it.

I didn’t even know her name.

Walking behind the bench to avoid the terror of having to sit next to this princess, it became apparent that neither Tommy nor I had the bravado to utter the least of a sentence.

How could we?

Here sat the most beautiful girl on the planet!

The planet?


Obviously the galaxy and the stars were in for major competition!

We were just praying that she was from the same school and that this was not an accidental meeting. We needed her there everyday until we could work up enough courage to talk. More important, we prayed that she would say
something -- anything, that would initiate a conversation! We just wanted her to notice us! She did.

After a short while that seemed like forever, she turned and smiled.

”Hey! what does it take to get a hello out of you guys?” she said while holding her arms open as if exasperated by our silly antics.

Our eyes popped out, our jaws dropped and I am sure we were the darkest shade of red that anyone could be. Tommy and I looked at each other, then at her, and then at each other! And with the unbelievable thought.

This girl knew us!

Well, that made it a whole different set of rules! Stunned as we were, we searched our feeble memories in that obviously neither one of us would have ever had the pleasure of meeting such a lovely lass. As we stood there with our minds wandering…

“Hey it’s me-Carolyn! Hello! what’s wrong with you two?” reflecting every bit of a teenage angel that she was.

Then the epiphany. That divergence of the planets and stars when you all of a sudden realize what is happening. The moment when you comically slap your forehead and finally get it!

She’s that skinny little girl from the park! The one that you would walk home with? The one that could run faster than you? Play basketball?


No Way! Can’t be!

We are talking about the love of my life, not that girl. After all, the girl I knew could run and jump with the best of the guys in the neighborhood. This gentle creature was way too soft and too pretty for that nonsense. This was a real princess, a goddess and as far as I was concerned and obviously not someone from my neighborhood.

We had all been raised in a diverse blue collar working class ethnic neighborhood. No Doctors or Lawyers, no Accountants, or College graduates. We had a diversity that was uncommon in those days. Our neighbors and friends were from Cuba, Poland, Puerto Rico, Mexico, San Salvador, or old southern families with generations in the US. It was a nice mix of culture but it was a little tough and you sometimes had to make your own way.

Our parents were mechanics, cops, construction workers, or other various industries. The town was mostly factories and manufacturing and shopping malls just didn’t exist. Some of us had whole families, others had just a mom. Some were a little better off financially, but most struggled everyday. Play time was outside unless it was raining, and even then parents had a hard time getting you inside.

One day while playing cards at a neighbors house I started to leave and heard a voice on a loud speaker telling me to “GET BACK IN THE HOUSE”. A truck carrying Brahma Bulls had overturned and had taken over the neighborhood. My friend Henry and I sat there in amazement while watching the police shoot the bulls where they stood and then directing a tractor crane load them on the back of a truck. I thought, what a cruel thing to do. Why not just get some guys on horses and round them up? Henry was a funny guy, but his brother Cesar was even more amusing. Each time they would shoot a bull, this huge creature would just flop to the ground. Cesar would wail and burying his head between his mother's breasts (that were quite large) and cry like a baby.

I lived across the street from Henry, and next door to Pete. Pete’s dad was working on this old Anglia. It was a foreign car that he had bought cheap and was trying to get it to start. He had his head buried well within the engine compartment and apparently could not hear the commotion around him. I watched him as he pulled his head from under the hood, turned and was face to face with this huge Brahma. The bull and he looked at each other for a moment, and then the bull dropped his head and pawed the dirt. I heard a snort and a scream, and Pete's dad was headed toward the fence at lightning speed. He was a heavy man and I had never thought about how fast one could move if motivated in just the right fashion.

We would run the neighborhood on our bikes for days collecting empty soda bottles. Once we had a stash, we would head to the “Little Store” owned by Emma and Mario, a brother and sister that lived in the back of the store in small apartment, exchange our bottles for the cash deposit and spend the bounty on soda, chips and candy bars. We may save some of the cash for Dave’s Drugstore and Sundries. Dave had a fountain stand inside the drugstore were we could buy French Fries and Cherry Cokes served by Lola the waitress. When we could we would race our bikes down the street were we lived and across the strip of stores where Dave had his store.

It was always a test of our “manhood” in that in our path was Carl’s gas station. His property was about a foot lower than the strip of stores and created a really cool hump connecting the properties. We would barrel around the corner as fast as we could, Carl would yell at us to slow down, and we would hit the hump as fast as out legs would peddle and instantly become airborne. At least for a few feet but to us it was a trip into space for us! There was always a challenge among us as to whom would land first. Lola would always give us an extra shot of Cherry Juice for our sodas. She was a kind lady.

We created our own games of war, cowboys and Indians, hide and seek, tag football, riding skateboards, building our own go-karts, or just riding our “custom” bikes made from pieces and parts of bikes that were given to us. No one had a new bike until one day, after entering a contest at the local gas station, the manager called my house and told me that I won a brand new bike! I don’t remember why they had a contest, but I won and that was all the mattered.
The slogan of the gas company was put a “Tiger in your tank”. The bike was gold metal flake with custom highbars and knobby wheels with a tiger skinned banana seat. Not real Tiger skin of course, but I didn’t care – I had a brand new bike and I was the King of the Hill!

