A Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

I am not sure if you can view this from Heaven, but since you flew there in 1999, I often feel you are beside me. But, of course, you know us earth-bound folks can’t see for looking sometimes, so I might have missed you.

A few things happened since you left.  I married again in 2005, and I believe you would like this guy.  He, just like you, reminds me to turn off the lights, close the doors, and keep the car clean.  You must have hand-picked him to keep me straight!  I know your dying wish was that I would not be alone, and I assume God heard your plea.  Thank you, Daddy, for praying.

The kids are all grown now and scattered.  We endured some tragedies that I hope you didn’t see or sense, but with God’s help, we mustered through and are fine.  I sure am glad folks do not suffer from cancer, broken bones, or shattered hearts where you are, but we still grapple most days with earthly tragedies occurring somewhere.  You taught me to stand tall and be strong, and even though I stumbled a few times, I picked myself up and courageously stood.  Thank you, Dad.

Updating Dad

I retired from design a few years ago and heard the Lord yelling for me to keep my promise that I would begin writing one day. And you know how He is; He doesn’t let you get away with not following through!  Many of my stories involve those you shared about life, family, and home.   You were the master storyteller, and I am so grateful I listened and learned.  Thanks, Dad, for being such a great teacher.

You are not going to believe what else happened! After you, Mom, and brother John left, I felt orphaned.  It was a strange feeling as if everyone flew to a glorious place and left me on the tarmac.  Soon after, I realized most of the Walker family you adored was gone.  I missed the roaring laughter, the twinkling eyes, and the family trait of never meeting a stranger.

However, my writing often took me back to the Tennessee mountain town where we were all born as I told the tales of our heritage.  I found cousins, friends, and folks who never meet a stranger.  And, Daddy, now I am an orphan no more. 

Teaching one to care

You taught me a valuable lesson, whether you realized it or not.  You never thought yourself old or useless.  Your sunny attitude was to keep doing and giving till you couldn’t.  You thought laziness and apathy were components of the Devil’s workshop, and you were right. 

Near the end of your life, I recall watching you slowly meander through the resident’s parked cars at your independent living facility.  You were armed with your Windex bottle and washing their car windows.  You worked to make folks’ days brighter until your light was extinguished.  Living is doing for others until you are done.  Thank you, Daddy, for always caring.

Our country is torn now, Dad.  People think what they believe is the only way. Compromise and conversation seem lost.  Thus, we witnessed people storming the Capitol, politicians behaving in the worst possible way, and racism raising its grotesque head.  All this happened in the middle of a pandemic that claimed over half-million of our citizens.  Fear gripped our country, and as the climate grew hotter, so did the vitriol.

His sensitive spirit

I wrote a column about how horribly you suffered because of the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/20 that quickly killed your dad, your sister, and your aunt.  You cried when you would recall those days of grief and misery.  However, today, some folk’s hearts have hardened so, they cannot feel other’s pain.  I learned that empathy and understanding are necessary to survive because you wept.   Thank you, Dad, for your sensitive spirit.

I loved you when you were alive, Daddy, but I love you far more today.  Your wisdom, common sense, friendly nature, kindness, and wit resonate with me now more than ever.  People adored you and respected your ability to enjoy life and love people.  You were intelligent, dependable, and carried your feelings on your sleeve without any fear of doing so.

It was and is an honor to be your daughter, and I pray I have somehow pleased you with my words.  I hope I have shown enough gratitude to our family and to those who forged a path for us all.  Please continue to send me a story or two, and I look forward to the day in Heaven when you remind me to turn off the lights and close the doors.

 Happy Father’s Day, Daddy; I sure miss you,


Where our History is Written in Stone

On the first Sunday in June in Monterey, Tennessee, where I was born, citizens celebrate Decoration Day.  There are two main cemeteries in this small town, and most of us whose heritage dates to the pioneer days honor the remains of those we love by decorating their graves with flowers.

When my parents and brother were still living, we tried our best to visit on Decoration Day no matter where we resided.  Every June, as we walked among the headstones, Dad would tell us stories regarding uncles, aunts, friends, or grandparents as tears fell from their memory. 

When many relatives were still living, we held large reunions complete with picnics after placing flowers atop graves in both cemeteries.  More old tales were recounted as laughter filled the air.

Before we left to travel to our various homes, we would drive by the old graveyards and view them alive with color as flowers adorned nearly every grave.  It was a sight to behold.

When silence replaced joy

After years passed, Daddy’s stories were silenced, reunions ended, and grief replaced joy because most of my family was gone. As a result, a sense of loneliness and longing began to creep into my soul.

 You know how God has a way of always working things out? Unfortunately, we often don’t recognize his plan, but sometimes it is as clear as the raindrop that fell Decoration Sunday on my Great Grandmother’s grave in Monterey.

After I began writing six years ago, it was a delight when I heard from relatives and friends in places I once lived as a child.  They were from Tennessee’s hills, valleys, and cities to Georgia, where I moved when I was 15.    I love communicating with these precious folks and sharing our memories of times together.

 Since a few of my columns evolved around my heritage, I reconnected with some long-lost cousins and an entire town.  I was only four when we moved away from our Monterey family. However, in the past year, a deep affection developed with this mountain town, where it doesn’t matter how old you were when you left;  they still welcome you home.

Long-lost kinfolk

One of those cousins is Bobby.  When I hear him talk or watch his blue eyes twinkle while he tells many a story, I am reminded of Dad.  Bobby says I talk a lot, and I do, but then so does he, and I thankfully realize the old silence is now broken.

On a prior visit to Monterey earlier this year, I met Patsy.  She is another of those long-lost relatives.  Our great grandparents buried two children and a grandchild due to the Spanish flu epidemic between 1918 to 1920. Patsy’s grandmother, Sallie Belle, and my grandfather, Sallie’s brother, succumbed to the flu, as well as my Dad’s little sister, Bertha Nell.

“Lynn, I have never been able to find my grandmother’s grave,” Patsy announced soon after I met her. 

“Well, I am sure it is in the older Whittaker cemetery.  Maybe her headstone is lost but I feel positive she is there.” I replied after she told me the story.  However, it bothered me that my great aunt Sallie Belle’s gravesite was missing.

