The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950, Part I of 4

Bobby, a seven-year-old boy, knew something was wrong, but he had no inkling as to what it might be.  His Aunt Connie, a teenager, answered the emergency call from her older, married sister to come at once and baby-sit the children.  Gerry kissed Bobby & Joy goodbye, whispered a few private instructions to Connie, and hurried out the front door on an urgent mission.  The children were anxious about their mother’s hasty departure so Aunt Connie reassured them that their mother would return as soon as she took care of some important matters.  While shehesterlyrobertfamily had their attention, she told them some interesting stores about her experiences when she was a little girl their age.  After the story-telling time, Aunt Connie expanded the explanation of their mother’s mission and softly explained to them that their mom received some troubling information about Dale, their dad, & left to search for him.  She would return as soon as possible.

Scenes in a movie and illustrations in a comic book are a lot like memories.

Whether the night seems short or long, it always goes by, & so it did for Bobby that record breaking,  bitter cold night, November 25, 1950.  The 1st scene opens the next morning and finds Bobby in the front room sitting on a green sofa situated opposite the front door, watching & waiting for his mother to come through the front door.  He hears his mother arriving home & anticipates her entry by leaning forward.  She opens the door & steps in just far enough to close the door behind her.  Although the actual event happens in an eye-blink, the time between her entry and her first utterance rolls by in ultra slow motion.  This dramatic scene stays with Bobby for the remainder of his life, and he still recalls vividly, even as an old man, the image of his mother standing there scared & heartbroken on that cold Thanksgiving weekend of 1950.  With the knowledge of an adult, one can describe Gerry’s initial reaction as the beginning stages of grief:  disbelief, shock, fear, disorientation, helplessness, & isolation.  As a 7-year old boy he remembers seeing his mother in a different and strange way unimaginable for him at his stage of development.  Bobby beholds a hint of wildness in her features & actions.  Her eyes appear large, unblinking, seeing but glazed over; her hair is wind-blown, and her speech is loud, direct, & short.  The overall effect is:  Is this real, or am I dreaming?

Looking straight at him, she declares forcefully,  “You’re father is dead.”   He remembers her saying these unbelievable words twice.

After her pronouncement, she disappears from the child’s long-term memory much like an apparition that appears unexpectedly before the living then vanishes into a distant fog.  She may have left quickly to take care of pressing funereal business, duties beyond the knowledge of a 7-year-old.  As for his sister, Joy, she disappears from the scene as well.  Most likely close family members volunteer to take care of her for a time, being only 4-years-old.

He knew what death meant & that he would never see his dad alive again. He didn’t cry then, but he felt an immediate loss with heaviness in his chest & a lump in his throat.  He sat silently on the sofa outlining the patterns on the armrest with his right forefinger.  He sat there for what seemed a lifetime to a young boy & repetitively ran his finger around the edge of each pattern, all alike in shape.  The fog returned.

The rest of Bobby’s day is lost to oblivion and out of reach except for speculation.  Most likely he does what most little boys do:  amuse himself in play.

In scene two a hearse brings the father’s body in a casket to the family’s home for viewing in the front room.  Later that day, close family members, friends, & coworkers come in to give their condolences to the grieving, beautiful wife, age 24, and to pay their last respects to Dale, age 28.  The house is now crowded with mourners as Bobby meanders throughout the grown-up crowd looking lost & out of place.  Occasionally, a grown-up pats him on the head in a gesture of sympathy.  Suddenly, from the front  room close to the viewing area, he hears a  commotion of weeping & wailing different in degree & intensity from all other mourning cries & grieving sounds he ever heard.    Several women, surrounding a tall, thin, light-haired young man sobbing uncontrollably, hurry by the unseen boy.  For privacy sake the young man is escorted down a short hallway toward the master bedroom, where the ladies attempt to console him.

“Bob, you did all you could; you could do nothing more.  It wasn’t your fault; don’t blame yourself,” they implored.   They repeated these same words several times in an attempt to console an inconsolable man.  He stood there dazed & slumped as if the weight he carried might crush him.

