Thanksgiving an Annual Celebration

One of the lessons I learned when I was in the army and ended up in a foreign country that the holidays and celebrations were not the same. This might be obvious, but for one who is nineteen, at the time it is something one  wouldn’t think about. I know that Thanksgiving is one such celebration. I know that it is celebrated here in the US, and as well in Canada. Even though the two countries do not celebrate at the same time.

For us the tradition goes back to before this country became the nation of today. How much of what originally happened still remains fact or became myth is an unknown. Still it is a time to give thanks for what has happened in the year preceding the holiday, which is observed on the fourth Thursday of November. Being after the time of harvesting of the crops and to be thankful for the bountiful harvest. Many times one of the decorations is the horn of plenty.

Still it is a time of family, and a time of friends. Obviously it is also a celebration of food. Where the table is overloaded with choices, and the deserts fantastic. It isn’t unusual to be in a food coma once the meal is finished. With winter just around the corner, the warmth of companionship, home, and with friends and family around us makes it something special.

For us who have grown up around this celebration we have memories of being at the kids’ table and looking over longingly at the adult table wondering if we would ever get the chance to graduate to that table. And when it did finally happen we would look back at the ones still at this other table and know that they would be envious of our promotion. Still we would find that it truly was fun being at that other table, but wouldn’t dare admit it to anyone but ourselves.

Of course what we didn’t or don’t realize, when we are children, is the fact that there’s that separation, those at least two tables because there’s no room at the adult table to add us. Most homes aren’t built with the space for all to sit all around a long table, and it’s normally much too cold to go outside. Besides, if we want to be honest, being around a table with our cousins is fun. Unless their families are close it’s one of the few times during the year that we get to interact with them. And these encounters do have a tendency to strengthen family ties.

Of course there are other traditions that come out of these gatherings. For example there’s college football on the TV most of the day for the sports fans. And for others movies or just getting together to be brought up to date on what’s been happening. For others they forgo the whole tradition and head out for the recreation the outdoors can provide. Such things as skiing, or heading to the desert and riding the sand dunes, or whatever happens to be their passion. By adding Friday to their time off they have a four day weekend.

However one celebrates it is these holidays and traditions that tie us together as a people, nation, and country. It is the time of year that we look forward to, (at least here in the US). And for each of us out here in the world we have our own traditions and holidays that make us, well, us. So for all of you out there who is reading this post, may your time and traditions be one of joy and nostalgia as they tie us to our past, to our future, and to our families. Because, in the end, family is the most important of all.

Next month, on Christmas Day, I’ll be posting my annual Christmas short story. God Bless! (https://fdbrant.godaddysites.com/)

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Published in: on November 22, 2018 at 6:28 am  Leave a Comment  
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Last Quarter, and Discussing Short Stories Too

Well, here we are entering the last quarter of 2018. It really seems like a short time ago 2017 ended and we had just entered 2018. Yet, here we are. For me days, weeks, months, and yes even years move along much too fast. I believe this may be the result of living for sixty nine years. When we are young, and here I’m referring to when we are five or six – about the time when we can remember some of our past – time seems to drag, and the years seem to be really long.

I believe that’s because of the ratio of the number of days to the number of years we’ve been around. Comparing that to now it seems that my days heading into the past go on forever. Even though that’s not true. Those days are as finite as I am. Those days (25,185, at the time I write this) do say that I’ve lived most of my time given to me. Fortunately I do come from a long lived family so my chances are good that I should live into my nineties. In fact my mother is ninety-three and still sharp as a tack as they say.

Still we are winding down this year and soon it will be placed in the books as all the years before this one. And being that it is this time of year it means that I’ve begun to work on this year’s Christmas short story. I’ve found in the last couple of years that coming up with one hasn’t been easy. In fact until recently I didn’t have a clue as to what I’d write about. Fortunately something did come along and I’m well into the first draft. And no, I haven’t finished the story as of yet., but will soon. Truthfully I have to, as it will need to be revised and edited a number of times before it will actually become more than words on the page and be ready for prime time. And yes it will be different from the others I presented over time here on this blog, and in the book of short stories, Words in the Wind.

For any who are still with me, you now know that I’ve dropped my posts down to once a month instead of weekly. Still a number of you are recent followers and there is a lot of material in the archives. This blog came into existence in 2011, and while that seems like yesterday  to me, it’s quite a few years ago. And as both this blog and I age the frequency of posts will reflect that fact. This year I had thought of possibly writing another Halloween short story, but unless some inspiration strikes me, most likely it will not happen. Here in the USA it the time, at the end of October, for Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving on the third Thursday in the month of November, and we end the year with Christmas. Then suddenly one week later we begin another year.

For me it’s hard to believe that we are down to the last three months of the year with fall here and winter coming on strong. And in the area where I live that means lots of gray, cold days and nights with lots of rain. Cabin fever would be something easy to catch when it’s just too miserable to go outside. In fact, as I write this, it’s raining now. Still it’s a time for writing, and I still have two novels to complete. I’m happy where I am as I surpassed my original goal of eight novels, and then reached my next goal of ten with the recent release of “Words in the Wind, a book of short stories”.

We are entering the time of year where family becomes more important, as well as our friends. Nostalgia is also strong as our own memories flow back to our own past and of growing up. Enjoy the romanticism of these memories for we all have a tendency to remember the good times, and leave those bad times behind knowing that, many times, we do learn from them. God Bless! (https://fdbrant.godaddysites.com/)

 

A Christmas Day Wish

God Bless all! It is the time of family, of remembrances, of watching the magic in the eyes of children as they anticipate Christmas morning. It is the traditional time to celebrate the birth of Christ and all that this event represents. It is the reason for the gift giving, for all the traditions that have developed over time, from Christmas trees, to St Nick. And the gift giving is also a representation of the Gift God gave to us that first Christmas.

May this time of year be one of love, joy, and peace. And may the new year, which is only a week away, be one of promise. Again, God Bless! And I’ll close this with a link to a Christmas song from the Piano Guys. F. D. Brant (https://fdbrant.godaddysites.com/)

 

Thanksgiving 2017

Consider this a bonus since it’s Thursday, late in November. Most likely most of us here in the USA are gathering with family and friends, and for others heading out for a long weekend away from that daily grind. It is a time to give thanks for what we have, and to appreciate our families and personal relationships.

