Friday, September 13, 2019

A Date to Remember

In July of 2000, our family went to Johns Hopkins Hospital for our weekly visits with Deddy.  We would drive up on Sunday after church, stay the night, he would get his treatment on Monday morning, then we would leave and be home that night.  We did that for about 6 months.  But the last visit was quite different. 

One of the first things I noticed when we got to the hospital was that a number of the normal staff members were not there that day.  We had been going for so long that the doctors and nurses that worked in the oncology department became friends.  Everyone was always helpful, supportive and encouraging.  I was surprised that so many were not there that day, but I grew to understand why.

Travis and I were sitting in a small room where Deddy would be given an IV that injected the medication or chemo that he was receiving.  I got up and left the room to go find out what Mama and Donna were doing in another room.  When I walked in, a doctor that we had not seen as much was patiently talking about Deddy and his medical situation.  Then Mama asked her, “So what are we looking at?”   The doctor answered, “Probably two weeks.”   Since I had just walked in 30 seconds earlier, I asked “Two weeks until what?”  I’m standing there thinking…. until they change his medicine?  Until they do another scan?  Do we skip a week and come back in two weeks?   But the Doctor looks at me and then back at Mama and had a look of absolute shock and concern at the same time.  That’s when I said, “To LIVE????????”  The Doctor obviously overwhelmed and upset herself looked at Mama and said, “Oh my God, I didn’t realize that he didn’t know!”    At that moment, I knew what two weeks meant. That was one of the hardest things I ever had to hear in my lifetime.  I was 27 years old and the time I had to spend with my father was potentially only 14 more days.  I hyperventilated, I freaked out, I was angry, I was beyond hurt and I walked into another room trying to calm down, but it was almost impossible.  Mama walked in there and tried to calm me down and said that it was going to be alright.  Until that day in my life, I think I had been a boy and a young man.  That day, I became a grown man and I knew that it was a lot more complicated than “it was just going to be alright.”

In the time Deddy was sick, I never cried in front of him.  I am convinced with all my heart that the Holy Spirit helped me in those weak moments to strengthen my resolve for the sake of my father.  I gathered myself and was able to keep my emotions under control.  One of the hardest moments that day for me was as we left, Travis and Deddy were walking ahead of me.  I remember considering that neither of them knew what we had just heard.  I didn’t tell Travis until we got home.  We never told Deddy about that conversation and to be honest, we didn’t have to.  He already knew and he had already accepted his fate and gained his peace. 

During the year that Deddy was battling cancer, he had a tremendous outpouring of love and support.  He had several preachers that visited him on a regular basis.  He had family and friends around him all the time and I realized more than ever what a blessing his life had been.  One of the friends that he got to know even better during that time was a gentleman named Ray McNeil, who owned McNeill Paint.  If you are “old school” from Harnett County, he was “Archie Ray.”  I was recently talking to his sons, Jody and Marty about the passing away of their father last year.  They told me that they never realized how much they would truly miss their father because he had always been in their lives.  Mr. McNeill was 77 when he passed away, Deddy was 48.  I never knew before, but Mr. McNeill had a battle with cancer around the same age that my father died.  His initial prognosis was actually worse than Deddy’s initial prognosis, but he was able to overcome the challenge and live 30 more years.  My father talked to him a lot that year and I’m sure it gave him comfort.  In times of great distress, I believe it’s helpful to talk to people of great faith.   I have not met many people in my life with faith any stronger than Mr. McNeil.  Several years after my Deddy passed away, I was in the shop buying paint and he told me to come into his office.  He said he knew that what the next day meant to me.  He turned his calendar around and it said, “1:30 PM Bob Brafford my friend! 2000.”  He used the same calendar every year and he had noted significant events on different days.  Obviously, Deddy was important enough to be remembered on Sept 13th. 