Raindrops started to fall as I walked with cousin Bobby among the headstones on Decoration Day morning.  We put flowers on family graves in the old cemetery and looked for little Bertha Nell’s lamb topped stone.  I finally found it and laid dainty yellow flowers beside her.  Bobby and I were puzzled about why she was buried in a different location than her parents. 

The lost are found

I noticed there was a worn monument beside her that one could barely read.   When I touched the stone, I ran my fingers across the words which spelled ‘Sallie Belle,’ who died in 1918.   I called Patsy immediately, and joy began to replace a haunting sadness.

Near where they are buried, Sue takes donations to maintain the cemetery grounds under a green awning.  As I wrote my check, Sue asked, “Are you Lynn, the one who writes?” Then, after responding affirmatively, she began to tell me about another sweet uncle of mine, and the stories started to whirl just as my father’s tales once did in the mountains on a June Sunday. 

“I have a renewed interest in cemeteries!” Bobby texted after I returned to Georgia.  I responded, “Cemeteries are where our histories are written in stone.” But, as I typed those words, I also thought, it is where the lost are found, where stories spin around flowers as families gather, and where joyous memories replace sorrow.

God always has a way of working things out.  Have you noticed?

Welcome Summer with a Sunny Spirit

The pool is open, kids are squealing, gardenias are blooming, and the fish are hungry.  Summer is back!!!!  I believe it has been gone a very long time.  I wasn’t really sure we would see it again.  However, now, I want to yell like a preschooler coming down a slide, jump off the diving board, and cover myself in gardenia perfume! Yessir, summer has decided not to quit on us! Hallelujah!

I plan to relish every single day of heat, each flower that blooms, and every bite of ice-cold watermelon. I vow to thank the good Lord daily that my family survived to embrace each other and the joy of another summer.  We all should know by now that seasons can disappear, that people and life can change, and we are never assured of what new evil killer may lie ahead.

Some people are still arguing over elections, vaccines, science, masks, or anything they can create to yell about or make political.  However, they better not mess with my summer!  If they want to complain and fire fury, may their air conditioning break.  Should they choose to rain more violence and chaos on our country may their thunderstorms be frequent and only in their backyard.  If folks want to spread untruths and lies, may the locusts enter their houses in swarms and leave the rest of us alone.

Exhausted from woes

I am exhausted from all the woes and conflicts of the last eighteen months. But, unfortunately, some folks love to be embroiled in discord. Sadly, some media outlets know that to be true, and some politicians encourage such behavior to receive a vote.  So, why not let the sounds of summer and our children’s laughter squelch their nasty noise that permeates the air?  Isn’t our little one’s happiness and a healthy summer more critical than conflict?  So, may I suggest, turn the rhetoric off.  You will feel better, I promise. 

Every summer, my Grandmother toiled in her garden, fished in her pond, and loved picnics better than most anyone I knew.  She didn’t own a fancy grill, nor did she care about cruises or far away destinations. Instead, she enjoyed pushing the park’s merry-go-round for her grandchildren, catching the big bass, or eating fresh corn from her garden. 

She taught us all that we reap what we sow.  If we spread sorrow, we will reap anguish for years.  So don’t go planting any sorrow or sorry behavior in my garden if that is how you plan to spend your blessed summer.  Plant them instead in your garden of weeds.

Don’t interrupt happiness

If you do not like to follow the rules for travel this summer, walk to where you need to go.  Don’t interrupt my glorious happiness as I travel to see my children.  Walking to the North Pole to cool off for a while seems a good idea since summer may be too hot for your uncontrolled rage.

Seriously, however, I do not wish for locusts to swarm anyone’s home or that someone needs to go to the north pole, but selfishly unruly, untamed, unfiltered, and unkind actions must find a way to end.  This is the only way to enjoy the gifts God has given us all.

It is past time for us to be filled with gratitude for the sun, for the stars, for the air we breathe, and for the land we cherish.  If I had one wish today, it would be for everyone to just enjoy each day filled with appreciation. 

I know we don’t live in a perfect world with all good people.   Evil flies around us like a mosquito trying to bite for a sip of blood.   However, the only thing I know that kills a mosquito is a good repellent, and the only repellent I know for evil is goodness.

Appreciation is the key

Goodness is based on thankfulness and caring for others.  I believe if we are appreciative of a day, we might not ruin it.  If we are grateful for our freedom in America, we should strive for unity, understanding, and respect for each other.   Let us be thankful for the blessing of our children and grandchildren by giving them a future of peace.   If we believe in God, we must do what He asks of us.

Yes, I am grateful for summer in more ways than one.  This summer, I am well, and I will finally see a child I have not seen in 18 long months.  I will watch my grandchild turn sweet 16, take walks near the river, and look to the heavens above, and thank God for simply living.

Embrace your summer and be filled with gratitude that you can still watch a flower bloom and enjoy an ice-cold watermelon. 

Salute the Vietnam Warriors

While recently thumbing through my old Tennessee and Georgia high school yearbooks, tears pooled in my eyes.  Yes, they were all there, young men with hope in their eyes and their youth on the edge of disappearing. I wonder what they would have accomplished in their lives if they had the promise of a future.

 Would they laugh as I do at the silly antics of a grandchild?  Would they still possess the impish grin the camera caught in the 60s? Maybe Howard would have made it onto the big screen with his good looks.  Perhaps Bobby would be a renowned physician today, and Larry would have climbed up the ranks in his beloved army before retiring to Florida. 

However, the maybe’s left when they all boarded a military bus to serve our nation while a war escalated in Vietnam.  They, like so many, returned only to be laid to rest in their hometown cemeteries before they had a chance to see what could have been.

Bearing a scar

These young men joined the service as so many do to become soldiers of war.  They are the elite among us who, I believe, God anoints with an extra dose or more of courage.  These soldiers go blindly into battle to defend the land they love.  They steadfastly look out for each other and often give their lives to save their comrades.

The Vietnam warriors were no different in character and honor as those who bravely fought for our Independence.  They held the same gritty spirit as those who battled before them in the Revolutionary War or World War I and II, as well as all other conflicts.  Thousands of soldiers have responded to the call to serve, but the warriors of Vietnam bear a scar.

