First blog post

I don’t fear the death that I was born to meet.  But now, as never before, I fear that I will keep my rendezvous with death before I have the opportunity to do what I have been put here to do — bring hope, grace, and love into the lives of others.

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Deathly Morphology

June 28, 2016

“Without ears, hear through the silence.

Without eyes, see through the darkness.

Without words, know the unspoken”

TAO

It is a glorious thing to walk into a place of business in uniform crisp and starched, along with polished boots. It’s impressive to walk in this dazzling magnificence of grandeur as a new, delightful, undefiled, unadulterated devotee in the domain of Emergency Medical Services. No one told me, though…no one explained to me…no one offered advice…no one explained the morphogenesis that comes with the job. The changes, however slight, take over everything that is you and morph’s your heart into something almost unrecognizable. This snare! This prodigious, savage, tangible snare.

With every patient, every mother, every father, every child, every grandmother, every grandfather…each patient appropriates from you and bestows a small amount of their spirit into your psyche. Most of the time you don’t even notice the change, the shift, the altogether enfolding of your soul into beauty or beast.

Another day came and went, and another, and another, and another. Then it came time to place each of these patients into their respective homes in my brain. Then came the moment. The moment that I knew I had morphed just to survive what I have seen, because as we all know what is seen cannot be unseen. Death.

It comes in various forms. Some die with dignity (a completely relevant term). Some die fighting. Some go to sleep. Some die unawares. Some die slowly. Some die quickly. One of the best experiences of death occurred in the home of a mother who was suffering from metastatic cancer. The family called 911. Not because they wished us to save her mother, but because they didn’t know what to do. On our arrival on scene all we brought into the house with us was the cardiac monitor. You see, the family didn’t know the right time to say goodbye. They wanted, needed to say goodbye precisely when the moment their mother’s soul left her body. The family stood around her taking turns holding her hand, touching her face, talking to her, combing her hair. The heart rate on the monitor showed a steady decline. Around 20 heart beats per minute and I told the family it was time to say goodbye. Each family member present touched the patient and said goodbye. I could see the soul leaving the body. I was honored to be a part of this death. It was a good death.

Abraham Dollar Short

CHAPTER ONE

“THE EARLY YEARS”

 

Abraham Dollar Short was born to Mr. and Mrs. L.F. Short on March 9,1938 in Northeast Arkansas Near Paragould.  The night Abraham was born it was rainin’ somethin’ fierce.  The house sat high off’n the ground and even at that the water most nigh come in the front door.  Pa Short was havin’ a hard time makin’ a livin’, so within’ three weeks they were walkin’ to Missouri.  You could say they swam out.  After Pa Short had worked a while for the W.P.A. he went to work for the Huffman Brothers Lumber Company, and things began to get better for the Short Clan.  After a few years, he went to work on a commission, and some weeks he brought in nigh onto a hundred dollars.

Portageville, a hamlet of some twenty-five hundred population, lay nestled in the plains seven miles west of the Mississippi River in the flatlands of the Missouri Bootheel.  Cotton, soybeans, and corn, are the chief crops.  Gambling and liquor the major occupations.  When the wind gales, it fills the ditches with dust, and bears the earmarks of a good Texas sand storm.  Some are affluent.  The majority are poverty stricken.  Many have moved out; some have moved in, and that’s where we find the L.F. Short family.

The family subsisted three miles south of Portageville, down a dirt road less than half mile from Highway 61. They resided in a small three-bedroom unpainted frame dwelling that had cracks in the wall in some places nigh on to an inch wide.  Through the winters Wayne and Abraham, the youngest of the offspring, would occasionally have to sleep under eight to ten quilts to keep warm.  The center of their bed was lower than the edges so they’d roll to the hub, and manage to stay fairly warm even in sub-zero weather.  Late at even tide the fire in the ole coal stove would burn down real-low. And a bucket of water in the kitchen frequently froze solid by morning.  Pa Short was always the first one up.  He’d build a roarin’ red hot fire in the coal stove, and the young’uns ‘ud get up and make a bee-line for the livin’ room and all that good ole heat.  The brood always parked their shoes right under the stove so they wouldn’t be so cold to slip the feet into of the mornin’s.  Sometimes when a snow was on, the boys ‘ud hold a contest to see who could run around the house barefoot the most times.

These are some examples of Pepsi-Cola and Bologna Country in an economically depressed area in these United States known as “The Missouri Bootheel”.

Up on the gravel road lived the Poole’s, and they ran the grocery store on Highway Sixty-One.  Further west about a half mile was what they called “The Woods”, and, of course, that’s what they were.  On down the lane from the ole frame dwellin’, more remotely placed, lived the Doves.  A pasture was just in front of the house, and farm land on all sides.  Four medium sized walnut trees sat in the front yard, one great big ‘un on the side, 6 peach trees in the backyard, and on beyond them was the barn with a wire fence encirclin’ it.