We would spend our time at the local park playing basketball, or softball, or just hangin’ out. Our world was a 3 block area of friends and families and we knew that we could knock on most any door for help with a skinned knee or a drink of cold water. Except for the crazy cat lady that lived on the corner.

The world was still a safe place, (or perhaps we were just niave) and of course we thought that it would last forever. It was a great childhood and loads of friends. After a short conversation, mainly because we were too tongue tied to speak with any intelligence, thankfully the bus arrived. As we all boarded the bus, Tommy and I ran to the back of the bus. My future wife sat right up front glancing out of the corner of those blue eyes, back at the two jerks that were giggling in the backseat.

I looked at Tommy and said, “That’s it! That is the girl I am going to marry.”

It was 1969 and we were still so young, but I knew instinctively that this was it. She was the one I had to share a life together with. I knew at that point there was no longer a choice. There was no longer that option of wanting to, in love with, could there be another, maybe it is not the right time, and all the other reasons, and validations that you go through in mating process. Could this be the one? Could it be that at this young age I had found my soul mate? I still had a lifetime ahead of me.

Heck! I didn’t even have a car or a drivers license!

How could I know?

I didn’t even know what my career would be or where I would go to college!

Of course, there was still a small challenge. I knew exactly what I wanted. I knew exactly what I had found. The challenge was that I still had to convince her that she was the one for me. She may be lovely, but it was a fairly sure bet that she could not read minds. So it began.
The next day, and then the next-me, trying to build up enough courage to just ask her for a date. The same girl that I had known for the last 4 years. The same girl that I shared a soda while sitting on a swing at the park, had all of a sudden become like the setting sun of last summer – you could see it, you could feel it’s presence, but it was going away fast beyond the horizon and out of your reach.

I thought, “OK. This is not hard and I can do it.”

We had played ball, shot hoops, walked home, I knew her family. What was the big deal? I took a deep breath and looked at her and with all the courage I could find,

“So how was your day?” I SCREAMED at me inside my feeble mind!


I could not muster the courage to ask her to a movie! Such beauty, such loveliness.

After a lot casual conversation, and my trying to act cool, she confesses without me asking that she had a boyfriend for a while and was just not interested in dating. Anyone!


I thought as my brain raced for something to say!

I was crushed. My hopes had been abandoned. The sun has set. Here is the girl that I have to marry and she is not the slightest bit interested in me! I guess that the good news was that she was not interested in anyone else. So at least once a week I tried.

Just a movie?

Nothing serious!

Maybe a pizza?

Heck! We were friends before all this!

I would stop by her house, only to be told by her sister that “Carolyn wasn’t home. “

She was.

Hiding behind the door, looking through the frame to see my face of disappointment. Giggling as the door closed. But I knew and I would not give up and secretly she hoped that I would not as well.

Each day we would meet at the bus stop. Each day I would muster the courage to chat.
Unknowingly, each day we became friends again and grew a little closer. After what seemed an eternity;

A movie, a pizza, a soda, a shared laugh. Just friends.

It took a year of cautious affection. Wanting so badly to press my lips against hers. A passion burning that would not stop knowing that one day we would be together. The “dating” became more and more frequent. The friendship became stronger. The love grew in both of us. We held hands.

We walked.

We talked.

We held hands.

We kissed.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months to years. We graduated high school, and we dated off and on. There were others in between, but nothing serious. How could there be? Before long we would date and not long after there was no one else that we wanted to be with.

It had been steady for a long time, and I thought that it was about time to settle. We had both sown our oats, so to speak, experienced life as it was, and remained friends all this time. I picked a time, a spot, a special place. We didn’t have much money and our parents had less. But we were in love and it didn’t really matter.

She worked for and lived with an old man named Henry Martin. Her mom watched over him during the day, and Carolyn would care for him each night. He owned a large two story home and could no longer climb the stairs. Carolyn stayed in the upper floors and Mr. Martin had a small room downstairs converted to a bedroom. A kinder gentleman we will never meet again.

He was born in sometime around 1880 and grew up in the north. He moved to Florida as a pioneer and started Martin Hardware in the early days of near 1910. The city was just being born, and he was there to share in it’s start. The business grew and became a wealthy man. He married Mildred many years before, and his only child Bethany died in a car crash while returning home for Spring Break in 1952. He had a hand painted portrait of Bethany above the mantle at the fire place and I always thought that it struck an eerie resemblance to my future wife. Carolyn and I would sit for hours each night with Mr. Martin watching TV or talking of old times. He was a fascinating man with a rich history to share. I enjoyed my time with him.

The one thing I learned from Mr. Martin was that you may be alone, but you never have to be lonely. I know that he missed his wife and daughter terribly, and I can’t imagine losing your child. But this man of resolute character never faltered and to this day my thoughts of him are an inspiration and courage.

He was there for our wedding-a wedding that would not have been possible if it weren’t for his love and generosity. He was a kind man and he is remembered well.