We will all lose someone close to us at some point in life.  I see people all the time dealing with health issues, life challenges, even death.  I have learned over the years just how important it is to be supportive of others during difficult times.  We live in a world where people can gain fame, fortune and notoriety for some of the most unusual reasons.  But when life is coming to an end…. fame, fortune, money and possessions simply don’t matter. The person you have been, the people that you care about, the life you have lived, and your faith in Jesus Christ are the only things that matter. September 13th, 2000 changed the lives of a lot of people, especially mine.  Archie Ray McNeil thought it was significant enough to note it in his calendar. 

You see, the doctors and nurses at Johns Hopkins that had become friends with Deddy and our family, understood what that last visit was.  It was goodbye. It was not a coincidence that so many of them were not there, it was by design.  Although today is a sad day, I also consider that my father is with more family and friends now than he was on Earth.  It doesn’t make me miss him any less.  It doesn’t make me stop regretting that cancer took his life.  But it does give me faith and hope that I will see him again one day.  And I believe that faith and hope are two of the most important things that Deddy left to those he loved.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Voice of Reason

I learned a lot from my father growing up.  He taught me to always do the right thing, be respectful of others, and to forgive.  I’m still working on those things, especially the last one.  Helping Travis coach Colton’s baseball teams always brings back a lot of memories.  Its ironic that we play our games on the exact same fields that we played on growing up.  There were several years that Deddy coached Travis’ Tee Ball team and my Little League team.   He was really a dedicated Father to take on that much responsibility.  But we did have some great times.  Now Travis and I are going through the same experience and we are really enjoy doing it.  Travis is good at details and organizing our efforts.  He teaches them if they work hard, they will get better………I make them believe it. 

               Deddy did not just tell us how he wanted us to live, he led by example.   He was absolutely committed to doing the right thing.  He honored his mother and father, respected Mama, encouraged Travis and me in every way and he loved us all.  He loved his 3 brothers unconditionally and I think they would all agree that if any of them needed someone to talk to about anything, Deddy was the one brother that they all knew would give them good advice without judgment.  He would also kick their asses if he thought it was deserved and necessary.  He was always quick to resolve family issues.  He felt like that in a lot of ways, people were as strong as their family.  So, he liked everyone to get along and keep peace. 

               Respect was also important to Deddy.  He offered it to everyone that deserved it and he commanded it from others.  He used to often hire people on “prison release.”  I worked with many of those guys through the years during the summer.  We never had a problem at all.  Deddy treated them the same way he treated everyone else. There were a number of times when some of the gentleman would be released and come to visit Deddy to thank him for the opportunity and for treating them with respect.   I always thought it showed a lot of integrity by my Father to take a chance with workers that had been deemed a criminal by the rest of the world. 

               Forgiveness was the attribute of my father that I simply have a hard time understanding.  I saw many people lie to him over and over again, interrupt his weekend to borrow $20, let him down time and again, and Deddy would give them another chance. And another. And another. And……you get the idea.   He just always said that people make mistakes and it takes some people a lot more to learn their lesson than others.  It drove me crazy but always made me admire him for his compassion towards people even when they had done him wrong. 

               When he found out he had cancer, our family was devastated.  He basically called a meeting at Mema and Papa Brafford’s house with them and his brothers.  Everyone was overwhelmed with concern but Deddy was the voice of reason and assured them that he would do everything he could to overcome the cancer and regardless, everything would be alright.  He was the one with cancer and also the one that gave the encouragement. 

               Of all the people whose lives were affected by the passing of my father, my life was probably affected the most.  It changed my career path, I lost my advisor for everything, and I took on an incredible amount of responsibility.  To this day, there are things that I am dealing with that were left when Deddy passed away.  But the truth is, I don’t regret it.  I had such a wonderful father that the responsibility that I inherited is a small price to pay for the example he set for me and Travis.  I miss him every day for his advice, support and encouragement.  I miss him for his great sense of humor.  I often regret that he is not at our Little League games so he can tell me and Travis what we did wrong when the games are over.  But as I consider that this will be the 19th Father’s Day we will spend without him, I am glad that he gave us life lessons that will last forever. I think for my family and friends, I have evolved into the voice of reason for a lot of things.  I am certain that is something that Deddy would be proud of.