One of the first principles Abraham could recollect in his existence was bein’ laughed at one mornin’ after he’d gotten up from a night’s rest.  Pa Short had built a red hot cracklin’ fire in the ole coal stove, and it was necessary to take a sponge bath, for it was church day.  A sponge bath is described as heating water in a wash pan on a coal stove, and then take a washrag and soap, and scrub yourself clean.  That mornin’ Abraham put a pan full of cold water on the stove, and got laughed at ‘cause it sizzled right off, and he thought it was hot.

It was no laughin’ matter the next day at noon either ‘cause Pa Short had come home for lunch and handed Abraham a package of firecrackers, and he got so excited about lightin’ one that he set off the whole pack.  He was outside at the time.  Numbed his hands real-good, but he let out not one yell as he was afraid of a scoldin’ from Pa.

Abraham’s earliest recollections were from pre-Kindergarten.  It was a terrible lonely time waitin’ for three older brothers to return home from school.  There were no playmates so all play had to be improvised by Abraham himself.  This explains in part why he was, and is, an introvert, and a loner at heart.

One day he was climbin’ one of the walnut trees in the front yard.  Ascended almost to the top of it, bein’ near twenty-five feet tall when he stepped on a rotten limb.  Plummeted straight down through the middle of that tree, and watched as the lower limb, and ground came up to meet ‘im.  He just held out his arms and grabbed the lower limb as it went by.  Arms were quite badly scratched so he ran behind the house in hopes Ma Short would not see what he had done.  She didn’t.

Abraham took the greatest pleasure in savin’ nickels, dimes, and buryin’ ‘em in the ground.  Occasionally he’d sneak into the back room of the ole house, climb on a chair, look on top of the chifforobe, which was sort of a movable closet, and steal a nickel or dime from an older brother’s wallet.  Didn’t dare steal more for fear of it bein’ missed.  Sometimes he’d save nigh on to twenty dollars.

 

Early one evening a drunk stopped just down the road.  Everyone knew he stopped as they could hear him singin’ and gettin’ sick an’ all.  The next mornin’ Abraham found a bottle of ninety proof whiskey, and a dollar bill.  Pa Short took the dollar, and gave Abe a dime in exchange.  Now, Abe didn’t consider that a good deal, but he knew better’n to argue with Pa.  His word was law, an’ Abe reckoned it oughta be.  One thing sure, all the children in the Short family were taught obedience, even from the time they were crawlin’.

There were seven children in the Short family.  One was stillborn, and Duane, he was the first, died back in 1927 of double pneumonia, before any of the rest came along.

 

There were five living children on the Short clan; four boys and a girl in the family.  Abraham, the fourth born was five years old when his sister came along.  Had it in mind to knock her in the head when she was born, but decided against it after he’d seen ‘er.  Figured she was kinda cute.  Had to a been for him to give up bein’ the baby of the family.

Poor ole Ann, that’s her name, had to go to the fields later and work like a man.  Don’t reckon it hurt her any ‘cause she sure turned out to be a healthy individual.

Glen, the oldest brother was rugged.  He was a good athlete, and fast, but seemed to be a might more compassionate than the rest.  When workin’ in the fields he’d get awful tired.  You could see it in his eyes.  It was a relief to see ’im get to sit down.  He never complained, though.  Just worked and suffered through in silence.

Thomas, who was born one year after Glen, in 1931, turned out to be a good athlete, and fast.  Abe remembers those headaches he used to have more’n anything else.  They were pickin’ cotton one afternoon when Abraham came upon Thomas layin’ on his cotton sack in mortal pain.

“What’s wrong Thomas?” said Abe with a note of real concern in his voice.

“Pain, pain, I can’t stand the pain”, said Thomas as he grasped his temples between fingers and thumb, shieldin’ his eyes from the glare of the sun.  Thomas wasn’t one to complain, but once he did go home—fell across the bed cryin’, sayin, to Ma Short that he just couldn’t go no more till the pain subsided.

Wayne, born in February 1935 was the biggest of ‘em all.  Only 5 feet, 9 inches tall and one-hundred sixty pounds when fully growed, yet to the Short family seemed awfully big boned, an’ he could eat a dozen eggs, an’ a dozen biscuits for breakfast.

He was the singer of the family.  Built like an athlete, but just too awkward.  A comedian of sorts, with a good personality, and wild as the hills.  Seemed like he was always gettin’ his feelin’s hurt ‘cause o’ Pa Short havin’ to trade or sell the family car.

They were always kinda poor folks, but even at that, always had a nice car even though it generally was 5-15 years old.  Had an old 1930 Buick one time what was twelve years old, an’ that thing ‘ud still do a hundred an’ twenty miles an hour.  Later, they had a 1948 Buick, an’ was she ever nice.  When that one had to be traded ole Wayne just couldn’t keep from breakin’ down and bawlin’ like a baby.

