The nails left behind

January 15, 2018 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–January 14, 2018

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

I threw my hat on the floor.

It was a childish act and it’s not something that happened 40 years ago. It happened last Monday night.

When Georgia sacked Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in overtime I jumped for joy thinking a national title was within reach. Then, the next play, a Georgia safety took the wrong step inside and Tua zoomed the football for a 41-yard touchdown to break my heart.

As I picked up my hat, put on my coat and exited Mercedes-Benz Stadium, I couldn’t help but think hopefully I won’t have to wait almost another 40 years before we play again for a national championship.

“I’ll be 106 years old if we have to wait that long again,” my friend Tommy Vance told me on the ride back as we entered the Carrollton city limits.

“Thanks for the optimism,” I replied. “At least there’s always hope.”

In addition to being born with a head, shoulders, knees and toes—I was also born with a temper. And unless you’re Mr. Rogers, I’m sure you have one too.

For a moment, I realized it’s not healthy to suppress anger—at least I threw my hat on the ground (and that’s hard to do when you lose in overtime). Instead, it’s better to embrace it and if possible, remember a lesson from a story I once heard taught by a wise father to his son:

There once was a little boy who had a very bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day, the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence.

Over the next few weeks, as the days grew warmer, the boy learned to control his anger, and the number of nails in the fence gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence in the hot summer sun.

Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it, and the father then suggested the boy now pull out one nail for each day he was able to hold his temper.

The days passed, and the young boy was finally able to tell his father all the nails were gone from the fence.

The wise father then took his son by the hand, and led him to the fence.

He said, “You have done well my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like the nail left the hole. You can put a knife into a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say, ‘I’m sorry,’ the wound is still there.”

The young boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said, “I hope you can forgive me, father, for the holes I put in you.”

And the wise father replied, as all wise fathers would, “Of course I can.”

Sometimes I need this story to remind myself to play it cool. It makes it even easier when I remember my friend and former Carrollton Trojans coach Ben Scott’s advice.

“If all you ever get out of life is winning a ballgame somewhere, you’ve led a pretty shallow existence,” he said. “But there’ll be another day and we’ll win this game, and that’s OK, too.”

 

Advertisements

Hunker down one more time

January 15, 2018 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–January 7, 2018

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

I think I broke my chair.

Then again, I’m not sure I was sitting. When Georgia’s Sony Michel scrambled left before blowing past defender after defender to win the Rose Bowl last Monday night, I had an out of body experience and leapfrogged a dozen yards.

“This is why we love the game,” my friend Tommy Greer said to me as a group of friends gathered to watch arguably the best game in Georgia’s football history.

I know it’s only a game, but I can’t help it. I love it—the pageantry, the marching bands, the cheerleaders, the crowd, the young men who suit up to go head-to-head for 60 minutes and most of all, the jokes.

“Back about 20 years ago, when electrocution was allowed here in Georgia, three men were scheduled for the chair on the same night,” my friend Bobby Stewart told me. “The first man, a Georgia graduate, sat down. When asked if he had any last words, he said, ‘HOW ‘BOUT THEM DAWGS!’

“The switch was then thrown, but nothing happened,” continued Stewart. “The warden stated that he was now free to go, due to a law that prohibited cruel and unusual punishment. The second man, an Auburn graduate, sat down. When asked if he had any last words, he bellowed—’WAR DAMN EAGLE!’ The switch was thrown, but nothing happened. He, too, was free to go.

“The third man, an engineering graduate of Georgia Tech, sat down,” added Stewart. “When asked if had any last words, he simply smiled and stated—‘Yes. If you will connect that blue wire and that yellow wire down there, and push on that capacitor, this chair will work just fine.’”

And, of course, Stewart ended the story as he looked me sternly in the eye and said—“That’s a true story.”

Georgia fans have been longing for another shot in a national title game since January 1, 1983.

Thank God for the escapes of family, football, movies, music and the arts. Even if for a moment (Sony’s run only lasted 7 seconds), the thrill of victory is second to none.

The past two weeks have been sad for me. I lost two friends, ages 46 and 47, within a 72-hour period. My heart hurts for their families and attending their funerals a few days before Christmas was another reminder of how precious our time is on this planet.

