This week past has been a week that brought me a lot of whys …. again. It seems like the more I think I know the less I really do. Do you know that you don’t know? I do and the way I see it, not knowing is a blessing and knowing is a burden.

My little sister, Judie Burnham will be operated on this March 1st, to remove two masses found growing in her body. A pathologist will be on hand to analyze the mystery growths that worry me and my family and hers. And right now, not knowing seems to be hard to deal with. But knowing we have great doctors and good medical facilities gives us hope the unknown masses will be removed and my baby sister will be better very soon, with a couple of cysts removed.

At 7 AM Tuesday, our family will gather at the Hardin Medical Center (hospital) and join in love to hope for the best and cope with the rest. I do know that prayer is stout and mass prayer is stouter, so I ask for mass prayer of my peoples and I pray now for God’s own hand to comfort my sister today, tomorrow, and to life’s end… I need not ask cause He knows Judie, and He carries the burden of knowing while He gives us the hope we need when we don’t know.

Hope! I speak of it often. Hope is the here and now and it is the moment I live in every day and often hope is all I have, right now and right here.

I sat with my sister a week ago and for the first time in my life (lately), I was at a total loss for words. I was greeted as only Judie can greet someone. She lit up with joy and came to the door to let me in, smiling and nearly excited. As soon as she opened the door we hugged for a long time, without a pat on the back while we stood in silence – just hugging. It was a good hug – one we both gave and both received.

Just one week ago, my wife’s mom, Rita Chancy, was operated on at Mayo Clinic in Florida, where they removed a mass on her kidney, her kidney, and her gall bladder. After surgery complications put Mama Rita back in the hospital just a couple days later, but she is out now. The mass was cancerous but the surgeon removed it cleanly and completely from that spot and a collective sigh of relief was breathed by all who love “Mama Rita”, as my kids and myself call her.

Seven days earlier, I had cancer removed from my face, and just three months before that, from my chest – skin cancer.

So knowing my mom died of cancer and my dad has had multiple cancers removed from his skin, I know I will face much more cancer in my life and in other’s lives I love. But today we don’t know if Judie’s masses are just cysts, which we Barkers also grow a lot of, or tumors of cancers. So I don’t know, and today I am wondering what the future holds for Judie. My big sister LuAnne, the bulldog of the family, has had multiple cysts and masses removed and because I was younger, 45 then, I never worried about her operations and often she would go be doctored and I would never even know she went, cause she knew I didn’t need to know. She’s like that; she doesn’t want you to worry about her or it. Like I said, not knowing was better than knowing, for me, at that time. Big sister LuAnne has always been one to hide her pain and problems from others so they would not worry.

What if we all knew the exact day and way we would die? If we did know this, at least half our life would be spent worrying about our end date and knowing would stop us from living before we died. Not knowing is only good when it is about the world’s mystery and God’s plan. On the other hand, knowing is good and essential when it comes to our heart and our plan for our life, however long we may live on earth.

Do you know your heart? For from the heart comes all the truths of your life. Is your heart pure or seeking things you know are not pure and good, cause your soul tells you when your heart’s desires are not good.

Let me give you an example. I love to smoke, I love chocolate, I love coffee, I love money, yet all these things I could do without, but my mind says life would not be as fun without these things. So I still seek them….what do I know?

Raba Baba, just showed up for coffee, before his work shift starts Monday morning. I have been up enjoying the solitude of morning since 6 AM. This is the last day of February and it thundered again and again as the rain came down heavy and hard for most of the 7 o’clock hour. Robert can’t hear very good and I know this, but I don’t know when he hears me. So I will say; Robert, can you hear me, can you hear me, over and over, each louder, each time until Baba says “huh?” as he turns his good ear to me and I talk to him at that loudness level. Today I asked him how he was this morning.

“Well, I’m up and I hate getting’ up” stopping to sip his ¼ “glass” of coffee, he looks at me and continues, “I always hated going to sleep and always hated getting’ up. But I slept like a rock.” He concluded.

I told him I remembered when I was like that and how much it would suck if I still felt that way about my days.