The first car Abe could remember was an old 1931 Chevrolet.  When they’d go back to Arkansas, back to see kinfolk, it would take almost a half day to get there even though it was only seventy-five to eighty miles away.

Seems like there were a lot of those heartbreaks., but still overall, they were for the best.

 

Ma and pa Short had a tremendous reputation in the community.  Ma was a midwife, who had delivered well over a hundred babies in various communities where they’d lived when the doctor couldn’t get there in time.  Seems like they were always doin’ somethin’ for someone.

The ancestors on Ma Short’s side of the family came from England in 1801.  Many of them were preachers.  I suppose this explains in part why Abraham, and his two oldest brothers turned out to be ministers.  Wayne, who isn’t a preacher, always had a yen too, but just never did get involved.

On Pa Short’s side, you’ll find nothin’ but Indians, Blackfoot to be exact.  The Blackfoot were quite war like with other Indian tribes, but never did give the federal government too much trouble.  They were very short which explains in degree why the Short family was…well… so short.

Pa Short looked like a miniature Babe Ruth.  Only 5 feet 2 inches, same as Ma, but he weighed in at one hundred an’ eighty pounds.  His shoulders and tummy was as big around as most any man, and about that strong.  All that sits on two short toothpicks what amounted to legs.  You’d figure that if’n he ever fell down a hill there’d be no stoppin’ ‘im till he reached bottom.

The instinct for violence must have come from Pa Short’s side of the family.  His father was to have been quite feared in the bottomland country of Northeast Arkansas during and before the depression days.  It’s been said that the elder Mr. Short had killed several people.  He had a degree in agriculture, and was a well-known farmer in that region.  He became involved in a land squabble of sorts, and was found down by the levee early one mornin’ with three bullet holes in his head.  When one sees the degree of fierceness with which Pa Short gets mad you don’t doubt that the man’s father must have been feared, and those characteristics certainly came through in Wayne and Abraham.  Sometimes Abraham gets determined enough to kill or be killed.  Wayne always had a terrible temper.  Got so mad once he bit a hole most all the way through his tongue.

 

Before going to school Abraham amused himself by concoctin’ toys o’ various kinds.  Tyin’ a nail to four strings, and then tyin’ the strings to the four corners of a handkerchief, tossin’ it into the air and watchin’ it float softly to the earth.   Other times an empty spool with a rubber band run through the center, with a color, like the ones used for colorin’ books were wound on one end of the spool while a match was used on the other end.  That made a nice tractor, and old blocks were used for cars and trucks.  Times have changed, but I bet Abraham had just as much fun with those spools and blocks as kids now days have with all these new fandangled toys.

One clear bright dewy mornin’ as Abraham was playin’ out by the side of the house under the shade of that ole walnut tree, he espied a peculiar lookin’ insect on the fence.  At first, he conceived it was a stick, but when that stick got up and walked, well, he figured it’d bear some closer investigatin’.  It’s called a Prayin’ Mantis, but country folk call it a Walkin’ Stick.  Now, this insect fascinated ‘im ‘cause even though it was skinny as a stick it still sat there like it was ready to fight anything what challenged it, and all the while lookin’ like it was prayin’.  I mean, Abe just respected it by the way it carried itself.  He was tiny for his age, so that insect looked powerful big to ‘im.  Talk about bein’ small, Abraham was so diminutive when he was born that Ma Short used a shoe box for his bed.

 

One mornin’ on the way to see kinfolk they saw an ole house burnin’ down.  The folks made Ma, Abraham, and Ann stay in the car whilst the older boys and Pa made sure no one was inside.  Ole Wayne ran up to the house like he was the most audacious feller in them neck of the woods.   He opened the front door, and whoosh’h’h’h, out bellered fire and smoke.  He sure beat a dead fast retreat.  Ma, Abraham, an’ Ann were sittin’ in the car scared to death that one of ‘em was gonna get caught in the blaze.

The boys picked a lot of cotton down behind that house, as they only lived about three-quarters of a mile away, and was within walkin’ distance.  Glen and Thomas informed Abraham there was a man eatin’ hog in the ole barn what set behind the house.  Abraham thought that weren’t possible, but ever time he’d walk by that barn he just couldn’t convince his feet that it was so.  He’d always walk a might faster when passing that way, keepin’ one eye on the barn and one on the road so’s he’d be ready to high tail it in case that thing came out o’ there.

Previous to that incident they were pickin’ cotton down there, and an interestin’ thing transpired.  They had taken a break for lunch and had gathered under the walnut trees to eat.  Ole Thomas loved Pork-N-Beans for lunch.  As was the usual case he just couldn’t eat all of ‘em.  There were geese galore walkin’ around all over the place.  The boys loved to throw their bubble gum to ‘em and watch ‘em work it over.  They piled their beans on Thomas’ plate and they noticed one of the geese began to go into a flight pattern like he was gonna come in for a landin’.  He was quackin’, and flappin’ his wings, and circlin’ the boys warily, and finally commenced picking up speed.  He circled, and then made a bee line for ‘em.  He came straight through the midst of ‘em.  Opened his lower jaw and scooped the straightest ditch betwixt those Pork-N-Beans that you ever saw.  He didn’t even slow up.  Once he had cleared his bombin’ run, he stopped, flapped his wings in triumph, and quacked loudly.