I spent countless hours with my friend Matt Jackson in high school and his sudden death reminded me we never know what tomorrow will bring. He kissed his family goodnight, called his mother and his heart quit beating sometimes during the night. He would never regain full consciousness again.

When my other friend Rob Estes was told he only had 12-15 months to live in August 2013, his first reaction was “What can I do to fight this?” His physicians looked at him with defeated looks on their faces when one replied—“Well, you really can’t.”

That’s when Rob’s first thought was “Can’t never could.” The saying came from a saying Rob’s mother often said when he was growing up. Whenever Rob complained “I can’t do it!” his mother quickly responded “Can’t never could.”

As a result of his battle, Rob and his wife Christi formed a foundation before his death to help give hope to those who are facing adversity, grief and personal battles (see www.cantnevercouldinc.com).

Rob loved the Georgia Bulldogs more than anyone. His foundation caught the attention of former coaches Vince Dooley and Mark Richt and Rob’s family was even invited to take the field at Sanford Stadium in September 2015 to introduce the 92,746 fans in attendance to Can’t Never Could.

A few weeks ago, Rob’s friends rented a suite inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium to watch Georgia knock out Auburn for the SEC Championship. In typical fashion, Rob grinned ear-to-ear and when someone asked Rob if they could grab his walker for him so he could stand, Rob said with a smile—“It’s not called a walker.”

“I nicknamed it Herschel.”

 

A healing fire

December 31, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–December 31, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

NOTE: The following column was originally published on February 21, 2016

 

The fire crackled and snapped while I sipped my morning coffee.

My dog sat close to my feet as the sun rose above the pines. Outside I heard the birds chirping in the breezy wind as I watched three cats chew on a squirrel’s tail. For a moment I wondered, where is the rest of the squirrel? The little varmint probably didn’t have a good night.

All was quiet in the house.

“Let us be silent, that we may hear–the whispers of God,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson.

For a moment, the noise of a busy world could wait as I took another sip of coffee. The fire needed my attention. A poke here and a poke there and eventually another piece of wood transformed the room into a winter haven while my family slept.

When Don McLean sang “Bye bye Miss American Pie,” he declared “fire is the Devil’s only friend.” On this morning, however, I welcomed the flames. And I saw no signs of the Devil.

It’s hard to quiet the mind, especially in this technological world where I often feel the need to check my email or text messages every 5 minutes. Addiction is cruel. My iPhone is like crack (or so I’m told). On second thought, it’ s more like sitting at a blackjack table in Vegas, only it’s not as much fun.

I long to return to the days when technology was simpler and life wasn’t so fast paced. Perhaps it’s time to pick up a book again, a real one with real paper and a spine. I think my Kindle will understand.

Within a few minutes, I began to realize my children would awaken. I poked at the fire. It started to rapidly burn and soon another piece of wood was needed.

Once again, it’s hard to quiet the mind.

“There is calmness lived in a life of gratitude, a quiet joy” said Ralph H. Blum. “Sometimes you just need a break in a beautiful place. Alone to figure everything out.”

After a while, I began to count a handful of life’s blessings. The older I grow, the less I know. It’s the mystery of living the questions.

Rarely do I close my eyes and ask God for favors anymore. I listen instead.

Some days I hear voices in my head. I feel ghosts on my shoulders. They’re often cluttered and they disappear as quickly as they arrive, but every now and then a quiet whisper stops me in my tracks. It pushes me forward and not back.

There’s a peace within sitting alone on a Sunday morning while watching the flames flicker and feeling a dog cuddle at my feet.

Within a few minutes, the sounds of little footsteps walking down the stairs will echo through the house. Pitter patter. Pitter patter.

One day they’ll leave this nest and silence will permeate our home. Until then, I welcome the noise, the laughter, the chaos and all the highs and lows of rearing a household full of kids.

No matter what happens today or tomorrow, I realize life is going to be OK.

God told me so as he warmed my soul through a healing fire.

Behind the music

December 31, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–December 24, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

It all started 199 years ago.

