Norman Terry Clayton (NT) pictured

In my walk of life, I see many things and I do many things and I believe many things and I hope for many things.

The things I see register with me first and the way I see them is affected by what I am doing at the time.  I stay in constant hope for many, locally and internationally, collectively and individually.  Each day brings a new hope and I believe that hope is prayer. I believe many things, but I cling to one thing…. Love, and I have faith that within love is the peace that passes understanding.

I see injustice and justice, I see life and death, I see joy and sorrow, I see loss and gain, I see the past and the present, and I see hope and hopelessness.

Then I do something or nothing. Because in your life and my life I see all of those things in a blink of the eye, about everything, every second, without even seeing it happen.  It happens.  So what I do is always a result of my mind’s instant decision that is sent to my heart and soul for consideration.  There what I “see” is matched with what I believe, if anger or alcohol has not blocked my view, my soul searches and my heart talks, and I listen, as the process of decision is computed, in a heart beat.

You believe me?  It is true. This happens with me every second of every day and as I write this, the past words are weighed and new words are collected, chosen because of the words already written.  All of this may appear to be deep thinking but its not.  It is automatic in us all. What we see and how we see it determines our day and our life’s ultimate outcome.

Do you see hope in your life? I do. I see hope in all things even those who feel hopeless.

What I am trying to say is Sunday I saw the after affect of the death of two dear friends and their families.

Monty Irby was a mother to one of my best high school friends, Marty Irby. Monty was married to James Irby and they were friends with their own children and any friend of one of their children was a welcomed friend of the Irby house.  I was one of the lucky ones that was in the Irby house nearly every day during my high school years.  She was the most welcoming soul I have ever been touched by.  Having moved from town to town I had hoped for a place and a person like this.  In Milan I found many people like this… The Williams, The Beasleys, The Fields, The Harrisons, The Arnolds, The Owenby’s, The Tuckers, the Jones’, The Cunninghams and many more.

They cared about me and their kids and their town and they became part of what I believe.  The love Mrs. Irby had for me was never hidden or fake.  She always treated me like her son, and that meant she wanted the best of everything for me.

I told Marty some years later, when I was in the middle of raising my 4 kids, that I patterned my household environment and my family interaction after his Mom and Dad in many ways.  Their way was different that the way I was raised and how my family interacted.  I had the best of home life but Marty did 2 and it was different than any I had yet to see.

I must thank Monty and James for letting me see a different way to love your family than one I was accustomed 2.  Both were good and I use both patterns of parenting, mixed with a lot of Phil and Barbara Williams to develop my style of parenting. Never knowing when I had computed these things together, but I see it clearly now.

Dr. Phil has died, Monty has died, Momma has died, but the things they taught me live on in me and my children and those I touch with the love I have got stored up in me.  They all hoped the best for me and mine and that hope has carried me many a day when I was to weak to carry myself.

I see this… one’s love lives on, even after an earthly death.

I love NT Clayton and he loved me.  He died Saturday at 9:30 PM at hospice’s hand. This amazing complex, simple man was a mentor of mine.  He valued the earth and treated it with respect and his hands created.  A card carrying Creek Native American Indian, Norman was down to earth. He wanted for nothing more than time and a healthy body with which he could create a stable home for his wife and children and his art.

He would talk of things he had created and his life a work, only after he knew you were through telling about yours.  Then he would talk about one of his five children or his dog and we would talk about such at least a couple times a week for 30 years of his life.

Lung cancer claimed him as a victim sometime ago but was diagnosed a short three months ago, and he passed into the unknown two short days ago. But his love and his teachings and his creations live on in me and those he created. His love lives on.

So upon hearing of NT’s sickness, I visited him in his chemo days and cherished and mourned with this man.  He had hope for six months, yet we knew it was not to be, as he quickly weakened. And he himself knowing it was not to be, he still spoke of riding with me in the truck to the creek one more time, and maybe even kayaking. Even as he labored to talk, he did so with humor and hope.