Late in the afternoon back o’ labor, the boys stopped at Poole’s grocery for a Pepsi Cola.  It most always made the day’s work worthwhile.

At night, there was no television to watch, so much of the time the family would sit outside with a smoke fire to keep the ‘skeeters away, and visit ‘til way after dark.

Ma and Pa Short’d go to the movies every Monday night.  The boys were always glad to see ‘em go ‘cause o’ Thomas.  He was always the life of every party, and there was always a party on Monday nights.  He’d go put on one of Ma’s dresses.  Apply some lipstick, insert a pillow in that dress, one for the stomach, and one for the rump, then they’d get sick from laughin’ so hard at his gyrations.  Glen and Thomas got Abraham so inebriated on Ginger Ale one of those nights that he couldn’t even stand on his feet.

They loved to listen to the radio.  Some of their favorite tunes were westerners, “When the Works All Done This Fall”, and “Ghost Riders in the Sky”.  Abraham loved specially to listen to the “Sons of the Pioneers”, and gospel hymns of all kinds.

One bright sun shinin’ mornin’ Wayne and Abraham had to go down to the other end of that dirt road to borrow some flour from the Doves.  They were an elderly couple that lived in one of the weirdest houses you ever saw.  That house must have been over a hundred years old.  It weren’t so big, but it was so covered with vines that it was hard to see.  Shade trees, bushes, and vines grew up, and down and all around, with junk cars everywhere.  Those junk cars looked like some of the first ever made, but it was kinda hard to tell ‘cause the place was so grown up with underbrush.  As Wayne and Abe walked down the path to the house they were nigh on scared to death that some big black bug or odd lookin’ hairy thing was gonna come out and get ‘em.  It was dark inside, and the place smelled like pipe tobacco.  Wayne handed Mrs. Dove the bowl.  She was an old stooped shouldered lady with a shawl about her shoulders, and a high-pitched voice.

“How you boys doin’ today?” She says.

“F’F’Fine”, stutters Abraham, tryin’ to keep fear out of his voice.  Abe glanced nervously over his shoulder, makin’ sure no demon ‘uz there.  ‘BUT THERE WAS!  OH!’

“Hi, M’M’Mr. D’Dove!”  Continues Abe.

“Hello, boys,” says Mr. Dove in a low-keyed voice.

Abe moved over real quiet like next to the wall, and left Wayne unguarded in the middle of the floor.  Wayne’s eyes searched the ceilin’, windows, and doors for a way of escape if’n it come to that.  He’d rest on one foot, an’ then on the other.  Mr. Dove plopped his long frame down on the sofa, and Abe studied im good for tell-tale signs o’ him bein’ somethin’ other than human.  Mr. Dove smiled at Wayne, and Wayne took an involuntary step backward, ‘cause he’d a swore he perceived two tusks drippin’ blood.  Abe was huggin’ the wall.  If’n that thing had a come at ‘im right then, and he couldn’t a got out, he’d a made a way, even if’n it had to a been made in the wall.

“Here’s your flour boys”, says Mrs. Dove, handin’ the bowl to Wayne.

“T’T’Thank you M’Ma’am”, answered Wayne respectfully.  Abe was already inchin’ his way toward the door, keepin’ one eye pealed on Mr. Dove all the while, Wayne and Abe gave a nervous shudder as Mrs. Dove opened the door, for it squeaked all the way.

“Come back and see us boys” said Mr. Dove and gave a broad sweepin’ grin.

“Y’Yessir!”  replied Wayne as they hurried down the steps, both with a quick glance over their shoulders.  They hurried down the path sayin’ not a word ‘til they reached the road.  Wayne looks at Abe!

“What’s zat, you say, what’s zat?”  says Wayne.  “Talk a little louder.”

“Ain’t getting me back in that house, no sir!  Ain’t about to get me back in ‘ere’,” goes on Abe.  Mumbled somethin’ else under his breath, and gets quiet.

On the way home, they kept hearin’ a movement in the grass.  Couldn’t a been the wind, ‘cause there weren’t any.  At first, they didn’t pay no heed to it, but kept on a hearin’ it.

“What is zat, Wayne?”, asks Abe, still scared.

“Don’t know”, rejoined Wayne, ‘thout actin’ scared.

“There it is again”, goes on Abe.  Wayne looks at Abe.

“Come on, let’s see what’s up.”

Things were real dry that summer, and that ditch was dry as a bone.  Even the grass on the edge was dead, and dusty as could be.  They stood lookin’ cautiously for whatever it was, when suddenly a big, round, long, blue thing with little, beady, black eyes slithered right out o’ the underbrush.  Looked up at Abraham, licked his chops, and rolled over on its back.