We normally feel the warmth of the home where we are celebrating, and the smells that will be filling the rooms bring smiles of past times. Maybe the time when you personally sat at the “kids” table and looked longingly at the “adult” table and wondered when you’d be able to sit there yourself.

I’ve been writing this blog for seven years and in that time only wrote one short story for Thanksgiving. So I decided this year to link back to it. So if you have a spare moment and want to escape into a fictional world, seeing this time of year through another’s eyes then follow this link back and enjoy! https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/returning-home/

To you and yours may it be a great day, and God Bless!

A Celebration of Life

At the beginning of February we joined family and friends in the celebration of life for one who has passed away. It is during such celebrations that one learns, from the many who knew them, who and what this person represented to each individually, and how many lives she touched. (And one thing that became clear is that she really loved people.) For us as we go through our lives this is something we really don’t think much about. Here I mean the influences we may have left on individuals be it positive or negative. And here in such a setting we begin to see just who the one who passed away was and the many she did touch. If we think about it we play many roles during our lives. First off it is as a child having to deal with our parents and siblings – let alone that bully down the street. Then from that time on these roles grow to cover the many different aspects that is us. And many times at such ceremonies we learn about a different side or aspect of the one who has moved on that we were never aware of, and can be surprised by what is revealed. It is important to remember that for most of us those influences we leave behind are generally unknown to us, and sometimes these influences are seen from afar leaving us with no idea that we’ve left this legacy behind.

I believe that a little background is necessary, especially from one who came into this family from the outside. In other words I married into this family, as my wife married into mine. Still with her family, whenever family gatherings were held it would be at her brother’s home. And his wife Pam would be gracious, always smiling as the hoards would descend upon her home and chaos would reign supreme. So it became a tradition, and they had a pool, so the children loved to go there since they could swim to their heart’s content. Pam would interact with all of us, with that infectious smile of hers, and she always seemed to have a good word for any and all who would invade her home – in a good way of course. So we would always have fond memories of our time spent there.

What is it that makes a person this way? In many ways to find the answer is beyond me. If we had more like this woman, then there would be less strife, less commotion, less ill feelings, probably less demands, and maybe in the end a better world because of it. She, like the untold millions, will never be remembered beyond her family and friends, leaves a legacy that will be hard to follow or to live up to. No she’s not an angel or is she a perfect individual. Still what she had would give any of us a lofty goal to attain.

While this isn’t true of all men, most of us want to protect our women, and strive to do so. If we honestly think about it, because of the demands of the modern world, this protection is more of an illusion than fact. Because it requires both individuals in a relationship to work, it means a good portion of any day we are separated from our mates and then they are beyond that protection we want to provide. Still as the years pass by us, much too fast to be honest, we reach a point in our lives that we know that one of us will pass on before the other.

And if anything, the statistics show that it is the fact that women generally outlive men. So we, as men, try to make sure that if we are the first to pass on we leave our spouses in such a way that they won’t have to depend on others to make it through the day-to-day routine, and much of what is required will be taken care of and provided. And because her husband Dan, my brother-in-law, had almost died from the very same cancer years earlier, he felt – no, he knew he’d pass before she did. Only to learn, after doing everything necessary to make her time alone after he passed on, easy, it was not to be. It was discovered that she had a GBM, and it was already stage four. And two months later it took her life.

What can one say? What can one do? When all you have planned for, with the reality that you face knowing that it is you who will leave first only to learn you are completely wrong. Now it is he who is sitting in that lonely home after more than half a century of being together. How does one reconcile such a loss? At least for Dan, he has a loving family, and a rather large group of friends, who will continue to check in on him and assist him in his needs. And at times his home will be filled with the joy and laughter of his grandchildren – a blessing in itself. Yet on the other side of all of this will be the times when he will be alone, which are the toughest of all.

You see, when he learned of his cancer, none of his sons were married and if things held true he would not live to see any of his future grandchildren. And then within ten months all three were married, and as is the norm each added to the extended family, and he was able to enjoy those grandchildren. He was given the gift of seeing the future of his family, and the daughters-in-laws who joined his loving family. Since the cancer he has usually means that within two months he would succumb to the disease, in truth it is a miracle he’s still with us. In fact during the time of discovering the GBM he “flat-lined”. Yet here he is over six years later. Yes, all of us know that in the end it will take him for it is the nature of a GBM. It can only be suppressed and will return to finish what it started. There is no cure.

This leads one to think about the home they were living in as a loving couple and a family for all those wonderful years together. Any of us can relate to the fact that when we enter into someone’s home we can immediately sense the influences of the ones living there. Some homes invite you in making you immediately comfortable, and others leave you with the impression that the sooner one can leave the better. Theirs definitely is the former.

In the past I wrote a post dealing with a home, and how it goes through stages until sometime in its future it is replaced with something else. I looked at this from the point of view that when someone lives in that home it becomes a personal representation of them. And when you come to visit their history is there for you to see. And you know the warmth, the friendliness, and the love that is there. And I can say it is definitely here in their home. Still, sometime in the near future it will become empty as his time comes to an end as all of ours will someday.

Then, as family descends upon that home, with so many good and happy memories, slowly, as it is emptied of those keepsakes from the past, it will transform from a home to just a house, becoming vacant with nothing to remind any of all that has happened within its walls. Nothing to talk to any of the love, and joy that was there. No history of the past. At this point it becomes a blank slate waiting for a new family, and new memories to created. We all know it as the circle of life.

So what can really be said here other than the fact that we will see this happening right here in their loving home. When we are in the present, and we all live in the present, even with our ability to remember our past and attempt to see our future, this is something that is furthest from our minds. We love the time together as a loving couple, as a family and with friends. And at those special times we let the future become what it may. And then suddenly that future is the reality we are facing, and you see your loved one pass on ahead of you. And in most cases it is much too soon. Yet, in the end, all of us are only given so much time here. And the lesson we should take away from all of this is the fact that the most precious commodity we have, and we seem to do a great job of wasting it, is time. From what little I knew of her, Pam, like the rest of us, probably did waste a lot of time, but in the end before her time ended, she saw her children grow into responsible loving adults, and she absolutely loved her extended family and the growing family filling her home with the laughter of her grandchildren. And from her interaction, with that infectious smile, she held every one of these young lives in her loving arms. What will those same grandchildren’s memories of her be, well only they can say. Still from the images left for the future generations I’m sure it will be fond loving memories of their grandmother.