By the time our troops were pulled from Vietnam in 1973, over 52,000 young soldiers had perished.  Between 1964 and 1975, 2,709,918 men and women wore an American military uniform in Nam.  240 of them were awarded the Medal of Honor as Bobby Ray was for saving many lives, except his own. Of those killed in combat, 61% were younger than 21. Just out of school, just beginning to dream, just starting a future.   

Also, in 1973, America’s electorate was deeply divided, and some say the military was demoralized.  So, for those who returned from the rice paddies and trenches, ships, the skies, and prisons of Vietnam, there were no homecoming parades or bands of screaming, happy folks in Times Square to greet them. Instead, Vietnam was simply over for America.

Never blame the warrior

Today, those fallen Vietnam soldiers are immortalized on a wall in Washington, D.C.  For those who lost friends or loved ones whose names are etched in this wall, the war is not forgotten, nor is the sacrifice.   We are the older generation now, and our young faces are alongside those in the yearbooks who remain ageless. 

Today, 610,000 courageous Vietnam Veterans are still walking among us.  Of those who risked their lives in Southeast Asia, 97% were honorable discharged even though many were drafted for service.

Even after hearing countless stories of the heroism and bravery shown by our American troops during the second-longest war in our history, they returned home to be treated harshly by many for just doing what they were asked to do. Unfortunately, this response created a loss of self-esteem and grief for many young soldiers, leading to future deep-seated problems.  

Our worst divisive behavior is the scar of Vietnam.  The wound was not caused by the soldiers.  The injury was inflicted by the free citizens who remained on American soil that turned their anger toward those sent to battle.  

We can fairly charge those in government or politics for most anything but not the bravest, best, and the most elite among us. So we should never blame the warrior, nor the ones who suffer and give the most.  Nor the over 150,000 who were wounded in Vietnam, or the prisoners of war, or those missing in action.

Take the time to notice the brave soldiers

I look into the eyes of my framed Vietnamese doll my brother sent me in 1965.  She has my POW/MIA bracelet around her waist to remember another pilot whose remains were finally located a few years ago.   My brother lived until 1998, but his time spent in Vietnam was always fresh in his heart.  I, too, vow to honor those who gave so much to receive so little.  

Memorial Days will come and go, but this year stop for a moment, look around, and notice the brave soldiers of long ago and celebrate them.

Maybe it will help heal the scar a divided nation caused and remind us never to produce such a wound again.  

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.  Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”  General George S. Patton, Jr.

The Music Just Beyond the Doors

Years ago, shortly before my mother passed away, she described a vivid dream she experienced one night that prepared us both for what was to come.   

In the Tennessee mountain town where she and I were born, the vacant old Imperial Hotel stands frozen in time as if passing years dare to touch it.  The brick three-story building next to the train depot was built in 1909.  Weary rail passengers would spend the night, enjoy a good meal, and feel the cool air as it whirled around the mountain.  The Imperial boasted 30 rooms and indoor plumbing, which in 1909 was quite extraordinary in the hills of Tennessee.    

When I was a small child, the old hotel was a magical place where I could imagine myself as a traveler on the Tennessee railway or attending a gala in the main ballroom.  However, in the late 50s, the passenger trains discontinued their service to stop at the depot just below the hotel. As a result, the Imperial closed its doors to guests, and silence filled the halls.   

The once-thriving resort town and tourist destination withered.  All other inns and hotels succumbed to the ravages of time.  But the Imperial still stands today determined not to be forgotten.  It is as if she is still waiting to greet her visitors when they walk through her doors once again.

The dream

“Lynn, I dreamed I was at the Imperial last night.  I stood in the foyer hall alone, and the doors to the ballroom were locked.  A band was playing and people were laughing as if they were attending a fine party.  I wanted to join them, so I knocked and then banged on the old wooden doors.  The noise inside grew louder, and my attempts to be heard were useless.  I begin to weep with frustration because I desperately desired to see everyone, but I could not.  I woke up this morning with the dream still fresh and to find my pillowcase was damp with tears.  So strange.”  Mom declared after detailing her dream.

When Mother passed away a few months later, we took her home to the little mountain town to rest beside Dad.  A day after the service, I drove toward the Imperial and wondered if I could somehow get inside.  After parking my car, I found, to my surprise, the front door was unlocked, and I discovered I was alone in the foyer. 

Wooden doors were open to reveal a large room perfect for hosting a huge celebration complete with a band. But, unfortunately, the hotel was void of sound. Yet, I could feel the beat of the music as I envisioned my parents dancing as they always loved to do.

The unwritten messages

While standing among the spirits still alive in the Imperial, I understood how Mom’s dream prepared us for her departure from this world.  In the end, Mother was ready to join the others who await her just beyond the doors to eternity.  Her frustration was over.

We receive images and messages of eternal life all the time.  Either we decide to pay attention to them or ignore them completely.  Usually, when we don’t trust what we hear or see, we deem ourselves more intelligent than the Divine, causing us to not be very intelligent.  

People call such events everything from God-Winks to bizarre coincidences to hogwash, but I call them gifts.  Precious connections to unite us with God and those we have lost from this life.  They remind me of a small present tied with a satin ribbon.  Once you untie the bow, the box reveals glimpses of forever.

Listen with your soul

Today, the depot near the hotel is now a museum run by its cultural administrator, a young man new to the area.  Mr. Cleary fell in love with the town’s history and the under 3000 people who call Monterey, Tennessee, home.   I met him for the first time when I visited a few weeks ago. 

He had just purchased his first house.  “Where is your new home?” I asked.  After a brief conversation, I knew exactly where it was. It was the house where I was born.

 I looked up to the hill just beyond the depot to the old brick Imperial and smiled.  There is no music flowing from the rooms, nor sounds of laughter, nor trains that stop to deboard weary travelers seeking rest.  Yet somehow, the magic that makes life whirl like the wind in the mountains reminds me that we all remain connected to the past, to those we love, and not even death can stop the dance.

Sometimes, when we are caught up in the noise of life, it is vitally important to become quiet and listen to the music just beyond the doors.

Where do we go from here?