               I wish all of you a very Happy Father’s Day!  I hope those of you that still have your Father get to spend some time together.  For those of you that have children, I hope that you are able to spend time with your kids and relish in being a father. You never know when life can change, so take advantage of all opportunities you have with your loved ones.  May God bless you all!  #keepthefaith #HappyFathersDay

Monday, December 24, 2018

Keeping a Promise

Mama told me a while back how much she enjoys reading my blogs.  However, she said that all of my blogs read,  “I had a wonderful father who I loved dearly but my Mama was a hateful bitch.”  For those of you that know my mother, you can hear her saying that and realize how funny it is.  It’s also not true at all. 

Mama and Deddy always made Christmas special.  Even during times when they were struggling, they made sure that Travis and I had a wonderful Christmas.  I can look back at certain years and I realize just how blessed we were.  During one of the most difficult times of their life, we got an Atari for Christmas.  We were two of the first kids to have an Atari and it wasn’t until the next Christmas that EVERYBODY got one.  Mama also used to always make sure we got things that were unique.  She has bought us multiple musical instruments over the years and we can’t play any of them!  Well, Travis can play a guitar for “Guitar Hero” on Nintendo, but he did not learn it until he was grown and I’m not sure if I’m proud of him, or ashamed.  She would get us unique books, things to put in our rooms, matching clothes, and all sorts of other things that made Christmas special.

Three years ago, Mama was battling cancer.  She was going through chemotherapy and radiation at the same time.   It was physically and emotionally draining.  That was a hard Christmas but we made it through.  Now, in our family, we know that Mama can be stubborn about some things.  So, during her treatment, I always went with her on the hard days.  She might argue with Travis and she might argue with her sister, Libby.  However, she was not going to argue with me.  She laughs now about the fact that when she was depressed, tired, or feeling defeated, that I did not want to hear it.  And I didn’t.  But that cuts both ways and if I ever face a challenging medical situation, Mama would never allow me to give up without a fight.  Her support would be the same as always, encouraging and reassuring that God has a plan and that one should take advantage of every opportunity that is available when battling an illness. 

I think that at this time of the year, we all look back and reflect on all we have to be grateful for.  I cannot express the gratitude that I have for the doctors, nurses, and medical staff at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center for helping Mama overcome cancer.  Everyone was so helpful, encouraging and optimistic when treating Mama.  Our society has a distorted view of what is really important and merit is often based simply on popularity.  But the true heroes in this world work at places like the Lineberger Cancer Center.  They were the “Justice League” to our family when we really needed them and I will always appreciate that.

This year will be the 19th Christmas that Deddy has not been here.  We all miss him, especially at this time of the year.  He truly was Father Christmas.  But Mama deserves the same credit for making Christmas such a wonderful time of the year.  The decorations in our home were always beautiful.  The candy she made for so many years was always great.  Mama and Deddy made every effort to get us the things we wanted while reminding us to be grateful for everything.  Everything they did for us at Christmas gave us a whole lot more than just gifts and presents.  It gave us the memories that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.   Tonight I will do the same thing that I have done for my entire life.  I will spend Christmas with my family to make new memories that will last forever.  On my way home tonight around 11:00, I’ll drive by Barbecue Church and visit Deddy’s grave.  I’ll make sure his tree is still lit and wonder if he can hear me when I’m talking.  I’ll talk to him about a number of things.  As always, I’ll let him know that Mama is ok.  And most of all, I’ll assure him I’m keeping my promise……he will understand.

May God Bless all of you and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

So Much to Be Grateful For

One of my favorite movies is “The Book of Eli.”  In the movie, a young lady named Solara asks Eli what the world was like before nuclear war and he responded:

“People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”

In the movie, things like gloves, scarves and hotel shampoo are valuable commodities.  Water is more valuable than anything.  I know for most of us, the thought of a world like that is inconceivable.  We all have so much to be grateful for, yet it’s so easy to forget our blessings and let the stress of everyday life overwhelm us. It’s sad to think that we live in a world that has so much abundance but still have people who are hungry, homeless, and sometimes destitute.   

