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Category Archives: encouragement

Sometimes, The Words Work (pt. 1 of 2)

This emotions are still pretty raw for me, so I probably won’t get any “style points” for this post…but I think this may help someone one day, so I’m going to share it all with you…

It was march 24th, 2013 when the world smacked my family in the  face….and I was presented with some choices.

My brother Sidney died that day, and for a moment…well, quite a few moments, I started to doubt the meaning of everything….and for me, the world seemed just a bit  darker.

… leave it to my daughters to help me back to the light.

Now, first, I have to bring you up to speed on something.  Most of my writing here is about things that took place between me and my daughters years ago.  Some of the stuff  are things that they did when they were really young…Sometimes, like this one, they’ll be more recent.

I have always said that I might be a tad overprotective (okay, okay, so I’m a LOT overprotective) of my daughters, and so when Kiara (now 20) presented me with her request to attend the wake, I didn’t know how to respond.   o put it bluntly, I didn’t think she could handle it, so I was hesitant to let her go.  This was her very favorite uncle and he  had been her favorite from the first moment that they met.  Kiara is brash, excitable, WAAAAYYY melodramatic, and wears her heart on her sleeves just like him.  The two were kindred spirits, and it was obvious every time that they got together.  Thus, their nicknames for each other, “Old Man” and “Old Woman”.

So,  I told her that she shouldn’t go, that it would be too much for her, and that she should stay with my mother who couldn’t bear the thought of going through the pain of seeing her son in a casket twice.  I could hear in Kiara’s voice that that wasn’t what she wanted, but  she didn’t argue it much.

“Okay, Dad.”

Later, when I took a moment to think, I realized that she might NEED that time to release some of her pain.  I decided that it was wrong of me to deny her the opportunity to say goodbye to this man that played such a special role in her life.

I picked her up and we were on our way back to the funeral home.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I looked at her and said, “Kee, you don’t have to do this.  This is going to be one of the toughest things we’ve ever had to do.  I understand if you can’t do it.  If you want to change your mind now, that’s cool.  You can stay out here in the car for a while.  I can get someone to take you home in a little while, but I need to stay until it’s done.”

“I’m okay, Dad.  I want to go in.”  We did.  I took a seat at the back next to one of my aunts and let Kee find her own place in the room.

She  went in and took a seat near the middle of the room with some of her cousins.  Eventually, they worked their way to the casket.  I stood watch, guarding her silently from the back of the room; waiting for the slightest trigger that would send me running up to her to throw my arms around her and protect her from the pain of the moment.  It never came.  She surprised me.  She was  stronger than I ever hoped she would be.  I remember thinking at that moment, “She’s gonna be a strong lil’ woman one day.”,  and with that thought..I got a glimpse of that old light again.

An hour or so later, as things at the wake began to wind down, she looked at me and said, “Dad, if you speak at the funeral, make sure to make people laugh.  Don’t say anything to make them cry.”    Right then and there, I knew what I had to do….even if I didn’t know exactly HOW I would do it.

I’m not really a plan ahead sort of guy so, the next day, during the service, I started to scribble my thoughts on my copy of the program….

Photo 1

When the time came, I rose from my seat, and began to walk to the front of the church, where my big brother’s body rested.  As I walked, I  simply let the words start to climb out on their own.

“Praise the Lord Church.” I said; silently asking Him to give me the strength just to keep my voice steady.     I continued.  ” Now, I could lie to y’all and say that there was no snotting up of shirts, no tears, no bawling and no questioning of things…but I’d be lying to ya…I COULD lie, but I’m not going to.  The truth is that there was a lot of all of that going on over the last few days..but last night at EXACTLY 8:02,  God spoke to me and said “You are a warrior and a man of God, now act like you know what’s up….”  (God speaks to me simply, ‘cuz I’m a simple guy.)  So right then and there, I decided that I was going to stop honoring the death of my brother with my tears and start to honor  his life..”  I reached up to grab the pair of shades that I had on to hide my red eyes, and pulled  them off my face…”So, I don’t think I’ll need these anymore”,  I said…throwing them over at the feet of one of the musicians.

I went on to talk about how my brother’s three favorite things were family, friends and fishing.  I tied his love of family into a story about how he loved to play Scrabble EVERY single time we came to the house.  Even though he KNEW he had no chance against my superior arsenal (LOL) , he would always ask me to play.  For him, it wasn’t about the actual playing though…it was about the time SPENT playing.  All that was cool, but I had stopped playing with him about a year ago.  I felt I needed to share that with everyone, so  I called forth every bit of the eloquence  and grace of speech for which I am well known and delivered my explanation as to why I stopped.