For well over a year, I feel we have lived in a hole and a muddy one at that!  We collectively experienced events most of us never dreamed would occur.  A nightmare of global death and destruction brought us to our collective knees and challenged most all human beings across our planet. 

Trucks converting to morgues, hospitals overflowing, families mourning, businesses shuttered, churches closed, school doors padlocked as fear lurked around every corner.  As of today, over 3 million people did not waken from the nightmare.

On top of all that tragedy, we add our country’s abysmal political upheaval and division.  I mean, how much more mud can we throw to make our lives more miserable? So how do we climb out of this quagmire? Where do we go from here?

I know a little something about climbing out of the hole of despair…. I believe it cannot be done without the hand of God.  It can’t.  Nothing can heal completely without His help. Absolutely Nothing.  We cannot make the world a kinder place without His love.  Never.  We cannot survive grief without faith, and we cannot live in joy without peace.  It will never happen.

Paying the price

We are given freedoms by God to make choices throughout our lives. But, how many times have we all made the wrong decision and paid the price?  I finally quit counting, but I will rue most of my bad choices until the day I die.  Yes, God forgave my many transgressions, but I still must live with their consequences. 

 “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather serve one another humbly in love.  For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love others as your love yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by each other!  Galatians 5: 13-15  NIV

Well, need I say more? How many of you do not recall the last sentence of the writing from the Apostle Paul?  Are we losing ourselves in the mud of misery and destroying each other?  Or should we grab the hand of God, who teaches us how to stop our pain?  It is our freedom to choose.  Aren’t we all tired of anguish?

Obeying the highest command

America’s freedoms are spelled out in our Constitution and are the law of the land. So, likewise, God’s freedoms reside in our souls, and He urges us to follow His rules and commands.

We are a country based on religious freedom, but where or how we worship is not as important as honoring God.  Believing Him when he states, “My highest commandment is to love one another.”  Oh, how we forget that when we call each other names or wallow in the mud of politics or don’t help one another get well.  Or when our personal freedoms take precedence over our care and concern for others.  Oh, how we forget when we hate or spread lies, or we look at death in numbers instead of lives lost. Oh, how we forget when we gloat over our wins or cry over our losses. 

We can climb out of the hole of filthy darkness if we each choose a shovel, pitch in, and clean up the mud together.  There is a light at the top blazing in glory and urging us all to keep our eyes focused up and not down. 

It is far easier to hate than love.  It is far easier to spew rhetoric to create turmoil than to remain quiet to obtain peace.  It is far easier to offer nothing than to give away much. So do we choose easy, or do we find enrichment through hard work? 

A second chance

For those of us who survived these months, we have a second chance to do all we can to help others to find joy in their lives.  We have the opportunity to teach our children right from wrong and how goodness reigns over evil.  We can show them that God is alive by the way we live. 

Where do we go from here?  It is our freedom to choose to become well, happy, and peaceful people, or we can stay buried in darkness.  For me, I will climb up to the light. After all, that is where we will find a hopeful tomorrow.   

“Where the Hilltops Kiss the Sky”

“Home is where one starts from.”  T. S. Eliot

I stood in front of the white clapboard house, which lay in stark contrast to the bright green surrounding it.  Rolling hills of lush spring grass cascade down the backyard that is alive with budding hardwood trees and birds flitting between the branches.   The simple structure needs a bit of work, but what a sight to behold.

My parents built the house a few years after they married in 1939.  While viewing the home on Hoyt Street, I thought I heard the faint sounds of a baby crying from the bedroom.  But it was just a memory planted deep within my soul.

Mama gave birth to her three babies in this pretty house in Monterey, Tennessee.  The first one, Betty Ray, lived only three days, and when she passed, Daddy cried beside Mama’s bed where she lay.  Betty was buried a mile away in the old cemetery.  The house grew quiet that cold February day as grief passed through the halls and down the rolling hills.

Those who call this home

After a while, the sound of a healthy boy’s chatter filled the still summer air.  Soon, delight returned to those who played in the yard, sled down the hills in winter, and laughed at the antics little John would pull.  “A handful, to say the least!” I heard them say.  Six years later, when the leaves turned amber in the autumn, I was born in the same bedroom down the hall in the pretty white house on Hoyt.

I think of my mother and her life as I watch the front door expecting it to open and see her standing there calling us in for supper.   However, Mama, Daddy, and John are with Betty Ray now.  I simply recall all that began here and all the lives touched by those who once called this place home.

My mother and father grew up in this town where everyone knows everyone else, and most of them are related.  And even though we would move away when I was young, we often returned to see old friends and kinfolk.

Mom’s best friend, Violet, passed away last year at the age of 102.  She rests just up the hill from Mama in the cemetery a mile away.   As I pass the place where the old high school once stood, I believe I hear a basketball dribbling on the newly waxed gym floor.  Crowds are cheering as the two girls continue making point after point to win their championship game. 

I expect them to burst through the gym doors dressed in their purple and gold with a trophy held high, but the door remains closed as I realize it is just their legacy planted deep within in my soul.

Deep within my soul

The lake at the edge of town surrounded by a vast farm is probably the most beautiful place on earth.  I was always told that, so I know that it is true.  As I watch the wind move the water to lap onto the shore, I see my brother swimming in the shallow end as Daddy tried to catch another big bass.  Mama is unloading a picnic basket of sandwiches and cookies on a grassy knoll near the lake’s edge. Folks happily wave as they pass by in canoes and skiffs. 

The wind calms, and all goes silent because I know it is just a beautiful scene painted deep within my soul.

I drive to the old lumber mill, but it is no longer there.  Yet, I hear the mill whistle blow telling all their workday is done.  I see my father excited to go home, where Mom has fried chicken waiting.  Since that was Dad’s favorite, he was in a hurry.  I smile at how it was the simple things that made my father so happy: a family, a pretty little house, a good job, and fried chicken.

I look up to find the whistle, but it is gone. Instead, the sounds of it all are frozen in that place that is planted deep in my soul.

Memories take us home

People say you can’t go back home, but I disagree.  Those memories carry us to a place where we clearly see those we adored and those we always long to see again.  Those people who taught us the importance of family, roots, connections, and love prompt us to return to relish their memory planted deep within our souls.

