Category: love


Time Share

Sharing time with those you love or with those who love you is the best use of time I have ever experienced.

I love have things called “timeshares” in Florida. They say I own one week a year of a ocean side room. I share it with 51 other “owners”.

So I am in Florida at my timeshare in Panama City Beach, sharing time with my wife. We work together and share time, but this time is our time….. set aside to be together….. in love.

Because we love each other, we tolerate our time at work together and we make the best of the time we have after work and because we love each other it all ends up good…… and we warm the cold sheets together. And at that point in time, the troubles of one day gently pass away.

I am a guy who wakes up happy ….usually. My time in the morning is often my best time all day… on a work day. But even on those days, I anxiously await Diana’s awakening and that familiar look on her face as she strolls by my desk to the coffee pot, robotly getting a cup, pouring it and dressing her Costa Rican cup of coffee. In Costa Rica they take coffee and will take time to take coffee. Diana and I take our time to take our coffee.

She requires 2 cups before anyone should speak to her…. per her instructions; That is her time and she tries to take it.

We all need time alone so that we can see and feel that true happiness occurs when we “share time” with those we love. It’s like – how can I miss you if you don’t go away….

That kinda brings me to the thing that is on my heart today.

This spring, in March, Diana and I were lucky enough to spend a few days with our friend Jay Cotter. He had been given a very grim outlook by the doctors. This was his last year. He called me and we talked and planned to meet in Panama City at our time share and we did. We talked and talked and laughed and ate together and he rested a lot. Jay was on his last trip anywhere except back and forth from the doc tor and the hospital, and he choose to spend it with me.

I met Jay while landscaping his parent’s yard and home. He was soon working for me, helping me finish his parent’s job and then on to many more. He worked with us at our first restaurant, “The Rocking Chair”. We spent a lot of time golfing and on the lake and generally having fun. Life caused us to be that way… fun, when Jay Cotter was around.

He always called me “Jay Barker” as do many others… using my first and last name as one. I called him “Jay Cotter”.

Jay Cotter got messed up with a woman that led him down a path of destruction at break neck speed, but he managed to escape by driving one night to Florida and sleeping in his car. He took control of his life and worked his way out of a bad way.

I went to Chicago and Pierce Cotter went to Florida. Jay Cotter changed his life, left his wife and became Pierce Cotter, owner of Rainmaker Sprinkler Systems and he had a long, fruitful career in the Florida landscape business.

I was fresh out of small town jail when out of the blue the phone rang and it was Jay Cotter…. not knowing my situation…. he said the company he was working for had a need for a landscape project foreman. I was flown in by REW Landscaping and by the end of the day, I had a secured a contract to work for them. It was truly a blessing for me and Rick Wesley. I made him a lot of money during my three years with his company and I also made a good bit.

During those years, Jay Cotter and I spent a lot of time …… together…. for which I am now thankful.

July 15th, yesterday, Jay Cotter breathed his last breath here on earth. His sister had called me a day or two before, forewarning me of the impending death of her brother and my friend. The following day, Ryan, Jay’s stepson, called and I said, “I’m on my way”.

Sunday at 4 PM, some thirty minutes after Pierce passed away, I was silently driving and thinking of the dread of the funeral and the good times he had had. And I was sorely sad.

A phone call from Todd, one of Ryan’s friends, informed me of Jay’s exact time of passing and told me I should plan on getting a motel room and he promised to let me know the time of the arrangements and such.

This is Monday and I have decided to stay with my wife in our Panama City timeshare instead of continuing to Orlando. See, the one I loved is dead. His family in Florida loved him…. not necessarily me. I came to the clear understanding that I was only trying to soothe my pain by going there. I was not for his family or stepsons or wife. It was for me. So when Diana neared Panama City at midnight I looked up from my silence and said: “I’m not going to Orlando”.

Shocked, but relieved, she said, “why?”

I explained and ensured her that her love was what I needed most at this time, after silently sharing 8 hours of driving and riding.

She knew I needed to be silent, she knows me….. she loves me and in her arms is where I needed to be all along. Before long, we were in our room and I was comforted by her touch and the caring in her eyes and I passed into a deep sleep, not dreaming, not waking, until morning.