In this we cannot forget the adding of three women to the family, which had to be a nice addition for Pam since she had been surrounded by four males making her the minority. So to finally balance it out had to be wonderful for her. To have other women who became family must have filled her heart with joy. And for her the transition seemed effortless. Still, from what I can determine even towards the end you could see the love she had for her family.

And in the end we, in our time, will follow a similar path leaving memories of us with our family and friends. I guess the obvious question here is this: What will those memories of any of us be when it is our time? It is said that we die twice. The first time is our physical passing, and the second is when all who knew and loved us have joined us. At that point there is no one to remember or to know who we were. May it be for Pam, and Dan – when his time comes – that this second one will be a long time in the future. They truly deserve these loving memories. God Bless!

Published in: on March 25, 2017 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Ornament

Again I’m announcing the release of the novel, The Harsh Lands – The Complete Survival Trilogy. Available as either a paperback (ISBN: 978-1-946179-00-5) or an EBook for the Kindle (ASIN: B01N69YCCW).

It is Christmas Eve day, and I am opening this post with two links. This first link is for a simple Christmas wish and a link to a YouTube video which represents the season, and one that I personally believe does a wonderful job.  https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2014/12/25/a-christmas-wish/

This second link refers back to the Christmas short story I wrote for 2014. And if this is the first time to this blog I need to warn you that these look more in the direction of the way others might experience this time of year. After all, not everybody is as blessed as we. So this story and the links I’ve provided to my past Christmas short stories all reflect this other side. Think of a recently released Disney animated short titled, The Match Girl, (And this short story that’s linked here is actually my personal favorite).

https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/and-it-came-to-pass/

This year my Christmas story is a bit different. Actually the subject was suggested by my wife, and I thought it was a great idea. Still if I was to go back many years to the small church we were members of, (long before I met my wife) for one Christmas we, (my family and I) wrote a play that would be presented to the congregation. The simple premise of the play had to deal with the idea of, What if someone never heard of Christmas, and why it is important. Now I could go into how we did this, but that’s unimportant. Because if we think about it, with the way the world presently is, the Christmas story would be known to most. And let’s just say that the play was well received and enjoyed. And before you ask, no we have no copies as they were lost along with everything to the wildfires of 2003.

So when I began this story it has much of the same ideas and direction. Now if we want to be honest, we have a tendency to attach personalities to inanimate objects all the time. And even, at times, have imaginary conversations with these things. So with the above thoughts, and our tendencies, I decided to write this from the perspective of an ornament. And through the eyes of this inanimate object we become privy to one family, and learn the true meaning of Christmas. And with this introduction, I present this year’s Christmas story, The Ornament:

She came running up to the display where I sat. And I could see the sparkle in her eyes, and a soul full of merriment and excitement for the time of year. She can’t be more than five, I thought, and probably a bit younger. In the distance I could see the one who had to be her father coming to collect her. It became obvious to me that somehow in the hustle and bustle that she had escaped his watchful eye. In the distance I could see the one who must have been her mother as she stayed with the shopping cart. In that cart sat an infant, plus one more that had to between this one standing before me and that baby in age.

If I could smile, I probably would have. But, I am of glass, made to look like a shining silver star with a slight gold tint. Like the one that could have been the one announcing the arrival of another child over two thousand years ago. With the bright lights I shown brightly, reflecting that light from the many facets that is a part of me . . . Just the thing to catch a child’s eyes, but much too delicate for them to handle. I heard him, the one who had to be her father, say, “Come on honey, mama’s waiting for the two of us and we still have much to do. Plus, you know, if we have time, we need to go over and see your grandmother today.”

She answered excitedly, “But daddy . . . look! Isn’t it pretty?”

He took a quick look that said to me that he really hadn’t, and nodded to her. “Yes, yes it is. Now please come back. There are lots of strangers in the store, and it would be easy for you to get lost.” With that he grabbed her hand and pulled her gently in the direction where the rest of the family awaited.

I could see that she resisted, reluctant to leave, but it was also obvious that she really wouldn’t disobey and with her head down, said quietly, “Yes daddy.” She quickly looked up at him and back at the display where I was and she said with hope, “Can we get one of the stars? Please?”

I could tell from his reaction that this wasn’t the first thing she had asked for in the shopping center, and it was also obvious that with the crowds that his nerves were on edge. He simply said, “Look, as I said, we have a lot more to do here today. And if we still have time, and you’re not tired, we can come back, okay?”

She stopped for a moment, and then looked back to me with a big smile and said, “We will be back, and then I can take you home with me and put you on our Christmas tree.”

I thought that it would be something which wouldn’t happen. With so many bright and shiny things to draw the attention of one so young, she would forget and it would simply be a brief memory for me . . . but I was wrong. Don’t get me wrong, with as many who had looked and with the crowds there was a great possibility that some other person or child would pick me and I’d become part of their personal family and history. Yet, as the day moved on, and many of my brothers were chosen, I remained. Why, who knows, I surely didn’t. Still it must have been providence, or whatever word you like, for me to remain.

With the time of year all the stores remained open late, but even so eventually they would close down for the day. After all, the ones who worked here had families of their own, and they deserved to return to them at the day’s end. It was close to closing, and the crowds in the stores had thinned when suddenly in the distance I saw them. To be surprised was an understatement. I could see the weariness in the parents. I mean think about it. Running all day through the many stores with young children who would become overly tired and cranky as it is called, besides all the crowds. Well, I’d give it to them. I really felt they’d have gone home a long time ago, probably stopping off and picking up something to eat so nothing had to be prepared once they got home. And I honestly suspect the children – all three of them – would be fast asleep from that ride home.

With that big smile on her face she pulled a reluctant father back over to the display where I remained. I could see by his reaction that he was surprised that I was still here, and I suspect that he had promised his daughter that if I was still available that yes, they would buy it for her. So with care he lifted her up and she carefully picked me up and gently carried me back to their shopping cart where I became part of the many items. I guess I was to be a part of this family and only this family and thusly why I hadn’t been picked earlier in this day. As we wheeled out into the parking lot I could feel the fresh cold air as all the numerous bags of treasure were placed into the trunk of their car. But, she wanted to hold me and so her father carefully dug me out and had her sit in the car, followed by safely being strapped in before he handed me to her.