If there is a point to this story it is that dreams do come true. Sometimes they don’t always have a happy ending, and my hope is that you will be in love for all of your life. There were times over this relationship when it was very dark, but eventually, the sun would rise again. Over the years we have learned some very valuable secrets;

You need to be friends.
Anger is a wasted emotion
Yelling will not solve anything unless you are calling someone for dinner.
No one ever wins an argument.
In marriage there are no wins and loses – no one keeps score.
There is no such thing as constructive criticism. Understand your motivation.
You are not perfect.
Never lie, Never cheat, and only steal her/his heart and kisses.
Never bring up mistakes of the past.
Neglect the whole world rather than each other.
Never go to sleep without a kiss goodnight.
Always hold hands no matter where you go or how old you are.
The 3 most powerful words – I need you.
Be the first to admit you are wrong.


This is where is all begins. Or does it? God said, “I knew you before you were born”. He talks about “the plans I have for you” and to that end, your path is set.
Not that the path–your path– and it is not for you to change. That is the part of the plan that is difficult for us mortals to understand.

Your path is made of choices. Choices everyday and every second of your life. The analogy would be traveling to a destination. You can take the back roads or the expressway. You can drive fast or slow. Take risks or be safe. Stop by a roadside and enjoy the view or many other choices. As you can see, in using any of the choices you may or may not arrive at your final destination as you had planned. The plans that God has for you are somewhat similar, however a bit more complex. I don’t think He really cares about your driving adventures, and I believe that the plan is far more important that just that, but as a comparison of thought perhaps you will relate to this message.

Too often I have seen that people fight their plan, the plan that God has for them, or if you would, their destiny. Whether you like it or not, or whether you accept or not, He has a plan for you. He also allows you to have a plan for yourself. I watch people spend their lives being so busy with their own plans or no plans and never being quiet enough to hear God speak to them. Many simply trust their own plans and decisions and believe that they are doing the right thing. Imagine a person who is financially successful, has a beautiful or handsome spouse, nice house, new car and overall, they believe that life is good. Is this person following God’s plan or their own? One would think, as nice as this life sounds that this person must be following God’s plan! The troubling thing is that all of that; money, nice car; good clothes; house in the suburbs has nothing to do with your life or God’s plan for you. All in all and all of the possessions are nothing but things to rust and moths to eat.

Can you just do good things and have goods things happen to you? I wish, as many others do, that it were that simple. Trust, faith, belief is all part of it, and with that, God will direct you in all of your paths-if you let Him. It is the hardest thing you will ever do, but if you can do this, your life will be simplified beyond your wildest dreams. Some will agree and some will believe only that there is a higher power. Others will scoff and tell you that it is up to you to be successful. The say things like “it is written in the stars, or that’s how life is, or sometimes you get a lucky break.” Then again, how are they measuring their success? Nonetheless, it is what I believe and I will not cast judgment on what you believe. I only offer this as an alternative with the footnote that I have not always believed this. I have not always thought that God had a plan for me. The truth is that I have spent most of my life thinking that I knew exactly what I needed to do. I had my own plan……….

We were married on the eve of Halloween. I don’t remember why we did not marry on Halloween, but perhaps we were superstitious. Nonetheless, it was not extravagant and we didn’t have a lot of money. The truth was we had very little money, but that didn’t really matter. We rented a small apartment and living near a large airport, many of our neighbors were pilots or flight attendants. I worked for the city and my wife worked for a large utility company. We had a simple life and interesting neighbors. There was a fellow that lived below us that had a bit of a drinking issue. We would rise in the morning to find his car parked in the garden area that separated the two buildings. His doors would be open and Willie Nelson would be playing on the stereo. Sometimes we would be awakened at 3 in the morning, serenaded by Willie as well. Eventually, we saved some money and again, with help from Mr. Martin, we bought a house in the suburbs.

We had been married for about six years, and with that, six years of trying to conceive. Try as we might, each month there was nothing. It was fun trying, but there were no results. Our thoughts were always that if we had a baby, great! If not, were OK with that also. But after six years it was becoming more of a concern. We decided to engage the experts and made a visit to the family doctor.

All he could say, after many questions was “we needed to go through a series of tests.” He was our family physician and recommended a fertilization specialist. The “fun” part is that the experts will tell you that it is usually the man that has the challenge, so it was me first! It is actually fairly quick and painless. The first test is the unpleasant one, checking the prostate. The doctor believed that there could be a problem so he placed me on a strong antibiotic that eventually put me in the hospital because of an allergic reaction. I woke up one night feeling nauseous only to pass out in the kitchen and consequently woke up in the hospital.

Apparently, the good doctor had prescribed an antibiotic that did not quite agree with my constitution.

After that fun was over, there were more tests and trying and the “specialist” provided the diagnosis and results. He schedules a visit with us and starts the conversation with “After a careful study of the samples provided, it is my opinion that you, as a couple do not have the capability to conceive. He continues “The problem lies within your husband in that, from research of his past medical evaluation, it appears that he contracted the mumps at the age of puberty this stopping his ability to produce the sperm needed to procreate.” Well! I guess that settled that! The “expert” explained in terms that we could understand. Not that there a “one in a million chance” that my wife and I would or could conceive. It was “impossible.” There would be ZERO chance of pregnancy. I thinking that he could have figured all of this out before he have me those nasty antibiotics that put me in the hospital. However, it was not very good news and certainly not what we wanted to hear.