Bobby felt guilty for observing an adult scene that looked & sounded forbidden to someone his age.  He thought to himself, “Why is that grown man crying like that?”

He really wanted to know why this young man wailed so sorrowfully, but there was no-one to ask.  He turned around, took a breath, & walked away.  He did not discover the answer to his question that day, and he failed to connect his Dad’s death with that poignant scene.  For now it remained a mystery.

(To Be Continued)

Harbor Lights was a top-10 hit in 1950 sung by the Sammy Kaye orchestra.  Click the hyperlink to enjoy a hit my Dad most likely heard.

Wayfarin’ stranger:  garland dale

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My Doctor’s Visit: 2010

On Friday I went to see my Korean doctor in Pyeongnae, South Korea for my regular appointment, and during the visit I discussed a few other symptoms with him:  a lack of energy, knee pain, and some minor aches & pains that are common with men my age.  He listened patiently before delivering a short summary of my problem.

He softly said, “you’re not a young man anymore; you’re over sixty now, and these things are to be expected.  It’s important for you to remember to take your age into account.”

I listened politely, laughed, and shook my head in agreement like a child.  I paid my doctor’s fee and picked up my medicine from the pharmacy next door.  Both the doctor’s office & pharmacy are on the 4th floor of the hi-rise.  Riding down the elevator I thought about his educational comment to me concerning my age and laughed to myself.  From now on all my health problems could plausibly be explained by my age.  When I arrived home, my wife asked me how things went.  I told her about the visit and added that the doctor had a cure for all my ills now.

“What do you mean by that?” my beautiful wife asked me.

I explained:  “Well, today my doctor ascribed my lack of energy and my aches & pains to old age, so anything and everything from this day forward can be deflected by a quick quip of-it’s age related.”

I was thinking before hand that a modicum amount of my lower energy level might be caused by side effects from my meds; and maybe my aches & pains could be reduced by a simple treatment strategy.  I became speechless when he diagnosed my concerns as old age.  Adding old age to the diagnostic manual of medical diseases might convince me to go back to college in my golden years and specialize in Geriatric medicine.

I hope & pray my wife refrains from adopting the doctor’s latest prescription for improving my health, but I’m beginning to believe it’s already too late.  The other day she reminded me to be extra careful during my short walk around the block.  She worried about me taking a bad spill & hurting myself.  Before leaving I gave her a long-winded speech about my exceptional balance and powerful running style I displayed during my high school football career.  I told her not to worry, but my skillful self-appraisal did not comfort her one iota.  I almost got out the door before her final warning.

“Remember honey what the doctor said, you’re over sixty now & closer to seventy than sixty; and by the way, don’t forget to take your cell phone in case you fall down and can’t get up.”

My walk was a downer after concluding that the doctor and my wife are on the same page.  How can you argue with your doctor and/or wife when they cite a fact you cannot deny?  They’re always right when they remind you of your age.  All things can be explained away once they say,  “Remember, you’re over sixty now.”   What a revolting development this is!!

Wayfarin’ Strangergarland dale

A very funny comedy skit by Brian Regan (emergency room).

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Remembering Pound Cake

When I arrived at the replacement center in South Vietnam on Feb. 11, 1969, I knew only two people, Robert Heldt & Joseph Herbert.  We received our basic training together at Fort Campbell and our Infantry A.I.T. (Advanced Individual Training) at Ft. Lewis, & then we traveled together in a plane halfway around the world and landed at an airport with a very funny name, Tan Son Nhat.  Looking out the plane’s right-side window, before landing, I observed a WW II plane dive & engage a ground target of some sort. The ground attack resulted in multiple explosions that were close together & distinct, so I figured the fighter fired a burst of 20 mm shells.  In my youth, before witnessing today’s event, I watched a dogfight between a Japanese Zero & an American Bearcat on a TV documentary, & the South Vietnamese plane outside my window looked like a Navy Bearcat.  For the first time, the reality of war pierced the small window & compelled me, as if someone smacked me across the face, to seriously consider my mortality.  We landed shortly thereafter, & my war had begun.