Silent Night is one of the most famous songs ever written. In fact, it’s officially considered a national treasure in Austria. But the origins of Silent Night are surprisingly humble.

Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright

It was on a Christmas Eve night in 1818 that a young priest name Josef Mohr ventured out into the cold. As the legend goes, Mohr climbed a hill overlooking the little town of Oberndorf in western Austria. While gazing down upon the houses, illuminated by flickering candlelight behind panes of frosted glass, Mohr recalled the words to a poem he first began writing several years before.

Round yon virgin, mother and child

Holy infant, so tender and mild

Midnight was only a few hours away.

In another part of Oberndorf, Franz Gruber, the local church organist, had a problem. As the legend goes, his organ had been damaged by mice. Since it was his job to provide music for the church’s Midnight Mass, the night probably didn’t seem calm and bright to him.

Then came a knock on his door.

It was the priest, Josef Mohr. He showed Gruber the words he penned, then asked if Gruber could compose a simple melody to go with it. A melody, Mohr requested, that he could play on his favorite instrument, the guitar.

Gruber sat down at his desk, took out his quill and manuscript paper, and composed a tune world-renowned for its beauty and simplicity.

Sleep in heavenly peace,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Gruber and Mohr performed the song together that night at the Midnight Mass.

Silent night, holy night

Shepherds quake at the sight

A few weeks later, a repairman came to fix Gruber’s organ. After he finished, Gruber sat at the bench and played the song he had composed. Touched, the repairman asked if he could take a copy with him. From there, it was picked up by traveling choirs who spread it into every German city. Eventually, the song made it all the way to the throne of the Prussian king, Wilhelm IV, who declared it his favorite carol.

Glories stream from heaven afar,

Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah!

Gruber continued working as an organist, composing several arrangements of Silent Night for organ and orchestra. He also wrote carols, many of which are still sung in Austria today. Josef Mohr, meanwhile, moved from town to town, frequently donating his salary to charity. Before he died, he even set up a fund enabling poor children to attend school.

Christ, the Savior, is born,

Christ, the Savior, in born!

I’ve always loved Silent Night, but I think I love it even more after learning the song’s history. While it’s impossible to know exactly what happened—some historians cast doubt on the idea that Gruber’s organ was damaged by mice. One thing is clear—Silent Night is a simple song, with a simple melody, composed under humble circumstances for the citizens of a small town to enjoy.

Given the song’s subject, this seems fitting.

I also love what it teaches about Christmas. When you get down to it, Christmas isn’t about all the bright lights and decorations. It’s not about presents or grand celebrations. It’s about something simpler, something quieter.

It’s about the warm feeling you get when surrounded by family and friends, contemplating the silent night that took place so long ago.

Silent night, holy night

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Tonight, I invite you to enjoy this song by candlelight. And if you’re inclined to stay up late, my parish, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, will welcome our new rector Jeff Jackson, his wife Molly and their four children as the newest members of our community. Midnight Mass begins at 11 p.m. and concludes with my favorite Christmas carol at midnight with, yes, Silent Night.

Until next week, I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas—and a peaceful, silent night of your own to enjoy.

 

Roughing it

December 31, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–December 17, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Abe Lincoln is not proud.

I was standing outside and watched a broken tree limb spark and flame on the power line in my front yard. While it fell to the ground, I said to myself—“Uh oh, this is not going to be good.”

For the next few minutes, one-by-one I heard the sounds of cracking pine tree limbs fall to the ground. Eventually, one hit a line and I heard the transformer blow.

The lights would not come back on for the next 48 hours.

When darkness filled the room, moans and groans permeated my household as the stove, the oven, the washer and dryer, dishwasher, hot water heater, refrigerator and freezer, heating system, phone chargers, Christmas tree lights, the internet and a million other things were lost.

We were not alone.

Thousands of households across west Georgia lost power in the largest local outage since Hurricane Opal in 1995. Linemen from Carroll EMC and Georgia Power once again were summoned as minute men to climb the poles and bring back the electricity.

Last weekend was the longest many people in our community have been without power in several years. I now have a greater sense of empathy for the millions who are struck with natural disasters and sometimes go months before any return to normalcy.