We discussed adoption but that was a long tedious process, and at that time we simply were too stunned. After a couple of months we tried the In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). That too was met with failure. We tried temperature, time of day, time of month, full moon. The results were always the same, so after a while, we gave up and quietly decided that we would live with the fact that children were not in our future. We simply decided to let it go and get on with our lives.

At the time, we had not discovered God and His wisdom. We had both been raised going to church, baptized, and going to Sunday school, but it was different then. You heard the message and read the stories in the Bible, but at that point, not to offend, I don’t think you really heard God speak. Even so, and unknown to us, He was alive and well in our hearts and spirit. Days past, then weeks, then months and we continued with our lives. A little sadden by the situation, but we knew that we still had each other and life was good. Still we had so much to learn about each other’s lives.

So after six years of marriage, we are on our 12th year of familiarity, only to be told that children where not in our future. So, we planned our future accordingly.
One dream that had always been shared was that we wanted to purchase property and build our own home. It would have been better to do this with children, but we accepted our situation. We sold our home, and purchased a small parcel of property in the western reaches of the county. We designed a floor plan, and I had an architect friend develop the plans. I walked the plans through the county zoning departments, hired the contractors, and acted as General Contractor. I also had family in the construction business, so that helped a lot.

The plans were completed and approved, and I had lined up all the contractors in order to get started. It had been about seven years since we first walked the aisle and we had begun development on our new plan of a dream home. The property was remote, and overlooked a beautiful lake. Our neighbors were close and yet far enough away for privacy. The closest store was at least 12 miles away, and I knew that after a long day at the office, this was going to be perfect! It was all so sublime.

Everything we had planned was working perfectly. Our future was set. The city had nowhere to go but towards this area, so I knew that this property would be worth a ton of money one day and would literally serve as our retirement nest egg. Talk about planning something perfectly, this was it! Until one day my wife began to complain about everything. Not some things mind you, but everything.

I could not do anything right, or apparently wrong for that matter, but whatever it was, it was my fault. The coffee in the morning made her sick, she did not like her perfume any longer, the car exhaust was making her nauseous, and life in general was not very good. We would fight every morning, and each night before bed. She would begin to weep over nothing and her nerves were shot. She was sick in the morning, and sick at night. It was driving me crazy, and becoming a real concern. I thought the worst. Could it be a brain tumor? A chemical imbalance? Perhaps the pressure of building this house was too much? I didn’t know and it was starting to concern me.

It came to a point where I had to demand that she make an appointment with our family doctor and find out what was happening. Me, being Mr. Thoughtful, did not actually think to make the arrangements and go with her. After the appointment, she comes into my parents house with a smug look. I ask about the appointment and her response is “He says I am pregnant.” I chuckle and roll my eyes at my Dad. I say, “OK, I guess we will have to wait for the results?” “Whatever” she says, full of doubt and not very happy, he said he would call me on Saturday.”

Saturday morning arrived without announcement. At best the doctor would say that the reading was false and she needed more blood tests.

Dad and I were sitting at the dining room table enjoying the morning cup of coffee. Carolyn was sitting at the kitchen bar complaining about something. The phone rang.
“Hello” she answers the phone. “Umhm” she mumbles.

“OK, I’ll see you on Wednesday.” She hangs the phone and looks at me.

Not a word. Silence. The kind of silence that completely fills a room with such completeness that it was like a dream. I looked over and her beautiful face was as red as could be, and tears were streaming on her checks-but she was smiling. I knew at that moment that the impossible had occurred. It was 1983 and impossible had become a reality. Our lives were about to change forever.

“I’m pregnant” she says in a little squeaky voice, her shoulders shrunching up around her.

Was God finished with us? Was that the plan He had for us? Not even close, and truthfully, we didn’t even think about that at the time. Looking back, He was there and it was His grace that saw us through. We never even asked for help. We did not deserve His grace or blessings. But that is the God that we serve. He asked for nothing in return and yet He gave us what no one could ever have given us.

As I have said, we all have a choice, and there is a plan for everyone. It may not end with you, but it may just start with you.

Think about this; If you could follow the lineage of Albert Einstein or Abraham Lincoln, or perhaps Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all the way back to the first of their creation-their original father back many generations. Let’s say that you could, and you stopped that conception. It doesn’t matter how. Think about what the world would be today, because by stopping the conception, these people would have never existed. They would have never been born. I am not saying that our son is bound for greatness, but perhaps in 200 years it will be a different story.

All I can say is that you were not there when the doctor looked at us and said it was impossible. Note, he did not say not unlikely, he gave not a sign of hope, he said;



We are preparing to visit my Great Uncle and his wife. The trip is more for him than her in that we don’t know if she will know that we are there. Irene has been in and out of the hospital for the past too many years. I would guess that when you are approaching 90 years, that would be expected. Not too long ago, Carl, her husband of 40 some odd years lay in the hospital within inches of death. The Doctor had met with us and said that Carl would not be leaving because he was just too weak. My Great Uncle Carl was lying there without consciousness.

Surrounded by family and his wife Irene. We left, knowing that we would be back too soon to say a final goodbye. Well, that is what we thought.