“You know…I stopped playing Scrabble with him about a year ago.  You know WHY I stopped playing with him? ”  I paused to look around to see if I had their attention, cause it was time to try to get some laughs.  Raising my voice a bit, I continued.  ” Because he CHEATED!  That dude made up more words than Jesse Jackson at a political rally!”

(I heard some laughs….a lot of them…….Got ’em!!!!!)

I ranted and raved a bit more about everything about our heated discussions about which was the better branch of the military, the Air Force, or the Army, (The AIR FORCE,  of COURSE) to how I was better than him at fishing ( I wasn’t, btw  but that was another discussion that we always had.)

As I was speaking, I looked out across all the faces that had gathered in memory of my brother.  I actually saw more  smiles, than tears.  I looked over to my mother.  A couple of times, I saw a small smile on her face…not huge smiles, but there were smiles.   I had done exactly what I had set out to do.  I made people laugh and not cry.  Kiara showed me the importance of that.

I ended my talk with a salute to my brother.  I turned to his casket, popped a firm Air Force quality salute and said one last thing to him :  “At ease soldier…at ease.”  My  voice cracked just a little at the last word, but it had lasted just long enough.

Now, I COULD lie to ya’ll and say that I haven’t snotted up a few shirt sleeves, bawled til my eyes got red and wondered about God’s plans since the funeral, but I ain’t gonna lie to ya…I COULD…but I’m not going to.”  But at least now, I know what’s up.  

Thanks for allowing me to share this  with you guys.

(I’ll tell you about the strength I got from Tee in part 2)

 

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Sometimes, The Words Ring Hollow (For my brother)

(This post is therapy for me)

Even though it was many, many years ago, I still remember the words as clearly as if I had just heard them yesterday.

“God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” , he said.

Deacon Harris’  words drifted up to me from the small makeshift bed in the back of the van as I drove.   You could feel the pain that mated  with his speech as each word, slowly, purposefully tumbled over his teeth; eventually breaking the forced, awkward “non monotony”  of the sounds of Sade songs wafting from the cd player.  The music was ill placed, but it helped me to ignore the obvious fact that here was a dying man lying behind me.

His words refused to let me wallow in the self imposed sanctuary of my  denial.    He said it again, but this time he used my name to get my attention.

“Ty, did you hear me?  I believe that God heals you in one of two ways, he takes the pain away from you, or he takes you away from the pain but you know, either  way it goes, he makes the pain stop.”

I nodded my head, and said, “yeah” over my shoulder; too scared to look back at him.  I didn’t want the question to go into the territory of what I believed  because at the time, his words rung a bit hollow to me.   I couldn’t see past his impending death, and I questioned how a man in that had been in that much pain for so long, could be talking about healing.  Nothing had worked so far….Death was just……death.  No HEALING.

“Good.” he said.  “That’s important.”

So, with that, we plodded on.  I took great care to avoid as many bumps as possible, lest the sound of moans and grunts from behind me remind me of the frailness of my cargo.  Sade continued to be our riding partner.

Across the years since, I would often wonder  why he decided to say this to me twice on that ride.   Maybe he knew that he wasn’t going to be around much longer and wanted to make sure that I understood that he thought he’d be in a better place.  Maybe he just said it to make himself feel better, or maybe he felt that I would need to be equipped with this knowledge to help me down the road.

Fast forward to Sunday, March 24, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

My cell phone rings.  I answer.   The voice was  Dale’s.

Within it, I felt something that I had  never felt in that voice before.  There was a  seriousness that leaped over miles and miles of cell phone signal to grab me by the shoulders and shake the remnants of the night’s sleep away.

“Tyrone…What are you doing?” This strange/familiar/strong/weak/ brave/scared  voice said.

“Nothing much, man.  Just watching some t.v.  Everything cool?”  I knew things weren’t.  It was too early for  things to be “cool”

“Mama just called me.” He said.   “She said that Foot is might not make it.”

There was that shaking coming across the lines again.