“This may be fun,” I said to my wife after the power went out.

“Really,” she replied. “You do realize we no longer have heat.”

“Oh yeah,” I answered. “Uh oh.”

Thankfully, we have gas logs in one fireplace and a wood burning fireplace in another. Between the two heat sources, the temperature was tolerable.

We moved our children’s mattresses in front of the fire and I added wood every couple of hours or so throughout the evening. Children call that “adventure sleeping.” I call it—“Mom and Dad are tired the next day.”

I owe those folks and ancestors who lived their entire lives without electricity and running water an apology. We could have easily have sacrificed and lived a rustic lifestyle for two days. Instead, when we needed coffee—we drove to Starbucks. When we were hungry, we ordered a Domino’s pizza.

In other words, life wasn’t as comfortable as it normally is—but it wasn’t really uncomfortable either.

Instead, the beautiful snowfall brought out the best in our neighborhood. Children took out their sleds and blasted down a nearby hill to resemble a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting. My wife and children played Monopoly at the kitchen table and even my 7-year old son put together a puzzle.

It’s times like snow storms and the loss of electricity that will never be forgotten. I only hope we don’t have a future ice storm, lose power and are incapable of driving on the roads.

It’s a long walk to Starbucks.

 

 

 

 

Achy breaky tooth

December 31, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–December 3, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Really, I’d rather have a root canal.

And last week I really did. A cliché became my path to relief from an aching tooth that made my Thanksgiving break less of a vacation and turned me into a whining grown-up who resembled a 2-year old to my wife and children.

If my tooth could have talked, it probably would have uttered the same thing Mr. T’s character Clubber Lang said when he talked to a reporter about his upcoming boxing match against Rocky Balboa in the movie “Rocky III.”

“What’s your prediction for the fight?” the interviewer asked.

“My prediction?” responded Clubber Lang. “PAIN!”

I don’t like pain. And I don’t like mean people, mean dogs, smells from a nail salon, Auburn fans, TV preachers, cheap coffee, potholes and rutabagas. But I can tolerate all of the above—well, everything except TV preachers and rutabagas.

Mae West said it best when she eloquently stated, “Love conquers all things except poverty and a tooth ache.”

Thankfully, the Monday after Turkey Day provided relief when an endodontist in Anniston fit me into his schedule. As I sat in the dental chair, I noticed he graduated from Notre Dame. People often make fun of my alma mater the University of Georgia, but we Bulldogs are highly educated whenever we’re around folks with needles, drills, hatchets, hoes and chisels.

I didn’t mention football (final score from 2017: UGA 20 Fighting Irish 19). Based on my outcome from this outstanding dental specialist, Touchdown Jesus would have been proud—and so would have Knute Rockne, Lou Holtz and Rudy.

On a serious note, my four-day tooth ache was fixed in less than two hours by modern medicine and maybe a touch of the Irish. I’m one of the lucky ones. Every day millions of people wake up in pain. We never know the hand we’ll be dealt. And once again, we can learn a lot from Rocky Balboa when the going gets tough.

“Let me tell you something you already know,” said Balboa. “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.

“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life,” Balboa continued. “But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

My tooth pain has been defeated and so has the tooth. It’s now “deader than a door nail.” And it took this Bulldog to give way to the skills of the Fighting Irish.

Yes, Rocky—that’s how winning is done!

All I want

December 31, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–November 26, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Thanksgiving’s over.

So fah lah-lah-lah, lah-lah-lah-lah—Christmas time’s a-comin’.

Now that Black Friday is behind us and Cyber Monday begins in less than 24 hours, Christmas shopping will consume so many lives as the mall parking lots fill up, and store cash registers collect the cash.

Wonder what Jesus would think about an afternoon walking the aisles at Walmart?

Every year I overhear someone say, “I don’t know what to get him?” Or, “I don’t know if she would like it?”

As for 2017, there’s no need to worry. The following are my Top 10 favorite gift ideas guaranteed to bring joy to the world:

Number 10—Wine. It’s Christmas. So why not buy Jesus’s favorite drink.

