Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Only the Good Die Young


    I don’t necessarily believe the title of this blog but it’s a phrase I have heard often.  I know a lot of people who have lived to be very old that were wonderful.  Today is the 23rd anniversary of my Father’s death. Although he has been gone over two decades, I can still hear his voice in my head and I hope that never changes.  He was a great example of how to be a good person.  He was good to Mama, me and Travis, his own Mama and Deddy, his brothers, Mema Cameron and the rest of his family and friends. He was only 48 when he died and it seems like his death was a few years ago in some ways, but it seems like a lifetime ago at the same time.

    Last week, John Patterson passed away from a year-long battle with liver cancer.  To everyone, John was truly a good person in his own right. He will be missed by his family, friends and coworkers alike.  The outpouring of support for his family, the wonderful memories that were shared, and the acknowledgment of his accomplishments throughout his life were all indicative of what a great person he really was.  I was honored to be asked to be a pallbearer.  I’ve been asked a few times in my life to be a pallbearer and it’s honestly a very humbling experience.  Standing around and talking with the other pallbearers reminded me of how much John was loved and respected.

    The fact that he was so young certainly made the funeral sad.  However, it wasn’t as sad as I expected.   Not because he won’t be missed. Not because his family, coworkers, church and the world in general doesn’t need him.  It was because you sat there and realized how much life he packed into 48 years.  He was an accomplished athlete.  He excelled at football in high school and in college he was a star on the track and field team.  His buddy Moose said he could throw the “hammer” like it was a golf club.  He told a story of going to a competition one time when John was at NC State.  His main competitor for that year wound up, spun around 3 hard times and let the hammer fly.  When John took his turn, he spun ONE time and threw the hammer way beyond his competitor.  Moose asked him afterwards, “Why didn’t you spin 3 times like the other guy?”   John said, “I didn’t have to.”   He was the “Most Outstanding Player” for the NC State track and field team in 1997 and won the ACC Championship, setting an ACC record that stood for 2 years.  I’ve known John for over 22 years and he never mentioned that one time.  You know why?   He didn’t have to.

    John was a smart guy and he was the KING of trivia.  He knew more random facts than anyone I ever met.  We had the same sarcastic sense of humor and some of the texts he sent me were honestly some of the funniest things I’ve ever read in my life. He worked with Farm Credit for over 25 years and was very well respected among his co-workers.  I don’t know how many co-workers came to the funeral, but it’s safe to say it seemed like it was everyone that John had ever worked with.

    John was completely devoted to his family and friends.  Him and Georgia Lee were married 20 years and dated several years before that. He loved Georgia Lee and she was by his side from the beginning until the very end.  Someone said to me last week…. ”I’m going to tell you what, Georgia Lee is tough as nails.”  You damn right she is.  John loved being a father and loved Leah Grace with all his heart. He always referred to her as his “mini me” and he got that right.  He had a great relationship with his father, mother and sister.  He was always fun to be around at any family event.  You could count on John to say something funny.  And although he was often pointing out the obvious, the way he would say things would be hysterical.  I had the utmost respect for John Patterson. And to honor him, I did something I have never done in my entire.  I wore an NC State tie to his funeral.  I’ve never worn ANYTHING NC State in my entire life!!!  And if you are reading this and are a Dook fan, don’t get any ideas.  My hypocrisy only goes so far.

    John found out last fall that he had liver cancer.  Deddy found out in the fall of 1999 that he had liver cancer.  John went through several efforts of treatment for as long as it showed some progress.   Deddy did the same thing.  John stood up the day he passed away.  Deddy was walking around the day before he passed away.  John and Deddy both lived about a year with cancer and both died at 48.  Georgia Lee probably doesn’t know this, but she is the same age as my mother, 46, when Deddy passed away.  There were so many similarities that I had to make an effort to keep it together emotionally when I was around John.  To the very end, both of them lived life to the fullest, enjoyed family and friends and were faithful to their Lord and Savior.  I still miss Deddy every day.  And I’m going to miss John.  I’m not sure why people like them have to die so young. But a short life, well-lived is a lot better than a long life, wasted.  John and Deddy got all they could out of life….and they will both always be missed by everyone that loved them.

2 Timothy 4:7,8    I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:   Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The First Day of the Rest of My Life


          Today is just an ordinary day for most people.  Of course, some people are celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or some other significant milestone in their life.  Many people got up today and went to work, or school, or had a cup of coffee as they enjoy retirement.  For most people, today has no real significance.  However, today means a lot more to me than that.

          What a life I have had.  I’ve had highs that took me into the stratosphere, lows that I would like to forget, but most of the days of my life have been a normal routine of some sort.  I’ve achieved a number of things in my life.  I was a member of the 1991 Western Harnett Baseball team that won the triangle 3A conference championship for central North Carolina.  Without a doubt, this was the greatest high school baseball team that ever existed.  If you don’t believe me, just ask me.  High School was four really good years and gave me a solid foundation for the rest of my life.  I was elected Student Body President my senior year and I was always grateful that my fellow students elected me. My lifelong dream of going to UNC-Chapel Hill began in the fall of 1991.  I had to study HARD to get through. I pulled all-nighters like it was nothing.  I spent MANY nights in the library and study rooms pounding away in the books. In May of 1995, I graduated.  My entire family came to the graduation and it was a wonderful day.  I was not sure what I wanted to do for a career but I soon found myself selling real estate.  The first really successful project I worked on was a condo project in Raleigh.  In a 4-month stretch, I sold 36 condos and I was winning an award almost every month at the Triangle Sales and Marketing meeting.  I was talking to my father on a Monday during that time and he asked me, “Did you sell a condo this weekend?”   I responded, “I actually sold 6.”  He laughed and said, “Really, did you sell one?”   Again, I responded, “No, I really did sell 6.”  He was astonished but proud. 

           Not long after I had really gained some success selling real estate in the Raleigh market, we found out Deddy had cancer.  In an instant, my life changed.  I could not bear the thought of him not having a lot of help as he went through treatment and was still trying to keep his company going.  So, I came home and dedicated myself to helping him in every way I could. To be honest, I’m still handling things now that were left when he passed away.  I don’t regret that fact, because it has made me the person I am now.  After Deddy passed away, I not only sold real estate locally, but I started building houses. Honestly, I really enjoyed it.  I did that until the world ended for many of us home builders in 2008.  The two years that followed were almost impossible to survive.  But I did.  My greatest professional accomplishment was making it through that time period.  I had 8 houses under construction when the economy collapsed.  I actually still have 2 of them now!  Looking back, I don’t how I made it through and I don’t know how I didn’t have a nervous breakdown.  The truth is, during that time, there was one set of footprints in the sand, and the Lord carried me a really long way. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness when I consider that time of my life.

          In 2010, I took a new job with Liberty Tire and that gave me very different opportunities.  I have traveled ALL OVER the United States.  I’ve seen some awesome places.  But when my primary job was selling tires, I also saw the worst of America.  I’ve been in some of the most beautiful places such as Salt Lake City, the warmest places like Florida in the summer, the coldest places like Minnesota in the winter, and the roughest places like Detroit.  I’ve met people from almost every race, creed and religion.  I’ve honestly met some of the nicest people that are completely not like me at all. I had a conversation with a Muslim one week and a Chaldean Christian the next week, both from the middle east. Although both conversations with me were calm and respectful, I realized from talking to each of them why there has always been so much fighting in that region of the world.  There is no compromise in their beliefs and in my opinion, they will never be able to gain a truly peaceful, mutual existence. 

In my personal life, I have so many wonderful things to be grateful for, it’s hard to keep up with them.  Maria and I have been married for 20 years and she is finally starting to realize that I am always right.  I have 2 nieces and 2 nephews.  All four have unique personalities that I really enjoy.  They are all really smart.  I’ve watched Andrew grow up playing football and basketball.  Kaitlyn loves to dance, and if I continue teaching her some of my classic dance moves, she will be a truly great dancer!  Brooklyn is 6 years old and she has not stopped talking for 6 years now, using a vocabulary that Daniel Webster would be proud of.  I’ve helped my brother, Travis, coach soccer, basketball and baseball since Colton was 4. Colton is great kid to coach. He does everything we ask him to do and I try to convey to him my confidence and remind him that I’m proud of him just for giving his best effort.  Between the three sports, we just wrapped up our 20th season coaching.  We have had some terrific teams and I have had the good fortune to coach a bunch of great kids. We have won 7 Championships.  Travis is the X’s and 0’s coach, and I’m the motivator.  I can make a kid believe in themselves even when they might not be the most talented.  That’s important to me, because all kids have different skill levels.

As a family, we have also been through some significant challenges.  We have lost a lot of loved ones over the years. Mama found out some years ago that she had esophageal cancer. She went through chemo and radiation at the same time. Then a MAJOR surgery and a month in the hospital. After all of that, she pulled through. She had to endure a lot, but she did not give up. That was not even an option. We rallied around her with encouragement, support and love. Mema Cameron was also diagnosed with lymphoma.  But after an optimistic prognosis, she had her treatments and also fully recovered!  As a family, we were so grateful for the blessing that both of them made it through such serious health challenges. 

I still love to play golf.  I still cannot beat Uncle Boyd but other than him, there is really nobody as good as me.  I always feel bad when grown men cry from the ass kicking they have to endure when we play.  Suck it up buttercups.  I like to fish, although I don’t have time to do that much.  A neighbor walked into my yard during the pandemic in 2020 and GAVE me a 28 foot pontoon boat.  They were buying a new one and didn’t want to go through the trouble of selling it.  So, for no reason at all, they gave me their old one!!  I like to read a lot now, grill out, keep my yard looking good, make wine, and put up Christmas decorations.  My family has always loved Christmas and I have made many of the decorations that we have used through the years. I think that Charlie Brown should be made a saint. Although a cartoon character, his life is indicative of mine in a lot of ways.

I plan to enjoy life as much as I can as often as I can.  I want to enjoy spending time with family, friends and loved ones.  You appreciate those around you during the good times, but you are grateful for them during the challenges of life.  I look forward to new opportunities that may come along.  I’ve always tried to make the most of everything I’ve done.  I’m going to continue to grow my faith and pray for others.  You may not be able to do anything for someone going through a hardship, but you can always pray for them and the people around them. 

Today should be a normal day, but it’s not for me.  You see, today at 1:30, I was the exact same age as my father when he died, to the minute.  I’ve thought about this day a lot over the years.  How would I feel? Why should I be blessed with a longer life than he had? What would my thoughts be? I’m optimistic.  I’m hopeful. I’m grateful. I know the world is changing and I know there is a lot of stress and acrimony throughout society. But I’m not going to be a person that focuses on the negative aspects of the world. I don’t want to become someone that only says or post things on social media that are negative or hateful in some way. I see that as a miserable existence, and I don’t want my life to be like that. For those people to truly see what is wrong in this world, all they need is a mirror. I’m going to enjoy my life and do everything I can to help my family and friends enjoy theirs. I’m going to congratulate people for achievements and support them during hardships. I’m going to ball games, birthday parties, weddings, and gatherings with friends and family. And I’m going to be grateful….because today is the first day of the rest of my life.  

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Year to Forget


This year has already proven to be a year that many of us would like to forget.  COVID-19 has evolved into one of the most problematic viruses in our lifetime.  We have had to change the way we travel, visit, work, and just go through our daily routines.  Almost 200,000 Americans have died from the Coronavirus and we are all just tired of it. 

Dissension in the United States is at an all time high.  I don’t remember as many controversial situations existing at one time as there are now.  So many people are filled with anger and rage. You can’t have an opinion without offending someone, and the time for listening to each other and being reasonable is long gone.  We now live in the “Divided States of America” and for most of us, that is really sad.  I still believe in my 80% rule.  80% of every color, creed, religion etc., can get along with 80% of every other group that’s different in some way.  But the 20% in every group is often louder, unwilling to compromise, and no longer feel that having respect for others is relevant.  I honestly believe that if you only had the 80% of us that were reasonable in every category or group, you would eliminate 99% of the problems in America. 

It astonishes me that so many people have forgotten that we are a democracy.  The same people that use the words socialism, marxism, racism or fascism will berate someone for having a different opinion while claiming to support a democratic society.  And don’t make the mistake of thinking its only one group that does this, there are people in both parties and all groups that do it.  In the world we live in today, it’s easier to find a reason to be angry than to be reasonable.  That is something that I will never understand. 

For the first time in my life, I lost a really good friend of mine. When the coronavirus caused everyone to be on lockdown for a while, I spent more time working from home that I have in 10 years.  One year in particular, I was on the road for 48 out of the 52 weeks during that year.  During this lockdown, I got to know my neighbor Art better than I ever have.  If he saw me outside doing almost anything, he was in my yard within 30 seconds!  We tore a golf cart apart that I’m still working on, he helped me work on my truck, lawn mower, and boat motor.  We would discuss what was going on in the world almost every evening.  We went fishing one evening during the middle of June.  We caught some fish, laughed, told stories etc.  When we got home, I told him one last story and he was walking out of my yard laughing and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”   The next morning when I took Charlie out, there was an ambulance in the yard.  I went over to see what was going on and walked in the front door.  I asked his wife Elaine what was going on and she just responded, “He’s gone.”  I was in complete shock.  62 years old, he had just signed up for Social Security, had probably been in the best mood for 3 months that I had ever seen and just like that, he’s gone.  As I am putting that golf cart back together, I think of him often.  Several people asked me, “Can you get that golf cart back together?”   I would always respond, “No, but Art can!”  His wife asked me to do his eulogy and his Mother told me he had 2 best friends in his entire life, a good friend he grew up with named “Roosevelt” and me.  His brother Sean told me that every time he talked to Art, he would mention doing something with “Robbie.”  I’m glad we spent the time we did together those last 3 months. Art told me numerous times that as he got to know people in the area, he would always tell them that he lived beside me.  He said he was surprised that very often when he did that, they would respond by talking about what a great guy my father was. Art mentioned to me several times that he regretted never meeting Deddy. 

My mother’s health has declined again this year.  It was determined that she had a critically low copper level.  I never even knew that could even be an issue at all.  After some infusions, her levels are back to normal so hopefully she will start to see some improvement sooner than later.   

My father’s best friend, Mike McNeil passed away a few weeks ago.  Mike came to see Deddy often while he battled cancer.  After Deddy passed away, he would call every few months to check on everyone and make sure things were going ok.  Although I regretted hearing about Mike’s passing, I am sure that Deddy was waiting for him when he arrived in Heaven.   A story I told a few weeks ago about Mike was when Mama had surgery for esophageal cancer, she had a major setback about 2 weeks into recovery.  Mike called me that night about 9:00.  I explained to him the situation and that the circumstances were serious.  He said, “I’ll see you tomorrow about 12:00.”  The irony was that he lived in Florida.  But the next day, about 12:00, Mike and his wife walked in.  When I was born, Mama was in labor from Christmas Eve until the 26th of December.  It was probably because my head was the same size when I was born as it is now! But for years, Mike called me or texted me on my birthday.  I asked him a few years ago, how he always remembered my birthday and he explained to me that he was at the hospital with Deddy during the entire labor.  I had never known that before.   

Today marks 20 years since Deddy died.  I still miss him as much as I ever did.  I regret that he is not at Little League games with us, not golfing with us on Sundays, not at Uncle Boyd’s Christmas party and not there to offer patient, constructive advice.  But I don’t miss the fact that he cannot see the bad in this world.  I hope he cannot see the anger, the acrimony, and lack of respect that many people have for each other.  I honestly don’t know where we go from here. No matter how bad things are, I think we would all like to know there is a brighter future on the horizon.  I have friends from all walks of life.  They have different religious views, are a different race, different political views, or have other differences in one way or another.  But although I may not be exactly like them or even agree with them, I can still respect them.  Sometimes, its ok to agree to disagree. That’s something that I think we really need to get back to.  This era of forcing your beliefs on others is not working and all you have to do is turn on any news channel and you’ll realize how right I am.  My father set a great example for Travis and myself by being kind to people, showing compassion, and especially practicing forgiveness.   

Although I miss my father, I’m glad he doesn’t have to watch hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, catastrophic fires, riots and anger gradually destroy the Earth. I feel better knowing that he is on the other side welcoming his family and friends that pass away.  I’m sure Art finally met him.  I know he and Mike were glad to see each other again.  And I’m glad he is in a much better place than the world we live today.  

Sunday, April 12, 2020

This Easter is Different

     Usually at this time of the year, we are going to church, planning a Sunday afternoon with family, coloring eggs and honoring the most significant week for Christianity.  But this year is different.
The world is in the midst of battling a virus unlike anything we have ever seen in a lifetime.  

     The challenge is that it’s a virus that has already mutated several times.  We know that the elderly and people with health conditions are very high risk.  However, this virus is killing young, healthy people in some instances and we just don’t know why.  Social distancing is the norm and that effort seems to be the best strategy for now. 

     Over 2000 years ago, the world was also battling a crisis.  One that was much more significant.  Jesus Christ was here to save us all and he was condemned by almost everyone around him.  The leaders of Rome ruled the world at the time and had absolutely no faith in what Jesus preached.   The religious leaders of the time considered his teachings blasphemy and wanted him put to death.  They were actually pressuring the leaders of Rome to execute Jesus.  The people turned on Jesus too.  They had observed the miracles over and over, watched Him heal the sick, forgive the sinful and show compassion to those in need. Yet when given the choice between Jesus or Barrabas to be freed, they turned on Jesus and started chanting Barrabas.  Pontius Pilate did not even understand why the people had turned on Jesus because he did not think he had committed a crime.  The fact that Pilate was having his own internal struggle with what was going on indicates just how wrong the situation was. 

     So they condemned Jesus.  They beat and tortured Him, they mocked Him with a crown of thorns and they made Him carry His own cross to the top of Calvary. Then they nailed Him to a cross with spikes.  He was hung high on the hill to bleed to death while some of the soldiers gambled over his clothing.  And by the afternoon, Jesus appeared to be dead. 

     What occurred next indicated to the world that Jesus Christ was indeed the Savior.  The sky turned dark for 3 hours, there were earthquakes, rocks split in half, and one of the centurions exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”  The religious leaders realized they had made the biggest mistake they had ever made when the veil of the temple was ripped from top to bottom and the temple was destroyed by an earthquake.  The world was consumed by fear and grief from what had been done.  His disciples were in shock and disbelief.  His followers were lost and confused.