I looked up and saw the excitement in her eyes, but she yawned so I suspected she’d be asleep soon. Still before we really got on the road to where they lived they pulled into a drive-thru and ordered their dinner. She carefully placed me on the seat between her and the baby. She quietly admonished the baby to “not touch”, and happily grabbed the burger, fries, and drink, and began to eat them telling me all about her day. And as we headed down the road I could see that she was trying hard to stay awake. But the food, the excitement of the day, plus the quiet droning of the car was winning, and as hard as she tried, she lost the battle and soon was sound asleep as were her siblings. I saw the mother look back and smile a loving smile and say something to her husband, where he whispered something back. And by the lateness of the hour I felt they would be heading home instead of going over “to grandmother”.

I really couldn’t see out from where I sat but I could see that the side windows were frosted telling me it wasn’t warm and soon I heard a change as we pulled off the interstate and onto the side roads. I could hear the windshield wipers rhythmically slapping the car as they cycled trying to keep the windshield clean and clear. Eventually the car slowed even more and then pulled into a driveway where it stopped. They left the car running with the heater on and one of the parents left and I guess unlocked their door to the home where they lived. Then one by one they took the children inside. Yet before they could take the little girl she awakened slightly reached down and picked me up hugging me to her breast and then her father carried her inside with the mother locking up the car and following behind.

They took her to her room, got her into her night clothes – you know those pajamas with the footsies – had her take care of the bathroom routine and tucked her in her bed. Looking up she reached out and hugged her father saying, “I love you daddy.” For which he smiled a tired smile saying, “And I love you too sweetheart.” At this point he handed me to her since it was obvious she wasn’t going to let me go. At this point she snuggled down deeper under her covers, sighed a contented sigh, and was almost instantly asleep. I could see from where I was that he smiled a loving smile, making sure she was tucked in, and quietly left the room, turning out the light and closing the door. Still there was a nightlight so the room wasn’t dark. I knew they – the parents – still had to unload the car, plus all the other responsibilities they had to do before they would retire. I thought about this sleeping child where I remained. Yes to be young and innocent, to not understand what the world really is, to think what little I see and understand to be the real world, and feel safe knowing I’m loved, such a wonderful thing.

I knew as he put her daughter down for the night that she, her mother would be doing the same thing for the middle child and I suspect that together they’d get the baby to bed before heading out and finishing the night. Yet, for me it simply is a guess since here I am in this bedroom with the one who’d chosen me.

* * *

It was the next day and for a while I remained in her bedroom. It seemed she had much to do and at this time it didn’t involve me. I guess it is the standard stuff, but you must remember I hadn’t been around such before. I learned she had to go to the bathroom, take a quick bath after getting out of her pajamas, and from the laughter and splashing I could tell she, and later I learned her younger brother had a good time playing in the water. From where I was I heard screams of laughter as the sounds got closer to her bedroom and she ran into her room with her mom close on her heals. She jumped on the bed naked as a jay bird, as the saying goes, throwing the towel she had with her on the floor. I could see her mother shaking her head, even though she had a smile on her face. “Okay, little one, it’s time for you to get dressed and then we need to go downstairs and have breakfast.” It was quiet for a moment as the mother appeared to be listening and whatever she heard caused her to shake her head again.

At this point she turned around and went to the door and yelled down the hallway. “I have this one, you take care of your son, and then we can all head downstairs and get some food.” Whatever the answer brought laughter to the lips of the mother. She turned around and her daughter was still on the bed daring her to make her get dressed, but in a fun way as there was a sparkle and challenge in those eyes. I could see that this was a familiar game the two played and with much tickling of the daughter and laughter from both of them the mother finally got the girl dressed, had her sit on the bed as she brushed her damp hair, and again it was obvious this young one didn’t really like having her hair brushed.

Soon they disappeared downstairs and for the longest time I knew nothing and could hear nothing. Then she ran back into her room came over to where I was and carefully picked me up and said, “It’s time. I get to put you on our Christmas tree!” When we left her room I could hear, in the distance, what sounded like music – Christmas songs and such. And as we reached the stairs where I could look down I found a room transformed from what I remembered from the previous night. There was garland interwoven in the railing of the stairs, and a big green tree in the middle of what they call the living room. And it was obvious that much time and care had been given to decorating this Christmas tree with lights, bobbles, globes and so much more. But at this moment there wasn’t anything placed on the top, the place of honor.

It was at that moment I realized that this was to be my place. To be the one on top of the tree and to look down on all that existed here. If I were a living thing I probably would have glowed and been filled with pride for such an honored place. I watched as she handed me to her father who then carefully unpacked me from the packing that protected me from being broken. I could see the impatience on her face as he took his time. Looking up I could almost see a hidden smile saying to me that he was deliberately being slow, while watching her and her impatience. Finally when he could tell that she had almost reached her end he handed me over. She reverently took me in her two small hands as her father lifted her up and with care she placed me in this place of honor. She studied me for a few moments, made a slight adjustment and then told her daddy she was done. He carefully set her down and tickled her a little bit getting the expected giggle.

He looked down and asked. “So what do you think?”

“Oh I think the star is won-der-ful, and just right!”

I could tell that the big word was something she said with some difficulty, but I could also see that she was proud that she could say it. I watched from my high perch and he looked up and appeared to be studying me and where I was, paused, looked down, and I could see that she was waiting for his approval. At this point he crouched down so he could be eye to eye with her. He simply said, “Yes, I agree.” At this point they turned on the lights and the Christmas tree shown in its own splendor.

* * *

The days flew by and I could see, as the days passed, the children, at the least the two older ones, were becoming more and more excited. As to the whys I really didn’t understand then. Still there was a routine to what happened in the house, and I fell into this feeling comfortable with the love I felt here. Then one night they left – all of them – and this was different. Yet it had become obvious that something important was about to happen. I heard something about going over to the children’s grandparents as it was a tradition they did every Christmas Eve.

Now I knew that I had been created for this time of the season, but really didn’t understand the significance of what it represented. In fact it took a few seasons for me to put it all together, and then it all made sense. It represented a time of giving. And while it appeared to be a magical time for the children, it really was much more serious than it appeared. It was a couple of conversations the parents had that finally put it all in perspective. This time of the year represented the ultimate gift – God bringing man back to Him through the gift of His Son. This led to the understanding of the gifts magically appearing under that tree. That same tree where I sat on top, but I’m getting ahead of myself since this is the first year or season I became a part of their tradition.

