Loving beyond worldly measure

Some of the most difficult times to watch are when someone we know is trying to be there for a loved one when he or she is coming to the end of his or her journey. As I think back through the years, I remember watching my mother and father as they reached out to support friends or relatives in such times.
If the loved one was elsewhere, they would close up the business, and off they’d go for an undetermined amount of time to just be present.
There to be called upon if needed for and extra pair of hands and legs to: run errands, do day-to-day tasks, cook, just simply sit,
talk, laugh, console, remember, and pray.
I saw my mother and father do this time and time again. I know they drew no financial benefit from what they were doing. Their only
requite was in knowing they were serving Christ with their actions.
Sometimes their presence reached beyond the caregivers to the patient and I know that brought a peace over each of them when they knew they comforted someone as they prepared to cross over.
As a small boy, I watched this routine many times as they said goodbye to former co-workers and neighbors, friends from throughout
their lives, and of course, relatives of every description who impacted their lives.
I vaguely remember one period in my childhood when I felt I was spending more time in hospitals and funeral homes than at school but
death comes at God’s appointment not on our timetables.
I am now at a similar point in time of my life as they were when they were saying goodbye to so many. So, I have become readily cognizant that like my folks, many of those I know are being called, some old, some young, but its seems more with every passing year.
As I reflect on what can I do to support their loved ones, I think back on the model that my parents gave me. I try to simply be present
whenever possible to offer support and help them walk down the path I have already walked. I know that hope, comfort and strength should be offered along the path and I only pray that I can be an instrument to provide some aspect of these to all concerned along the final journey.
Most of us know someone who is facing this point in life, what are you doing to support he or she, and his or her circle of caregivers?
I encourage you to find some way to make a difference; you may be able to leave a message of love that changes a life forever and
passes a legacy of love to your children as they see how you help others in a time in life we all must face.

A Breath Shared

I struggled to catch a breath as I leaned up on my pillow, trying to find the next clear bit of air and pull it into my lungs.
I often wondered if there would be another breath but there was an endless desire to keep trying.
As a child, like many others I suffered from a multitude of ailments that made my stay on this earth sometimes tenuous.
One of the results of the multitude was asthma that left me with weak lungs that often seize up making exerting myself a dance with living on the edge.
With the caring effort of my mother and dad, rubbing me down in mentholated rub, beating my back to loosen my lungs, keeping a house as clean from irritants as possible, I know my survival would have been unlikely.
There came a morning when I was about five that I did not awake. I relay the account as shared with me, since I was unable to experience it from a conscious prospective.
After calling my name several times to raise me from my slumber with no avail, my late mother came in to find me laying in my bed, the sight scared her, her boy there, still, staring up at the ceiling, lifeless. In her words, “Your eyes were set back in your head and you were not breathing.”
She grabbed me up wrapped in the quilt that I was sleeping in, threw me over her shoulder, picked up the kitchen phone calling the doctor’s office, saying, “I’m bringing him in.” She jumped into our blue 1964 Chevy Malibu and as she said, didn’t stop for a single light as she drove the five miles to his office.
She rushed through the waiting room and the receptionist jumped up, opened the door realizing I was in distress and the immediately took me into an exam room placing me on the table.
The doctor questioned why she didn’t take me to the emergency room. Her reply “He’s here now, do something.”
So he did, with only what he had on hand he started trying to revive me and sent the nurse to get a shot of some kind.
He administered the shot and then turned to mom and said, “All we can do now is pray.”
That’s what they did, pray over my lifeless body with no signs of hope.
After a few moments of prayer, I began to breath and the life that was gone was restored. What accomplished this? The doctor’s sharing his skill with limited means; or the prayers of them standing above my lifeless body calling out to God to not allow the senseless death of a toddler.
Whatever it was, their faith, medicine, it allowed me to breath again, and grow, struggle, and cling to life again and again, as I battled more childhood adversities carrying me to adulthood. He allowed me to learn, and work, and give, and pray for others. He has allowed me to serve.
For me that day was God’s miracle of life that He gave me initially and He chose to give it back to me because that five-year-old had something more to do for Him.
Once again when I was in my twenties, a water-borne illness had me near death with no medical means of improving my situation. It was mother’s unceasing prayers by my hospital bedside that drew me back to health.
There are two times when I know God intervened in the course of the frailness of the human body and allowed me to continue.
Each day, I know that I fail in using the opportunities He affords, and sometimes I find myself bogged down in my own hopes and desires. But then I remind myself, my presence here is His gift to me, that He has given more times than I can count or even know about.
I try to remember that is my work here to give back and so I pray I always remember and act accordingly. Prayer is a gift – use it, give it, share it.