“Hey, Wayne,” garbled Abe, “that’s a blue racin’ snake.”

Wayne said not a word but reached down for two clods.  Abe knew that thing was comin’ for ‘im, ‘cause o’ the way it licked its chops.

“We’d best be movin’ out o’ here”, says Abe as he picked up two clods ‘thout talkin’ his eyes off’n that thing.

Wayne stood his ground though.  Said, “I’m gonna blast that thing to no man’s land”.

Concerned about who was gonna get blasted and swallowed, and end up in no man’s land, Abraham looked first at the snake, and then down the dusty road.  He knew that snake was fast, but he knew he was too, and reason told ‘im that if they got into a fight who’d swallow who.  It took Abraham ‘bout two seconds to size up that sitiation, and make a decision.  Brotherly love or no brotherly love, if’n that thing was gonna get anybody it was gonna be Wayne.  Abraham dropped those two clods, gave Wayne a ‘come on, let’s go look’, but he knew Wayne wadn’t budgin’ ‘cause o’ that pooched out lower lip.  Abraham moved outta there as fast as you could expect any six-year-old.  When he looked back, Wayne was cloddin’ that snake good.  He must have missed, ‘cause the next time Abe looked back, here come ole Wayne.  Have you ever seen jet powered legs on a six-year-old?  Those two stirred up more dust than a herd o’ cattle gettin’ home.  Ma Short was curious about what happened to the flour as the bowl was empty.  Abe explained best he could, and Ma just laughed.

Glen and Thomas was out in the field adjoinin’ the dirt road when a storm come up.  Lightnin’ struck the ground close by, and knocked ‘em both to the ground.  It didn’t take them long to get home either.

 

The older boys got the notion of buildin’ an airplane out of wood up in the barn loft, and flyin’ it out the window.  That interested Abraham for he’d seen Wayne take a bedsheet and parachute off’n the top of the barn.  He did okay for about five feet.  That sheet collapsed, and Wayne like to a broke his neck.

Thomas and Glen finished the plane.  It had wings okay, and a body, but that body didn’t have nothin’ on it ‘cept boards.  Abraham figured it was supposed to be a glider, ‘cause it didn’t have a motor.  It didn’t matter though ‘cause they couldn’t get it through the barn loft door to glide anyway.

They did some flyin’ though.  Sailed out o’ that barn loft via a pulley, and clothes line wire attached to a fence post not far away.  The wire was attached to a support beam inside the barn.  Little Ann was so excited that she bailed out o’ that barn loft ‘thout nothin’ but thin air.  She jumped up off’n the soft ground, an’ started laughin, then she looked up at the barn loft, and initiated a bucketful!!!!  Scared ‘er real good after she’d seen what she’d done!!!

Abraham loved to sit up in that old barn and day dream.  The dreamin’ was really great when it would come a summer shower.  The sun, low in the afternoon sky, an’ the rows of soybeans would glisten beautifully when the sunlight would come shinin’ through the clouds.  Abe had seen it rain hard and heavy, and the sun be shinin’ all the while.  Abe, enjoyin’ the moment, thinks; ‘Man alive, what a breath takin’ sight.’  The smell of cut grass would come siftin’ through that barn loft, minglin’ with the scent of age old support beams, and other natural barn smells — made everything just glorious.

There were always a lot of pigeons in the barn, always cooin’, an’ cluckin’.  They tamed one of ‘em and called ‘im Pigeon Bill.  He’d fly around with his buddies, and if’n you wanted ‘im to come land on your shoulder, just yell; “Come ‘mere Pigeon Bill,” and there’d he’d come.

On a Saturday mornin’ the Bronson brothers, Jim and Bill came down with their rifle, and a shootin’ match was held out in the backyard.  Walnuts were placed on the barn yard door.  Stand back about fifty yards and fire away.  Abraham didn’t care so much for that shootin’ match ‘cause Jim Bronson cracked one o’ them walnuts square in the middle and the best he could do was graze one of ‘em.

Bill Bronson, Jim’s older brother was messin’ around with the gun, and saw ole Pigeon Bill walkin’ up an’ down, cluckin’ and cooin’ like he knew somethin’ bad was comin’.  Bill Bronson thought he’d just scare Pigeon Bill a little, so he fired in that direction.  Though he didn’t mean too, he clipped ole Pigeon Bill’s leg off right at the top.  It just hung by the skin.

The next mornin’ Pigeon Bill was nowhere to be found.  He had disappeared.  Everyone, includin’ the Bronson’s really felt bad over that.  Figured he’d gone off an’ died somewhere.

Six months later Pigeon Bill had almost been forgotten.  But one mornin’ the school bus came by and Jim Milson pitched ‘im out the window.  “Is that Pigeon Bill?” exclaimed Glen; “yep”, continued Glen; “That’s him, ole Bill has come home.”  Jim Milson said he’d found Pigeon Bill in his barn the day before.  Didn’t know where he’d come from, nor where he’d been, but there he was, one leg and all, just fit as a fiddle.  A long-lost member of the Short family had come home.

