My Sister's Side Door

A Season for Everything

“To everything there is a season
and a time for every purpose under the heavens”

We brought Jackson home from the pound thirteen years ago. My husband fell in love with him from the moment he laid eyes on him. If you know Christian, you’ll appreciate how rare that is. But Jackson was easy to love with big ol’e hound dog ears and an eagerness to love that could melt even the most hesitant of hearts.

He was part hound dog and part labrador, and over the course of the years he would travel many miles with us. My husband was still on active duty in the Army when we first married. For the first four years, he would spend much of our newly married life traveling miles away from us. Jackson kept me company though. Whenever I would open the door, he would be right there to greet me. That old hound dog adored me, and I..I adored him.

We attended to many adventures, Jackson and I. Summer swims on the bayou. Friday night karaoke complete with some really great 80’s  music. Rides in the car listening to the “Mama Mia” soundtrack. And in the middle of all of that busy, there was an incredible peace that came with his friendship. People can be so hard on other people, but dogs just exist to love us and to show us what it feels like to be loved for who we really are instead of who people expect us to be.

Jackson passed away quite suddenly. One day he’ s sitting at my feet in his favorite sunny spot by the fireplace. In the next moment, he has gone from this place, and I am left here alone and not quite sure how to stop crying.

It’s the regrets that are the hardest. I think of all of the times that I was too busy to take him outside and play with the tennis ball.  Or all of the times he didn’t get those scraps he begged so mightily for.

The world looks different to me without him, and while we still have our other fur babies here that we love and care for..there will never be another Jackson.

I found this poem by Jim Willis called “I Loved You Best.”

So this is where we part, My Friend,
and you’ll run on, around the bend,
gone from sight, but not from mind,
new pleasures there you’ll surely find.

I will go on, I’ll find the strength,
life measures quality, not its length.
One long embrace before you leave,
share one last look, before I grieve.

There are others, that much is true,
but they be they, and they aren’t you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought,
will remember well all you’ve taught.

Your place I’ll hold, you will be missed,
the fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you journey to your final rest,
take with you this…I loved you best.


Rest in peace dear friend.
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Remembering Wesley

When the phone rings very early in the morning, it’s rarely a good thing. I picked it up, and I could barely make out the words my little sister was speaking to me through her tears.  My cousin Wesley Gaddy had died.  He had been taken from us that morning, in those early hours while the rest of us were sleeping.

That familiar road home to Georgia seemed to stretch out longer somehow. The only thing that I wanted to do was to pull into that driveway on Corinth Road and wrap my arms around my family. When I finally got there, it took a minute to get out of the car.  I allowed myself to be pulled back to a different time. A time where days were spent on those red clay hills in front of my grandmother’s house with my cousins. With Wesley.

We have a really big family. My grandparents had eleven children between them, and so I always had a lot of playmates at my grandmother’s house.  We would rake out elaborate dirt houses in the pine thickets. Our imaginary homes didn’t have any furniture, but inside of those made up walls, lots of magical memories were made.  It was a season of innocence that I will treasure forever.  Inside of those walls, we were protected from the knowledge of how hard the world would be for us.  Inside of those walls, we were children who were beginning to dream of what our lives would be like. I am grateful that we had that those moments.

My cousins Wesley and (little) John would sometimes lead our adventures outside of the pine thickets. We weren’t allowed to go play down at the branch behind Wesley’s house, because it was too dangerous. Of course, that made the place that much more appealing to us, and so we would slip behind the old metal barn (long gone now) and navigate the overgrown path down there. It was exciting until our grandmother would get wind of it. The excitement tends to become a little muted when a hickory switch comes into the picture.

There were so many of us, that we all had this wonderful sense of being a part of something far bigger than ourselves. We had nicknames for each other, and if you were lucky enough to get gifted one of those, chances are good that your cousins still call you that.  Not out of some sense that we need to embarrass each other. It’s more of an acknowledgment of the history that we share. It’s a nod to that kid that played in the red clay and pine thickets. It’s a precious reminder of those days that we can’t get back to, but still live on in our hearts.

As the years went by and we grew up, life kind of took us away from each other.  We used to have family reunions and Christmas Eve at my Aunt Hazels house in the springtime.  But Breast Cancer took her from us far too soon.  My cousin Tami worked hard to keep that tradition going. She understands how important it is for us all to remain connected. To once-in-a-while fight our way out of the “busy” and back to a place where we can come together and honor the love we have for one another. Nothing has driven that home to me quite as much as losing Wesley.

I sat beside my cousin Sandy who was always more like a sister to me, and I wondered why we haven’t seen each other in so long. Yes, life get’s busy. But how have I allowed my life to get so busy that I haven’t gone back to see her?  I want to rejoice in the goodness of her life.  I want to be there for her when things are hard. Her children have grown up and I wasn’t there to see it. It saddens me.

One thing that losing him has shown many of us is this: tomorrow is never promised to us. If it arrives, it is nothing short of a gift.  We can’t go back and say the things we want to say to someone who leaves this place before we do. We need to make sure that nothing remains unsaid. We need to be sure that no kindness remains undone.  I know that Wesley knew that I loved him.  I just wished I had said it more. He may not live here with us on this earth anymore, but he will always..always live inside of my heart.



Perfectly Imperfect

I read a quote once that said “Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”  And that sums up quite nicely where I have finally arrived at in my professional and personal life.  I’ve spent the better part of the past five years agonizing over which road I would take.  Pressure.  Oh the pressure.  But where was that pressure coming from?  It certainly isn’t coming from my husband.  He’s most happy with just letting Angela.  Wherever that takes me.  So that only leaves one person and she can be quite the taskmaster.  The pressure has been coming from somewhere inside of me.  There is that part of me who believes that a certain degree will tidy all of the proverbial “loose ends” in my life quite nicely. It will make everything just perfect. That really doesn’t make that much sense does it?  Because what we do is not who we are.  And it really took me a long time to figure that out.

I have truly enjoyed my many years working as a nurse.  But nursing has changed so much over the years..and quite frankly, so have I.  There has always been something inside of me left unfilled.  Empty.  I always thought that advancing myself further through my education would bring me to the place where that feeling disappeared.  But that isn’t what happened at all.  The more “educated” I become, the more I find that most of the time, theory prevails over practice.  The less “hands on” transpires.  And one truth I’ve built my life on:  experience trumps theory any day.

School starts for the little man this September, but it’s already started for me. In fact, it’s a life work in progress.   My plans are to continue to aggressively pursue a Masters in “Lessons Learned by Living” for a while. There’s no rush to make a decision. Sometimes..sometimes not making a decision is actually making one. A huge one.  Learning to be ok with that is another lesson entirely.  I’m working on that.

No matter how hard I push, pull, agonize or organize, life will never be my version of perfect, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Who wants to have all glitz and no dirt?  All shine on the outside and no sand on the floor mats?  Every single dish put in place?  All order and no beautifully random chaos?  I don’t.  Not anymore.  I am now a little less concerned with where I will arrive than I am with how I am getting there.  So me and the little man will spend the rest of the summer getting a little dirt on the tires, sand on the floor mats, and leaving dishes in the sink.  Doesn’t that sound kind of..perfect?

My Sister’s Side Door

Her door has always been open. I remember pulling into the driveway that leads to her home so many times..hoping..praying..that she would be there. Somehow, she’s always been there. That familiar side door came to be a beacon to me; a way to enter into my Lords presence when I had forgotton how to get there on my own. My friend has taken me in, wounded, bleeding, and crying out to the creator. She would pull out the Bible , and find the words that would make hope come into my life again. His words. His promise for us all.
Over the years our friendship has endured much. We’ve weathered many seasons together, this friend and I. We’ve laughed and cried, lived and grown, rejoiced and mourned; we’ve watched her beautiful little ones grow into amazing people right before our very eyes. She’s always shared her life and family with me; it’s probably one of the most amazing gifts that Sandy has ever given.
It is a blessing to have a friend that is willing to lay down whatever is going on in her life that day to minister to a hurting friend. It is a testimoney that bares itself out beyond mere words that we humans speak and goes straight to the heart of our creator.
What is true friendship? It goes much deeper than the surface; it makes its way past all of the dents, scratches and scars to touch the very spirit of who we are. True friendship the way God intended does not judge; it does speak truth but with a heart of love for the friend and for God. Thank you God for placing such a friendship in my life.


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