“I used to be the same way; I can remember it like it was yesterday. But now I love to go to sleep and I love to get up.” I never thought going to sleep early and getting up early would be as much fun as staying up late and sleeping all day. I loved late nights back then and hated any hour before 8 AM. I didn’t know I could feel good when I woke up because I couldn’t most of my first 35 years. Because I went to sleep legally drunk or self absorbed. I did have a lot of fun but being hung over and getting up early don’t make for a happy day.

Now, I see I can wake up feeling great and enjoy the morning awakening, as the humans sleep. I find a greater peace and understanding in the dawn of day than another time and I can remember past days when sunset was my time of peace and quite, and I still love sunsets. But now I have a new love and more importantly, I have lost two hates. Yes, two hates …. Hating to go to sleep and hating to get up no longer exist in my heart. They have been replaced by two new loves. I love to go to sleep and I love to wake up, the earlier the better. I never dreamed something so simple yet complex would turn 180 degrees in my life and it be good and fun. I didn’t know.

If I had of known this going to bed early was fun, and getting up early was fun, I would have made way fewer mistakes, resulting in a dumber version of me as I am now. I know about things in walks of life that can only be learned late at night. I see why some folks are naive and can not understand because I was that naive person.

I thought I could not live without a nightly beer buzz and a 12 pack after work before supper. That 12 pack time was declared by me as “my time”. Family, church and state were put second in “my time” and I justified it by working hard every day. I deserved it, I declared it and knew without question I was right … or so I thought I knew.

Now I know I was wrong and the thought of the things I threw away to be Jay and having “my time” and my way, is my burden. I know life is better today, this way. Don’t get me wrong. I still love to have drinks with the friends and family of my world, but it is not a “required” ingredient in the formula of having fun and I’ll drink to that statement.

Ya’ll, I honestly can’t remember many days that I didn’t seek fun or happy moments. From the days of childhood until today, I still seek happy moments. All people sow wild oats, do crazy things, and some never return from this trip and stage of their seeking of happiness. I have close friends who are miserable because of seeking happiness from a bottle that always runs dry and leaves them empty as the vessel that held the liquid happiness they consumed. I know they know, and that’s a burden to me, and them. Each of these friends did not know this is how it would turn out for them. Now that they know they are miserable, sad, and usually to drunk for decent company, so they are alone. And alone is not a happy place to be or live.

Judie lives in a happy place. She is the happy helpful person that cares deeply for family, church and state and in that order. She lives for others and her world is happier because she loves her family so.

She keeps them close, hoping they never move far from her. And because she loves as she lives, she is happy. She misses her Momma, and feels the pain of departure more than me and LuAnne, if that’s possible.

She misses me, her brother, even thought I am only 12 miles away, our busy lives prevent us from hugging daily. I know this and it is a burden on us both. I raised my kids in Savannah, TN and Judie moved from Camden, a place she loved and they loved, to Savannah so her kids would grow up around family; cousins, uncles, aunts, grandpa and grandma. She didn’t know that, that move would be the best years of her and Momma’s life and the worst. She did know it was the best thing for her family’s future happiness and my family’s future happiness.

She would daily stop by my Alabama Street house and share time and “Judie stories” with me and Ron would stop on Saturdays and drink coffee with me – cause me and Ron got up early and he had a radio talk show at the 7 AM hour – he is a great coach and tonight he will take his Hardin County Girls Basketball Team to Munford for the second round regional tournament play. We stayed in touching distance for years.

So I went over to Judie’s to touch her and hug her, but my words had already been spoken and I could not say “Judie, everything is going to be alright.” I did not know what the doctors would say but I did know Judie needed me, and my wife knew Judie needed me and I needed Judie. So we hugged and we needed that.

And at 7 AM March 1st, we will come together as a family and with our God, hope for the best and cope with the rest, as a family, not alone.

This day I pray for the steady hand of a surgeon, strength of faith for us all and the safe removal of a couple of cysts and as Judie says “a few pounds” so Judie can go back to helping others real quick. I know I don’t know, therefore I know. Will Rogers once said, “I been through some awfully terrible things in my life, some of them actually happened.” I know Will, I have 2 but not this time.

Judie, “everything is going to be alright.” I know I don’t know, therefore I know …. And that’s my burden … of love.

So with all my love, I send hope and I will see you in the morning cause wherever you are is a happy place …. cause you share happiness in all you do, even gettin operated on. See u in the AM.

From your “brother”.


Jay, Judie and LuAnne