I knew very little except I didn’t want to be assigned to any outfit located in the Delta.  I’d heard bad things about that area.  I had no say with whom or were I’d be stationed.  The replacement center had complete control over my future deployment.  One thing I did know for sure was that there was no turning back.  I felt satisfied when I received my orders to head North to the 101st, close to the Hue & Phu Bai area.  I was even happier when I read my orders & found Heldt & Herbert on them.  Delta Company, 1/502 here I come.

By good fortune I went to a good unit, well organized with a good cadre of leadership from top to bottom.  On Easter Sunday, 1969, I found myself walking point down a winding trail shrouded by triple-canopy jungle in enemy infected Ashau Valley, named officially as the Massachusetts Striker Campaign.  I moved so cautiously & quietly that day, partly out of fear & partly out of training, that I surprised a couple of regular NVA (North Vietnamese Army) soldiers on the trail up ahead of me.  Coming around a hairpin bend in the trail, I caught them unaware a split-second before they saw me, but that brief instant gave me the advantage.  Despite my slight advantage, there was a time in space when our eyes met.  It seemed like an eternity as the adrenaline shot through my whole body.  With my M-16 on Rock ‘n’ Roll (automatic) I opened up with a burst of fire on the fleeing tall, thin NVA soldier.  The red tracers from my M-16 bracketed his trunk as he ran five or six strides off the trail & found cover behind a tree just large enough to conceal his whole body.  The tide had turned now that he was behind a tree while I remained out in the open.  I quickly peppered the tree with my remaining rounds to anchor my enemy there–the tree bark flew everywhere.  Years later I joked that when the NVA soldier turned sideways he almost disappeared & that’s why I missed him.  There was a very large tree nearby that had been uprooted by an artillery shell or missile the day before.  I quickly took cover behind the huge root structure.  I felt safe there, no longer out in the open.

In the background I heard an explosion take place behind me during the beginning of the engagement.  It turned out to be our blond-haired, short-statured M-60 assistant machine gunner who took cover when he heard the automatic fire coming from my M-16.  We heard later that he triggered a booby trap as he scrambled off the trail.  He received a severe shrapnel wound to one of his arms & received immediate aid from our medic.  I never saw David again, but I new he was going home alive.  I wondered about my own future & how I would go home.  One of our old marching songs rung in my ears:  “If I die in a combat zone, box me up & send me home.”  Our medic, covered with blood, had to endure the stench of David’s blood on his uniform for several days before a supply of clean fatigues came in by helicopter.

Early in the action, while I hunkered down behind the huge root section of the fallen tree,  Heldt hollered to me, “If weBob Heldt & I at LZ Sally during stand-down after 30-days in the bush--Campaign:  Massachusetts Striker. get out of this situation, I’ll give you my pound cake & peaches,”  a C-ration surprise we mixed together to form a sumptuous dessert favored by us grunts.  At the time we expected more action as we had engaged the NVA several times recently in serious firefights.  After the initial contact & bobby-trap explosion, nothing else happened except for some tense anticipation of further combat, which never took place.  In due time we received oral orders to continue down the trail in search of the enemy:  find him, fix him, engage him, & kill him.  Walking point, I found my enthusiasm to engage the enemy much less than the generals sending us forth.  To my delight we marched uneventfully through the jungle until evening, where we stopped to set up our NDP (Nighttime Defense Perimeter).  Later, after all was calm, Heldt came by & gave me his pound cake & peaches.  They tasted so good to me that night that I’ve never forgotten his kindness to me.  “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”  

Wayfarin’ stranger:  garland dale

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From the Past: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning Motorcycle

I discovered history from a song & a picture.  The British-made Vincent motor cycle is considered a  classic & highly sought after by collectors.  Russell Wright got the World Land Speed Record at Swannanoa with a Vincent HRD motorcycle in 1955 at 184 mph.  During its time the Black Lightning  was the fastest production motorcycle for its day. Here is the Del McCoury Band singing the song titled the 1952 Vincent Black Lightning:  I hope you enjoy the ride.