Number 9—Bicycle. The GreenBelt is now a complete circle and if you haven’t ridden the entire loop pedaling on two wheels, you’re missing one of the greatest adventures within our city limits.

Number 8—Safe Deposit Box at a local bank. Why not have all of your old photos (arguably one of your most valuable assets) digitally scanned, copied and stored somewhere safe in case your house ever burns down?

Number 7—Big Green Egg. It’s expensive, but it’s a lifetime grill you’ll never have to replace. I’m getting hungry just writing about it.

Number 6—Write a letter to an old friend or family member. Although we all welcome a new pair of socks, it’s kind words expressed in writing that will forever be cherished.

Number 5—Socks (navy and black).

Number 4—Last Will and Testament. I know it sounds morbid, but according to a 2016 Gallop Poll only 44 percent of Americans have left instructions for after they’re gone. I hate to tell the other 56 percent something the others know, but let me be direct. Sorry folks, we’re all gonna die, so get this done.

Number 3—Socks (tan and white).

Number 2—My book “Easy to Love: Southern Stories from the Heart” on sale at Underground Books, Turner Pharmacy and sometimes a few copies in the backseat of my car. It’s a cheap gift for all of your family members, co-workers and friends. I need to sell them so I can afford lunch at Big Chic for 2018.

Number 1—Give to those less fortunate than you. It’s Christmas folks. I think Jesus would approve.

Finally, give a bonus gift to yourself. Eat whatever you want.

New Year’s and its resolutions are still 35 days away.

 

Thanksgiving thoughts

November 23, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–November 19, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Granny Heard used to hit the wrestlers over the head with her purse.

It’s not a tall tale. I saw it with my own eyes on a cold Saturday night at the West Georgia Fairgrounds.

Mr. Wrestling #1 battled Gene Anderson, and the crowd was electric as it cheered for the masked man against one of the Anderson brothers from the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. The only thing missing in the crowd was Georgia Championship Wrestling announcer Gordon Sole.

Saturday nights in Carrollton, Georgia during the 1970s were good for three things: wrestling, or as some called it “wrasslin,” shopping at TG&Y at First Tuesday Mall and dining on stuffed shrimp at the old restaurant Danyel’s across from the drive-in movie on the Bremen Highway.

Even though I miss those times, I’m grateful for the evolution of our town as we near the end of 2017. And since this is the season to give thanks, once again (in the spirit of the late writer Furman Bisher) I’m grateful for more than professional wrestling, TG&Y, Danyel’s and Granny Heard’s old purse. I’m thankful for:

  • Lunch room ladies who never minded giving me an extra scoop of tater tot casserole when I smiled at them in the Carrollton High cafeteria.
  • Works of art, especially ones painted by children.
  • Local characters who’ve passed on from this ole world like Shorty who walked everywhere and always waved at cars. And O.C. who shook his hips and danced for anyone that answered his call to “give me a quarter.”
  • Legendary college football announcer Keith Jackson who grew up on Tyus Road and introduced the world to Carroll County lingo when he would shout “Whoa Nellie!” from the press box in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. I miss his voice. It’s time to rename the Roopville section of Highway 5 “The Keith Jackson Parkway” before he dies.
  • The late Carrollton Trojans coach Ben Scott when every year if his team made the playoffs he loved to call his mother and surprise her with the big news—“Hey mom. I won’t be coming home for Thanksgiving this year.”
  • Beans and “taters,” fresh “tomaters,” “taters”—and beans.
  • The Georgia/Auburn score from 2016 so I can forget the shellacking from two weeks ago.
  • Bill Gates who last week decided to give $100 million to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s.
  • Bubble gum.
  • Old pictures in a frame.
  • Old songs about rain.
  • Old people who allow me to call them by their first name.
  • My former students who taught me far more than I ever taught them.

This list could go on and on. Thank God I still have family and friends who remind me what true abundance is all about. Until then may you gobble a bunch of turkey and do the Hokey Pokey.

Yes. That’s what it’s all about.

Selah.

Ticket to ride

November 23, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–November 12, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

Maw Maw used to check my hair for ticks.
 
“Do you see any?” I would ask her as she stroked my hair so lightly it almost put me to sleep.
 