The logo for Monterey, Tennessee, is, “Where the hilltops kiss the sky.”  I swear I just felt mother kiss my cheek because I returned to the home where I began.

For my mother:  Elizabeth Walker 1919-2010

Be the first to say “Hello!”

Like many small towns in the south during the 50s, men would gather near the county courthouse on clear, warm Saturdays to whittle, smoke a pipe, and solve the world’s problems.  In the Tennessee mountain town where my grandparents lived, I loved to travel to town with my grandmother (aka Grandpa) on Saturday mornings. 

We had a tradition of going to Hill’s Department Store to look at pretty shoes, the dime store to buy candy and a toy, and then to the grocery.  However, I also wanted to visit the men around the courthouse.  According to my parents, I was about two years old when I attempted to start a conversation with anyone I saw.  Even though most of those folks didn’t understand a word I was saying, I sure thought they did.

“Child, you don’t have a shy bone in your body!” They would exclaim, and they were right about that.  To this day, y’all know I don’t even understand what “shy” means.

Grandpa and I sat on the bench eating our candy near the steps of the historic stone Cumberland County Courthouse.  The men were all chattering except for one gentleman who sat alone.  I had made my rounds to check in with all of them, but I walked by the man who was alone.

The lesson

When I returned to my bench, Grandpa asked, “Honey, why did you not talk to that man who was by himself?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t think he is like the others.  He looks funny and I think he is grumpy!” I explained.   

I couldn’t have been more than four, but what I learned that Saturday has remained deep within my heart.

“Lynn, if you want to cure grumpiness, always be the first to say hello, offer a smile and friendship.  And never, never judge a person by the way they look! Ever! You take this dollar and go talk to the man.  I’ll bet he could use both the dollar and a friend!”

She placed the bill in my little hand, and since I was convinced, Grandpa was a cousin to Jesus himself, I better do what she said. 

I sat with the disheveled man until Grandpa came over to get me.  She took my hand, and as we walked away, the man and I continued to wave goodbye. He was now my friend.

Begin the cure

That is how we begin to cure discrimination.  We start by saying hello to everyone we pass.  We offer a smile and our warmth to all people.  Let’s give all we meet the benefit of the doubt; we never judge by the way they look, the way they speak, or the color of their skin.  It is up to every single human being to put an end to the reckless evil of self-righteousness.

I am actively on a mission to be the first to wave and shout a big ole’ sincere “Hi” to those I see, especially if they don’t look like me.  I passed a woman the other day walking into the grocery store as I was leaving.  A mask covered my mouth; however, a smile always reflects in our eyes. 

She looked at me and must have realized my eyes were smiling as I said, “Hello!”  After a slight pause, she immediately returned both the smile and the greeting.

You see, we are all the same.  We love to be amid kindness and acceptance.  Most of us know that when we bridge gaps with caring, the world works better, and we move forward.  We all should strive for fairness and equality.

Only one judge

There is only one who can judge us.  Only one.  And it isn’t me or you or any group, or any political leader or party, or any human being on earth.  The only judge is our Creator, and when we try to take over His job, there will be a price to pay.  He alone knows our hearts.

 Many times, folks deemed me unintelligent because I speak with a definite southern accent.  My saving grace was Dolly Parton, who clearly showed the world intelligence can hide and flourish behind a blond wig, a guitar, and a Tennessee mountain accent like mine. 

My best friend in college was black in the early 70s, and some of my best buddies during my interior design career were not heterosexual.  Once you know someone, love someone, all color, all accents, and all anything else goes away because you embrace their spirit.

 As we walk around in our earthly bodies, who is judging our spirit? It might be a good idea to start waving, shouting hello, and being sincerely kind.   There is only one righteous judge.  He is Grandpa’s cousin who taught me early to never view folks just with my eyes.

Announcement: Come to Jesus Meeting

When I was a child, my parents used certain southern expressions that my brother and I understood well.  When Mom and Dad would say,  “We need to have a come-to Jesus meeting,” I shook in my loafers.  This event usually meant that I was in trouble because of my errant ways or bad behavior.  

 I did believe Jesus was in attendance at those meetings and that if I lied, He would certainly know it and banish me from Heaven.  Before the confrontation would occur, I would often hide under the bed to not face Jesus or my parents.  That never worked because the all-knowing Good Lord told Dad where to look.

Today, I believe it is time for America to gather for a “Come to Jesus Meeting.” It doesn’t matter what faith you are; just come.  We are still struggling with the errant divisive behavior of some of our citizens and leaders. 

Who is responsible?

I believe we would have been over the pandemic long ago if most of America had been on the same page.  If the coronavirus had not become so politicized, we could have saved many.  As of today, even though we have vaccines, we still are experiencing rising COVID cases and hospitalizations.  

Some pass blame for these surges to Dr. Fauci, a lamppost, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, the media, or Bessie, the cow.  It is a virus that will not end until our personal behavior changes.  A President, cow, or political party is not responsible for COVID.  We, alone,  are the cause for the spread of the virus and its variants, period.   If we wish for our businesses, lives, and education to return to some sense of normalcy, then why would we refuse to act responsibly? 

Is it more important to stay devoted to a group, a leader, or the lamppost than to be loyal to your fellow men, women, and children?

Adding pain to misery

Plus, during our nearly 500 days of pandemic ills, we still suffer the burn from the flames of political turmoil.  If I had a trash can big enough, I might toss the two-party system in it.  Terrible idea, I know, but oh my, does Congress need to call a “Come to Jesus Meeting.”  If you can’t see those in each political party who are putting power and political pandering ahead of caring for our nation, I will loan you a pair of glasses.  

Adding to our misery, we have the conspiracy theorists who would conjure up any excuse to not attend a “Come to Jesus Meeting.”  They hide under beds writing a theory on why the spider that is in the mattress will grow fangs to bite us and take off with our money.  The good news is, the all-knowing Good Lord will find them wherever they hide with their lies.

Race relations are deteriorating, violence is spreading, shootings are occurring, and hatred is at the root of it all.  

Hate and anger are pushing us to still divide, promote violence, still be bigots, and spread illness.  The devil is having a party, and we are in attendance.  I am sick of him and tired of the way we often treat each other. And I know with certainty, I am not the only one.