Wayfaring Stranger: garland dale                         1952 Vincent Black Lightning Motorcycle: The fastest production bike in the world during its time.








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On Children’s Day in South Korea, May 5th, 2010, I took a walk in the early afternoon hours to enjoy the beauty of a cloudless sky, the warm sunshine,  & just to get out of the house & move my bones.  Walking past the city park in our area, I recognized several young-adult Caucasians playing basketball.  I moseyed on over to the court and staked out a position beneath a shelter & settled down on a wooden bench close to the action.  Three young men & two young ladies, all English teachers living in Korea for adventure & employment, were enjoying time off from their classroom duties & doing what young people do everywhere on national holidays.  Another group of their friends were close-by messing around with a soccer ball.  It turned out that three of the players were Canadians while the other two were from the Isle of Great Briton.  I must admit I never saw such poor shooting in all my life.  The best shooter was a young, petite woman from the Toronto area.  She had a soft shot, and with a little practice, she could learn to be a fair shooter.  The rest looked hopeless as their attempts banged against the backboard and rattled the rim; I followed shot after shot on its errant path toward the hoop, almost every ball lacking both backspin & arch. Several long-shots hit the bottom of the rim, which I thought impossible from that distance.  I concluded early on the young men were more interested in being around the gals than improving their basketball skills & visa versa.   I smiled as I thought to myself:  I wish my children were here today; we’d show these subjects of the king how to play basketball, American style.

After several games of horse, most of the players took a break except for a couple who continued to shoot around.  I took the halt in the game as an opportunity to join the twosome by offering to rebound their shots, thus giving them ample opportunity to hone their shooting skills.  Once they allowed me to rebound for them, it would be difficult for them to tell me I couldn’t shoot later.  After rebounding for them close to ten minutes, I collected for my services rendered & took a few shots close to the basket to warm-up & test their tolerance for an uninvited stranger to join in the fun.  No-one protested.

After passing the initial test, I renewed my rebounding duties.  As their shots continued to thud off the backboard & clang off the hoop in a display of fruitlessness, I crabbed each rebound without much effort as it came off the rim and/or backboard as predictable as any object colliding with a stationary one.  When the timing was right, I crabbed a missed shot by one of the hapless players and dribbled out about 12 feet and sunk a bank-shot from the side.  I raised my arms in the air indicating I wanted the ball again for another shot and sunk it.  As custom goes in basketball, you shoot until you miss, so I made a couple more shots from 15 feet.  I asked for on more shot before leaving, and upon receiving the ball, my jump-shot zipped through the goal.  The British player who threw me the ball implied I was lucky, so I felt challenged & asked for one more shot.  After playing string music with my last shot, I said immediately without must thought:   “When I shoot, I expect the basketball to go in.  I’m surprised when it doesn’t.”

Getting the last word in, he replied:  “Shooting like that, I’m glad you’re leaving.”  I left with a satisfied mind.

Later that night I thought about my remarks and wondered why I said what I said.  Even in my old age the voice of  my mom pierced the pane of yesterday warning me never to brag.  Was I bragging?  One thing that occurred to me is that my attitude about shooting had not changed.  When I shoot the ball toward the hoop, even in my old age, I expected it to go in.  I never shoot hoping it will go in; I shoot and expect it to go in.  No matter if I miss several shots in a row, or have an off day, I expect my next shot to go in because my experience is that most of my shots go though the hoop, guarded or unguarded.

As my youthful energy fades more & more, I find myself spending more & more time looking backwards rather than forward.  Retired & not working I have plenty of time to reminisce, & some of those memories contain my athletic endeavors during my youth.  The Children’s Day experience at the basketball court opened a window to the past.  One particular basketball game from my past has haunted me for years.