Within a few weeks Carl was up and about, and soon thereafter, home again taking care of the love of his life, Irene. Soon, Irene was back in the hospital, out again and then back again. The difference this time is that she would not come home.

The last time we visited Irene at the hospital she was amazingly chipper. So much, that it made you wonder why she was there in the first place. I watched everyone around me-the interaction and talking, the sharing of the past. The touching and hand holding, along with hugs and the things we were planning on enjoying as soon as she went home. The one thing that struck me however was the love that was so evident between Carl and Irene. I stood there and watched my Uncle as he gazed at his wife. Each time she would speak, he would lean forward with anticipation to hear every last word, a silly "I am in love with you" grin on his face. Every once in a while she would, ever so gently, brush his arm. It was like watching a young schoolboy look at his high school crush. He was enamored by her presence. One would think that after so many years, that gaze would have worn a bit, but it looked as bright and shiny as the first day they met. I could not help but think how much they loved each other and how there lives were built around each other’s love.

It is said that there is a soul mate for everyone. I believe that Unc and Irene were perfectly matched.

All of this came to mind recently when my son and I were talking about marrying and settling down. He asked me, how do you know. I said it was simple. You will know the right person when that person is the one you have to be with. I know at first that saying, “have to,” sounds silly. You’re supposed to be in love! Saying, “have to” sounds like infatuation. Regardless of love, like, infatuation, and the like, it all comes down to this.

You have to ask yourself; is this person the one that I have to spend the rest of my life with?

Is this the one that I want to share everything with?

Every waking moment?

Every experience?

Do I need to talk with them?

Spend my time with them?

Do you find yourself gazing into their eyes and leaning towards every word that comes out of them?

Is it a thrill just to listen?

Do you get those goose bumps when they brush against you?

Could it be that this could be the best friend that anyone could have?

That is what I mean when I say you "have to" marry. It becomes as natural as your breathing, and as constant as your heartbeat. Both of you know that you cannot live without each other and that a lifetime is too short.

That is how I see my Aunt and Uncle. Both of them in such connection with each other that one knows the other’s thoughts. A love that is so comfortable, that “have to” is not an option. But how do you spend your life with someone and then have to say goodbye.

The Doctor’s said that she had a contagious virus. After being in the hospital so often, for so long of a time, it was bound to happen. The clinical name is MRSA (mersa) and at her age, and with her condition it was deadly.

Each time Carl would enter the room, he would have to prepare himself with a mask and gloves. He would arrive just before a meal was served in order to be sure that it was quiet in the prior hours so Irene could rest. Of course, there were the times where he would just sit with her and watch her sleep. Other times he would talk to her for short guarded moments, and other time he would pray. She was tired and in pain.

Prior to her last visit she broke her hip, and in her weakened state and surgery was out of the question. He had brought her home, but she was confined to a wheel chair. Of course, it didn’t matter much in that within 3 days she was back because she could not breathe well. They didn’t think much of it, she had been in and out of the hospital so many times, that it became routine.

This time was different.After a few days of labored breathing and pain, it was more than she wanted to endure.

She had a great life. They had traveled the country and seen more than most would ever see in a lifetime. Together they ventured across the country in search of new things to see and sharing every moment together. But after all that time.

After all the sharing, she turned to her loving husband and said, "Let me go, I’m so tired."

I can’t even begin to understand the feeling that Carl felt at that moment. I know that my heart felt as if it stopped and my chest felt as if a heavy weight was on it. It is such an uncontrollable feeling of weakness and vulnerability. On the other hand, I can’t imagine coming to that stage of life where you can let go. I can understand why. While most of us are not ready, even as Christians, I knew that Irene was ready.

The Bible says that grieving is a normal process and that we all will grieve. It’s okay to cry. I take comfort in knowing that both are believers and they know that God is in control. As mere humans, it doesn’t give you much comfort at the time, but knowing that life is temporary, and glory stands before us, we find the comfort that our bodies will be made new again and when once again we will be together.We returned a few days later to find that Irene was not in complete isolation. Granted, the virus was still inside of her, but the coughing had subsided, and it was relatively safe to visit with unencumbered of mask and gloves. We were able to speak to her, so she knew of our affection, and that we were there to take care of Carl.

Our blessings as humans was that we saw her and talked a bit. She was surprisingly alert. Something we did not expect. Of course, God works his miracles everyday, but sometimes we have to find them. There was no doubt that she was there for us, as much as we were there for her.

A rare blessing when you get to say goodbye to a loved one. During conversation, she would sigh and say, I would like to go home. Of course, we would think of home as where she lived. Thinking about it, perhaps she just meant home.

I tossed her a kiss as we left the room, knowing full well that it would be the last time. She looked at me and smiled. It was our goodbye.

Carl would visit her one last time just two days after we left. He was there as he always was and they said their last goodbyes. She drifted off, quietly.

Carl carried this poem in his wallet.

God saw you getting tired and a cure was not to be. So he put his arms around you and whispered come with me. With tearful eyes we watched you suffer and saw you fade away. Although we loved you dearly we could not make you stay. A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest, God broke our hearts to prove to us he only takes the best.