There was always a pet around of some kind. Another pet of the Short family was a dog.  Butch by name.  He was part bulldog, an’ bull terrier.  The rest was just plain mongrel.

With Butch in the yard, no stranger dared pass any closer to the house than the road, especially if Ann and Abraham were playin’ out there.  He was their self-appointed bodyguard.  And a good one he was.

One afternoon he was performin’ his chores as bodyguard, when a big strong well-built colored fellow walked by down on the gravel road.  A good-sized battle ‘uz goin’ on in Butch.  You could tell by the way he’s carryin’ on.  He’d growl, then whine, paw the ground, an’ walk up an’ down like he was in a cage.  Figured he’s wishin’ he was.  Finally, the better part got the best of ‘im, and he sailed around the back o’ the house headin’ for gravel with all the fur on his body standin straight as starched hair.  He sure looked funny, bein’ so short an’ all, churnin’ across a growed cotton field with all the fury of dead determination.

That colored fellow saw Butch comin’ an’ stepped up his pace a might.  Kept lookin’ over his shoulder, whites of his eyes showin’.  Butch pulled up short barkin’ like he was gonna take a leg off.  That colored feller ran not a step, an’ ole Butch was so mad he could hardly stand it.  After he’d barked awhile and showed how mean he was, he came on back home terribly disappointed that someone called his bluff.

That night, as was his habit every night, he went off and came home early the next mornin’.  Only thing, this time one eyeball was stickin’ clear out of its socket.  Reckon he was so frustrated from that colored feller not runnin’, that he took it out on a possum, a cat, or somethin’.  When Pa Short opened the door on his way to work, there sat Butch.  He whined, begged a little, and pawed the air with one foot.  Pa didn’t hesitate.   “Go get a razorblade, Glen.

When Glen got back, Pa ordered him and Thomas; “Hold Butch while I cut his eyeball off”.  Guess Butch was nigh on as tough as Pa Short, ‘cause holdin’ weren’t necessary.  He must have known what had to be done, for Pa started slicin’, and Butch just sat there on his haunches, grunted now an’ agin’, whined a little, an’ let it go at that.  After it was over Pa put some disinfectant on Butch’s eye.  Everyone was relieved, even ole Butch.  He just laid down, crossed his paws, and suffered in silence.

All that made him sure nuff mean.  He became the scourge of the countryside.  Runnin’ horses and cows, killin’ and eatin’ chickens, suckin’ eggs, pullin’ clothes off’n clotheslines all over the countryside, and everything else he could find to get into.

But he finally got it.  Wayne and Abraham went explorin’ down in the woods, an’ on the way out got a dead dog smell.  They saw a dog layin’ over by the fence all bloated up.  But Butch had been missin’ three or four days, so I guess that’s what it was that drew ‘em closer.

“That’s ole Butch”, Wayne said.

“Naw, that’s not Butch” replies Abraham.

Wayne repeated; “Yep, that’s ole Butch.  See there Abe, he’s just got one eye.”

“Shore nuff”, said Abe.  “lookit all them bullet holes.  Wonder how many there are?”

“Don’t know,” says Wayne, “but let’s count ‘em.”  “Good night,” says Wayne, scratchin’ his head.  Twenty-one in ‘im, eighteen in the head alone.”

“Boy”, reasoned Abraham. “It just goes to show that if your mean, sooner or later somethin’ or someone’s gonna wrack you.”

Spike and Turk became the most loved pets of the Short household.  They were found in a hollow tree out in the field behind the house.  Just new born pups, not more’n three or four days old.  Their ole mammy couldn’t find shelter anywhere else, but there, so I guess she decided that was as good a place as any.  Spike looked like he had a lot of collie blood, and Turk not so much; however, he did have collie markin’s, and he was a lot bigger’n Spike.

I Am Woman…Hear Me ROAR

 

I feel I would be doing an injustice to ignore the women of the bible.  Please bear with me and keep reading.

For instance, think of Naomi.  She started with everything and ended with nothing. Her story reminds me to keep standing strong!  Do not rollover and die!  Do not give up!  One touch of God in your life can bring unspeakable joy!

How about Tamar?  She was raped by her brother while trying to nurture him back to health.  She was then alone with her tears and pain — so it seemed.  Her story tells me many things.  First; take courage.  If no man comes to assist you, pick your self up and move on.  Walk right past the agony of the first man and listen for the knock of the second.  It will come.  Maybe not by human hands, but it will come.

It is the story of the Infirm Woman in Matthew 9 that gave me strength to hold my head high and let the world know I would not be held back.  This woman decided to take charge of her own life.  No more standing around hoping someone would help her.  She went to the stranger called Christ and touched only his garment knowing this was forbidden for a woman to touch a man.  But did he chastise?  Did he scorn?  Did he look through her?  Did he ridicule?  No…he simply asked a question; “Who touched me?”  She was healed instantly!  She knew it!  She could feel it!