“No,” she answered while holding me in her arms. “I’m also checking your head for bed bugs.”
 
“I thought only girls get cooties,” I countered.
 
“Oh no—little boys like you in the second grade can get them too,” she said.
 
She began to hum an old tune from the Baptist hymnal while she continued to comb through every inch of my hair.
 
“Is it true a boy will catch cooties if he ever kisses a girl?” I asked.
 
“Oh sure,” she replied. “If you kiss the wrong one.”
 
“Well, I’m never going to kiss a girl,” I said.
 
She turned her head and then her lips started to quiver.
 
“Maw Maw, why are you laughing?” I asked.
 
Thankfully, she never had any success at finding any creatures creeping around on my scalp.
Recently, I heard some rumors that cooties are on the loose and it’s not just girls.
“You know we’re all walking targets,” my wife said. “I told the kids to not be wearing anyone’s ball caps, using someone’s comb or putting their heads on someone’s jacket.”
Within two minutes she explained it all. Head lice are tiny six-legged insects that cling to the scalp and neck and feed on human blood. Lice eggs are glued onto hairs and have a free ticket to ride near the scalp and are hard to see.
“Can those little creatures jump from head to head?” I asked her.
“No,” she answered. “Lice can’t jump or fly from one person to another, but children will be children. If they are around someone with lice, then there’s very little we can do.”
Later that evening I walked through my den and saw a precious sight. I’ve been lucky in my life and without a doubt I’ve been “blessed” as some folks call it. I’ve seen a gorgeous sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful sunset over the Pacific. I’ve seen the majestic Niagara Falls and watched the snow fall on top of the Rocky Mountains.
But there’s something special about watching a mother comb through a child’s hair protecting a child from the creatures that crawl in the day and in the night. That’s real love.
“Did you see any signs?” I asked my wife.
“No,” she replied. “Don’t say that. You probably just jinxed us.”
“I didn’t jinx us,” I replied. “I only want you to know if you ever get lice, I’ll still love you.”
And then I leaned closer to her, puckered my lips and did what I told Maw Maw I never would do.
I kissed a girl.
 
 

Five years

October 29, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–October 29, 2017

http://www.times-georgian.com

by Joe Garrett

 

He’s etched in my heart.

There’s a moment every October when the first little chill hits my face, I feel it dancing in the wind. My eyes water and grief has paralyzed me once again.

“Grief,” I whisper to myself and then I ask “Does it ever get easier?”

It doesn’t. It gets different.

  

Five years later and I’m still here. My son Will is not. For the first 43 years of my life, the last five days of October compacted a birthday celebration, good food and lots of fun.

Will died on my father’s 77th birthday less than an hour after we walked out of our house as my wife and our two youngest children sat in the kitchen floor smiling and filled with excitement while she carved our pumpkin. He would never see it become a jack-o’-lantern.

He would never return home again.

“Don’t cry because it’s over,” said Dr. Seuss. “Smile because it happened.”

I never knew I could love someone so much. And the joy he brought to our family in his short eight years knows no bounds. I miss him so much.

Life looks different now. Each member of my family will forever feel the effects from our loss. Death has changed us and has opened our eyes to know:

On and on the rain will fall

Like tears from a star

Like tears from a star

On and on the rain will say

How fragile we are

How fragile we are.

Those lyrics by Gordon Sumner have become reality as life can change in a millisecond.

For the last five years, I’ve cried thousands of teardrops. I’ve accepted the never-ending grief from losing a child. Most of all—I’ve found gratitude through the love of my friends, family and each of you who read this column each week.

Life is too hard if we don’t have each other.

As I type these words I’m sitting in a chair on a breezy October day staring at my son’s grave. It’s peaceful here (even as I wipe away more tears).

“You don’t know about lonely, and you don’t know about sadness,” sings the late Vern Gosdin. “Until it’s chiseled in stone.”

That’s the damn truth.

Every now and then I’ll meet someone for the first time. Somewhere in the conversation, I’ll be asked a question that stops me in my tracks—

“How many children do you have?” someone asks.

“Four,” I reply. “My wife and I have four boys.”

We always will.

 

%d bloggers like this: