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I never feel so alive or at peace with the world as when something or someone makes me laugh.
Three weeks ago, I wrote a short funny column about my friend, S. Wiley, and I ended it with sending him to Mark Simms for a job interview. Mark replied last week with a very funny column where S. Wiley comes to visit him. Put the two columns together and you have the whole story.
Mark’s column made me laugh until my sides hurt. I have to admit; I didn’t know Mark had such writing ability to come back on me. I’ve written so many columns on local notables and I’ve always hoped someone would come back to “get me.” It finally happened.
I laugh a lot these days, and at times have trouble taking anything too seriously. Yet the reality is life is unbelievably tough many times. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it’s worth living.
Hard to believe? Haven’t you ever thought that at your deepest and darkest moments?
You know what gets me through it? Messages.
Messages sent by God through his chosen people.
Funny, isn’t it?
A man knows as much about the ways of God as an earthworm knows the ways of man. Yet at times we all question why God lets the awful things happen to us or those we love.
It’s at these times of extreme doubt that the Lord sends out little messages of love and tells us to “hang on” because he will guide us out.
God may be talking to you now.
The first time I heard a message, it came when Cindy was pregnant with twins. She miscarried one of them within weeks of conception. The second was on the verge of leaving this earth at any time. The Gulf War was in progress and I was on active duty, subject to deployment.
Cindy was laid down the last three months before the baby’s due date.
I’m certain other families who have suffered the same can tell you what a lonely and frightening time this can be. But we weren’t always alone. Over the course of those months, many other women came to visit or call, bring supper sometimes, and just to talk with Cindy. These simple gestures did more to boost her spirits than anything that I could have done at that moment of our lives. You could always see Cindy so up after those little visits.
The baby was born. Eighteen years later she was the WCHS Class of 2009 Valedictorian.
I remember when I was being downsized out of the army in 1991. Half the active army was in the same boat, and there was an economic recession in full bloom. There I was with a newborn baby and wife, and full of doubts about our future and myself. My confidence was shot to pieces. I know Cindy was feeling the same way.
It was Christmas time, and all the family was gathered at my parents’ house for dinner.
My father took my wife aside and told her “Don’t you worry about anything. I know my son. You’ll be OK.”
Cindy took what he said to heart. She told me about it that night when we were alone. I always respected my father and to know he had that kind of faith in me lifted me up.
I found another job. It wasn’t pretty, the work was hard, and the pay was low. But together we pulled our weight through this world for our little family. I praise God now for the experience.
I remember when I developed a painful, never-ending illness that causes me to rely on four prescriptions taken year round, even after six operations. The specialist told me that I would have good days and bad days for the rest of my life, but I would never really feel that good again. It was heartbreaking for me.
But then God let me watch a little girl, with multiple birth defects, playing on a softball league out at Idle Hour Park one summer many years ago.
She gave me hope that if she could carry on, with much worse problems than my own, then I could, too.
Near tragedy came knocking again.
My third child was 18 months old when he swallowed a quarter. It happens with young children who will put anything in their mouths they find. Unfortunately, no one saw him do it.
It became lodged in his throat. He couldn’t eat anything without throwing up but popsicles. He seemed fine otherwise. Cindy took him to the doctor after three days. They sent us home saying he just had a flu or virus and would be okay in a day. Cindy took him back a day and half later. When they checked closer, they weren’t sure what the problem was.
The child was sent on to Bardstown for x-rays where the quarter was discovered. The Bardstown hospital said it was too risky for them to attempt to take it out. We were sent to another hospital in Louisville. They told us it was a miracle the coin had not flipped over his esophagus and suffocated him. A nurse said, “It would have probably been marked up as “Sudden Infant Death” syndrome.
Later during the overnight stay in the hospital, I got a call from a very upset brother-in-law. A man that had lost his own son and was our son’s godfather. Our child was partly named after him. He wanted to know why he hadn’t been called. I explained to him that it had all happened so fast we didn’t have time to think. He wasn’t fully satisfied with the explanation and it seemed to hurt him.
But you know what?
I came away so warmed by that irate brother-in-law. I knew in an uncertain world, where anything might happen to me at anytime, that my children would always have a daddy.
A woman told me at work that we should stop having children. She said our luck would run out. Her words seemed prophetic.
It was discovered our fourth child had a swollen heart while Cindy carried her in the womb, and was four months from her due date. We ended up at a hospital in Lexington for high-risk pregnancies. The doctor asked us what we thought about abortion, as the fetus seemed so damaged. Well, we might not be the best of Christians, but we are Christian. Abortion was out of the question. We had another long draining slog through this fourth pregnancy.
Again, we were frightened. But God gives strength when you need it. Cindy went to the funeral home where a friend’s father-in-law had died here in Springfield. When Cindy came home that night she was glowing. I could see it.
She said, “Do you know what that woman who was burying her husband told me? She is there for her husband, and when I came up to talk to her she held my hand and told me that she was thinking about our problems and that she was praying for us. She said that with all she is going through.”
The power of those words seemed to carry Cindy through.
Four months later Cindy gave birth to a normal, healthy girl.
Four years later we had our fifth and last child.
So what have I learned from all this?
The only real wealth you have in this world are other people.
Because they are made by God and are his tools for communicating with us.
He’s so big that our tiny minds can’t comprehend him in all his glory. So when he has a really important message to send us, it will always come from one of his creations so we can understand. That means nobody, no matter what, is expendable on this earth because God will always have something he needs them to do.
Well, that’s it.
That’s all there is, except for one thing.
Life is serious business, but remember to laugh, and when things go really wrong, learn to listen.
God will be sending you a message.
Writer’s note: The Central Kentucky Youth Actors will present ‘Beauty and the Beast”. It’s at the Springfield Opera House on Friday and Saturday, December 18th and 19th, at 7:00 pm and on December 20th at 2:00 pm. My fourth oldest child, talked about above, is in the play. Not bad for a kid that medical science told us wouldn’t be here, is it?