I was working with a friend of mine a few years ago and we were leaving work at the end of the day.  I rolled down my window and handed a guy some money at an off-ramp. The gentleman with me asked if I did that all the time and I responded, “No.”   Somewhat perplexed, he then asked me why I did it sometimes, but not others.  I told him that sometimes I feel led to do it, and sometimes I do not.  That's just the truth and it was good enough for him.             
I think society has created a world that often makes responsibility irrelevant and causes us to believe that some things are important when they really are not.  Many people will put the importance of a cell phone, a bad habit, or an inflated image over things that truly matter.  I think that in the end, when a person has wasted much of their life on things that really do not matter, the most significant feeling they leave this world with, is regret.

I have always been a grateful person.  That is how I was raised and I am glad l that I was taught to appreciate whatever I have.  Challenging circumstances can also put a person in a situation that is very difficult to overcome. I realize that sometimes it may be a person’s own fault.  But you don’t always know what someone has really been through. In a world where families are becoming smaller, I think in the years to come people will not have near as many loved ones to rely on as they get older.

I have so many great memories of spending the holidays with my family and friends and I’ll always be grateful just for that.  As time moves forward and some of those people have passed away, I appreciate those memories even more.  I have said the prayer before we eat in the Brafford family since I was about 12 years old.   One never knows when the Holy Spirit will overwhelm you.  For me, it comes fast and it comes furious.  I was in total control last year when we started the blessing and 10 seconds later, it really hit me that Mema Brafford was not there.  It was all I could do to get through the prayer without completely losing it. 

This Thanksgiving, take the time to appreciate the people you care about.  Keep your family and friends in mind that are going through challenges.  North Carolina was devastated by hurricanes and flooding this year and many of those people are still recovering.  Keep all of those people in your thoughts and prayers.  I think in a world that is often moving faster than we can keep up, we all need to take the time to be grateful for all of our blessings. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I Do Not Welcome the Great Pumpkin!!!!

Personally, I’m not a fan of the scary part of Halloween.  I don’t like haunted houses, ghosts, demons, horror movies or the dark.  Unlike Linus, I do NOT want to see the Great Pumpkin.  But here are a few ghost stories from my own family that I thought some of you would enjoy.

Ironically, the first story involves me when I was a baby. When Mama found out she was pregnant with me, my Great Grandfather Cameron was one of the most excited family members.  He was waiting on my arrival with great anticipation.  However, in October 1972, he died of a massive heart attack.  I was born just a few months later in December.  A few days after they brought me home, Mama got up to check on me during the night and make sure I was ok.  When she walked into the room, she saw my Great Grandfather and another women just standing there peacefully looking at me.  Well, she went back to bed and wondered if she was dreaming or possibly crazy.  The next day, she was telling about what had happened.  Of course, everyone thought it was funny and it turned into a big joke.  However, when she told Mema Brafford about what she saw, Mema asked her what the lady she saw had on.  Mama described her outfit in great detail.  Several years before Mama and Deddy ever dated, his Grandma Brafford passed away.  She was a tough woman in her life but she loved her family and especially her grandchildren.  When Mama described what the lady had on, Mema Brafford immediately realized that it was the outfit that Grandma Brafford was buried in.  You see, before they both passed away, Grandma Brafford had been very good friends with my Grandfather Cameron.  All the sudden, the story was no longer just a joke.

Another story occurred when my Mema Brafford was staying with her brother many years ago as he was in his final days.  He had acquired cancer and it was only a matter of time before he passed away.  She was sleeping on his couch and she woke up to the room being lit as if someone had turned on a bright light.  Her father and one of her sisters walked through the room into Herman’s room.  A few minutes later, her mother and another sister walked into the same room.  She said that the room looked like it had the brightest lights she had ever seen coming out of it.  She did not move because she did not know what in the world to do.  The next morning, she did not mention it to Herman.  However, he did.  He told her about the family coming to see him the night before.  They told him they would be back very soon to take him home and to not be afraid, everything would be alright. He said they would return in the form of a white dove to take him home.  Herman died within just a few days.   In my family, if you tell something like that, you are probably going to get laughed at and Uncle Boyd is going to make about 50 jokes about it.  So, she only told Mama and Deddy.  After the funeral, everyone was gathered at Mema Brafford’s house and just talking about Herman and that everything had been handled very respectfully.  Someone started talking and said that the strangest thing had happened that day.  When the hearse pulled out of the parking lot at the funeral home, a white dove got behind it and flew back and forth all the way out to the church.  When the hearse pulled into the parking lot, the dove flew off.  In case you’re keeping score, that would be when Herman went home.

The year that Deddy was sick, several strange things happened that we just could not explain.  I remember a few months after he come home.  He said that after he had his surgery in Chapel Hill and it was not successful, for the next 3 days, he felt the presence of true evil in the room with him.  He felt like the presence was making every effort to make him bitter and angry.  But after 3 days, he made his mind up that although he was disappointed, he was going to make the most of whatever time he had left.   In the last few months he was here, we witnessed a number of unusual things.  One time he was laying in the bed and looking up and smiling.  Mama asked him what he was looking at and he waved and pointed as if he was pointing to the top of a mountain and said,  “See all of those people, they are waiting on me to come up there.”    A few weeks later, he would be waving at people that were much closer.  The last week, they were in the room.  He did not make an issue about it.  He seemed to think that we could see the same thing that he was seeing.  Just a few days before he died, I was helping him up by pulling on his right arm.   He reached straight out with his left arm and said, “Help me up Harold!” and he kind of laughed as if “what is Harold thinking just sitting there doing nothing!”   The irony is that Harold was his Uncle, who had died a few months earlier.   At the end of Mema Brafford’s life, I called Mama and Travis and told them that they needed to come up to the Assisted Living facility that she was in.  When Mama got there she was really happy that Mama had come and said, “Hey Brenda, so good to see you.”  Mama responded that it was good to see her too.  Mema said “Bob’s here too!”, which caused Mama to get a little upset and she said, “Well that is good Mema, but I can’t see him.”    That somewhat aggravated Mema who responded, “Yes you can! He’s standing right there!” and she pointed. 

My brother Travis has two children, Colton and Brooklyn.  They are both great kids and they know that Uncle Robbie is #1!   Well, Brooklyn hit Colton one night and did not hurt him, but Travis was trying to teach her a lesson.  So, he punished her with the dreaded, “Timeout.”   Travis said she was screaming as if he was beating her with a cane from the Philippines.  All of the sudden, the phone rang and "499-9750" came up on caller ID.  Travis answered it, no noise at all.  He called it back, “this number is no longer in service.”  Ironically, for probably 30 years, Deddy’s office number had been 499-9750.  Guess what?  Timeout was over.

Happy Halloween to all of you and I hope all the children stay safe and get plenty of candy to eat!!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

One Nation Under God

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

How did we get to the where we are in America?  How did we become so angry, aggravated, and intolerant of each other? When did we dismiss “one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL?”  I don’t know when it happened, but I can tell you that I don’t like the fact that so many people have forgotten it. 

I believe in my own 80/20 rule.  I think 80% of us from every different category you can imagine can get along and at the very least, be respectful of each other.  However, I believe that 20% of every categorical group is going to hate everybody that is not like them until the end of the time.  The real problem is that the 20% of each group is usually louder than the 80% of us that can respect others, even when we may not agree with them.  On 9/11/2001, America was attacked by a force of evil.  Immediately after that, we were united as one nation under God.  Everybody was proud to be an American, proud to live in the United States and was genuinely concerned about each other.  When you look around at the dissension that goes on daily now, our unity seems like a million years ago.

As school starts back each year, I always remember the teachers that were dedicated to giving me the education that I needed to get through life.  I didn’t always like some of the work it took to get through school, but I respected the fact that it was what was best for me.  Our education system in the United States is falling apart in a lot of areas.  I believe that much of the reason for educational deterioration is that many kids are no longer taught to be respectful.  When a child is growing up in an environment that does not teach them to be determined and committed to their education, they are probably not going to care.  That is another problem that I see with society today, many people do not consider the best decisions they can make for their future.  They only consider what they need to do today, just to get by. 

