Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Traditions

               Christmas has always been a wonderful time for our family.  Mama and Deddy always made every effort to make sure each Christmas was special.  Travis and I used to get up on Christmas morning around 3:00 A.M. and we would not go back to bed until the next night.  We spent time with our families, shared meals together, played with whatever we got and just had a great time every Christmas.

                Each year we would go to Mema and Papa Cameron’s on Christmas Eve. My cousin Kevin would always be in a rush to get home so he could go to bed.  He was mortified of the possibility that he might be awake when Santa Claus came by.  We would go to Mema and Papa Brafford’s on Christmas morning.  When I was younger, we would also go to my Great Grandparents house on Christmas Day.  There was always a good time and a lot of love everywhere we went.   I am so grateful for the life that I was blessed with.  There was never a time in my childhood that I did not feel unconditionally loved.  But I was also very appreciative of everything. 

                Over the years, things have changed somewhat but we still have traditions.  We still spend Christmas Eve with Mema Cameron.  I made a snowman pencil when I was in the 2nd grade and gave it to Mema.  She still puts that pencil on her tree to this day, 37 years later.  Travis made one about 10 years ago, but she doesn’t really like his as much and puts his on the bottom of the tree in the back. Uncle Boyd’s Christmas Party has become one of things that I look forward to most each year.  The jokes and insults are always in full force at Uncle Boyd’s.  But its always in good fun and everyone enjoys the great camaraderie.  Everyone starts asking about the party months in advance.  I always check with Uncle Sammy to see if we need to modify his rules in any way.   Mema Brafford passed away this year but most of the Brafford’s are going to get together on Christmas morning.  I think Mema would have wanted us to get together.  Travis and I have taken Mama Christmas shopping almost every year since Deddy passed away.  Mama and Travis get me worked up each year and I have a cuss fit.  They actually provoke me to have it because they seem to think its funny and I guess I do too.  I’ve always appreciated the fact that mine and Maria’s families live close together.  We can get to most of our family within 15 minutes, and for us that is a true blessing.  Tonight when we leave Mema Cameron’s, we will head to Mamers to continue celebrating Christmas Eve with the Stewarts.     
                One of the traditions that I truly miss is decorating the house we grew up in.  Travis lives there now and we continued to decorate it until about 10 years ago.  It wasn’t that we didn’t want to do it.  But lack of time just became a problem.  We used to start decorating in October and by the weekend after Thanksgiving, we had the house very bright!  I’ve considered assembling a team and returning Boyd Brafford Drive to Christmas light glory, but we’ll have to give that more thought.
                Church has also been an important tradition in my life.  I’ve always loved the decorations and beauty of the church at Christmas.  I know we all love the cantatas, the children’s programs, the outpouring of love and the story of our Savior.  I am humbled by the story of Jesus every time I hear it. 

                As we celebrate Christmas this year, I hope that all of your families are blessed with happiness and peace.  We go through so much during the year, that I think everyone deserves some time to spend together and be with the ones we love.  Just remember, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you;  Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And that’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

May God bless all of you and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


The evolution of social media has changed the world for all of us.  In some ways, it is better and in some ways it is worse.  I have traveled a lot in the last 7 years and the aspect of social media that I have appreciated the most is keeping up with what really matters in life, such as family.  Although people are often focused on how awesome I am, they forget that I come from a very humble background.  I was raised to respect others, love family, and be grateful for everything.  I can promise you, those values still hold true with me today.  As I have watched so many of you go through the challenge of losing people you love, my heart goes out to you.  The pain of losing someone is only helped by the hope and faith of being able to see them again one day. 

The lives of everyone around me changed on September 13th, 2000.  We were certainly sad, exhausted and relieved at the same time.  When I think about my father’s last day on Earth, I often think about 2 Timothy 4:7  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  He had rough days when he did not feel good, he had regrets that he was not going to be around in the years to come, and I’m sure he worried about not being here for his family.  But one of the greatest attributes I will remember about Deddy is that he simply accepted his fate and made every effort to maintain a positive attitude until the very end.  He was not mad at God, he did not feel like he had been dealt a worse hand than anyone else, and he did not feel sorry for himself.

I believe that because of how Deddy handled his demise, we only remember the good things about him and the times we spent together.  Sure, he had a lot of challenges during his last year, but he was also blessed to actually be walking around until the day before he passed away.  We reminisce about playing baseball during the summers, watching ballgames together, hanging out with his brothers on the weekend around the house, his voice of reason and calmness during the storms of life, his devotion to his mother and father, his love for Mama, and his one-liners when he was only being honest and not trying to be funny. 