Upon waking at 7 AM, I got up, opened the sliding doors to the balcony where Jay and I had not too long ago shared time. I gazed out over the vast Gulf of Mexico as the early walkers navigated the sand and tides and I wondered what Pierce was actually doing in the after life… and I felt a peace come over me and I knew he was sharing time with me again…. from where ever he was.

It’s now 3 PM and I haven’t heard from his loved ones in Orlando today. I am hoping for their pain to soon go away and the joy of Jay’s life set in for them.

I am a fortunate man. I have lost 4 close friends lately, yet I have at least 5 more still there with me. Most people I know don’t have 10 close friends, close close friends. I did and now its down to half that number, but plenty enough for Jay Barker.

A friend requires your time, your ears, your hands, your words, your heart and your understanding. It’s quite a job sometimes, but well worth every second we share.

I will leave my suit hanging in my car and share my time with my best friend…. Diana, my wife.

She loved Jay Cotter too and we will mourn no more, but rather try to enjoy these few day together at our timeshare.

There is no better use of time than to share it with the ones you love and the ones that love you.

Jay Barker loved Jay Cotter and we spent and shared and wasted no time together.

He is with me still, a good man and a better friend and a memory that will be shared with me as long as I am given the gift of breathing by the One who loves me the most.

Timeshare…. it’s a good thing.

The 12th Day of Christmas

On the 12th Day of Christmas, I give to you…. a big MERRY CHRISTMAS and a list I’ve been checking twice. This list I made for myself some years ago after reading the “Tao of Willie” (great read).

My dear friend NT Clayton, departed this life in January of this year. He kinda reminds me of Willie.


Use this list as you wish, I use it while I wish… for Peace.

I love ya’ll, Jay

12 Things I try to remember and do:

1. Never pass up a chance to shut up!
2. Never be afraid to teach.
3. Find a balance between #1 and #2 and avoid large doses of both.
4. My life is connected to all things… especially me and you.
5. I am not in control, fortunately, so let things happen…. enjoy the sun rising and setting.
6. No matter what you do, be truthful.
7. Always, patience first! Feed the good wolf of my heart.
8. Happiness is now. Understanding NOW is happiness, one moment at a time, happiness is in the way we act, not in the outcome.
9. Meditate, breathe deep, sit still, relax, listen, dream, repeat. And drink lots of water.
10. Creation sets you free. Creation of love and of loving solutions fulfills your deepest instincts to be good. Your actions are your creations.
11. Learn what you already know! Tell your mind what your HEART says. Feed love, starve anger, stop war.
12. Think positive. Trust the wisdom and guidance of your heart. You can do it!

Gotta go now…. it’s Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year.

Wow! I did it! 12 blogs in 12 days and still time left to shop for the one I love…. priceless.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The morning sky is dark with rain and gray clouds. Raba Baba is already preparing lunch at the Spoke and one of the grand kids is awake and watching cartoons. Diana has a sinus headache, and just called out from the bedroom for two Ibuprofen. So I take them to her and return to my desk in our den to write my blog.

I’ve already made coffee and let the dog out and checked my Facebook and Twitter. It seems fewer and fewer are reading these blogs and I wonder if they are worth the effort, other than my personal gain I get from writing them. And I do gain a lot, with each blog. See, I never was and still am not a ‘writer’. This is all new to me, but I enjoy this new found hobby… writing.

I don’t read as much as I should and never read fiction stuff. I can’t imagine making up a story, but I have very little trouble putting my thoughts to paper. They come from stuff I already know and remember and feel. Today I feel lots of stuff….. joy and sadness, health and hurt, pressure and no pressure, but most of all I feel loved.

Judie and Ron


Because I was loved as a child and now that I am an adult, my life requires a lot of love to be balanced. I must give it and receive it to be happy. Yesterday was a sad day for our family and for Judie’s family, so we all gathered and gave our love and comfort to Judie and Ron as they prepared to drive to Washington, DC and leave their home and usual Christmas routine to go be with Ron’s Dad and family, for the final time… while Ron’s Dad is still alive.