               I was blessed with a wonderful mother and father.  They gave me direction, taught me to be respectful and gave me rules to live by.  Not one time in my life did I ever hear my parents support something only for political reasons.  They made decisions based on what they thought was right. Because at the end of our life, when the decisions we made truly matter, there will only be one way we are going to be saved. And I hate to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I can assure you, being saved will not have anything to do with a political party.      
               I grew up on a small, private dirt road named Boyd Brafford Dr, after my grandfather.  Down that road we were free to play, ride bikes, visit grandparents, and not worry about many of the evils that the world faces today.  We walked about a quarter of a mile to the bus stop all of our lives by ourselves and we never had one issue.  That will always be home to me.  Every time I ride down that road, I think about so many wonderful memories and how grateful I am for my childhood.  But I also remember the lessons I was taught about respect, appreciation, and honor.  Long before a song made it famous, I was taught that no matter what, always be humble and kind. 

               Today marks 18 years since Deddy passed away.  Ironically, we are having one of the strongest hurricanes that we have had in many years.  There is an old Chinese proverb that says, “When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.”  I think as Florence passes through and damages start to be assessed, we’ll all see the good in people come to fruition. Family, friends, neighbors and strangers will come to the aid of others in need.  Lives will be saved, trees will be cut from houses and roads, linemen and emergency crews will work incredibly long hours for weeks and most of all, compassion will prevail over strife.  It’s a shame that society often needs a tragedy to remind all of us of how much we need each other.  I think we can all agree that if the world we live in today would put forth more effort into helping one another and less effort into finding reasons to hate each other, it would be better for everyone.  I think there are a lot of lessons that need to be learned in the world today, but we have to be willing to listen to one another in a reasonable way.  One of the most significant reasons I miss my father so much is that he was always was a voice of reason.  He was the one person I could always turn to during a difficult time.  As I have gotten older, I have grown to appreciate that even more.  No matter where I go in this world, home always leads me back to Boyd Brafford Dr.

               I wish all of you the very best as Hurricane Florence rips through North Carolina.  I pray that all of you stay safe over the next several days.  As always, we will get through this together and I am certain that compassion and empathy will prevail, and that is an America that we can all be proud of.  #Keepthefaith #BraffordStrong #Krobsworld #Robbiebrafford 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Every Cut He Made and Every Nail He Hammered


              It’s hard to believe that today is the 18th Father’s Day that Deddy has been passed away.  He was the best father that Travis or I could have ever asked for and I am grateful for everything he ever did in our lives. I loved him, but I also respected him.  He was always there when I needed him, but he also demanded that I followed the rules of life and stayed out of trouble. I was staying with David O’Quinn one night many years ago and that usually meant police helicopters would be hovering above their house the whole time.  His buddy Troy decided we should go sneak into the Lillington swimming pool.  I told Troy there was no way in the world that I was going to do that.  I explained to Troy that the idea of doing that didn’t bother me at all.  However, the idea of getting caught and having to confront my father, DID bother me.  He kind of chuckled and implied that dealing with my father would not be so difficult.  That’s when David interjected….”Troy, do you know what Grizzly Adams looks like?”  Troy indicated that he did.  David responded by saying…..  “Imagine him, on crack, and infuriated.  That would be his Deddy if Robbie got caught.  As a matter of fact, I don’t want to do it now either because I don’t want Bob mad at ME.” 

                That was my father.  Although he was one of the nicest people that ever lived, he was respected by everyone that knew him. When he walked in a room, without even trying, his presence commanded respect.  All my friends thought a lot of him.  They enjoyed the funny things he said and his general interpretation of the world.  He had the ability to insult you in some way, but before you could get mad, he would follow it up with a compliment.  Heck, he did it to me a lot!  The first time he ever met one of my best friends in college, Russell Moore, his introductory line was…. “Damn boy, your Mama don’t feed you much does she!”  Russell laughed and loved Deddy from that moment on.