The house was quiet and seemed empty while all of them were gone. And while the lights that lit the tree were normally on at this time, they weren’t at this moment, and a soft glow from the hallway light was all that could be seen. It was hours later when I heard the car park in the driveway and the key open the lock. This was followed by the daughter being carried in by her father sort of half asleep. She looked over at the tree and me, and I could make out that huge smile of hers as I could see she was anticipating something. Again what this was all about I hadn’t a clue. Her father carried her up the stairs and I suspected to her room, then returned and with a practiced routine returned with the son with the mother carrying the baby.

The next hour or so seemed to be involved in getting the three to bed and tucked in for the night. Then they came downstairs and went into the kitchen where they turned on the light, made some coffee, and sat quietly and talked. It seemed, to me, that all was right with the world at this moment. I heard the chairs scrape the floor as they were pushed back and I watched the parents head upstairs. I thought they would go to bed also, but I was oh so wrong. I heard them whisper something and then, as if by magic, many wonderfully wrapped gifts appeared under the tree. I noticed, for the first time that a plate had been left out and there appeared to be some cookies on it with some kind of note propped up. And like the gifts appearing, the cookies magically disappeared, and a new note replaced the one that had been left. Then it was quiet, quiet until just before dawn.

I thought I heard a creaking of the floor, and I saw her quietly come down the stairs wide-eyed and full of wonder. She carefully looked at all that was there – all the brightly wrapped gifts and presents. She tentatively picked up a couple. If it had been lighter in that room I probably would have seen that huge smile, and probably impatience. I suspected that she had to wait until everybody was up, and right at this moment she knew she was the only one. So she went over and sat in one of the big chairs and tried to wait. Again, it was obvious she was too excited to be able to sit still. So she headed into the kitchen, and kind of walked around trying to make that old clock go faster, but nothing seemed to work.

I could see that she thought, a couple of times, that she heard someone moving upstairs, but each time it turned out to be nothing. Eventually, and it was still before dawn, she saw her brother at the top of the stairs rubbing his eyes and looking like he had just awakened. She looked up at him and whispered he needed to be quiet, and come down and see what Santa had left them. So, with care, taking one step at a time, he came down, and I saw that incredulous look that said he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Now taking on the role of her mom she told him he could look but that’s all, until momma and daddy came down to join them. Now I had two impatient kids waiting and it was obvious it seemed to be killing them.

Eventually I heard the coffee machine begin its daily ritual of making coffee. This only heightened the anticipation for the children as they knew their parents would put in an appearance shortly and then they could find out what awaited them behind all that beautiful wrapping paper. Yet, as I learned this day, they had a family tradition where fresh cinnamon rolls would be baked, and with coffee for the parents and milk for the children, they would gobble the food down before the father would become the official gift giver as he would look to each package, read the name on it and hand it to the new owner. And they had to wait until all of those wonderful gifts were piled in front of them. Then they’d each open one and show all what they got, and continue until all of them were open.

I could see from the squeals of excitement, and the joy that these items they received were loved things, and soon with Christmas music playing in the background, each child began playing with their new treasures, and quietly, since there had been gifts exchanged between the parents, it was time to clean up all the torn and beautiful wrapping paper, plus all the boxes these gifts came in. And as the morning progressed I began to see yawns on the young ones, and with urging from mom and dad, they took their gifts to their bedrooms and soon it was quiet. I saw the mother and father look at each other and smile. For a while it would be quiet and they could relax before working to put together that final Christmas meal that they all would share later that evening.

And then, it was over. As a new year dawned everything got packed away including me. So until it became that time of year once again, I would know nothing of what happened with the family. Again that is the way it should be since I am to shine during that special time of year. Still this isn’t the end of the story. I guess we could say so but that leaves so much out, and so much that is important. Still I have to admit that very first Christmas that I participated and remembered will always be special to me. But I digress and it’s time to continue . . .

Now I feel that it’s important that I cover that first Christmas season in much detail, but to continue to do so really would make no sense. Yet I remained an important part of the family for years to come. I watched the change in the little girl as she grew. And each year she became less and less of a child, until she became what her parents called a pre-teen. I began to notice a change and while she still placed me in the position of honor on the top of the tree, it seemed to be more of a chore instead of a privilege. Still all things change, and believe it or not even me. I now had a few scratches, nicks, and such even with the careful handling. Still I could feel the love in this house and the care they gave to everyone and everything.

Then one year a few after this one she was gone, and only her brothers were home. I found that the mother and father now placed me on top of the tree, and the two boys helped with the rest of the tree. Yet, once again, I could feel the changes that were in the air. I didn’t know what to attribute these changes to, but realized it had to be because the young ones were no longer young. And then all the children were gone and it was only the two. And while I could feel the love, it seemed the magic was gone.

It was during this time that the children would show up for an evening – not all, all of the time – before returning to wherever they lived. I realized that the ones who lived here, well, their hair had turned gray, and they seemed to move a bit slower. It surprised me that so much time had passed. Then in the middle of one of those years, where I normally remained packed safely away, a new change happened. Suddenly I, with everything in this house, was packed away and this house with so many happy memories became empty. The mom and dad moved away from this home and into something much smaller. I guess it made sense because they really had no need of all that space.

It felt strange that first Christmas in this new place. I knew nothing about or of it. It was then I realized that when the children came to visit, that they had children of their own, and of course soul mates – all beginning a new tradition for each new family. And it was then I found that I was removed from the tree top and given to the daughter, the one who originally spied and wanted me so long in the past. So I left this home and went to a new place. I saw, as I was carefully packed into the car that she rode while her husband drove. I heard the sounds of a baby, and knew I would be seeing another family grow.

* * *

And yes I did. I watched as the magic returned and her four children grow, and like when she left I saw her family leave. And on a sad note I also knew that her parents had passed making her the matriarch of her family, as well as her younger brother who became the patriarch. And, for whatever the reason, it seemed that none of her children were interested in me – those two girls, and two boys. Yet, as I had seen it happen to her parents, I saw the gray beginning, and suddenly she was alone as she lost her soul mate. It had been just before Christmas, and while I ended up on her small tree, I could tell it was a sad time for her.