And we talked and hugged and discussed the situation. When dad got there, I told the group gathered that I had a feeling this was going to be a very special Christmas for their family and how fortunate they were to be together and traveling and seeing the National Christmas Tree and the state trees and our Nation’s Capital all lite up for the world to see. It reminded me how we used to travel every Christmas to Dad’s Mom’s and Dad’s Dad, very seldom having Christmas at home.

At this point in the Burnham families life, there are no grandkids, no married kids, and all the children are grown up. They were so supportive of their Dad that they would not let him go alone on this emergency trip. Ron is a big guy with a big heart and to see him crying, made me cry. I spent the entire day and on into the night with them and watched as family friends called, came by and even their minister; Helen Hamilton took time to sit with Judie and then Ron.

Drew, Cara, Judie, Ron, Barker - The Burnhams


Judie loves so many people, she is in return, loved by many people. Not having a vehicle that all the Burnhams could fit into, they were planning on taking two cars, even though they wished they could all be together in one vehicle. Dad’s wife Mickey, has a van and it is big enough for all of the Burnhams and Dad offered to see if Mickey might let them use her van for the long trip. Dad called and explained the situation to Mickey and she quickly said it would be her pleasure to let them borrow her van.

The whole family was relieved and excited to be able to travel all together, as a family, in one car. There was a collective “thank you” sighed out to Mickey and Dad for arranging a way for them all to be together.

Mickey, if you read this, I want to thank you for this act of family and kindness. Soon after the family found out they would be traveling together, their mood lightened and their hearts were warmed and they were drawn closer to Dad’s wife than ever before. And that’s a good thang. It has not been so. Things have been said, feelings hurt, and estrangement had ruled between Dad’s kids and Mickey.

Last Tuesday, we shared a Christmas dinner with LuAnne and Judie, and me, and Dad and Mickey and Jim, her son. We have not shared a meal together in a long time. That meal did not heal all wounds, but it started the healing and now this act of family will heal more past wounds.

So, on the 10th Day of Christmas I give you ….. Change.

Mickey and Jack on their wedding day


Things change, we change, times change, but love endures all change. My sisters and I faced the change of Dad having a wife that was not our Momma. We didn’t handle it as well as we wished we could and hope that someday this change would feel right to us and Dad.

I hope this is the start of the change we all need… a united family and a Dad not torn between his children and his wife.

Things change, and bad things only last a moment, because things change. And there is no better way to effect change than to love, and forgive, and be patient, and understand. We aren’t the only creatures on the planet… we are all connected. Change then affects us all… because we are all connected.

It’s like the domino effect; one change creates a long line of changes one after another. We all are products of change. We changed from a seed into caring societies, people and families – sons to Daddys, Dad to Granddaddys, and someday grandkids into parents and the chain of change goes on and on.

Change is inevitable and without it, there is no life. My life has changed many, many times and this time, this change may be my last chance to change for the better or… worse. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, only hoped for or dreaded. If we see a tomorrow, expect a change. Is there something you can change that you know you need to change… about yourself or relationships? I sense we all need some change, me especially.

I watch some folks change for the worse, especially when something goes bad in their life. I have watched family members change for the worse, some for the better and some never change cause they are already good as gold.

This Christmas things have changed. Diana still mourns the death of her brother, Ron is saddened with the impending death of his father, our family functions are rearranged, and I have lost too many good friends this year to count. Things change… but love endures and that will never change.

I love ya’ll and hope your changes are for the best and ya’ll hope for me as I continue to change. “I’m just an old chunk of coal, but I’m gonna be a diamond someday”…. And I feel the pressure that effects that change… over time.

It’s Christmas Time, a time that changed the world. One person, with one purpose changed the world… you can too… through Him and His love for you that gives you and me that power… the power to change. The power to change ourselves and then the domino affect starts… changing the world around you …. And me.

“Got any spare change?” somebody needs it if you will give it… this I sense.

The 9th Day of Christmas

I guess you’ve noticed these blogs are getting shorter and shorter as they near the 12th day of my Christmas time. The last few days have really been fast moving at a slow pace. The hustle and bustle of Christmas has set in and blog time has been muscled out by sleep. I woke up this morning around 6:30, got up, walked around, thought of my promise to give you the 12 days, and went back to bed. I was just too tired to tackle the blog and the Facebook and the Twitter and the world; so I chose to sleep.

Now I’m up again and taking my coffee and Diana’s taking phone calls, the restaurant is open, the coffee pot is empty, and here I sit, in a prison I created for myself, by committing to a long term blog. I do this kinda thing to myself all the time and I say to myself, “I will never try to do this kinda thing again”. And then I do.

So now it’s a goal, just to finish these 12 days and when I set a goal and keep my eyes on the goal line, I usually get there. So, on the 9th day I give you…… Goals.

Football is nothing without a goal line, goal post, a goal. Life is that way with me. I have to set goals to move forward in my world. I have many goals, probably too many, and this blog may be one of the too many. But I think not. In the quest of my goal to be a good person, this blog has made me examine myself and my beliefs and habits. I guess if I was asked, “what would you like to have said about you and how would you like to be thought of you when you die?”, I would answer by saying that I hope I was a good father.

If nothing else, a good father. Being a good father is my goal and one simple gauge I use to measure my success at reaching this goal is…. How good I am at loving my children’s mother. I believe no better example can be given them, than the example shown through me loving her.

It is not to our credit or fault if our children “succeed” or excel, or fall down, and deep. As a parent, our only fault would be not to have loved each other. I love looking at my kids, now all grown, and knowing they know love. And each was raised the same, but turned out different individuals.

As a child, being a preacher’s kid, I always felt “pressure”… to be this way, do this, don’t do that, all of it seemed to much as a kid. So I didn’t want my kids to feel any of that kinda pressure, so I let them choose what sport or activity they wanted and helped them with that. And when my son decided not to play sports, I was selfishly saddened, but I supported him in his choices. Odyssey of the Mind, Skills USA National Competition… no touchdowns, but passing the goal line in his chosen dimensions and fields of interest.

my son nick... smart, kind, funny, now grown up.

nick with his momma - they have a special bond

Our rule was simple. You make all A’s and there are no rules. The child made the rules if they made all As. And they did excel. Ashley Salutatorian and National Rotary Scholar winner – her winning essay made her the first person from this part of the country to win this national scholarship. Christen played Lady Tiger Softball and was the editor of the school paper and through her love of art, was nominated for the Governor’s School of Art. She was a member of the National Art Honor Society. Jessica was on the first Tiger Motion Dance Team and was brilliant at learning and performing the routines. All different, all smart, all loved without conditions.

Ashley's Senior pic from the HCB Wall of Fame

Christen on her 19th birthday. She was in her pink hair phase. We also saw green, purple and lots of other colors.

First born daughter Jessica - I was visiting her in Ohio

And their mother? Well she was loved too. And with each passing year, I look back on our love and I see that I sure could have done better some years, at loving their mother. We have many goals, Diana and I, but the number one goal is to love each other and that fulfills a lot of other goals.

We dream of a house in Costa Rica on our mountain top… that is a goal. We dream of selling our restaurant someday and retiring to each other’s love, wherever we are. We dream of spending weeks on end at the cabin on Indian Creek…. kayaking, swimming, spending time in nature with our grandkids. And since these things are goals, I just bet we reach them. I sure hope we do. We work hard every day, doing what we can to make these goals our reality.

Nick, Boo, Max - at the creek - Indian Creek

Montana Lote - Costa Rica

I have many goals. I wish I could share all of them with you, but it would be of no use. So I ask you instead, to examine your goals and identify them and categorize them. Then put the family goals first. Is that where it already was? I sense it was so, cause I know most of the folk who will read this.

So the goal of putting out 12 blogs in 12 days and say something of me and my ideals is weighing heavy on me. You might not understand how serious words are. I do understand this and each word written is history and I want to be able to look back and read these words and feel something real, honest, and true…. so it is a challenge and a risk and revealing and imprisoning. I am captive to my commitment. And I feel the pressure of the next few days. And it’s Christmas time too. So I promise you, I will never commit to the 12 Days of Christmas blog again. This is it. And it’s got to be good and lasting. The words will never go away and I am sensitive to that fact.

You may read these blogs and think, “oh, what a good guy this is” or “this dude is so full of bull” or who really knows what you think? I only know what I think. I sense that others know these same things. Sometimes we just have to relearn what we already know. In my case, I should have known better than to commit to the 12 blogs, but 9 days ago, it seemed like the thing to do. So I said I would do it and I am and this is part of it.

