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DECEMBER 29, 2004


Column

By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
December 29, 2004

We start from here
It is December 29, 2004. Let us begin.
This may start out gloomy and morbid. It won’t stay that way. It will wind up optimistic and upbeat, and will help us face the New Year with hope and happiness. This is my wish for all of God’s children.
Some of you lost a wife this year. Or a husband.
And yes, a mother or a father, too. Maybe both.
Perish the thought, some of you lost a child, and you are wrestling with that age-old question: WHY? Doesn’t God know that the child is supposed to outlive the parent? How can this be?
Perhaps you were involved in an accident that took the life of a family member, a friend, or someone you didn’t even know. Why, Lord?
Some of you moved in this old year that is winding down. To assisted living? To the nursing home?
Some of you aren’t there yet, but you are on your way. There were more visits to the doctor this year, and the news was not always good. The pill quota increased from two to three, then five to six, then past what Medicare is paying for.
Some of you are alone — and lonely.
Some of you flunked out of college.
Some of you ran for political office — and lost.
Some of you ran for political office — and won.
* * *
Enough already! It is time to begin turning this gloom and doom around.
But first, a bit of advice. When someone tells you they know just how you feel, don’t be ugly, but don’t believe them. Perfect empathy is impossible. Nobody knows how you feel.
And in my opinion, it doesn’t help a lot when someone tells you your deceased loved one is in a better place. His or her place was in your arms, your home and your family, and he or she is not there anymore, and you hurt like nobody in the world has hurt before or since. However many steps there are in your grieving and healing process, it is your process and you’ve got to take the steps pretty much alone.
Of course there is help, and I hope nothing I have said so far indicates that I don’t appreciate that. Family, friends, ministers, teachers, strangers and, whether you are aware of it or not, an unseen Comforter, are there for you. And for me, that’s what counts the most. They are just there. They don’t need to say anything.
None of the sad things I mentioned above happened to me this year, but I have experienced a few of them in my lifetime. My dad, a heavy smoker most of his life, died of emphysema in 1979. My second son, the genius in the family, committed suicide in 1981. My mother passed away in 1992, one week shy of 97 — of old age, I guess. My dear wife, Mary, died of colon cancer in 1996. Just last year my wonderful second mother-in-law, Mamie Batson, was killed in an automobile accident that was my fault.
PaPa, a grandfather I dearly loved, died of a heart attack sitting on a wooden stool in the crib section of the barn, his fingers clutched around a half-shucked ear of corn. That was in 1939, and I was 13 years old. I don’t think I grieve anymore, but I remember.
My more recent losses? They are different. A twinge of grief washes over me occasionally at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. I started to say you know how I feel, but you don’t. My feelings are mine alone.
At unexpected times and in unexpected ways I feel terrible. But not as terrible as I did 20, 15, 10, or even 5 five years ago. I certainly don’t feel as terrible as I did that last Saturday in April 1981, when Neal died. And grief has waned somewhat since Mary died on May 19, 1996. Mamie was killed on July 16, 2003, and I still grieve for her, but not nearly as much as I did the day she died.
I look at the callus in the palm of my right hand and remember when it was an open wound bleeding profusely and hurting badly. But over time the wound healed and became a scar. More time passed and the scar became the callus that I rub and feel with the fingers of my left hand. The wound happened many years ago, and the callus has been there a long time. I don’t think it will ever go away, but it doesn’t hurt so much anymore. I am thankful for that.
It is amazing (a miracle?) how generations beget generations. One passes away. Another arrives on the scene. The young follow the old, and life goes on.
True, the natural order of things is sometimes interrupted, and the parent outlives the child, and we wonder why.
I feel for the parent who has no other child. It is well and good when there are others to offer encouragement, inspiration and love. I had — and have — an abundance of all three in three kids and in yet another generation that includes five grandkids.
I remember telling Miles, “Yeah, I know, you want me to marry that young woman so she will take care of me and you won’t have to be bothered.” My kids have wanted nothing but happiness for me. They didn’t want me to be alone and lonely.
If you are alone and lonely, there may or may not be a second marriage in your future. If there is, I pray that your children will encourage and support it. To fight it is one of the worst cruelties a child can bestow on his or her single parent.
When Lem Clark asked who gives this couple in marriage, my daughter and two sons, and my soon-to-be beautiful stepdaughter answered in unison, “We do.”
I miss Mary and Shirley misses Rayford, and we talk about them often. Shirley is no substitute for Mary, and I am no substitute for Rayford, but some Power greater than ourselves put us together, not to forget the past, but to face the future with hope and happiness.
The gloom and doom at the beginning of this epistle were real. They happened. To pretend that they didn’t is an exercise in futility and a denial of reality. But they are in the past. It is all right to remember them. It is also all right to enjoy the present and look to the future with hope.
It was Shirley who showed me the following wisdom. She gave it to me when it looked like our marriage would never happen. I pass it on now as my wish to you and yours for the New Year and beyond.
“You can’t go back and make a brand new start, but you can start from here and make a brand new end.”
Virgil Adams is former editor and owner of The Jackson Herald.

Jackson County Opinion Index

Column

By: Susan Harper
The Commerce News
December 29, 2004

A Disorganized Christmas
At church this past Sunday, someone was telling my brother that she had never even gotten her decorations up this year. “You’re not alone,” he told her, and he had the decency not to glance at me, so I think she figured he was the one with the cheerless decor, and she gave him that forgiving look men so often get when they confess to domestic shortcomings.
I hope women also come in for forgiveness, because back at his house there was a Christmas tree, beautifully decorated, I’m sure (my brother’s an artist), whereas my holiday decor consisted of two poinsettia plants and a couple of green and red placemats.
Now I’ve been late with my decorating before, and some of you know that I’m inclined to do an “air tree” instead of a Christmas tree, but I’ve never just done nothing. I finally got up into the attic on Christmas Day in the afternoon, when everyone else was crashed (a.k.a. napping), and got down a wreath for the front door. “There,’ I thought, hanging it up. “I’m ready for the holidays.” Too bad they were nearly over.
Christmas just ambushed me this year. I could see it coming a long way off, and I felt as if I was running toward it as fast as I could, but ... I don’t know. I got the Christmas card envelopes addressed, and the holiday stamps bought, but they never got together and went out in the mail, somehow. (One woman told me, “Oh, I always get the kind that say ‘Seasons Greetings’ so I can mail them out at New Year’s, or Valentine’s Day.” Or Easter, I thought, in my case.)
I felt all of this most keenly on Christmas Eve, when my dad and I went to pick up my brother, who had flown in from Raleigh. He had said he’d take MARTA, to save us from the long drive to the airport, and I had agreed to meet him at the Doraville station. Duh. I’d never been to the Doraville Marta station, and neither had he. It turns out to be HUGE, and it has no shelter from the freezing cold and brisk winds. We couldn’t find each other. He didn’t have a cellphone with him, so we didn’t even know for sure that his plane had arrived. Dad and I kept running into the elevator to stay warm, and I kept saying, sometimes out loud but mostly to myself, “What was I thinking?”
And yet ... we did find each other; we had a noisy and joyous and freezing reunion, and the Marta police – who surely all had hypothermia — laughed and wished us Merry Christmas, and we got home to dinner without having a flat tire or other disaster (well, okay, I did get on I-285 going the wrong way, but we got straightened around), and as the woman in church said, sometimes when you don’t get around to all the lights and bells and whistles of Christmas, you do have a larger than usual space in which to feel the meaning of the season. Amen.
Susan Harper is director of the Commerce Public Library.


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