     But three days later, Jesus was resurrected and the faith of his followers was restored.  During challenging times, our faith is often challenged.  There is just no rational explanation why some things happen in this world.  Why in the world did a virus like COVID-19 ever even come into existence?  I’m not sure but I do think it brings out the best in many people.  All across America, health care workers are working harder than ever to help those in need.  Cities are taking a moment each day to cheer on the doctors, nurses, EMT’s, policemen, firemen and anyone else that is going the extra mile to get us through this pandemic.  Factories have stopped making consumer goods to make sanitizer, face masks, face shields and other imperative equipment needed by medical staff all over the United States.  Individual citizens are setting up shops in their homes to make face masks for friends, family and hospital staff.  It’s unfortunate that we don’t have such a supportive attitude all the time as a society.  So much more could be accomplished if we worked together to make the world a better place each and every day.                                                                                                                                                                                  
     It may seem like social distancing, community spread, and economic downturn are going to last forever. It will not. Right now, we are in a time of uncertainty, similar to the 3 days after Jesus’ crucifixion.  But we will discover keys to treating the virus, we will develop a vaccine, and we will get back to a normal society again. We have to maintain hope, be of good courage and continue to support each other.  Challenges exist, but faith will see us through, and the Lord will be there for us the entire way.

Happy Easter to all of you and may God bless your families during these extraordinary times. #keepthefaith #heisrisen #jesusisking

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The True Meaning of Christmas

The world we live in is changing faster than most people can keep up.  Our phones have become computers, we can tell virtual assistants to turn the lights on, thermostats can adjust the temperature by the hour and Amazon seems to know what we want before we do.  People constantly walk around for extended periods of time without seeing anything but their telephone and a lot of people had rather send someone a text than talk to them in person.  Christmas has turned into a celebration of lights, toys, malls, shopping, gifts, and parties.  Who cares about the true meaning of Christmas?  Does it really matter at this point?

I cannot imagine what Mary was going through over 2000 years ago.  She had to be worried. She had to have a LOT of questions.  And what was Joseph thinking taking her as his wife?  They had to leave their own town and travel to the small village of Bethlehem and didn’t even have a room for the night.  They had to stay in a stable with a bunch of animals.  Are we really to believe that the Son of God was actually born on the ground… a barn….among animals?  Well, I don’t know about you, but that is exactly what I believe.

I don’t know why the circumstances existed for the birth of our Savior to happen the way it did, but I certainly believe it.  Jesus was not born into privilege, in a sanitary environment with a trained medical staff.  He was born as any other common baby would be.  But the world knew.  The wise men knew and traveled great distances to honor him.  Mary and Joseph knew and had been visited by angels to let them know that everything would be ok.  A star appeared to indicate that this birth was nothing less than miraculous.  The baby in the manger eventually became the King on the cross.

I have grown up my entire life hearing stories from the Bible.  I had a youth minister named Philip Smith that I became good friends with as I grew older.  He always offered good advice and gave me encouragement every time I saw him.  I’ve known some great preachers in my life that have delivered some terrific sermons on Sundays. I’ve been surrounded by people of faith that have always stressed the importance of prayer.  But my faith is not the result of the people around me or their beliefs.  That certainly gave me exposure to the Bible, church and Christianity.  But, the reason for my faith is because of something that’s inside me.   I’ve always had an inner feeling that has removed all doubt in my faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior.  Through good times, hard times, happy times, stressful times, and sad times, my faith has stayed the same.  I don’t know why many things happen and I don’t like bad things to happen at all.  But I believe there is a reason. 

               We all have so much to be grateful for.  We live in a free country where we have access to anything we need.  We have the freedom to do whatever we want, visit family and friends, access to exceptional medical treatment, provide for our families and live in comfortable conditions.  Christmas is always humbling when you consider people that are struggling in some way.  We all have challenges sooner or later.  That’s why I think its so important to spend quality time with family and friends during Christmas because you just never know when circumstances will change by the next year. 

               It’s amazing that the birth of a baby over 2,000 years ago saved all of us.  The simple answer to my first question is that we should ALL care about the true meaning of Christmas.  It’s been one of the most important aspects of my own life.  And the answer to my second question is that not only does the true meaning of Christmas matter, but it’s never been more important than it is to the world we live in today.  

                I wish you all a Merry Christmas and I hope you have some time to relax, rest and spend time with the ones you love.  

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