I see my family react to these blogs and so I keep them in mind in nearly every writing. That is one of my goals and I can see the goal post. Christmas of today will never again be the Christmas of back then. No matter how hard we try to make Christmas like it was when “Big Daddy” Ralph Barker gathered his flock and it was absolutely the best day of the year, “Christmas Eve”. All the family and cousins and uncles and it was heaven. That’s what it was and that’s when it will be the same as it used to be… when we all get to heaven.

I can see Big Daddy, with Aunt Willie and Uncle Granville, Uncle Max, Momma and others, with all of us together again. And I can see the Christmas past when I would wake up at Momma Vera’s with my sisters and mom and dad, amazed now at my dad’s commitment of love for his mother (Momma Vera). And to know that now, it is up to me to give my family good memories of Christmas with me as PaPa and Daddy.

This year the kids are coming to our house and wait for ole Santa to show up. And Santa will come see the grand kids at Papa and Nana’s house. Little Amy Lu insists she has to be here, at our house, because we have the chimney for Santa. And Enzi asks, “But how will Santa know we are here and not at our house Papa?” It’s magic, we say, he’s watching… and then we remember when the magic was simply the love of mom and dad. Kids still love the magic of Christmas and I do too, magically different. My goal is to make this Christmas everything they dream of… that’s my dream and my goal. So off to help Santa I must go, to fill each stocking with the joys of Christmas.

me and enzi decorating the tree

lu lu and enzi decorating cookies

santa came! papa and lulu playing....

The goal of this blog began as a goal just to get it done, and have it finished. Then my thoughts reminded me how special this time is for children… my children and grandchildren and all children. My goal is to make sure my grand kids remember Christmas time at Papa Jay’s…. with joy unmatched.

I hope this blog will help you look at your goals for the future and today and may you prioritize them with family foremost, always. My goal is to help you reach your goal. Remember you are going to be a memory someday. How do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as a good dad and that means I must be a good husband… cause a good dad loves his children’s Momma madly, if he’s a good dad.
Diana, I love you madly and Merry Christmas my dear. I go shopping just for her every Christmas Eve and it’s still the happiest day of my year… Christmas Eve. She makes my days…. so special. I never know what I will buy her cause all the other gifts are bought first and then we see if any funds are left and I use that little bit and seek out something that might show my love the best. Whatever it is, this year it will not cost much but will mean a lot and my time looking for it is priceless. I love Christmas Eve like a kid, with anticipation of Christmas Day fluttering in my heart.

I hope your goals are in order and that you reach every one of them. And today one of my goals is reached….my blog is done…. and Diana hands me the phone and it’s Judie and she’s crying and packing to leave unexpectedly for Alexandria Virginia to be with Ron’s dad. He is dying fast and requested to see his family… so my goal now is to go comfort Ron and Judie before they depart in the early morning. Things happen… goals change, but the order of my goals stay the same….. Family First.

Pray for them if you pray, hope for them if you hope, and I will hope for you and yours … a “family first” Christmas. However it may turn out, one thing is for sure, it will someday be someone’s memory.

The Things I See…..Her Room

For years my wife has given of herself for the family and stood by her man, through thick and thin, and worked harder than me most days, always only asking for one thing. A place she could call her own. A room, or a place, no one could invade and rearrange or “bother” any of her various stuff. All of it very meaningful to her and cool to us.

She always kept our house clean and orderly, even with 4 kids and various “live-ins” and my set of drinkin buddies, which gave no time or place to herself.

I built houses for a while and we moved into one of them and we made our house on Prince Place in Savannah a little paradise for kids and friends. The little 3 bedroom ranch soon became a 4 bedroom with a double carport, paved drive, picture perfect home. I built the kids a double deck tree house out of crude materials with their help and it was very cool and the “kids place”. But Diana still dreamed of having her place; it seemed everyone else had theirs and she needed hers. She waited patiently, but never passing up a chance to remind me she “wanted her own space”.

