Gig Line: Life
Well folks are you like me? As a baby boomer I just hit the big “7-0” this past week – yikes! Where did all the time go? I might look like I’m 80 . . . or 90? but I honestly don’t feel 70. Yes, I hobble around sometimes with a cane for my arthritic knee and the other night after preparing a nice dinner, I took my plate into the living room to eat and watch a favorite TV program. Failing to see a shoe our little Yorkie had been playing with, I tripped and fell blasting airborne chunks of tossed salad, baked chicken slices and sliced cucumbers all over – not a nice way to embellish the carpet and couch. Good job Marsha!
After slamming down hard on both knees, I laid on the floor face down feeling really dumb but thankful no one saw me. Then I assessed myself, wondering if I could get up or lay there like a beached whale with nobody around. I asked our dear Lord to help me not wanting to bear weight on my right knee especially. Thinking it was scary but hysterical just the same I finally stood up, relieved to know I could – so I gingerly walked into the kitchen to retrieve cleaning supplies to clean up . . . what a mess! But I was happy I was still intact and that I wasn’t carrying a big bowl of soup or spaghetti. As usual, there is a ray of sunshine in everything.
Life has its funny moments at times, you know? Like when Billy and I went to a celebration for a good friend and former Sheriff Bert Austin. It was a nice event with lots of people and it happened that I sat down next to a lady I didn’t know but quickly enjoyed my conversation with. While we were eating delicious barbecue and the fixings, this nice lady and I talked about NASCAR and I told her how Billy had always loved it and had drawn me into it too. I told her I was a Dale Jr. fan and as it turned out, she was too. We talked at length about Dale Jr. and his Dad and her appreciation for their extraordinary skills. It was a fun chat. The conversation was interesting and enjoyable and before the speakers stepped to the podium, she proceeded to excuse herself and take her plate up to the trash receptacle, first asking if she could take my plate as well. Having had back surgery not long before, I said, “Yes, and thank you.” Billy, who was deep in conversation with the guest to his right, only noticed after the fact that my new friend was well on her way to the front balancing plastic plates and drink cups when I told him her offer. He turned to me and chuckled saying, “Marsha, do you know who that was that you asked to take your plate to the trash?” I said “No, but I like her.” He said, “That is our North Carolina Supreme Court Judge!” Having been a deputy sheriff himself, he highly respected her and just shook his head side to side like he did so many times when I made innocent boo boos. Sometimes I even call myself Calamity Jane.
If we are fortunate, age is something that just comes with life. White hair that looks like cotton candy, a slower gait, thicker eye glasses and sometimes greatly diminished activity., but I think we can all agree that it’s better to be vertical than horizontal at least for as long as we can be. Our bodies take a hit after falling off a horse at a full run, several car accidents and just the natural process of aging, but “ain’t life grand” just the same?
Sometimes it’s hard to find humor and to look at the lighter side of life, you know? like when you miss your spouse, your other half, your best friend, your lover and the keeper of the keys to your heart, but we have to get through it and I find more and more widows and widowers who are in this together and how much I want to help those whose heartbreak doesn’t seem to go away. But I have come to realize firsthand that though time doesn’t heal completely, it helps.
When I talk to the Lord in the mornings and give Him thanks for all He has done in my life and for the blessings of knowing Him personally, I consider how many times He has pulled me back from something harmful, pushed me forward for something good, comforted me, healed me and how He has given me the gifts of love, forgiveness, talents, skills, and opportunities hoping that I will use them to the best of my ability for others.
I thank Him for Gig Line too because I know it’s an ongoing source of respect for Billy and his “brothers and sisters” that he loved. All veterans were truly his brothers and sisters on “this side” of life and their friendship with him was priceless. Billy smiled and laughed a lot in the company of his V.F.W. Post 10950 and American Legion Post 26 buddies and that made me smile and laugh too. I miss that. Billy somehow rejuvenated inside once he joined those two outstanding organizations. He was in his element with other military guys – I think he enjoyed each one independently but in general he identified with them and vice versa; they talked “shop” through a language all their own; some had seen the same horrors Billy had and had felt the heartaches too. Spending time with them was a shot in the arm. He was in his element working side by side with the other Post members to make things better for our local vets whether they needed a ramp built to accommodate a wheelchair; transportation to their doctor; someone just to talk to or to pray with – Billy was all about it. He had lost several very close buddies in Vietnam and when he came home, he hesitated to get close to anyone until God designated us together and for each other.
Like so many of our veterans he had so much to give, so much to do to continue helping others, but it was not meant to be and I think the Lord felt Billy’s work was done. When we found out about his brain cancer, he lived only four months and I only saw him cry once. I was at his side 24/7 and I was amazed at his bravery, but then again, he and all Vietnam vets had unbelievable courage . . . all of them. My goodness, how I miss him.
There is no doubt in my mind he’s happy up there – I have a peace about that knowing he’s with our Lord and his son Jesus Christ. He had accepted the Lord as his Savior when he was just a boy – never wavering from it the 48 years and one week that we lived life together. Billy’s faith meant a lot to him. He depended on it to bring him back home. He had done all he could to protect his men and he hoped God would forgive him for the things he had done to defend and survive.
A couple of weeks ago I was notified I had been selected as a recipient of an honor regarding my volunteer work for veterans – it touched me for sure, but not for self-edification, rather because I was proud of Billy and how he had inspired me to create this column and continue writing after he passed. I love him so much and my passion for him has not faded, it is as strong as ever. Four years now and looking at his pictures still make me smile and cry; I miss him beyond measure.
Yes folks, even if we feel stiff at times and our hair is snow white or missing, we are blessed to be alive, to love our beautiful families each and every day and to remember with happiness and pride those we have lost by our side. You all make me happy, too, when you tell me you read my column; that you identified with it or that you look forward to it. You are such a blessing to me.
Like I said, life is precious, life is good, sometimes hard, challenging and heartbreaking at times, but you and I are created for good. What we do with our life, with our experiences and how we use what we have been through personally can make a difference in someone else’s. Use your joys, successes and happy times to help those who need a boost, encouragement or a friendship. Take the time to express thanks to a veteran. They (you) all deserve praise for all you have done. Contact me if you know a vet that has a need by cell/text at 252-202-2058 or write to me at email@example.com – I would love to hear from you. And to get help, understanding or assistance from an official Veteran Service Officer, contact Patty O’Sullivan at 252-475-5604 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org – no doubt about it, she is there for you and your family. Especially if you have medical issues that could be service connected, do not wait. Please call her.
You know the drill: be happy, be safe and be proud. Thank you for all you have done in your life to serve our country or help others and you are still upright if you’re reading this, so get to finding out how you can help more folks! Live life, love your spouse like when you first fell in love with them; be thankful for precious memories and make more of them! Orders from headquarters, okay? I love you all, each and every one of you. God bless you all. Stay tuned!
By Dr. Mike Walden When I speak to groups – virtually for the last six months – I perceive two... read more