Indain Creek .....Marty , NT, and all our young ones love this spot

I was cooking dinner service Saturday night when NT took his final breath, but my bags were packed to go stay with him as soon as I was finished.  I went home to take a shower and checking Facebook as I returned to the restaurant to tell Diana I was leaving for Memphis to be with NT, I got the news that he had passed some 1 ½ hours earlier and I felt guilty for not being there as I had planned.  Surrounded by his children is how he passed and my heart told me that’s the way it was meant to be. I called Amber, his daughter, and she asked me to come be with them and I told her I would as soon as I left Marty’s mom’s funeral in Milan that next morning, Sunday.

The drive to Milan, after a sleepless night, was filled with memory replay.  And as most crossed my mind, my tears would swell and drip one by one, even if a smile was on my face from the memory that was pushing tears.  In no time, I was in Milan at Bodkin Funeral Home and visiting with those that came to pay their respect and then to the grave site. Marty asked me to lead the funeral ceremony and I felt good to do so yet unworthy and inadequate at the same time.

But in the end, as this was, it was not what any family of Milan had taught me or given me, but rather what my father, Jack Barker, had taught me that carried me and soothed me and I knew it.  Daddy had given the graveside ceremony for James Irby a few years earlier and I was proud to stand in for him on this day. And we had a Christian burial and a heartfelt remembrance of a loving, caring person. And everyone quickly dispersed to their life’s routine.

me and my daddy, Jack

I handed Marty his Bible back and asked him if he wanted to talk or hang out and he rightly said no and he explained why and we hugged goodbye and I walked to my truck slower than usual and left for Memphis and another honoring of the dead and comforting of those who lost a father.

I can’t really recall the words I spoke graveside but the 23rd Psalms was Marty’s chosen Bible verse and fighting back tears, I read it and it floated in my head for hours and then I was in Memphis.  And as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, I feared nothing.

Within minutes of Norman’s death, an American Indian spiritual leader came to the bedside as planned by NT and his family and NT’s spirit was committed to the Creator. His body was taken for cremation and the “Celebration of Life” began.

The American Indian funeral is different that a Christian funeral in that there is not one. Instead, there is a celebration of life ceremony held as far as a year later than the day of death.  This celebration will be formally held in May at Indian Creek around a fire. Family and Indian Chiefs and Counselors will gather and talk of this man’s life and the good he gave and the talking stick will be passed from one person to the next and herbs will be placed in the fire by each member of the circle, representing the release of NT’s spirit and then we will all make a float trip down Indian Creek and release a portion of his ashes back to the earth from which he came and each of us will forever have a special place along the creek’s journey where we returned his ashes.

And that Sunday night, I sat with NT’s children and spent the night with them and we talked and laughed and honored NT with stories of his past and present on into the early morn when sleep claimed us one by one.

What I saw was a family separated by miles and Mommas, come together as one in love and respect and hope.

As I drove home to Pickwick Monday morning, I thought of the differences in the way each of us handles death.  But more so, I saw how each of us handles life.  And I handle life much better because of these two people’s lives… not their deaths.

I will rejoice Monty Irby’s life as Marty asked and I will celebrate NT’s life as he asked and I will cherish my life as long as I am alive, because I see hope.  Hope in all things, even the hopeless and I have faith that love will be seen as the gift that lasts forever – even after our passing here on earth.

Love is passed on from one to another by doing. I hope to do much love, receive much love, and believe in love.

Lost a good riding buddy this year...Diana's little brother Keith ...2011

In my walk of life, I see many things, I do many things, I believe many things and I hope many things.

Today I hope your walk of life is filled with love and family and I don’t know where all the roads of life end up but I do believe it is probably the same place.  And I believe it’s a good place for these two friends and all those they go to meet.  I do believe a reunion of spirits is out there celebrating the death of the body and the reunion of the spirit.  I must believe I will see my loved ones after life here on earth and I hope I am right.

And I must thank Dad for the rock of faith on which I stand and 2day I rejoice, at the thought and hope of my friends reuniting with their loved ones that passed before them. Hope is a good thang and love is even better…I have faith in this.