When I began to understand these women of the bible I realized that if the world I lived in insisted I was unclean, then they would come to know an unclean woman can touch a holy God.  I decided to let the world know that if they saw me as a disgrace, that I would be carried by grace to Him on whispers and hope.

The woman with the alabaster box also gained my attention in Luke 7.  She had a mission.  She would let this stranger know what he had meant to her if it was her last act on earth.

True praise cannot be rehearsed, it is as spontaneous as the moment of inspiration that birthed it.  She didn’t know what she was going to say, she only knew she had to say, or at least do, something.  I can picture her standing there in the doorway facing a room full of unwelcome stares.  She was the only woman in a male-dominated environment.  T.J. Jakes said this; “Sometimes maximizing a woman’s potential requires her to walk into the presence of men, even when they prefer she stay outside.”  This woman is my first official representative of every woman who has ever felt locked out of His presence because of the traditions of men.  She is the ambassador of every woman who praises under pressure, and worships amidst criticism.

Tami Jo

The Face of Death/Morphology

“Without ears, hear through the silence.  Without eyes, see through the darkness. Without words, know the unspoken.”  TAO

It is a glorious thing to walk into a place of business in uniform crisp and starched, along with polished boots.  It’s impressive to walk in this dazzling magnificence of grandeur as a new, delightful, undefiled, unadulterated devotee in the domain of Emergency Medical Services.  No one told me, though…no one explained to me…no one offered advice…no one explained the morphogenesis that comes with the job. The changes, however slight, take over everything that is you and morph’s your heart into something almost unrecognizable.  This snare!  This prodigious, savage, tangible snare.

With every patient, every mother, every father, every child, every grandmother, every grandfather…each patient appropriates from you and bestows a small amount of their spirit into your psyche.  Most of the time you don’t even notice the change, the shift, the altogether enfolding of your soul into beauty or beast.

Another day came and went, and another, and another, and another.  Then it came time to place each of these patients into their respective homes in my brain.  Then came the moment.  The moment that I knew I had morphed just to survive what I had seen, because as we all know what is seen cannot be unseen.  Death.

It comes in various forms.  Some die with dignity (a completely relevant term).  Some die fighting.  Some go to sleep.  Some die unawares.  Some die slowly.  Some die quickly.  One of the best experiences of death occurred in the home of a mother who was suffering from metastatic cancer.  The family called 911.  Not because they wished us to save her mother, but because they didn’t know what to do.  On our arrival on scene all we brought into the house with us was the cardiac monitor.  You see, the family didn’t know the right time to say goodbye.  They wanted, needed to say goodbye precisely when the moment their mother’s soul left her body.  The family stood around her taking turns holding her hand, touching her face, talking to her, combing her hair.  The heart rate on the monitor showed a steady decline.  Around 20 heart beats per minute and I told the family it was time to say goodbye.  Each family member present touched the patient and said goodbye.  I could see the soul leaving the body.  I was honored to be a part of this death.  It was a good death.

Tami Jo

The Dull Roar

This is the prologue of my new novel, The Dull Roar.  It explores the intricacies of living life with a paranoid schizophrenic with the Grand Messianic Complex.  The familial, social, and individual ramifications are quite extensive. It is my hope that this novel will awaken minds and hearts to the conundrum of the mental health community.

 

Prologue

The Dull Roar has always been a part of my life.  From the earliest memory of living in the quiet similitude of suburban life, it was always there.  Just under the surface.  I had no idea at the time what it was or what it would be.  I just knew that it was and that it was something to be aware of as one would be aware of a snake never knowing when it might strike.

It was tangible in a way that words cannot express.  It sat in the corner just inside my peripheral vision.  If I looked just right I could see it there shimmering, awaiting it’s time.  Waiting for a foothold…that’s all it needed…just a foothold.

In the spring of 1980 The Dull Roar readied itself for the debut of a lifetime.  Exploding as a mighty winged beast freeing itself from the cell I had worked so diligently to banish this beast, not only to the periphery, but also to the world just under the surface of ours.  It would be jailed no longer.  It would be free.  It would feast.

I failed.  The winged beast proceeded to propel my family into a vast pit of despair, anguish, embarrassment, shame….Hell, really!

Mightier than I, it easily gained that foothold into my father’s psyche.  It rendered its powers upon all of us.  And much like Alice in Wonderland, my family fell into a different sort of rabbit hole.  This rabbit hole had only one entrance and no exit.  My family and I desperately tried to exit this world, but the harder we tried, the harder it became.  The Dull Roar settled itself into my father’s psyche and pretended to be Peter Piper causing all of us to follow Dad, being the good little unknowing family that we were.  Unbeknownst of the road ahead, the little deaths that occurred along this journey, the lack of simple joys of intertwining the bonds of sibling hood.  The despair in the realization there would be no help.  Survive or die…those were our choices.