Uncle Boyd said they were talking one day and he made the comment that he regretted he never would get to see his grandchildren.  Uncle Boyd asked him if it might be more difficult if his grandchildren were already here.  Deddy thought about it for a minute and told Uncle Boyd that he had a point.  Travis and his family live in the house that we grew up in.  There have been several strange things to happen while they have lived there.  A while back, Brooklyn (his 2 year old little girl) hit Colt and although it did not really hurt him, Travis scolded her.  She was put in “Timeout.”  Travis said she was crying like he was beating her with a stick.  In a few minutes, the house phone rang and the number calling was 499-9750.  Travis answered the phone and nobody was on the other end.  Then he called the number back only to get a recording that the number had been disconnected.  The significance of that story is that 499-9750 was Deddy’s business number for probably 30 years.  I told Travis that he may want to think before making Brooklyn cry again.  There have also been several times when Brooklyn seems to be smiling and waving at someone when there is nobody there.  I can’t help but think that maybe Deddy is watching his grandchildren after all.

I have often wondered if and what people that have passed away can see.  I like to think that they can see the good things but are shielded from the terrible things in this world.  I hope that Deddy can see his grandchildren.  I hope that he can see us coaching Colt’s teams as he grows up.  I hope he knows that I have tried to follow in his footsteps although I realize that I will never be as good of a man as he was.  I also hope the next time Travis gives a “Timeout” that Deddy appears and says….”Travis, what do you think you are doing!?”  I hope that he can see us golfing with Uncle Boyd on Sundays. I hope that he can see Travis and me taking Mama shopping at Christmas but I hope he cannot hear my yearly meltdown that they always provoke me to have.   I just hope that he can see the good times.  Because as the years continue to go by, he is missed more than he will ever know.  One of the most important lessons I ever learned from my Father was taught by example.  In this life, nothing you do or achieve really matters unless you have honor.  And that is the creed that I live by.  

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Essence of Success

“Successful is the person who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;  Who has gained the respect of children; Who leaves the world better than they found it;  who has never lacked appreciation for the Earth’s beauty; Who never failed to look for the best in others and who always gave the best of themselves.”

     That quote hangs on my wall with this picture of Deddy.  A few months before he died, we arranged his trophies, awards, and plaques in his office and had him to sit with all of them and take a picture.  He had been voted into the NC Hall of Honor just a few days before.  He laughed and asked us why in the world we wanted him to do that.  I told him because he had earned it and he sat down.

     But the picture is not just of Deddy sitting with a bunch of trophies.  It’s not a picture of arrogance nor of being too proud and it would not even begin to tell the story Travis and I know.  It shows a countless number of hours on T-Ball, Little League, and Junior League fields.  It shows long days picking up other kids during the summers just so they could play ball.  It shows so many times when he gave encouragement in both victory and defeat.  It shows dedication to his community and the pride he took in helping so many times in different ways.  I see friends to this day that immediately reminisce about playing ball during the summers.  Everybody that played on one of his teams loves those memories. 

     When you look at the trophies behind him, its easy to see success.  However, it does not show the challenges he faced throughout his life.  The years he got up before daylight to start his day to provide for  Mama, Travis and me.  It does not show the worry and stress during times when the economy would slow down and it would be a lot harder to make a living.  It doesn’t show the hours he worked at night just to get ready for the next day. 

     I see so many of you on Facebook who have lost family members.  I know many of you have also lost your father.  I cannot tell you how sympathetic I am for you because I know exactly how you feel.  I still miss Deddy as much now as I did the week after he passed away.  I regret that I cannot sit down and talk to him sometimes so he can help me make a decision.  He was on my mind even more the last few years as Mama battled cancer and Mema Brafford’s health declined.  I often wondered if he knew what was going on and what he could see.  I know that Mema Brafford saw him several times during her last few weeks so I’m certain he was on her welcoming committee! 

     I certainly learned a lot from my father.  He was always supportive and encouraging but he also taught Travis and me respect.  He didn’t do that by force, but instead he led by example.  That was one his best traits.  He was respectful of everyone around him.  He was a good son to his mother and father.  He was a good brother to Randy, Sammy, and Uncle Boyd and anytime one of his brothers needed him, he was there for them immediately.  He respected my mother and he appreciated everything she did for him as his own health declined.  In turn, when Mama was battling cancer, I did not hesitate to do everything I could to help her. 