Why do we make our lives more problematic while experiencing so much pain? We must, first and foremost, get well. Too many of our citizens have died, and our children have suffered immensely for well over a year.

Prioritizing our children

Our priorities are not were they should be. Instead of forming a united front to help our little ones return to a life they once knew, we battle over our selfish political and personal ideologies.

People who have worked tirelessly to heal our nation are those we should follow. Their love of God and their fellow citizens shine like a beacon.  It is their voices we must hear and not those who shout ill will and cause distrust and chaos.  Our aspirations should come from love, not hate.  We need to stand tall, speak out, and post signs for all to “Come to a Jesus Meeting!” on every street corner and in every chamber of our hearts.

Jesus is still walking among us. His voice is often drowned by our angry tirades. He watches as the hospitals fill and folks suffer because many feel they must choose between their rights/freedoms and the health of their fellow Americans. Isn’t it the right choice to decide what is best for us all?   When we label each other, pass judgment, spread distrust, Jesus is watching us, hearing us, and asking us, “Why?” 

 “The Come to Jesus Meeting” is for those who would like to heal, seek forgiveness, find love, and experience peace.   This meeting is open for all and is free.  

Those Tumbled Down Days

Some days, life seems to take a tumble, a misstep, or when it feels as if something is just plain off.  Days when our energy is low, but our worry is high.  Frustration, sadness, and fatigue sink in, and we wonder why. 

Most of us want to go back to bed, cover our heads, and pray that tomorrow will be an ‘on’ day and our joy will return.  However, I believe we need those troubled days to recoup, rethink, and redo.  Perhaps they are given to us to settle ourselves, be alone, and even shed a few cathartic tears. 

It has been said that writers pen their best works during episodes of depression.  I’m not sure how that works when you are buried under the covers, but the idea is plausible.  Depression and art often go hand in hand.  From Van Gough to Hemingway, those tumbled down days gifted the rest of us with beautiful words and breathtaking paintings.  Their talent rose to the surface in the quiet moments of loneliness and disillusionment.

Turn an off day to “on”

Recently, I was experiencing an “off” Tuesday morning.  Too much to do, worry, and lack of sleep threw me for a loop.  I received an email from a gentleman after he read his newspaper earlier that same day.   He wrote, “Your column this morning is just what I needed to face a grueling day! Thank you.”

How funny that his note helped me face my own grueling morning with a new resolve.  And that, my friends, is how life works.  Life flows better when we realize we all need each other to survive our tumbled down days. 

While on vacation, my sweet friend fell and broke her foot.  This is not the first time she has broken a bone due to a tumble, so I knew she was frustrated.  When she sent a message to all her friends telling them of her accident, her phone lit up with good wishes!  By the time I talked to her, that little cheery, laughing- at- herself attitude was again in full bloom.  We definitely need one another to heal from all falls.

Humor heals

Years ago, before emails and cell phones, I wrote my mother a letter after a crazy day with my new baby and a mischievous toddler, who persisted in providing trouble.  I comically explained the entire day but ended it with the word, “HELP!”

Mom called me after receiving the letter a few days later. 

“Honey, I am sorry you had such a terrible day, but I laughed until I cried as I read your story.”

“Gee, thanks Mom, I am glad I made your day happier from my misery!”  I kidded.

Then she thoughtfully responded, “Lynn, you really can write, you know.”

 I replied, “Mom, now you are the comic!”

When I was going through Mother’s papers after her death in 2010, I found that old letter and, in my grief, a much-needed smile crossed my face.  She had helped me indeed.

Meaning found in darkness

When nothing is going our way, and when life seems complicated, and trouble lurks, it is usually a signal for growth.  In our solitude, we find we may need to reevaluate our priorities, pray a little more, or even pen a novel. 

It is a monumental struggle to find strength and meaning during our dark times, but it is worth a mighty try.  Perhaps, in the end, you could discover that your darkness created light for someone else.  And that, in turn, motivates us all.

One of the most significant faults human beings have is our inability to call for help.  Our pride gets in our way, and fear of what others think of us rises above what is best for us.  Here’s the deal, every single person on earth always and will forever need aid at one time or another.  No one is immune from downtimes and arduous journeys. 

The trick is how we manage them.  Do we go to bed and hide, or do we face struggles head-on and grow from our downtimes?  If you look straight into the eyes of God, He will tell you to get up and do no matter how you feel. Ask for His aid, call a friend, or seek wise counsel. Out of the darkness, Van Gough painted “A Starry Night.”  And, out of lonely silence, Hemingway wrote sentences that echoed around the globe.

Never fall from tumbled down days, but instead, see what beauty you can create from standing tall through them.  When you do, you just might help another not to tumble. 

Happy Trails to You

Dad held my hand as we strolled toward the mammoth beast he wanted me to ride.  Since I was only five, the horse resembled a dinosaur but didn’t appear as if he could spew fire. Dad hoisted me into the saddle as I realized horses are sure larger in real life instead of those on television.  I tried not to be frightened, but my heart pounded.

The horse must not have taken too kindly to the kid on his back because before we took one hoof-sized step, he bucked. The next thing I knew was I was lying in the dirt gasping for air.   Yep, either the fall knocked the breath out of me, or I decided to quit breathing so I wouldn’t have to ride that dinosaur!

Luckily, the only thing that was hurt was my dream of riding horses like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans do on TV.   I even had a cowgirl outfit and boots to play the role of their kid one day!  Now, my illusions were shattered because I concluded that there was no way anyone would put me back in a saddle again.

Well, that was what I believed before Dad picked me up off the ground and put me back on the dinosaur as I screamed and kicked.  However, this time the horse didn’t buck.  A handler led the horse and me around the oval track while I begin to hum “Happy Trails to You” near the finish of my ride.  “Shoot, maybe I would be on the television with Roy and Dale by Saturday if I kept this up!” I imagined.

Find your Happy Trail

There were many times during my life when my dreams landed in the dirt.  Times when I felt nothing would make me believe I could put my shattered hopes back together.  Many of us have attempted to conquer fears, tame a beast, try and try, only to fail repeatedly.  When dad caused me to ride again so soon after I fell, he taught me that no matter what, if an attempt doesn’t kill you, just keep trying to find your Happy Trail.