* * *

And yes, life goes on, and I got to see it renewed as her children found loved ones and had children of their own. It meant that most likely that I would see an end to my beginning, to see the one who had chosen me so long ago join her parents, and her husband, but again that is life. Yet, before I witnessed any of this, one of her granddaughters fell in love with me, and I could see, while the one who had chosen me so long ago was reluctant, she passed me on to her granddaughter. Where I became special and once again held the place of honor . . .

Yes, I wondered what happened to my brothers who had become part of other families, but this is something I will never know. Still, I consider myself blessed with all I’ve seen in those snapshots each and every Christmas. I learned of love, and what it meant, and what it does. I learned the importance of family and the ties that keep them together. And I learned of the true reason for this time of year. So as an ornament what more could I ask, other than to continue being a part of something so great. God Bless, and Merry Christmas!

 

A Personal Tragedy

Before beginning this week’s post I’d like the mention that the book, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown, has been released to Amazon Scout. Here readers have a chance to read an excerpt and rate the story. If enough are positive then Amazon will publish it under their own label. Here is the link, if any are interested please check it out. https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/QINQQURWHJS3

With this title, A Personal Tragedy, one would think that it refers to something that happened to me personally, but this tragedy was something I witnessed which took place over a period of time. At the time of the incident and what followed I worked in a small rural community. In these places people have a tendency to know each other, and if you are one who works in one of the businesses one has a chance to meet everyone. It isn’t unusual to find unlocked doors, and people always willing to help others in the community. In a sense my book “The Woman in the Snow” reflects this kind of committment that is common in these communities.

If we want to be honest, somewhere in our lifetime we will either be a part of a tragedy, be a witness to one, or know someone who had a tragic incident in their own lives. Many times these tragedies involve death bringing to us the truth that none of us get out of this world alive. I know as a child I thought it would be nice to know when one would die, after all it did seem like it was important. With as much life behind me as I’ve had (and it’s been said many times, time is precious) I now disagree. If we know when, we would never accomplish what we do in our lives with that final date staying in the forefront and dominating our thoughts.

Overall the community had a mix of people, with many living here being retired. Others commuted to work into the larger communities to the west, and a few actually worked the land. This meant we have farmers, ranchers, young families, older families, many singles, and retirees. Very similar to any community be it large or small. Mostly everybody got along. Still in such a setting there were issues, and many times such issues were large enough to polarize the community. Still overall it was no different than any of the small communities (or large ones) that exist in this country.

For a period of time we even had a small local newspaper, but eventually it disappeared and is no more. If one was driving the road that went through the main part of town, the town would be easy to miss. It had gates to many of the ranches, and if you were driving east the first building that would mark that you might be entering a rural community was the fire department – a simple volunteer unit. Then for a short time there would be nothing. The next one to show would be the Post Office followed by a combination restaurant and grocery store, and across from this would be a state fire station. Once past these you would be heading out of town and on to whatever your destination would be. In others words, if you blinked you’d miss it completely.

Yet, if you had turned off onto the one main road back into the community you would find a library, the local school and the many roads that led to where most lived. It was back in this area where the tragedy took place. For any of us who are from such areas there really is much that happens that is never heard about outside of the community. That doesn’t mean it has less of an impact or doesn’t influence those who are involved, because it does. It is no more or no less important for any who happen to live in the largest cities in this nation where such could be reported.

Part of the draw for those who are looking for more than cities provide is the freedom and openess of the lands. It, over all, is a harder lifestyle, and not all can live it. Many need to be surrounded by people to feel safe and secure while others feel less people the better. I have seen some who have moved into these rural communities from the cities and only after a few months run screaming back to the crowds, swearing they’d never return.

A young family lived back on one of the dirt roads and their son was out riding the family’s ATV, after receiving permission to do so. As most kids who have something powerful at their control he was going too fast down the dirt road he was traveling and ran into another vehicle coming from the opposite direction. It killed him and threw the family into turmoil, which is no surprise. After all it is said, and for good reason, “No parent should outlive their child”.

Statistics say that the loss of a child can lead to the breakup of the parents. And unfortunately it did in this case. I was friends with both of them and shared in their tragedy. They tried to keep it together but the “what if’s”, the blame game, and so many other factors that were never revealed eventually led to their breakup. In many ways in this world of failed marriages no one would look at another one and consider the whys. “Just move on”, would be stated. “After all there are many out there who would love to share your life.”

Maybe so, but if this tragedy ended here, then maybe we could say, after the healing, if such is possible, that they moved on and found others to replace their loss. Still in this situation such didn’t take place. As far as the woman she eventually left the community and nothing was ever heard from her again.

And before I continue I have to mention another similar tragedy that happened in the same community. In this case the child was an adult and actually had been in the Navy. Driving home one night he crashed his vehicle and died from the injuries. The mother had difficulty dealing with the tragedy, which is completely understandable. Eventually the area brought too many bad memories and she moved away only to continue to fight the demons she faced. Any of us who face similar situations may try and find such a solution. The major problem with this is the fact we cannot run away from us. It is we who carry the emotions, the history, the memories, and a change of location will not change what is part of us. Until we can learn to deal with ourselves we will not escape our situation or problems.

Back to the ones we are following: Eventually he moved away but his life turned self-destructive. From a promising future, to the loss of his son, to the break up of his marriage, it all left scars he couldn’t cope with. He changed jobs, became involved with a series of flings, and somewhere along his personal timeline couldn’t deal with what happened and took his own life. In a sense this enlarged the original tragedy.

So they went from a loving family and in a short period of time back to only one with death taking two of them. Could any of this been prevented? I’m sure the two of them asked themselves that too many times to count when they learned of the death of their son. And I’m sure the blame game became prominent. Still the point we all must face is that our lives can change in an instant. And from that point on what we face and the direction of our lives is forever changed. Yes we can look back and wish and hope that things could be different but none of us can go back and change the past.