     The saving grace of losing someone so close to you is knowing that they are at peace and there is no more sickness or sorrow.  I often wonder what and if they can see anything.  I hope he knows that I honored my promise to him.  I hope he can see how much his grandson, Colton, looks like him.  I hope he can see Travis and me coaching T Ball games and he is reminded of the fond memories that we have.  I hope he knows how much I miss him.  I hope he knows that so many people honor him often simply with a fond memory.  Deddy lived well, laughed often, and loved much.   Although his time on Earth was not nearly as long as I would have liked, the example he set as a father lives on through Travis and me.  As time passes by, if we can reflect on our own lives and see that we emulated Deddy’s life, that will certainly be something that both of us can be proud of.  

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Ten Commandments


     Well, well, well. It's that time of the year again. Spring is coming, flowers are blooming, Easter is just around the corner, and "The Ten Commandments" is once again coming on television!

     This of course is my favorite movie of all time. Now, I know for a lot of you that have heard me recite every line from "Silence of the Lambs," that may be somewhat of a surprise. But I think it’s great. You have to admit, it is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible and the movie is certainly one of the most cinematic movies of all time.

     There are a number of things about the movie that run through my mind each time I watch it. To begin with, Pharoah and anyone that followed him must have had some sort of learning disability. Now, I can somewhat see the thought process of Pharoah; he had all the wealth, owned the entire city and ruled everyone. But it is still a little hard to believe, that in the end, someone could be stupid enough to banish Moses from the “world”. To banish someone he once considered a son just because he had sympathy for a population of slaves and the horrible conditions in which they lived and worked.

     After Moses was disowned by Pharoah, Rameses was loving life. Moses had been the thorn in Rameses' side his whole life. His father loved Moses more, his woman was in love with Moses, and Moses proved to be a better engineer, military leader, and was more highly respected throughout Egypt. So, when they found out Moses was a slave, don't you know that Rameses was elated! Even then, everyone was ready to accept him. But when Moses admits to Pharoah that he would free the slaves if he could, he is considered a threat and is banished forever from Egypt. As the life of Moses continues, he is called by God to be the deliverer of the Hebrew people. He did not even know God, but Joshua told Moses that God knew him! Instead of executing Moses, Ramses sends him out into the desert with the intentions of him dying a sufferable death. However, not only does Moses not die, he finds God and comes to truly understand his purpose.

     At this point in the movie, the story really begins to unfold. Pharoah dies and Rameses becomes King of Egypt. Almost immediately, God directs Moses to return to Egypt to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage. Moses goes to Rameses and demands that the slaves are freed. Of course, Rameses saw this as preposterous considering they had an army, owned and ruled the city, lived a lavish lifestyle and owned all the slaves. So from his point of view, who cared about this "God" that Moses worshipped?

     As the story continues, instead of Rameses yielding to logic and reason, his ability to be rational and intelligent are obviously NOT options. God curses Egypt with multiple plagues, yet Ramses refuses to free the slaves. I always contemplate, what if I was one of the Egyptian guards? It would be like this..."Ok, let's think about this rationally Rameses, you have an army and complete power and this guy has a stick. You threw snakes at him and his stick turned into a snake and ate your snakes. I haven't had a drink of water in forever because it’s all blood now. Frogs, gnats, and locust have eaten everything but Nefeteria's eyebrows. We have boils all over us and its hailing fire. And oh yeah, by the way, it has been so dark for 3 days that I can't see my hand in front of my face. Seriously, I realize that your logic has been altered since your hairdresser told you that a long pony tail on one side of your head would be a strong look for you and your son. But you keep talking to that black statue with a bird's head on it. What has he done so far? Stand there and look stupid while the God of Moses sends one plague after another? Therefore, here is my sword and my armor. I am putting on one of those potato sack robes and I am going with Moses because his God is God! Oh, and by the way, so let it be written, so let it be done!" The story would be very different if I lived back them.

     Moses finally tells Rameses that "the next plague brought onto Egypt will come from your mouth". But the genius, Rameses says, "Oh yeah, anymore plagues brought on to us, and I'll kill the first born of every Hebrew family." This is my part again "Hey Pharoah, are you trying to be stupid? Yeah, remember me? I was in your army last week but I wised up pretty quick. Are you sure you don't want to take that back?" And Rameses says "Nope, I am the KING.” What happens? A mean, green fog of death floats through Egypt and kills all of the first born of Egyptian families. All of the first born of Hebrew slaves were protected by the mark of lambs blood, therefore the death “passed over” their homes. THEN, Rameses relented and let the slaves go. "Well, way to go Pharoah! See, it didn't really take that much to convince you!?"