My father often needed to push me.  From riding a bike to learning to drive a car to believe that I could do anything if I put my fear aside long enough to try.  Many times, I kicked and screamed through my panic.  I shook my head no and stomped my feet, but ultimately, I succumbed to his determination or mine.

Put fear aside and try

When the world began traveling by automobile, my grandmother decided car-driving was not for her.  She wanted someone else to drive her, or she would just walk to get what she needed.  She put her stubborn foot down and was unruffled by her husband’s attempts to plop her in the driver’s seat.

Granddaddy knew her reluctance was based on fear, but he finally coaxed her to get behind the wheel.  “Ok, but I am not learning to drive on the road!” Grandpa declared.  “Well, Nannie, where are you going to learn if not on the road?” He responded.

“In the front yard!”  She announced, putting that stubborn foot smackdown on the hardwood floor.

Granddaddy looked out the window noticing the yard was full of trees.  How was he going to keep her from running square into one?! 

She got in the old car with granddaddy by her side, while both feared for their lives.    She dodged trees, slammed on brakes, and swerved so hard she almost threw her husband out the passenger door. Yet, somehow in the tree-studded front yard, she miraculously conquered the beast.

When Grandpa was around age 95, her children finally took her little red Dodge away because of her worsening dementia.   When I visited her one day, I asked, “Grandpa, how are you feeling?”

“Shoot, I’d be fine if they would give me my Dodge Dart back!” She said as she stomped her foot on the tile floor.

Get back in the saddle

Sometimes when we conquer our fears to fulfill our dreams, we find complete joy like my grandmother did once she started putting the car on the road.  I assure you she never drove over 30 miles per hour, but that didn’t matter to her one bit.

There is not one day too late to put your worries aside and work a dream into reality.  Find the Happy Trail for you and remember to get back in the saddle if you fall.

Happy Trails to you, ‘till we meet again

Some trails are happy ones

Others are blue

It’s the way you ride the trail that counts

Here’s a happy one for you.

Dale Evans

The Green Hills of Heaven

“Grandpa! I had a funny dream last night!” I exclaimed while my grandmother prepared my breakfast. 

“What kind of dream did you have, sweetheart?” 

“I dreamed I was at the top of a hill where the grass was so thick and dark green it felt like plush carpet.  The sky was as blue as one could imagine, and just as I started to race down the hill in my bare feet, I grabbed your hand.  

Grandpa listened intently as I continued, “But, Grandpa, when I looked at you, you were my age!  Your hair was the color of amber, and your hands were youthful, showing no wrinkles or spots!” 

A wry smile illuminated my grandmother’s face as if she knew something I didn’t, and with a twinkle in her eyes, she explained.

“Sweetheart, you just were given a glimpse of Heaven.  And, one day after we leave this earth, I will meet you there, and we will race down that hill barefooted.”

Grandpa never lied

I was in my teens when I sat in Grandpa’s kitchen describing my dream.  And to this day, I believe with all my heart that I will see her again in a place where there are no weeds, no storm clouds, and no age. 

A man name Jesus suffered and died on a cross 2021 years ago.  He rose from the dead to tell the world there was a Heaven where sin is gone, and folks run down grassy slopes with no fear of falling.  And Grandpa and I believed Him.

Some pave the way for us to see a glimpse of Heaven.  Those precious family members, friends, and teachers take our tiny hands and guide us toward faith.  I was one of those who learned of Christ before I could write my name.  I had no doubt there was a God or a Heaven because I watched my family pray, read a Bible, and trust the Lord. They sent me to Sunday School and made me sit still in church.    I thank God every day for them and the grandmother who assured me I would see her again.  Grandpa never lied.

We need Easter

This Easter, there are well over 2.5 million people who long to see the face of a loved one who succumbed to COVID.  Countless others left families because of age, disasters, other illnesses, suicide, and murders.  Hearts broke, tears fell, and the world’s people have suffered immeasurably since the spring of 2020.  If ever we all needed to fall to the feet of the risen Lord, it is now.   If ever we need to rely on our faith, it is today.  Now is not the time to turn away but to run to the open arms of God.  We desperately need Him to forgive us our selfishness, stubbornness and remind us that we are His children. 

Grandpa lived 97 years, and during those years, I did see her suffer, but she had no doubt that one day the pain would end and living would continue.

 When my brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in his early fifties, he noticed my sad face one day and tried to cheer me. 

“Guess what, Lynn!” He said with that same wry smile our grandmother exhibited.  “I am going to Heaven before you and eat all of Grandpa’s biscuits and homemade jelly before you get there!”

Faith is a blessing

Today, when I think of my departed family, I imagine they are laughing around a breakfast table eating Grandpa’s amazing biscuits and jam along with Jesus, who would never miss such goodness.  This vision always makes me smile because I also notice there is an empty chair waiting for me.

Faith is the blessing the Cross left us.  We have a choice as to whether we pick it up and carry it forward or not.  If we want to really heal and help others along the way, it might be a good idea to embrace its power.  A belief in the Lord has encouraged me to climb from many valleys of despair and grief.  The hand of God has pulled me from many an abyss and given me hope and an unbridled determination to press forward.  

Just before my father died in 1999, I walked toward the head of his bed and whispered, “Dad, are you scared?”  Without missing a beat, he answered, “What is there to be afraid of?”  Then as if they heard him, the angels took him home without a shred of fear in his soul. 

That is what Easter gave my father.  Christ rising from death and walking among those who lived on earth assured us all that we will run on grassy hills with those we love once again if only we believe.

Run into the Arms of Tomorrow

As I sat in the lobby of a hotel recently while visiting my daughter and granddaughter in Florida, I had the pleasure of seeing a family reunited.

The grandmother was sitting near me when her three small grandchildren rushed through the lobby doors.  The little girls ran as fast as they could, jumped into her arms as tears formed in her eyes.  Her daughter followed the racing girls and embraced her mother for far more than seconds. 