This particular basketball game took place during my sophomore year in a Southern Illinois town.  I played on the freshmen-sophomore starting five that year in 1959 & dressed for the varsity.  Playing that night in our home gym, I found myself caught up in a parallel dimension called the zone, where all phases of one’s game comes together in perfect harmony with time, place, & position.  That night I felt like a star, ready & able to be discovered by a head scout to be that special player to lead his university to the NCAA title.  I remember one shot where I dribbled to the head of the key, stopped, popped and scored as if I were on the floor all by myself, in a dream world where everyone moved in slow motion except me.  It seemed so easy, as if I were playing against children on the play ground.  I ended up with an easy 30 points without forcing any shots, just playing in the flow of the game.

Later that evening in the varsity game, based on my performance in the freshmen-sophomore game, the coach put me into the game during a critical point of play.  With very little time left I received the ball on the right-side corner of the court.  I found myself wide open for a shot, a shot I felt confident in taking.  Without hesitation I launched the ball toward the goal.  I was one of the most surprised persons in the gym when the ball hit the side of the backboard & bounced out of bounds before I could stop it from doing so.  The game ended soon after that,  & we lost a close one.  Later, the coach told me he received criticism for putting me in the ballgame during a critical point in the contest.  I felt extremely bad about missing the shot, but missing the whole rim and hitting the side of the backboard only served to increase my embarrassment.  I tried my best to forget that night despite my superb game during the preliminary one.  For years I wished to God I’d never taken that shot.

After 51-years of regret and embarrassment for at least not hitting the rim, I understand now why I took that ill-fated shot.  I discovered it while remembering what I said to the English teacher on  Children’s Day here in South Korea.  “When I shoot, I expect the basketball to go in; I’m surprised when it doesn’t.”

Reflecting on that statement coming out of my mouth so naturally, I realize today I took the shot that night back in 1959 because I was confident I would make it.  I’m completely aware not every shot goes in, but I expect every shot to go in because I shoot it to go in.  Some shooters launch the ball toward the hoop hoping to score.  The difference between hoping & expecting are subtle but significant.  In a game, or in life, where perfection is impossible, confidence is a precursor to success.  With confidence you expect to succeed.

If I had it to do over, I’d like to tell my coach:  “Coach, I shot & expected to make it; it didn’t go in this time, but I’m confident the next one will.  Don’t be afraid to give me the ball for the last shot.”   That’s Confidence.  garland dale

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Korea’s Seollal: 2010, The Year of the White Tiger

White_tiger202-by_John_WhiteKorea’s most important holiday begins February 13 and will last three days.  The trains will be full of new lunar-year celebrants traveling to their hometowns to spend the Lunar New Year with their families.  The trains are the best avenue of transportation as they will run on time.  Only those who bought tickets at least a month in advance will be able to ride the trains as they are filled to capacity.  Buses and cars will cram the highways and interstates as drivers and passengers encounter traffic jams galore and experience the frustration of stop-and-go driving.  The trip via car will take the passengers twice as  long to arrive at their destination as during normal times.  It takes four hours normally to drive from Seoul to Busan; during Seollal it will take eight hours.  Some parents will offer to come to Seoul to celebrate the lunar holiday to save their children the exhausting trip home.  Regardless of the difficulty in traveling to their homes the Korean family will find a way to be together on this most important holiday.  The weather forecast for Saturday, February 13, is partly cloudy with snow flurries earlier in the week with little accumulation. This small hindrance will not effect the determined population in fulfilling their appointment to celebrate Seollal with their departed loved ones, precious parents, brothers, sisters, children, aunts and uncles.  The White Tiger will not appear again for another sixty-years, so enjoy.  Click the hyperlink for A larger picture of the White Tiger.  2257697200_f7c598c9e4

The year of the White Tiger will be celebrated by feasting on traditional Korean foods, playing traditional Korean games,  and honoring (worshiping) Korean ancestors who are said to come back at Seollal to make an appearance.  A table of food and drink are prepared for the visiting spirits.  Tradition & ritual specify the types of food and drink that are appropriate for this sacred occasion.  It is important to display the many dishes and fruit properly upon the table that is set before the altar.  Size, color, and quality of the offering are standardize as well.