I lost my mother-in-law. Lost. It sounds like I couldn’t find her. Why do we use these euphemisms when referring to death? Why can’t we say died? It is always lost, passed, gone to a better place. We try to justify death by calling it something else. Are we trying to fool ourselves? Are we simply trying to cope with a loss that many times is impossible to describe? With the death of Dorothy, I did a lot of thinking over the days while preparing the funeral, along with a lot of observation. A couple of things were brought to my attention as those days passed.

As with everything positive, there is a negative. There is black and white, good and bad, bright and dark, yin and yang, Heaven and hell, life and death. We all know we are born, and we all know that we will die. Life is fragile at best. We have all experienced death and the sadness that comes along. We have all shared and cried, and held each other at those times. Not that I haven’t thought of these things before, but this event started me thinking about life and death – and just what does all of this mean. Not from the “why are we here” philosophical point of view, but more from what is the purpose of dying. What is the lesson? I believe that God uses everything to teach us something most everyday and it is our responsibility to understand, or at least realize the message. I guess what started me thinking was a small boy that questioned why God would take his Grammy so close to her birthday. I don’t have an answer, and I know that it is deeper than what one can explain. Death is difficult for a child to understand, and as adults, sometimes we don’t understand either. Some will look at death as an end, and that this passing was simply an end to a life. To others it is a new beginning.

While at the viewing, I spent some time speaking with the Pastor about the eulogy. Sadly, I had been to a few funerals over the past few months, and all I could think of was using this as a message for salvation, which occurred at every funeral that I attended. I believe that it is important to teach salvation, and a funeral is an opportunity to teach the message. I believe that it should be done, but still, I could not help but think that there had to be more than simply saying goodbye, and talking about salvation. That, in and of itself, is not a lesson.

I wrestled with my thoughts and tried to understand what God wanted us to do, and to learn. We held a standard church funeral the following morning. It was an incredible day - A day that Dorothy would have loved. The air was crisp, and the sky was an amazing blue. She had spent her remaining years in an area where she grew up as a child. It was a simple small southern Georgia town, and the church was a tiny Baptist congregation along a small road surrounded by nothing but open land and farms. A building that you would not even notice had it not been for line of cars in the front. It was a church where the pastor knew everyone and shook their hands as they arrived and left. While there were those attending that probably needed to hear about salvation, I think that sadness gets in the way during times like this, and the message is lost. Those attending that are not saved are probably thinking; “get on with it, I came here to say goodbye and pay my respects” and those who are saved, don’t really need to hear the message again. So the sad truth is that most are not even listening to the message. Most are crying, comforting, consoling. Many are thinking about their loved ones, or their life.

I thought back to the viewing and considered the laughter that I heard, and the good spirit that was so obviously present in the rooms. I began to see this event for what, I believe, God meant it to be a chance for a new beginning: an opportunity for us to change. I don’t mean salvation, although it is an opportunity for those that are lost. I mean simply - connection.

Matthew 22: 35 – 39
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

I have always believed that the Bible is as important for what it does not say as for what it does say. Does that make sense? Of course, salvation is important – and necessary, but when Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment he ended with “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When you think of the difficulty of that simple statement, the intensity is shattering, and that is what I thought of as I watched the interaction at the viewing. I would walk through the crowd of friends and family, some I had not seen in many years, and listen to their conversations. The promises. Expecting the crying and sadness, what I saw was a re-connection of souls, and the sharing of warm, happy stories. I was there, in a funeral home, surrounded by death, and yet a peaceful feeling of joy and good spirit filled the rooms. Of course, there was grieving and sadness – tears and prayers on bended knee – and a lot of hugging and holding. But more important, in the next moment, you would hear the laughter from someone recalling a story of humor, someone asking for a phone number, or address so the contact would continue, or plans for a trip to visit, and a promise that they would stay in contact. It was God, alive and well, and at that moment, I felt God’s whisper; this is what it is all about:

Connection, Love, Friends, and Family.

It's not about death. It is not about an end.

As difficult as it is to understand sometimes, it’s about new beginnings, and new opportunities or reminders that God gives each of us to let someone know that you love them, and a chance for you to renew your life. It is an opportunity to praise our Lord in everything He gives us. We all grieve at the passing of a loved one, but rest with knowing that Paradise awaits them. We celebrate knowing that Jesus is there and waiting for them with open arms to hug and to hold. We know that God’s child is coming home. We know that there is a celebration in Heaven, so why wouldn’t there be a celebration on earth?

Later in the week, I was reminded of the lost lives of 9/11. Have you stopped to think about this tragedy and how it affected more than just people in New York? That while we grieve for those that went to work that morning in the Trade Towers, we also grieve for those that left their homes and headed for the airports across the country that eventually brought them to the planes that sent them to New York. How about the travelers on planes that went down in Pennsylvania, or at the Pentagon. I used to travel frequently, and I vividly recall telling our son that I would be back on Friday and we could go fishing or play ball. I vividly remember how I was dispassionate with hugging my wife and kissing her before I left, and telling her that I love her. Do I love them? Of course I do. But life sometimes gets in the way and you get busy. A shout “Goodbye!” A quick “Call you later!” Never giving thought that you might never see them again. Then I thought about the man or the woman that went to work that day with unfinished personal business on their minds and hearts expecting to solve those problems……… later.

Maybe they had an argument with a loved one, they were upset with their parents, or they were bothered by a comment they heard. I also thought of those left at home – the wife, the kids, or maybe the husband. The ones still living and having to carry on. I thought about never being able to say goodbye or I love you. I thought about the guy that called his wife on the cell phone and could only take a second to say I love you before the phone cut out. I thought about the quick note saying "I love you" that may have been scribbled on a torn piece of paper and tucked into their pocket so that someone may find it and provide closure to a loved one. I thought about what a simple hug or handshake, or smile could have meant to someone. I thought about how meaningless it is to be upset for more than a second. I thought about how I let silly, nonessential things clog my life and judgment.

I prayed.

My wife and I visited Dorothy a couple of weeks earlier at Christmas. She resides in a nursing home, and my wife knows how much I dislike going there. Actually, I should call it for what it is – guilt. I feel so depressed after leaving because of the loneliness of the place. Here are the remnants of society in a place where most have come to simply live out the rest of their lives. Sad but true. The nurses that work there try to make it a home. There are activities, church, but rarely visitors. I see the looks in the eyes of the residents and think about their families. The nurses made the comment on more than one occasion that Dot’s family is always there. I think that one of my fondest memories was a time when we arrived during lunch. Dot loved beets, and the nursing home was serving her favorite that day. As we rounded the corner into the dining room her back was to us. Someone made a comment about our being there, so true to herself Dot turned around with a huge smile on her face. The red coloring from the beets covered her lips making it appear that she had the biggest most red lips you have every seen. It was comical at best, but it was an enjoyment of her and her subtle humor. I can’t look at a serving of beets without thinking fondly of her. At the nursing home she was one of the rare ones that actually had visitors. Even on the last day of her life, one of her boys was on his way to see her. I really hated that she was there, but she required round the clock care that the family simply cannot provide. Her diabetes was advanced, and she required daily trips to dialysis. I will tell you however, that she knew everyone, and everyone knew her. As sick as she was, she always had time to chat and tell you about her family. When we were leaving she reached up from her chair and hugged my neck and said; I love you. I said, I love you too Dot. At the time, I didn't realize what those words really meant. I wish that I had hugged her a little longer. We were back in Georgia a short 3 weeks later.

In was able to see Dot one last time, and as I left the viewing at the funeral home with a final goodbye to a woman that was loved, I had a peaceful solitude that only God can give. Dorothy Jean Folsom lived 73 years. She was a mom, and aunt, a grammy, and a great grammy. She touched many lives, and was a friend to many of us. She was loved and she knew it.

So the next time your see your husband, wife, child, mom, dad, in-law, a friend, place your arms around them and let them know they are loved. Hold your companion in a silent moment and just enjoy the closeness. Place your arms around your friends and your family and promise to keep in touch – to visit – to love. Understand that through your giving, you are receiving. Understand that, as odd as it sounds, death is for the living to remind us that life is short, but we have eternity. Although we will celebrate again in Paradise, the time we spend here is what counts in our human form. God intended for His children to enjoy life and He wants us to live our lives to their fullest potential honoring Him is everything we do. He wants us to live without regrets, to love, to laugh, to cry, and mostly to celebrate His goodness. So the next time you come across a stranger, give them a smile and wish them well. You will never know the impact that you have. Go home tonight and hug your husband or your wife. Call a lost friend on the phone. Send a card, or write a letter.

Death reminds us of how fragile and short life is. It doesn’t matter if you are a newborn, or you live to be 100 years old. The loss is still the same. It is there to remind us that we should never put off to tomorrow what we can do today. If it were not there, then we would not have a reason to live or to love. Remember that if there were no end, there would be no beginning. So, what is life all about?

Connection, Love, Friends, and Family


Every major religion claims that there is eternal life, or with some beliefs, you come back or are reborn as something else depending on how you lived your life. This is what confuses me about the death penalty. The typical argument is that we should not be taking a life for a life. I can understand that, and I would guess that you have to ask yourself what gives you the right to take someone else’s life? Of course, if it were your loved one that had been killed by someone, the answer would be easy. Or would it? Killing another human being in a fit of rage is one thing. It doesn't make it right and I can’t imagine however how much rage you would have to muster in order to actual do this. I would think that it would happen either accidentally, or without real intent. I think that it is only in the movies that you see the “you deserved that” sort of violence. But to send another human being to their death? I just can’t see the justification. I know that many will argue the point, and everyone has an opinion, but at least you know mine. Along with this, my thoughts are provoked by death. The Bible tells us that we have eternal life. Jesus tells us that He is going to prepare us a place in Heaven. He says that there are many mansions

John 14:2-3 We are told that heaven is a real place
John 1:32; 6:33; Acts 1:2 the streets are lined with gold
Rev. 21:19-21 and the beauty is beyond our understanding.

What a human way to look at things. I have thought about heaven for a long time and always wondered what it is like. Is it a place? Is it a different dimension?

The reason I pose these questions is that the bible tells us that Heaven is a place. If you have ever read the Bible (and you should even if you don't believe) you see that Jesus spoke in parables and His stories were examples of how one should live their life. I think that using a parable is a great method of telling stories because people will relate to the character and usually compare themselves and thus, normally, get the message that the storyteller intends. So here is the question; Would you give up your life, your possessions, your husband or wife, or your children if I came along and said that I would give you a million dollars? A billion dollars? Have you ever thought about what you could do with a billion dollars? If I lost everything on earth that I loved, would this make me happy? Would this be a place that I would what to spend eternity? But if I knew I would be able to be with my loved ones for eternity, would I be interested? If I knew that I was about to die, and lose everything that I had ever loved or cared about, and a man came into the room and said, “I will die in your place so you can live forever.” Would I trade places with him? If it came to pass, and you left with your loved ones by your side, would you be grateful to this man? Would you mourn his death? If he said, “before I go, promise me that you will love one another and remember me always” would you? If he asked you to forgive as he forgave you, could you be a forgiving? Could you allow a fellow human being to die without first telling him the gospel of Jesus Christ and what He did for humanity. He died in your place so you could spend your life on earth and in heaven with your loved ones. He said that “I take the sins of the world.”

He not only died so you could live, He died so that all could live. Forever. Although it sounds so simple. “He did in our place so that we may have everlasting life.” I heard an interpretation the other day which really made me think about the Cross. God sent Jesus to us to save us. God created everything, including us. The truth of the matter however was that we were given our own will and allowed to choose, and with that we were headed for hell. God told us that we would have an eternal life, but apparently most of us were ignoring Him. With that God had to fix things. Being omnipotent He does not make mistakes, so it wasn’t He that needed to correct anything. Basically, and I mean this is basic; He sent His Son to us to receive the wrath of God. He sent Jesus to us so He could focus all of His wrath to One who had not sinned. The death of Jesus was all part of the plan and Jesus (the Holy One) knew it was inevitable but perhaps during this process Jesus (the man) was having some trouble with this. I think the hardest part for the common person to understand is that Jesus and God are the same. So basically God sent Himself to take His wrath. Confused? I’ll bet. The bottom line is this however. God had to pour out his anger and wrath on a single entity that was pure. Thus Jesus said “I take the sins of the world.” Humans being humans had not been pure since Adam and Eve. (Yes, and for you discoverers, thinkers, and inquisitors out there, I know about the other stories about Adam and Eve and the Sumerian text and the Mesopotamian background and such, however the light that I am referring to is the text of the Christian Bible.) Then Adam and Eve made the wrong decision (free will and choice) only to find out that their Creator was upset.

So out of the Garden and into the real world. Simple story - this continued for a long time with everyone having kids and growing up. There was of course, religion and this part gets real confusing but the simple explanation is that man, left on his own, is a mess and can't figure out anything. God knew this, and had to fix it. Think about it. If your child was headed down the wrong path toward death and destruction what would you do? I will bet you would do everything in your power to turn them around. There were all types of “gods’, but there were also the Jews, and others that believed all kinds of stuff. I can’t really imagine it, but God was looking at this, being patience and working on a way to resolve all of this chaos. He needed to be able to take all of this away and give us a choice. Since apparently we didn’t understand what He meant in the first place, remember we demonstrated this by creating our own gods and goddesses, false images, and then the religion of the day seemed more aligned with laws rather than saving lives along with having strict rules about money, and where it was spent. Apparently we had some issues with translating scripture. At this point in the story, I’m thinking that I am beginning to aggravate some people. Anyhow, God knew that he had to fix things so He needed to come down and pull all of this sin out of us and once again, provide us with a path for salvation. The only way that this could happen is to provide a sacrifice of one that was totally pure but no one existed. Only Jesus was pure and had not sinned. Again, that was the plan. So, move forward to the cross. Here is Jesus, man and Christ. The Messiah. God is really upset with us, and I mean wrath type upset. He had some choices to make. For one, He could just smite us and start over. He could make us disappear. After all He is God and can do exactly what He wants. Now think about this. If you make something, create something, using your own hands and right at the last stroke you damage it. You made a mistake, so you start over. Does God make mistakes? Nope! God makes it right. So, He sends his Son down to earth to talk to us face to face. Jesus starts explaining all the things we are doing incorrectly, and not like God intended it to be. Once Jesus has told us these things, He explains that the only way to eternity is through Him. For He that knows Me knows my Father. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Now that all of that is done, and my intent is not to trivialize this, but to simplify, God uses Jesus to focus His wrath. Rather than destroy us, God focuses all of His rage and fury to One person that does not deserve anything but praise. God sacrifices His Son for us rather than destroying us. Why? It is simple. Would you destroy your creation if you knew that there was a chance that it could be fixed? Would you destroy your children if they made a mistake? You would do everything in your power to see that they would live, just like God did for us. Jesus the man died, and 3 days later God brought Him back. Jesus the Spirit never died. On the cross Jesus said, Father, why do you forsake me? That was the human part I suppose, but at the end He said “It is done.” What does that mean? I think it means just what it says. The sin has been removed, the ultimate sacrifice has been made, and we - if we choose - will live in eternity as God intended

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