All of us are stuck with what we have in our present, and if it wasn’t the direction we had planned, or had set goals to reach, then we must adjust or like him give up and die. We are only given one chance, one life to live. And many times what we are given is difficult, and at times seems impossible. And while we may never face such a tragedy in our lives, that doesn’t mean we won’t face some type of hardship. All of us have setbacks, and all of us have unexpected events that change us forever. In the end it is what we do with these events that will define who we are. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

A Christmas Wish for 2015

Last year for the first time I linked a video for this important time of year. This year and since this is Christmas Eve, I’ll be doing the same. On Saturday I’ll be having my regular weekly post with this year’s Christmas short story plus links back to last year’s story and my wish for the 2014 Christmas season, with that link to a video, of course. This year throughout the month of December, on my Saturday posts, I have been linking back to my past short Christmas stories starting with 2011 the year I began this blog.

I recently heard this song by Casting Crowns and thought it appropriate. Peace on Earth is a wish most of us pray for but have never seen. May your Christmas be a time of friends and family, and a remembrance for the true reason for the season. God Bless, and enjoy.

 

Published in: on December 24, 2015 at 7:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Personal History – Looking In

Have you ever walked into a home of a relative or friend who has recently passed away? As you work you way through their personal home you see it as it was the very last moment that they were still among the living. With it giving the appearance that the one who is no longer with us has stepped out for a moment and will be returning to continue on with his or her life. A moment frozen in time as the owner, going about their life, had expected it to continue. Only it will not be happening. And if we want to be honest, this is probably the way it will be for any and all of us.

What you see before you, in those humble surroundings, is that person’s personal history for all to see. Everything that was important to them; the “to do” list, the unfinished projects waiting patiently for the hand to come and complete them, their favorite chair still remaining vacant, and maybe their favorite window that they loved to stare out, is all there, all before you. It’s like those museum scenes where a room is set up to look like something from a past decade, to give one a feel for how it was. Fictional, overall, but still allowing one to see how it might have been. Yet here, the story is not fiction, because of what has transpired, what is seen here is all from the past – the recent past for sure, but it’s still the past – someone’s past. And because they will never return, it becomes static as that room in that museum.

If you were one who had visited often, carried on the many conversations, loved the individual who occupied these spaces, it can leave you with expectations of seeing them again. Heart says so, but the mind knows better. As you wander the rooms, different rooms within your own mind open and reveal things to you that happened here, leaving feelings that can warm your soul waxing of nostalgia. Yet, they do not return, cannot return, so what is observed is frozen in time, and soon all that this one held dear will disappear among the family members and friends, much heading to the thrift stores, and many small treasures from that person’s life heading for the dump. Because these treasures were only precious to them, and hold no value for any others. Yet, in your mind the stories of shared times exist with this one who is no longer here.

And as the house is disassembled, one room at a time, what made it special slowly disappears. And as all personal items are handled, searched through, and given to the ones that these items should go to, the home changes. And as this happens the space within that home becomes less personal, less important. Until at the end, after all has been removed the home simply becomes a house. One of the many that are empty, with no special personality, and for now with no loving care. Waiting, until someone new moves in and begins their own personal history, personal memories and stories, and personal touch. Changing forever what was.

In a sense, all of us are like those homes, those houses, with our personal history written within our minds, with the many hallways, many doors, and many rooms where we store our memories. Some not so nice, with others filling us with joy and happiness. They all lie there waiting to come to light when the moment is right, when something similar reminds us of those past events. Other than heredity it is what makes us, well us. It is those scars, experiences, hopes, failures, and yes successes that form us. And for many those years are written on their faces, as well as their bodies.

One of the things we do not consider, in our youth, is the abuse we put our bodies through. But when one reaches those senior years, if one is so lucky, then these abuses come back to haunt one with pain and stiffness that makes what once was simple and easy, very difficult indeed. In many cases we see the elderly confined to wheel chairs, giving up the mobility and freedom that walking gave them. And probably this is one of the sad facts of aging, or any point in your life really. In a sense it means that mentally that you’ve given up, allowed another frailty to win out taking us further from our true potential. Yet, we can only fight the good fight so long before one gives in.

In the game Bioshock Infinite, one of the protagonists  states that what she faced wasn’t the cause of giving up, or the loss of her freedom, or confidence that she would be rescued, or the pain she was facing – it was time. It wore her down until there was nothing left, nothing to fight with, nothing to look forward to. And while this is a fictional story what is stated here is quite true. In the end it is what our past, our history says about us that will determine when we finally give in, finally give up, allowing whatever it is to win.

In many of the fictional stories that we read (and I write) we are always pulling for the heroes in the stories, even though many times they are battered and beaten. And unless the story is a tragedy we like to see our protagonists win. Because in some ways we hope to take some of the positives, the lessons presented, away with us to apply in our own lives. After all, even though these stories are there to entertain, like the storytellers of old, there a lessons in life within those stories. Sometimes we apply them, and sometimes not. Still all of this becomes our personal history, our personal past. Another layer where those milestones pass unnoticed until we look back in surprise and realize all that we’ve given up.

Many times we would love to be able to go back and make changes, but we will never have that chance. We only get one go around, one chance to make our decisions and move on with our lives. In many ways it is unfair, and as it has been stated oh so many times, “Life is unfair”. Still as experience builds, and our personal history grows, our thoughts and views change – sometimes for the good, and sometimes for the bad. Yet no matter how it goes, it, in the end, is our choice or choices that have put us where we are. Yes there are always outside influences that play on those decisions, but if we want to be honest it is still ours. So if we want to be true with ourselves then we must own each and every one of those decisions.

And when it is your time, the time when you don’t return, what will your home say about you? Will it reflect a loving person, or a hateful one? Will family and friends come willingly,  or will what you’ve left behind be ravaged by others who could care less? It all comes down to your personal history, and your personal legacy. And those decisions both in the past and in the present that are always being made by you. And no matter the unintended consequences, in the end, it is your choice that put you there. None of us are allowed to see beyond that time, but with the personal experience of loss, it is easy to see how it can be, when they gather to remember us.

* * *

August, the time where the traditional times of summer vacation ends, and many are preparing to return to school, to face a new set of instructors, to look for old school friends, to reflect on that nervousness that all face in that first week as we work to get back into the routine. And for the rest of us who are well beyond that time we can see it through the eyes of our children, and remember ourselves back in that time. And, of course, think about those summers off. Can’t leave out that hectic time of school shopping and expenses that are too high but necessary. With these thoughts have a great week, if that is possible, and see you all here next Saturday.