At the head of the altar decorated frames hold the photographs of the deceased parents where family members bow and weep openly and unashamedly.  It is at this time that family members pray for blessings to be bestowed upon them by their departed loved ones throughout the next year.  After the ceremony it is time to eat and enjoy their new year feast with gusto.

After eating, washing the dishes, and tiding-up a little the older members of the family sit behind a table as the children come in and bow respectfully in their honor.  After bowing they arise and go forward to receive gifts of money from each seated senior member of the family.  The children are rewarded for their obedience and look forward with excitement and enthusiasm to this part of the ceremony.  When this fun part of the ceremony ends, traditional Korean games begin.  Quote from Wikipedia:  “The traditional family board game Yutnori (윷놀이) is still a popular pastime. Traditionally men and boys would fly kites and play jegi chagi (제기차기), a game where a light object is wrapped in paper or cloth, and then kicked in a Hacky Sack like manner. Korean women and girls would have traditionally played neolttwigi (널뛰기), a game of jumping on a seesaw (시소), while children Picture 13spun peng-i (팽이).”

This year I’ll be staying home while my wife goes to her family in Seoul by bus, about 1 1/2 hours away from our apartment in Pyeongnae.  She will stay overnight and most likely return the next day on Sunday; so that is the plan for now, but she might stay longer.  She has prepared several ready to eat meals for me before she left.  She is looking forward to the celebration with much anticipation and will have to change buses several times on her way to her oldest brothers house to celebrate.  As a Korean woman she will be busy helping with any final preparations and other household duties throughout the day, plus peeling and slicing apples and other fruit as snacks for the men, children, and any friends who might pop over to wish everyone a Happy New Year.  I don’t worry about her because she will have plenty of time to enjoy full participation in all the new year activities.

My wife  loves playing Hwatu with her family.  Hwatu is also called the flower card game because of all the different flowers on each card that make up the deck.  The small cards are thick and sturdy, allowing each player to throw down the card enthusiastically upon a folded flannel cloth with a thud.  There is much vocal expression and bantering among the players during the game, most in fun, but on rare occasions the fun gets out of hand and a player becomes upset.  Hwatu players don’t stay upset for long, and the game resumes as if nothing ever happened.  To me, Koreans are very forgiving of character imperfection within families, which bolds well for me.  My wife went to the store to buy some coffee for me because she’s afraid I might run out.  Korean women are like that.  With that I’ll close for today.

Wayfaring Stranger:  garland dale

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“Wayfaring Stranger”

During our darkest hours, songs assist us in relieving the stress & strain associated with the darkness that comes to us all—some more, some less—but darkness comes physically & naturally to us all.  Songs soothe us during those difficult times of our lives & provide a roadmap to guide us home, once we understand where that home is.  One thing I’m certain of, this world is not my home for I am nothing more or less that a sojourner stationed for a time on this medium size planet, floating miraculously through space as it rotates around a medium size star, which we call our Sun.  It appears, as far as my education will allow me to affirm, that everything about our existence on planet earth involves a unique place, but one of stellar mediocrity.  We live on a medium size planet, rotating around a medium size star, within a medium size galaxy.  If that is correct, then I think I can say that this mediocre boy fits right in with our stellar reality of not too big, not too little, but just right.

Songs for me are mainly about words with the singer as primary purveyor of a story, idea, or feeling, with musical instruments playing a complimentary role.  The singer’s voice performs as the first & most important instrument of the song with all other instruments supporting the singer’s efforts in moving the audience to join in a physical or emotional experience.  My recipe for a good song is for all other instruments to mimic & enhance the sound quality of the voice & for the accompanying instruments to compliment the vocal style of the singer’s voice.  The music must never become so overbearing as to drown out the voice & words of the singer.

As for me I like the natural ability of the singer to come forth without being influenced by too much formal training.  In my folksy way I find opera & classical music too stultifying for my taste.  It inhibits the natural creativity of the artist while channeling the singer & musician into a dramatic, cartoonish character that I find hard to watch & enjoy.  One cannot deny their vocal gift, skill level, & all the hard work that it takes to achieve success.  They deserve the accolades they receive from their audience.  We all have our preferences & dislikes.

