Chapter 3…Entry 2

The things Momma said are always on my mind and in my heart. Momma died of cancer a few years ago and as Christmas nears, I always sit and picture her from early age Christmas in Savannah, McKenzie, Hohenwald, and then 2 Clarksville, Hightstown, NJ, and into my teen years at Milan, then Jackson, Murfreesboro,  and Memphis, and finally back 2 Savannah. She was so sweet especially at Christmas and we played every game Santa would bring me, and she would laugh and smile the whole game thru…letting me win almost every time.

I will, in this entry, talk about what Momma said. Momma new how to keep it lite and loved 2 laugh and laugh at herself.  In her last days as she lay dying on the Hardin Co. Hospital bed she made it easy on each of us w/ her kind, final words and wishes and often Momma would say “I just never thought I would face a disease I could not overcome.”

And you could see the fight in her eyes and joy mixed w/ a deep sadness as we wheeled her hospital bed into her own house for her last Thanksgiving.  She had set some personal goals in her battle w/ cancer and one of them was to get home for Thanksgiving and get one of those Big Screen TVs.  Dad & I had gone out & picked out a Big TV and got it to Mom’s house & set it up so Mom could pull for the underdog of the day and the lady Vols & the Memphis Tigers Basketball team. She was a sports fan thru & thru. And she was home for Thanksgiving.

Her larger goal was to make sure she was leaving this earth w/ no one unforgiven and no matter of friendship unhealed and she asked me in her last days, “Jay is there anyone I should make amends with — is there anyone I have hurt or done wrong?” And I assured her she had not hurt anyone that I knew of.

Her birthday is Jan. 8th and she shares that w/ Elvis. Her feeble body was carried only by her will to “live another year,” which she counted as her birthday. She was one year older when she died by 5 days…Jan. 13th.

And we, the family were gathered coming & going, keeping vigil over her and she looked up and Momma said, “Cease without praying” and we all chuckled as she corrected herself, laughing, “Pray without ceasing.” And we did, hopefully, & happily.

So this Christmas Season has been a tragic one around here and friends are dying daily it seems and I sit & wonder & think about Momma & what she would say today about the world and the tragedies of this season. She would say “Pray without ceasing,” or “Cease without praying,” and pull for the underdog.

A good friend of mine and hers just a week ago was told he had inoperable lung cancer. I went to visit my dear friend NT Clayton in Memphis and talked w/ him thru the nite. And many of the things I said were things Momma had said in her dying day.

And as he would pass in & out of consciousness I thought of the people on the Earth that “Ceased without praying.” And I made sure my friend would not cease w/o praying. And we prayed, but not 2 long and we lived in the moment, because that is all either of us had…the moment.

And the moment we cease w/out praying we are done. I believe in the power of prayer but praying is not going to heal my friend, only me. I prayed that I could be of some help to NT and his family at this time of deep sadness and that my dear friend would not “cease w/o praying.”

NT is a Creek Indian and has a mix of Christianity & Native American Indian Spiritual Doctrine. He believes the Creator is in all things, the water the air, the trees, the rocks, all things. And we discussed these things and some of the things he wished be done upon his passing and he achingly said, ” I need to rest now.”

I covered him, and fighting back my anger, because my friend was in so much pain. I laid on the loveseat next to him to rest at 4:00 a.m. I prayed w/out ceasing until sleep saved me from myself”s hurt of the grim outlook for my friend.

He woke up early 6a.m. to take medicine as I slept and then he went back to sleep. I woke him w/ a cup of coffee and wonderful morning of small talk and lite conversation.

It was nearing the time I had to leave and return to Pickwick to my restaurant. I told him I was going to the store and get him a few things like Momma had to strengthen her weak body. Chemo had made eating a burden because taste buds seem dead and nothing tastes good that used to, and food caused a nausea that made eating an unhappy, dreaded experience…And every caring body wants to feed the sick. Its natural for us 2 do that, try to feed the sick. I am no different so off I go to get Ensure, protein shakes, B complex, Tapioca pudding,  ice cream, Tums and a bucket of fried chicken w/ taters & gravy.

Returning to his daughter’s house in Cordova, we spread that chicken out and I had my thigh & NT said, “I think I could eat one of those legs.” So I brought him one and protein shake and a prune w/ the pit in and we ate.

When things look bad and my heart is hurting and I am preparing for the loss of a loved one, I will never forget what Momma said, “Cease without praying,” and left my friend after reading of chapters of The Tao of Willie 2 him and giving him the hardback copy as he passed into a needed sleep…

I prayed and stayed in constant hope all the way to Pickwick — only to hear from my wife, David Scott, 51, a good man and friend to many, had died of a sudden heart attack.

And I think how could this b. So this moment I am saddened w/ death and impending death, yet I thank the Lord for the time w/ Momma even though we both new she was on death’s bed.

Every moment is remembered & cherished and I pray for the families of all who have a sick loved one w/ an end date in site, hoping u will cherish every moment and make them count. These folks are far luckier than David Scott’s family and friends who didn’t get that last moment to say I love you and share a little laughter and some fried chicken.

Momma said, “Jay, I love you.” And I said, “but Momma, I hurt you so bad when I went to jail.” And Momma said,” Son, I only hurt because u hurt and u would never do anything that would spoil my love for U. Now, you forgive yourself, I did.” So I did, cause Momma said so.

That smile, that laughter, those eyes, and Momma’s arms open for a hug in that Christmas red housecoat… that’s what I would paint if I were a painter and give it to the world, because this is the love that feeds my soul.

Momma said, “Cease w/o praying”, cause she done prayed enough.

This Christmas Season cherish the moment u have w/ your family. Don’t rush off to ur own little world without smiling that smile, laughing that laugh, and opening those arms asking for a hug from the ones you love….So maybe U can paint a picture like I am seeing right now…cause you may cease w/o praying at anytime.

Merry Christmas from Peggy Jean Phillips Barker and me, her creation, and son.


Note from me about my friend Norman Terry Clayton….he is not doing well and days r limited for him here….I am honor 2 b his friend and His Creator is constantly with him and that comforts us both…..1 28 2011

NT passed to the Spirit world in Peace and since this writing the world lost Leroy Oakley, my best friend and long time employee…and more…thanks for reading.