Living in the right path

Knowing one’s best direction in life can be an ever-changing debate within your own head.
As someone who has spent their life in entertainment, I often look at my situation to weigh my perception of what I do with the reality of the logistics of life.
I find myself fretting over some aspect of where my road has taken me and wonder whether I veered from the appointed path set out for me.
Was I meant to do something different in life? Did I choose what God intended?
Those are questions that I am sure many people debate in his or her head especially as the children are screaming at each other in the back seat of the car; the bills on the table appear to be much higher that any hope of payment; or the honey do list becomes a small paperback.
I learned many years ago from actor Carroll O’Connor in a deep conversation about the human condition and differences in people that in life we often spend our time listening to the problems of others as he or she seeks empathy. He told me in that shared experience there is a sense of uplifting that the sharer can gain if received and responded to properly while the listener can overt a draining of spirit while sharing comfort.
“Everyone has the same problems,” he told me. “Different folks just have a different number of zeros attached to them.”
So in some way that list of things people endure mentioned above along with a long list of others is not unique to us. We all have moments of doubt when we wonder if we are on the right path. Shouldn’t be easier if we were? Not necessarily.
We can be within the path set forth by God before we were a twinkle in our father’s eye in His purpose for us to fulfill His mission, and life could be very difficult.
If we have accepted Christ into our life then we are in His light. We may choose to put on a blindfold at times as we make a choice outside our appropriate path but He is always with us shining His light waiting for us to reflect what He is sharing.
When I begin to sink into the questions of my choices, my circumstances, my feelings, I then remember that ultimately, I am striving in His will and if He wishes me to be in a different situation, He will open the doors, and reveal the path.
I just need to remain ready, prepared and always be working to improve the opportunities within my life, career, and my relationships with family and friends.
Carroll’s “Archie” character might have told me to “Stifle” as I began whining about my life and after a few lines proceeded with “You Meathead, You….”
Sometimes we need to say that to ourselves, “You Meathead, You!” Life is a blessing, even in the worst situation you can experience; there are others who have greater need in the world. So as “Archie” could have shared: “Be like that real American John Wayne, and pick yourselves up by your boot straps there, and just get on with it. Do what is right and God will’s look after you.”

Reach out to those who touched your life

I stood on my tiptoes trying to see the inside of the skillet.
Inside it, bubbling in the grease side by side were breaded slices of zucchini squash. I had never tasted zucchini but this summer on our family trip north we stopped in Ohio and were visiting with my aunt Verna Hale.
“My I turn them,” I asked.
“Yes, let me show you how,” she said using the spatula and soon pointing out when it was time.
She had moved north from the valley below the Gravelly Spur Mountain in Tennessee to Ohio to seek work during WWII just like her sisters. Eventually in the 1950s several of the younger brothers moved north as well.
By the time I was standing by her stove, her children were essentially raised and started or close to starting on their own lives, so in many respects as a kid, I had the run of their ranch style house which set up high on a hill.
Their garden produced the squash she was cooking for dinner and I had gotten to help pick it with my uncle and watch closely as Aunt Verna cut and breaded it for frying. We brought them in from the garden and washed them in a sink that was in the garage, something I had never seen up until that point in my life.
My mom was also in the kitchen helping prepare some corn on the cob, and between the two, they were patting out hamburgers.
In my youth, her spotless home wherever it was, became a second one to me, and she became my closest aunt as we visited back and forth and when eventually she moved to  Tennessee and Florida in retirement.
Through the years she made it to a few of my concerts and was the only relative other than my mother and cousin Sue to visit me in Covington, Ga. meeting some of my co-stars from “In the Heat of the Night.”
Sadly, as my mother’s health declined, my mom chose to cut herself off from her family members and focus on her own well-being. As her caregiver, that choice changed my life, cutting me off from my extended family including Aunt Verna. We were able to reconnect after mother passed, seeing each other a few times and corresponding by mail, which was the conventional way we had through the years.
She raised two boys – Ron and Benny. Benny and his wife Carolyn lived with us for a while in Atlanta when they were starting their life together in a new place. They eventually moved south of Atlanta, Ga. and raised a family giving aunt Verna 23 grandchildren of different generations to be proud of.
I learned of her passing recently at the age of 94 and it flooded my mind with the smiles; the pats on the back; the comforter when a shoulder to cry on was needed; the countless meals she prepared and shared; the little gifts she gave; and always the encouragement that was present.
Though we have not been as close in recent years, my childhood, my teens and young adulthood was enhanced by her, I pray she knew that was appreciated. If you have someone in your family that touched your life, and is still within your reach, take a minute, call, write, e-mail or text and let them know it!