Touching Me – Touching You

Not a very original title for sure. Yet, when you think about the title, Touching Me – Touching You, it can have several meanings, and several uses. After attending a funeral (more of a remembrance of his past life) in the near past it led me to thinking about life (as such unwanted events have a tendency to do), as well as the fact that absolutely none of us live alone. Even when we try, somewhere, somehow, and by someone, we touch each other.

No this touching does not have to be the physical kind, although we are physical creatures. Again, within the scientific community it has been shown that physical touch is critical in the development of each and every one of us. And without it we become far less than what we could be if that contact had been there when we were babies. I suspect that if one looked back in the archives of this blog that after the funeral of my father back in 2011 that I had similar thoughts. Yet, what is said here bears repeating, and probably repeating often.

In this modern complicated world it is easy to allow the day-to-day grind to get in the way and push us into the direction of withdrawing within ourselves. Since there is plenty of entertainment available it is easy, after that complicated day of problems, issues, and solutions, to withdraw and not want to talk, or make contact with anyone. And this easily could include your spouse, your pet, and your children and the resulting chaos that is a part of their early lives. After all there is too much of the same at work, why repeat it at home?

Unfortunately time slows down for none of us and we eventually and much too quickly find ourselves on the other end of life, heading towards that final time when we leave this physical world behind, and pass on to whatever may exist. And when it does arrive, it is, at this time that the ones who are left behind begin to search for the reasons as to why, and why at this moment in time? In today’s world this man was young, and while death is a constant companion to any and all of us, it is always sad to see one leave at a time in their life that seemed too early. Yet, among Christians is the hope that there is much awaiting in the future after the physical death, and one isn’t called home until what one has been placed here to do has been accomplished. So we must assume that whatever it was that he had to accomplish is complete. And with a job well done he was called home. And home is a place that all of us yearn.

It is, and many times sadly so, during this time after someone has passed on that the stories from their lives come forth. The ways that this person has influenced them, or not, and who this person truly was is often revealed. You learn of the small and maybe great miracles that they had brought forth because of some small act of kindness that probably was promptly forgotten as they moved on with their lives. You learn of the friendships developed over the years – who was close, and who barely knew them.

And we find out about both sides of the individual, even though the other side is probably downplayed quite a bit. Yet, here, this time, listening to these stories that were told, there appeared to be none of this. This man appeared to be a generous, loving man, who lived life as it was presented. He has a loving – a deeply loving – family that has been left behind. And it’s probably here more than anywhere else that you learn the true character of an individual – how he was at home. It presents that part of one’s life that is usually hidden from public view.

So as this post continues you may be wondering how any of this has anything to do with the title – Touching Me, Touching You. It does, and when you look over what has been stated so far, you begin to realize that everything stated above shows that result clear and plain. Every day we interact directly or indirectly with the people around us. Some we never know or will never know, but does that change the fact that somehow you may be leaving an impression, leaving an influence, pointing this one in a direction that could change their life? Even something as these few words in this blog could have an impact pointing someone in a direction they need to go, but did not know how.

None of us will ever know the impact that we make on those unknown ones who watch us from afar. But many times we are quite aware of the influences that we have within our personal group of friends. Yet, even here, it is not until one passes on that the full strength of those observances, and influences may become known. Known as the stories are told, and the testimonials are given as to how each of these individuals were personally touched and influenced by the one who is gone.

It is here that one begins to realize the vast net that each one of us have cast in our lives, never knowing what the consequences – good or bad – will be. These nets reach far deeper, and a far greater distance than any of us realize. And those influences can reach well beyond us as the ones we’ve touched passes on some small tidbit, some small piece of wisdom, some small thought, that left its influence on them and others. Others who felt it important enough to continue to pass it on. And as that net had entered the vast sea of life and of humanity, the ripples it created, far and wide, sinking deeply into this vast ocean, seemingly to disappear, only to rise again baring the fruits that lies hidden, revealing the truths for all to see. It is then that the realization hits that maybe this one was far greater than first imagined.

And when we look at the family, see the tears, see the attempt to hide their sorrow behind smiles, but the pain is plainly visible in their eyes, we begin to realize who this individual was in life. When we see the desire to have all of what is transpiring in front of them to be no more than a dream and to have just one more day, maybe even an hour or a minute with this individual it becomes so much more. It states volumes in those silent moments of who this person was, more than all those testimonials, more than any of the stories. For it is home, it is family where we are most vulnerable, most wanted, and most needed. And if we have been loving, caring, and giving here, then the rest follows naturally to those outside.

And I have to say that this is what I saw, what I witnessed. A loving man leaving his wife and children behind. A friend to many, a person who touched many, be it a personal friendship, or a business relationship. And probably like most of us will be remembered only by family and friends. Yet through this touching, he has influenced many, and will be remembered by the many. It has been said that we die twice – and for this I cannot attest – the first time is our physical death, and our second is when all who knew and loved us are no more, and there is no one left to remember.

Other than the loss of a loved one, there is always this: We always have our regrets of not saying something, having left something open that should have been taken care of, or so many other small and unimportant things that we never got around to doing. Once one passes it is too late. And as I heard the stories, the influences, it left me wondering, why is it that we wait until after a person is gone? Why do we not let them know while they are alive? I have no answers, but this seems common with all of us. Remember that no day is promised to any of us, and if nothing else funerals bring this reality to us personally, and that reality is this; someday it will be our turn to be the one who has passed on, it is something that none can avoid. So I leave you with a question: How will you be remembered? Will it be as this one, or will it be a lonely gathering where no one cares?

So think about those you touch physically, spiritually, and mentally, and know that every day of your life that you are touching those many around you, known and unknown to you. And when your time comes to leave this world and pass on, which comes much too quick for most of us, may the stories and influences you leave behind be as strong, and as positive, as it was for the one we sent home in the recent past.

In many ways when I write a post like this one I feel that adding this little bit at the end to mention what the post coming up next week might be, it seems jarring, breaking the mood and feeling that comes from what has been stated. So this time I’ll state that next week is open. It’s not that there will be no post, but that presently it is open with 2 or 3 choices. I haven’t narrowed it down to any particular one. Take to heart what is stated above. I can personally attest to the passing of time and the speed it seems to move. It does seem like yesterday and I was part of a growing family – young children, struggling to make ends meet, and facing that daily grind. Yet, here I am now in my mid 60’s wondering how I got here and what happened to yesterday? And if God is willing, I will see you here next week, because as stated earlier; tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.

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