     Next thing you know, the city is cleared of slaves and they are all gone. What was Rameses doing?  He was worshipping the bird head man to bring his son back to life. At this point I'm thinking "Really? That's your plan?" Of course Nefeteria, who loved him SO MUCH comes in, mocks him, and DARES him to chase the slaves down and kill Moses. You would think at this point he would say, "Nefeteria, why don't you shut that windsock that keeps flapping in the wind before I go postal." But no, he says, "Oh yeah, I'll chase Moses down and bring his blood back on my sword!" Did the burning bush cause him to reconsider? Nope. Did it cross his mind that it might not be a real good idea to send his entire army into the sea that God divided for the slaves to cross through? Nope.

     So, after watching his army destroyed by the sea and the slaves shooting off fireworks on the other side, Pharoah goes home with his gimpy horse. And what does his sweet wife ask? "Where is the blood of Moses?" Once again, if I could be in this scene, it would be better..."Ummmm, Nefi, listen case you didn't notice, you just suffered through 10 plagues. Your little boy is deceased and its your husband's fault. All of the slaves have hit the trail, and just to remind you of what is going on, Rameses left here a few days ago with 10,000 soldiers. Unless I have severe cataracts, it appears that he has come home with just his horse and one of Willie Nelson's braids hanging off the side of his head. Does it appear to you that he rode back in with a posture of victory, or of a sad clown who can't juggle? If he has the blood of Moses on his sword, he found one of his worn out Band-Aids from that long desert walk and he rubbed the blood on his sword. Moses prayed for the Red Sea to be divided, walked through it, then ascended up the mountain to talk to directly to God. So, you and ‘silly hair’ can go over there and talk to birdman. Hey by the way, you got any Sweet Tea, I am parched!"

     Of course, the stupidity does not end there. After being in slavery for hundreds of years, freed, then seeing the burning bush protect them, walking through the middle of a divided sea, and finally reaching the other side, the SLAVES were becoming restless. I have to slap myself to understand this. In the meantime, Moses goes up the mountain to directly talk to God and was given the 10 Commandments. But guess what, Dathan convinces the people that they need a gold bull to worship. If I could physically beat up one person in this story, it would definitely be Dathan. At this point I am saying "What in the wide world of sports is going on?" The Hebrew people turn to sin and immorality. That is until Moses walks back down the mountain with the commandments. My character would now be yelling "I told ya'll he was going to be angry!"  Moses throws the commandments at them and total calamity ensues killing many of the people who had dismissed God turned to sin.

     By the end of his life, Moses has the people of Israel traveling like a normal group toward the promise land. However, Moses doesn't make it. It is time for him to climb the golden staircase. He got them there, and now it is up to them to make good choices through life. The truly epic story of the entire life of Moses is why I love this movie.

     For most people, you have parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches etc. that make an effort to guide you and give you good advice. Now I know some adults are not good role models and actually are harmful to children. However, most of us have people around us to give good advice. Somewhere along the line, we all have at least one person that reaches out to us and attempts to help us follow the right path through life. But just like the end of the "10 Commandments," someone can lead you to the promise land and show you where its at, but the decision is up to you from that point on as to what kind of life you decide to lead.

     As I have followed so many friends this past year, a know a lot of you have had challenges, health concerns and even the loss of loved ones.  However, keep in mind that this weekend there will be a beautiful celebration in Heaven.  Jesus Christ died to help us through the difficulties of this world and to give us an opportunity for forgiveness.  No matter what we are faced with, the Lord knows our need.  One of the hardest things in life is faith and that's something that we all need to keep.

     May God bless all of you this Easter. And as you watch "The Ten Commandments" tonight, I hope my version will bring all of you a little laughter.

Friday, April 7, 2017


My family has always been close.  I feel so fortunate to have lived a life with a family that genuinely cares so much for one another.  It meant even more the year that Deddy battled cancer.  There were always family and friends around.  I think to have a family that truly cares, is more of a blessing in this life than anything else.  As I have traveled all over the U.S. the last 7 years, I’ve seen a lot of homeless people.  I always feel so sorry for someone that is homeless because it breaks my heart that for whatever reason, they don’t have a family around them.  A good friend of mine was with me one time when I rolled down my window and handed a homeless person some money.  He asked me if I did that all the time and I told him “no.”  Then he asked me why I did it sometimes instead of never doing it, or doing it all the time.  My answer was simple, sometimes I feel led to do it.   Honestly, that’s not me being a good person, that’s the Lord telling me to do it. 