Foot is my brother.  Well, his name is actually Sidney, but  for some reason, the name Foot was given to him and I guess he never disputed it enough,  so it stuck.  Foot had been battling some serious diseases for the last few years.  Over a year ago, the doctor had given him 6 months to live.  On Sunday, we were at over 14 months since that proclamation.  It hasn’t been all smooth sailing since though.  Between then and now, there had been many  ambulance pickups, e.r. visits,  long hospital stays and even doctors telling us that we needed to go ahead and call all of the family to town.  Each time, Foot would bounce back, like some kind of bad penny that just kept turning up.  I remember, the last time the doctors told us he might not make it back home, we were all gathered in his hospital room.  He was talking with us; joking like he always did, when he looks around in sudden realization and says,  ” Hey….All of ya’ll are here???  Is something’  happenin’  that ya’ll ain’t tellin’ me ’bout?!?!”  He went home a few days later;  Foot, the bad penny.

The voice on the other end continued to talk.  “I’m on my way down there now.  The rescue squad people are  there working on him, but Mama says it don’t look good.”

(Come on bad penny!…….come on bad penny!)

“Call Daphne and let her know, but don’t call the house, Mama is pretty tore up.  If you have to call, call Bobby.  He’s over there.” he said.  Daphne is Foot’s daughter.

“Ok, Dale.  I’ll make a few calls and I’m on my way down.  Don’t worry, dude…Everything will be cool.  I’m on my way in a few minutes.”

I hung up the phone. Sharon was the first call.  She had literally just pulled out of the driveway on her way to church, so she was back in the house in no time.  I told her about the conversation and she said that she would call Daphne for me so that I could get ready to get on the road.   So, I went upstairs to get ready.

I called Bobby.  He said that he got there about the same time as the paramedics did.  Despite my hopes that his interpretation of events would be different from Dale’s, they weren’t.  Things were not good.

He said that they had been working on Foot for over 30 minutes.  Nothing was working.  They had tried everything and they continued to try.  Then he said something that really brought things home to me.

“I want to tell them to stop trying; that it’s not going to work…..but I can’t tell them that.”

Bobby, the strongest one of ALL of us in my opinion, said it wasn’t going to work…..The shaking that came across the lines was worse this time.  It shook me with the force of a full fledged gorilla.

(COME ON…BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  COME ON BAD PENNY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  JUST FREAKIN’ COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I got dressed, packed up the car, and Sharon and I started on our way.  The plan was to pick up Daphne and the girls and head down.

8:21 a.m

Bobby calls again..  “Man…..they just pronounced him dead…..”

It felt like the hand of God reached down and pulled every bone from my body,  squeezed my lungs until I couldn’t breathe and forced tears out until they  burned in my eyes.  I forced myself to finish the drive to Daphne’s house….all the while steeling myself up for the next phase.

I got out of the car, and walked to Daphne’s door. I knocked.  Out poured her and my two little nieces; bags of books and toys in hand.  We got the little ones settled into their spots in the back seat and put Daph’s bags in the trunk.

It’s kind of a blur, and I can’t remember who  told Daphne, but I do remember looking into the back seat and seeing her shoulders heave up and down.  I suppose, that God used his other hand to do the same things to Daph that he did to me.  Her pain spread across the back seat like wildfire and soon the little ones were crying too.  I decided it would be best to go inside and talk, so we got out of the car and went inside.

The four of them all sat, huddled together on the couch, with their shoulders rising and lowering with their sobs and  with their tears watering their shirts.  Our family had never been so closely touched by death before, so I let them deal with it on their own terms for a while.  Then, I knelt in front of them. with my mind overflowing with thoughts and stories and analogies and various witticisms and none of them seemed like they would work.  I decided to just start talking and let whatever would come out…just come out….And that’s EXACTLY what happened.

“Girls…..you know, God heals people  in one of two ways, Sometimes, he takes the pain away from them, sometimes he takes them  away from the pain.  Either way it goes, he makes the pain stop.” .

I smiled a bit on the inside. There was my answer as to why I was told that so many years ago!     God used Deacon Harris to plant something in me that I would use to console my family during my own brothers death.  Oh God, my God…..infinite in all your wisdom.

I used that analogy and others over the last few days each time bringing a small piece of understanding to those I share them with.  Heads would nod in approval.  Eyes would be wiped with understanding.  Now, I I wish I could say that I’m so strong that I don’t need them for myself, but that’s not the case.  Each time I get the chance to say it, I draw a little bit of strength for myself and I’m able to hold on just a bit longer.  I realize that I (and my whole family) will be tested over the next few days, but I take strength in knowing that God set some wheels into motion oh so many years ago….We’ll be just fine.  

Rest in peace, Sidney (Foot) Davis  Sutton.  I miss you, Big brother.

 

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