Their happiness overwhelmed me, and I found myself smiling from ear to ear underneath my mask.  Who knows how long it had been since their last embrace, the last sound of children squealing as they ran to Grandma’s open arms?  However, as of that moment, the distance and longing for a family finally ended.

Sweet memory

I recall years ago when my now 16-year-old granddaughter was young and flew to Atlanta for visits, she would run as fast as she could into my arms.  There is no better feeling in the world than to know you are loved by an innocent child.  The exuberant affection little children proudly display is a beautiful moment in time that we all too often do not appreciate. 

Before we know it,  the grandchild is grown, and the grandmother is gone. What remains is the memory of a love that has left an indelible mark within our souls.  Perhaps, our COVID isolation taught us to be more thankful for our time together, our reunions, our hugs, laughter, and our loves.

The virus took away so much for so many.  I have always said when we go through challenging times in our lives, we come through hardship one of two ways.  Either we will be filled with resentment that we endured such pain, or we are filled with gratitude and relish the fact we survived

Our love is intensified when we choose to forge forward with hope.  Our faith becomes more crucial if we choose to see God in all things.  Living becomes more joyful if we choose to not succumb to bitterness.  We become like the child whose love is racing into open arms without fear of rejection.

The Gatekeepers

Those who put others first during this crisis instead of personal ideology teach others to persevere through adversity.  They are the ones who will lead us to a healthier tomorrow and put us in touch with our better selves.  These unselfish souls should be heralded as the light of the world, the gatekeepers, and torchbearers for our children.

I do not know about you, but I am tired of the anti-this and that, the egos, the selfishness, the fights, the nasty anger, and the hate.  What good is it to welcome a new day when we are still stuck in the anguish of yesterday?  What innocent child would rush to such behavior?

We, instead, must be grateful we are still here to savor a tomorrow.  There are 2.7 million people in our world who will never greet another day, yet only a year ago were embracing their families.   Instead of complaining about how horrible life is, maybe we should be applauding the ability to simply breathe.

A Grateful heart

As I drove home from Florida, tears welled in my eyes as they always do when I leave my family.   Since my children live in other states spread across the country, I often feel sorry for myself that I cannot see them more often.  While other grandparents complain about their children not coming for Sunday dinner, I just pray to soon see mine again on some unknown future day.  

After we traveled a few miles, the tears quickly dried.  This time I relished those moments with the 16-year-old who no longer runs into my arms and the daughter who is in the busy, difficult time of life caring for a teenager.   Before COVID, I would cry for a whole day; now, why spend a day in tears?  I would rather not waste any days.

I feel I owe it to those who do not have another day to make my days count for good.  It is better to choose a better tomorrow instead of a bitter tomorrow.  I will ask God to forgive my errors as I forgive others and pray for the guidance to forge a path for those who once ran into my arms.

Hugs, smiles, touches, family, and friends are the joy of my life, and how blessed I am to live another day to treasure them all.  After a year of difficulty, I choose to be like the child who runs with wild abandonment towards tomorrow with open arms.    

Oh, What a Relief it Is!

My arm is sore, my fever finally broke, and my bottle of Advil is emptied.  However, yippee and Howdy Doody, I am vaccinated against the coronavirus!  Do you remember the Alka Seltzer commercial, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is!?” If you do, then you know why I was qualified to receive the vaccine.  

 There is satisfaction in knowing I contributed to kicking the dickens out of COVID.  So, I endured a few days of discomfort to further the cause of healing a world, and I need a new bottle of Advil. So what? It was such a small price to pay!

 Our children desperately need to return to the classroom, so I will gladly do my part to see them get there.    When folks are begging for food, jobs, stability, and sanity, we all must do what we can to keep each other from falling through the cracks of a fractured world.

Ending a pandemic

I am unnerved by those healthy individuals who can be safely vaccinated but refuse to do so out of fear, misinformation, or political partisanship.” So upset, I am afraid I might poke them with my one functioning arm! How selfish we can become when we put our personal bias before other’s complete misery.  

Sure, we do not know with complete certainty the conclusive results of the COVID vaccines, but we are confident this pandemic will not end without them.  

My relatives succumbed to the Spanish Flu of 1918 in droves, and their ancestors died of Typhoid Fever in multitudes.  Polio ended my friend’s life and left others disabled.    Smallpox took out half a BILLION people between 1880 and 1980 before it was eradicated.  The smallpox vaccine is considered dangerous as well, but what if it never existed?  I doubt you would be alive to read this story today.

Science saves lives

When I was a child, we formed school lines for vaccines and tests to be administered.   We were given no choice; we did so because it was better than the alternative.  Sometimes, the risk is worth it for the well-being of humankind.  Sure, something can go wrong in a horrible twist of fate.  However, how do you know it was not you or your child who would be lying in a grave today without a vaccination?

When the entire elementary school took their turns to be tested for tuberculosis in the early 1950s, I was the only child to test positive.   Luckily, in the end, I did not have the disease, but I do have a trail of mysterious scars on my lungs.  What if a TB test had not existed and I was positive? How many would have died from me being infected?

In the 20th century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death due to its transmission rate.  Today, most cases are cured by proper diagnosis and the administering of antibiotic drugs for many months. However, in 2019, 1.4 million people worldwide still succumbed to TB.  How many more would there be without the invention of the antibiotic?

 How many lives have scientists saved?  Yet, we still often refuse to listen to medical science and advice.  

When I read an unproven theory about vaccines’ dangers, following the science, or folks pitting politics against medicine, I wonder how those who espouse such beliefs are even alive.  Did they not receive polio, smallpox, whooping cough, typhoid, or tetanus vaccines during their lifetime? Did a doctor or a politician administer them?

Dangerous distrust

 What do these dangerous folks gain by broadcasting skepticism over reason? Are we willing to pay the price if we listen or support them?

I believe the idea of promoting fear to gain recognition or a following is one of the vilest and most cruel acts we can possibly do today. I am ready to get a vaccine to eradicate such scrounge.

Cynicism and distrust should never overtake common sense.  Fear should never replace courage because when it does, it will kill us all.

The medical community of scientists, caregivers, and pharmacology can make mistakes, but how many times have they gotten it right?  How many lives have been saved by research and medical advances?  Probably, one of those or many saved yours.

  Oh, what a relief that is!


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