This past week my grandmother passed away.  She lived 89 years and she had a wonderful life in my opinion.  She was never wealthy, she never lived in a mansion, and she was not a member of high society in any way.  But what she did have was a family.  She moved to Boyd Brafford Rd about 70 years ago when she and Papa got married.  She grew up outside of Sanford where they were accustomed to “going to town” on a regular basis.  She told me one time when she moved out to Harnett County, she thought she had moved to the moon!  For her, it was a long ways from civilization.  But she and Papa made a good life for themselves.  She had four sons, Boyd Jr., Bob (my father), Sammy, and Randy.  All four of her sons grew up in a home where they felt loved by two parents that made every effort to provide for them everything they needed.  They can remember things like when they got indoor plumbing, when they had electricity connected to the house, and when they had a new well dug by hand.  Mema and Papa Brafford had a wonderful marriage but it wasn’t always like the Cleavers.  They would make each other so mad sometimes you would think one of them would blow a gasket.  But at the end of the day, they loved each other.  They set a precedent for everyone else as to how to be a family.  They cared for their children, they cared for their grandchildren, they cared for each other’s family, and they were always respectful of each other.

Mema Brafford was quite a character.  She was going to get her “hair done” on Thursdays no matter what.  She had a very mild stroke a few years ago and literally had to pull over on the side of the road.  After she got herself together, instead of going to the doctor, she continued to her standing appointment to get her hair fixed!   She liked to pick a guitar and she liked to listen to the radio.  She loved going to church.  She enjoyed going to eat lunch with some of her family and friends whenever she could. She liked to go to K-Mart and look around while she waited to get medicine filled.  To her, neither Wal-Mart nor Target held a candle to K-Mart.  She loved to plant flowers.  She loved birds and she kept a hummingbird feeder on her porch all the time.  There was not a person on the planet that loved her dogs more than she did.  A man who grew up with my father and uncles, told me not long ago that everyone who lived in Harnett County knew the last thing you ever wanted to do was do ANYTHING to an animal on Boyd Brafford Rd.  The consequences for that were not good.

Mema Brafford had 8 brothers and sisters.  None of them lived to be older than 67.  All of them died of cancer except two.   Her oldest brother was killed in a car crash and her youngest brother died of a massive heart attack.  Her first sister to pass away was only in her 40’s.  It seems like during my entire childhood, one of Mema’s family members were dying from cancer.  Even most of her sibling’s spouses died from cancer.  Each time someone in the family was battling cancer, Mema was always very involved to help as much as she could.   But the most difficult illness I ever saw Mema deal with, was my father’s battle with cancer.   I think my uncles would agree, Deddy was a “Mama’s boy.”   That year took a toll on everybody, and it certainly did on Mema and Papa.  Deddy had a special relationship with Mema.  He was always good to her but he could also give her some “tough love” if it was necessary.  I am certain that when she passed away, Deddy was one of the very first angels to greet her.  Papa told me one time that no parent should ever have to bury a child, no matter how old they are.    But to think about how many loved ones Mema outlived, it really is incredible.   As her health declined the last several weeks, I contemplated that she had a lot more family and friends waiting for her on the other side than she had left here. I know Deddy was elated to see his Mama.

Mema Brafford had a terrific quality of life until her last few months.  She was still driving herself around until about a year ago.  She was able to enjoy family gatherings, lunches, and visits.  I will remember so many funny things that I heard her say through the years.  I will remember that she would tell me that certain things I would say were mean, but at the same time she would be laughing like crazy about what I said.  I will remember how much she loved all of us.  Literally, 10 minutes before she took her final breath, she told us that she “loved all of us.”   She was not alone when she passed away, but had her 3 sons by her side and a room full of grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Her last day, she indicated several times that my father was there.  She spoke about a beautiful farm with a stream that she had visited already and she walked around and talked to Jesus. She said on that farm was every dog she had ever had.  She also went swimming with her brothers, sisters and her father in a river.  As she always did, her mother sat on the bank and waited for them as they swam. She said that she wanted them to come back and get her and take her back to Heaven.  She specifically mentioned Papa Brafford and her brother J.A.  So even in the end, as her body gave out to a long life, she was never alone.  She was also not alone as she passed on to God’s Kingdom.  Her entire life was built on a foundation of family, and because of that, Mema Brafford passed away a rich woman.  As a family, we can all take comfort knowing with absolute certainty, all is well with her soul.