Every day they greet me…

Dozens of pairs of pretty shoes lined in perfect rows. They are, in a sense, an expression of our lives: the physical foundation on which we stand.

A shoe will never replace our foundations, our families who built and molded us into the people we are, or our friends who hear our thoughts and dreams and encourage us to pursue them.

Rather, shoes are a small, physical reminder of these things. And my shoes—with their tall, slender heels and pointed toes—have held me up through a lot over the years: A reminder of where I have been. A symbol of where I am going.

 

Everything You Have Lost

“For everything you have lost, you have gained something else.” 

December 8, 2012, Fulton, Kentucky: I heard my mother’s footsteps coming down the hall. “Charissa, it’s time.” I immediately got out of bed and followed her to my father’s bedside. We held his hands and tears poured down our faces.

“We love you, Daddy, ” we said.

“I love, honey, ” she said.

The words of my grandfather and grandmother rang loudest in a room filled with cries and tears: “You have been an incredible son. We love you. It’s ok. Go home.” And so my father passed away, peacefully, surrounded by love.

December 23, 2017, Henderson, Kentucky: William Finley “Finn” sat in my lap as we watched his favorite show on the TV monitor in his grandparents’ kitchen. Piper Rose was playing nearby. The last few weeks had been filled by a bit of turmoil: during the day, her father and I had pushed her to achieve her reading goal for the quarter whilst wrangling our individual careers.  She hated it. By night, I had stressed and toiled over Christmas gifts for each of the children and sewed a Christmas program costume by hand. But more than that, there was the “turmoil” of a young and budding family. The ebb and flow and four people learning to live in harmony and peace with one another.

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Always Behave: Part 4

It was a hot summer’s day, and I could smell the scent of freshly cut grass as I zigged and zagged my way down a quintessential country road. Every few miles, my journey was delayed by tractor or combine taking up half the road. But I’ve learned through the years that it is impossible to be angry with farmers with their cheery smiles and friendly nods as you pass them by.

Earlier that morning, I have my half-asleep sister a hug and left Huntsville, Alabama bound for Union City, Tennessee. It was Memorial Day weekend, and in keeping with tradition, I spent that weekend with my sister in celebration of her birthday. But on that Wednesday morning, the celebrations were over, and I was bound toward the temporary location of my parents.

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Always Behave: Part 3

214There are two kinds of disappointments in life. The first are real disappointments: the soul-wrenching, heart-breaking, life-shattering kind that forever change a relationship. The rest are inconsequential let-downs that all come as part of being human.

There are two men in existence who have never let me down. The first is my grandfather, who is a real snuggle-bug. (I use the word “snuggle-bug” for any person you encounter in life that you absolutely adore and want to cuddle up to.) During the duration of my dad’s illness, I would find my grandfather and lay my head on his shoulder, which always resulted in a bear-hug…both therapeutic and absolutely needed. The second person was my father.

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Always Behave (Part 2)

My first memories in life all involve my father.

I was born in New Mexico. I love this because it is strange and random and out of place…and perfectly delightful.

215My dad was the pastor of a very small church in the city that harbors the sprawling Philmont Scout Ranch. I do not remember our home from that time: my parents tell me it was very small and very humble. But my parents had good friends in the town that I called “Grammy Lou” and “Papa Harry.” They were like a third pair of grandparents, and their home I do remember. It was just down the road from where we lived. I remember vividly walking toward it one night: the valley below us, the stars all around us, and my father either holding my hand, or bearing me up on his shoulders.

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Always Behave (Part 1)

“Always behave as though nothing has happened…no matter what has happened.”

These were the words on a card given to me as a going-away gift from the CEO of the first company I ever worked for. It is a perfect motto to live by. I’ve held onto it, loving the thought of it, and vowing to adhere to it as I move on through life.

Sometimes it is easier to aspire to such notions than to actually live them. I’ have learned this lesson the hard way.

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Return to The Shoe.

At CemetaryA lot can change in a year and four months (the date of my last post): this I know from experience. You can switch jobs…twice. You can organize and run two major work-related conferences and events. Roommates can change. Your heart can get smashed like monkey meat through a food processor, AGAIN. You can find out your father’s next step in life—in addition to the hardships of the past 3 years that he had already faced—will be a brave battle with cancer. You can watch your family and your friends rally around this great man. You can create memories—some of them happy, some of them sad. And in the end, you can hold your father’s hand as he takes his last breath when God and Fate defies our own Will and determines it is time for him to come home.

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