I AM

“Shhhhh! My precious little one!  I AM here!  I have always been here.  Now you will see me.  Gaze toward the glorious lamp, the fire that severs day from night. It is I.  I AM!  I AM the wind holding you, embracing you, supporting you!  I AM the sun enlightening you with rays of hope, warmth, and love.  I AM reaching for you, longing for you, yearning for your smile, your talent, your skill.  I love you!  I need you to trust me as I have trusted you.  I will never leave you, nor forsake you.  You will never be alone.  Heed my power.  I AM for you!”

“While gazing into this glorious lamp, you will feel no pain, only peace!  You are held by such a powerful force of love so that all your energy is intertwined with Mine!  Peer into the golden inset.  Do you see that I am your creator?  This endless array of artistry I spread before you so that you may know these things.   You have always known, haven’t you?”

“I know someone very much like you.  He, too, needed to feel my scars, to place his hand into the viscera that gave my greatest joy back to Me.  I will show you what you have always known to be, but have longed, not only to see, but to feel since you were first formed.”

“Now, My child…observe, sense, experience, capture My essence.  See Me as you have always seen Me in your heart.  As long as it remains open, you will always see Me peering through your min’d eye.  You will see the laugh lines, the twinkle, the smile of a Creator full of love admiration, and pride for My single greatest joy!  My creation; more than this…My masterpiece!

Turn My child.  This is what I’ve in mind for you.  The flight of all avifauna lies within you!  You are their hope.  I AM your hope!

Who Do We Think We Are…

“If you are the one who can commit a sin too great for God to forgive, you are above God! That’s how we can wallow in our sin and still be guilty of pride. Who do we think we are? The only ones God cannot reach with His gift of love?”

Tsion Ben Judah

A Fleeting Life to Linger

Pink socks.  She was the first victim found by firefighters in a mental health facility where a fire had been set by a patient.  There were two other victims found very close to the front door…and freedom.  Five feet.  Five feet to the front door and to help.  Five feet…five feet.

Pink socks was brought to us and each of us assigned ourselves to our best skills.  Pink Socks…everything in slo-mo now.

Jody started the IV, I began chest compressions, Benny intubated, and Donna attached the heart monitor.  Asystole.  Flat line.  Terminal rhythm.

Each of us looked at each other as to what decision needed to be made.  Work this code or not.  As we looked at each other we saw the media.  It was a frenzy.  Photographers everywhere….reporters everywhere.  At that point we knew what had to be done.  Even though we all knew “Pink Socks” would not live.  She was not viable.  She was dead.  Damn media.

After Benny intubated and confirmed he was in the lungs, I began to suction.  All that came forth was black, tarry liquid…from her lungs.

We put her in the ambulance as quick as possible.  We all knew the Doctor was going to “call the code” once we arrived at the hospital.  Damn media.  If we had done nothing we would have been crucified.

She was someone’s mother.  She was someone’s daughter.  She was someone’s best friend.  She was someone’s wife.

I only know and remember her by her pink socks.

Dreaming….of Wings

“If I could talk with you, I would speak with my heart!  If I could talk with you, I would speak with my soul!  If I could talk with you, I would speak from my eyes!  If I could talk with you, I would say….

“I, too, wish I had the wings of a dove, so that I could fly away and be at rest.  I, too, wish my heart would heal and the Creator would keep me from pain as he did for Jabez.  I, too, wish I had no more tears, for my tears are all too revealing about my scarred and nearly broken spirit.  I, too, wish the hurt would stop.  I, too, wish we were not alone!

I see the two of us sitting, pondering, dreaming….of wings.  Not the wings to fly to heaven.  There’s to much to be done before we go home.  We have children, families, friends, bosses, friends both Christian and non, co-workers, students, and others that rely on us for all that we are and all that we have to give.  Our work here is not nearly done, and yet we are so tired.  Bone tired.  Weary to the point of aching.  And yet, through the fog, through the blinding pain we have been given a wonderful gift.  The Creator has given us the ability to see beyond the human skin, beyond the eyes, beyond elbows and knees, beyond fingers and toes, and beyond gender.  It’s even more than seeing.  It’s what we know, what we feel, and what we hear.  We know hearts, and we know souls.  Hearts are so thirsty for hope, meaning, and love that they would drink sand if there were any possibility it could be one of these. (Hope, Meaning, Love)  There are so many souls full of pain and anger.  Souls full of resentment and mistrust.  And souls full of Jesus.

And yet, in the dark recesses of who we are, of where we are, of Whose we are…I wish for more!!!  I wish simply for an interlude, a break from this knowing, this seeing, this hearing.  An intermission from these tears, this scaring, this need for wings…just a pause, not an isolation.

This is who we are.  We are nothing if not immersed in these gifts from above.  After all, we are on the side of Angels.  We are our tears, our scarring, our wings….We are His!

Tami Jo

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