                He did many things for others in life.  A guy I know said Deddy loaned him the money to buy the land his home was on.  He told Deddy about a piece of land that he had found but he could not afford the home and the land right away.  Deddy told him to come back in a few days and he would see what he could do.  When the gentleman returned, Deddy handed him a check and told him to pay him back as he could. No contract, no paperwork, just a handshake.  Within a few years, he paid Deddy back, but he has appreciated it forever.

                He was also one of the most forgiving people I have ever known.  He just thought that everyone deserved a second chance and he often gave people many chances.  Over the years, several guys that worked with him got into trouble in various ways and went to jail for a while.  He would visit them, give them money, and take them things like cigarettes if it was allowed.  I asked him one day why he did that, and he said too many people think that a similar situation could not happen to them.  However, you just never know.  He said that when someone is in such a difficult situation, the right thing to do is to extend them a hand of friendship and let them know that someone hopes the best for them.  He would not justify any crime they committed, but he encourage them to learn from their mistakes.  Forgiveness is a trait that I am still working on to be a better person.

                 I think for many of his family and friends, my father’s life was a collection of stories that became wonderful memories when he died.  One of Gwen’s favorite stories is pulling through a drive thru window and Deddy ordering a “sack of cheeseburgers.”  When the guy asked him how many cheeseburgers that would be, Deddy told him as many as he could fit in one bag!  Uncle Boyd was with him one time and he was supposed to be on a diet.  He got a cheeseburger on the way and he stopped and got another one coming home.  Then he told Uncle Boyd that he better not say a word to Mama!  Marshall had to get his truck painted one time after a wreck.  Deddy told him where to take his truck to get it fixed.  When Marshall went to pick up the truck, it had new rims on it.  When Marshall told the owner that those were not his rims, the man replied; “Yes they are, that’s your graduation present from your Uncle Bob.”   Giving gifts to the elderly at Christmas, going to races with his brothers and friends, some of the “pep talks” he gave us playing Little League, raising money for people in need, and just being there whenever anyone needed him are all terrific memories of Deddy that his family and friends will cherish forever.

                As my life races by, I have come to appreciate even the smallest blessings.  A few years ago, my Aunt Libby called me and asked me if I wanted the swing on her porch.  She then explained to me something that I did not know, that Deddy had made the swing.  There are many reasons that swing means so much to me now.  He made it during one of the most difficult times in his life.  It was the early 80’s and the economy was terrible.  His truck had blown a motor, our house had burned down, and it was hard to find any work at all.  We were living with my Great Grandparents in a 2 bedroom, one bath house.  I slept on the big couch and Travis slept on the loveseat.  To have something to do in the evenings, Deddy wired up one of my Great Papa Ferrell’s barns and started making all kinds of woodworks.  That Christmas, he made a lot of presents that we gave to family and friends. There are stools, benches, lantern holders, and quilt trunks that my family still owns as a result of his handiwork, and now, I have the swing.  I can see every cut he made and every nail he hammered.  I worked on it for a while sanding it, making small repairs, and finally painting it.  The swing now sits on my porch and looks great.  Anyone can go somewhere tomorrow and buy a new swing.  That swing can sit on your porch and look great.  But you’ll never appreciate it as much as the one I have now.  During one of the most difficult periods of his life, he chose to spend his spare time making things for other people.

      I think we often get caught up in the hectic and frantic pace of life and we forget to appreciate what we already have.  Deddy was not like that.  I think he had enough challenges in life that when things started to improve, he appreciated everything that life had to offer.  It is one of the most valuable lessons I ever learned from him and I really am a very grateful person.

      I miss my father as much now as I did the week he died.  I know nobody truly realizes just how much I still miss him.  There have been so many times that I would have given anything to ask him for advice.  I am told all the time that I look a lot like my father.  I realize that much of the reason for that is that people will always remember Deddy being the age that I am now because he died so young.  Although his time on Earth was short, the impact he made was truly a blessing for so many people.  I can only hope that I can do enough good in the world that I’ll be remembered the same way.