When we moved to Alabama Street, we had lived in our Prince Place home 12 years and I lost it and everything else when I tried, but failed to make it big in Chicago. So we remodeled Diana’s “Susie Gran’s” old wood frame cottage of 3 bedrooms and short doors into a 4 bedroom, with modern “everything you want in a kitchen” kitchen with 100 year old oak cabinets we built ourselves, beautifully landscaped and blacktopped drives and still no room for Diana. She often talked of turning the outside storage room into “her room” but that never happened.

We had been taking our children to Indian Creek to swim most afternoons and weekends for years. We loved the place. It fit our style, whatever that is. So one day I bought a camp lot there, then another, then another and soon I had 3 acres and on Diana’s birthday, I bought a little cabin on poles on the bank of Indian Creek and declared it “her place”. She loved it and we spent countless hours beautifying and mowing and planting a garden and flowers and she found sanction there many days.

But this space too soon became invaded by my friends, and countless car loads of beer drinking boys and girls. Her place had been taken from her by the nature of me and my friendship circle which stretched far and wide. Soon my best friend from high school built a house beside our cabin and one of my life’s heroes, NT Clayton, bought a cabin from me and it seemed her place was no longer hers. The sanctuary was no longer a sanctuary for her.

Then we moved to Pickwick and miles removed from Olive Hill and our cabin, the daily visits to the cabin halted and my wife put her wishes for a room aside and dove 100% into operating the Broken Spoke as owner.

As the owner of The Broken Spoke, Diana had her a place: a big place and she set about to clean and decorate it. And she did and for 5 years this was her place. It was not what she had dreamed of “as her place”, but her place none the same.

When the economy went south in 2008, so did I, leaving Diana to deal with the impossibility of running the restaurant without my help. She championed painfully and most days with tears through a year that saw our business drop to half of the previous year. And it broke us financially. Running a business without money ain’t no fun, and is near impossible, but she did it.

When I got home from Costa Rica, she was near a nervous breakdown. I was gone too long and it showed on her face and in her eyes and as she hugged me home, I felt the burden, passed to me and I knew what I had to do.

I began running the restaurant and opened 7 days a week and bailed water and righted the sinking ship. We are healthy now but not making up much ground to losses we incurred for a couple of years.

And I must now heed the call from Diana to “build her a room” a place for herself and her crafts and her stuff. Her place. Her room.

So I began slowly and after 3 years of trying, the room is built in our new barn. A cypress lined, fluorescent lit, 2 window, 2 door room. Plenty of open shelving and work space, an island a friend gave her with it’s own sink, a white board and all her stuff make up this room. Now she has the space she has craved and waited for for all these years. She can leave unfinished projects strewn out and when she has a minute, she can disappear to her room and create whatever it is she is working on at the moment, without the worry of dragging it all out and putting it all back up. I’ve heard of the creation of a Tshirt quilt for the kids, a shadow box of my Papaw Ralph, and all sorts of things created out of recycled objects. Her paper decoupage crafts will be ongoing and never ending. She has millions of things cut from cards and magazines that she means to create items from. I’ve even heard talk of a new sewing machine.

If ever I saw an oak, it is in my wife’s life. She is the backbone of her own family tree and has withstood the winds of a dysfunctional family of her own. She has waited me out and thank god, for me and her, the good times for me aint what they used 2 be…most of the time. She faced a cruel business environment and walked upright head long thru it against all odds and now…….she got her room she long deserved.

My wife has made my life complete in so many ways in so many days and been such a good mother 2 her children and child 2 her parents and grand child 2 her grand parents….A down 2 earth sister 2 her siblings and a contributing citizen 2 her county. Good things come 2 those who wait…and she has finally got her good thang. Her day has finally come and her room is nearly complete. I lack a little, like hooking up the electricity, and installing her counter and shelves and flooring…well maybe more than a little, but happiness has entered her body and glows from her eyes already. Soon she will sit in her new room and create me something and something for you 2 probably.

So thank you Diana for allowing all of us 2 get the things we wanted and for ur unselfish service 2 ur family and mine and more than that, thank you for making me whole and anchoring me to this place. I am a lucky man 2 have ask for ur hand and you got a damn good deal when I said I do and I will and I am sorry it took me so long 2 give u what you asked for for so long…your room …your space…your reward. I am so happy for you and proud of your room and If you ever feel like it, come back in the house and see me sometime…..cause I love you so.

The Things I See

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.