A simple man likes simple things; & I am that simple man. With that in mind let me introduce you to the three songs I have selected to speak to you about some of my thoughts & feelings—permanent as far as humans are permanent, but in reality always changing.  The three songs are:  1)  Wayfaring Stranger, 2)  This World is not my Home, & 3) I’d Rather have Jesus.

These three songs pretty well sum up my life insofar as how I attempt to conduct myself on this planet.  As Corrie Ten Boon’s father told her as a young girl, paraphrasing: Don’t hold onto the things of this world too tightly, for when it comes time to let them go, it will be too hard to do so.  I consider those words very wise ones, & I hold them close to my vest.  I view myself a sojourner, a “Wayfaring Stranger,” just traveling through life with a time & a place scheduled for my departure.  Not a specific time picked from my birth, but a time because there is death & there is time; neither can escape the other, but it is not a known specific time written in blood at our birth.  Otherwise, one must believe that all our early choices in life like our choices of diet, exercise, & vocation have no bearing on our longevity.  In addition, I do not accept the notion of fate; & with those two items added together, I am firm upon my conclusion that there is no causal relationship between time & death, only a relational one.  As every death will occur at a certain time….  Sometimes, I feel so confused!

Death is a humbling equalizer for all.  It brings the kings & great men of valor & prowess down to the level of all other men.  Even the great King Solomon noted all his work on Earth is vanity for he too must leave all his great works behind.  No doubt he was depressed at the time, but there iscivil_war truth in what he says.  Will those after him appreciate his works & maintain it like he would.  Maybe, but in the end all manmade monuments & cities will crumble to the ground.  One day the sun will become a swollen star, red in color, destroying the planets as it overcomes them with heat & destruction.  Our home, the Earth, will end.

Our mortality challenges all men to look inward and ask this one question:  Who am I?  “This World is not my Home” further amplifies the echoes of reality coming down from the majestic mountains brought low by the erosive work of nature–wind, rain, heat, cold, & father time itself.  Death releases our red-knuckle grip upon the treasures of this world as we take our final breath and face that great judgment day.

I was raised a Christian, & I plan to die as one.  My faith is far from perfect, but I decided during the dark days as a 101st Airmobile grunt to hold onto my faith at all cost.  As we marched through the jungles of Vietnam & faced the green tracers & rocket propelled grenades of our enemy, I prayed for deliverance; but if I fell in battle, I wanted those who saw my lifeless body, whether friend or foe, to say: “I can tell this soldier is a Christian for I see a golden cross around his neck.”

I laughed inside when my assigned worker at Social Security added up my lifetime earnings to calculate my likely retirement payment. I always proclaimed money didn’t mean that much to me, & I proved it beyond a doubt.  It’s embarrassing, but I learned how to handle a “little” bit of money well.  It sure is coming in handy now.

I have already given to my children most of my prized possessions that I’ve accumulated on this earth except for a few pictures.  I thought about tearing them up, but I couldn’t part with them–so few, yet so precious to me. I’ve given the following to my children:  My SKS rifle captured in Vietnam; a few medals; my baseball cards; my double barrel, double trigger, side-by-side shotgun given to me by my Uncle Richard, my dad’s little brother; some pictures; and some little mementoes that I treasured.  That’s all for a lifetime of work.  I always said I wasn’t interest in things of this world, and once again I proved it.

The song “I’d Rather Have Jesus” testifies to me about what’s really important in life.  That song provides an excellent path to follow as we face the ups & downs of our lives.  It’s a good anchor to hold onto when one’s circumstances become dire, and a good anchor to hold onto when life gives us abundance.  My wife reminds me to remember how important it is to have food on our table, a place of warmth in which to lay our head, & three beautiful children well adjusted & gainfully employed, & all raised to serve our Lord.  I am blessed!  Wayfaring Stranger: garland dale

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