Posts Tagged family

Gratitude Two: Family

Both of my children, Suzanne and Michael, were here this past weekend. As the banter bounced back and forth it took me back to years ago when their mother worried that if something happened to the two of us, those two would never speak to each other again. If only she knew how wrong she was and she was never wrong.

Christmas 2015 - Raven, Christopher, Carol, Suzanne, Joel, Mitch, Michael, Colin, Nancy, Christina

Christmas 2015 – Raven, Christopher, Carol, Suzanne, Joel, Mitch, Michael, Colin, Nancy, Christina

I know that when the two of them are together my life hangs in the balance. How many mothers can one guy have? On the other hand, how blessed can one father be? Their mother raised them well. They could not have had a better example. She was the light of our world. Still, the teenager in them manages to show itself.

Suzanne cooked and froze dinners for me. Michael changed light bulbs, moved furniture, etc. His own two children, now adults, engaged in the same behaviors as my two did as teenagers. Not to be outdone was Maggie, Nancy and Michael’s dog, who made herself right at home.

Suzanne’s son, Christopher, and wife Raven were here to make the circle complete almost. He was on his way back to Seattle where he is a submariner.

This house was filled with joy and laughter. For a little while we were able to forget the COVID pandemic and how it has devastated our world. We are family.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Christmas 2015 – Raven, Christopher, Carol, Suzanne, Joel, Mitch, Michael, Colin, Nancy, Christina

According to Cicero, “Gratitude is the greatest virtue and the parent all other virtues.” Gratitude is my word for the year and I hope it is my attitude for the year. There are so many things for which I am so grateful. I am grateful for my larger family, but I am especially grateful for my children and my sister. J am grateful for my friends. We have not been able to get together much during the pandemic, but that does not diminish their importance to me. I am grateful for my home and all the wonderful memories it holds.  I am grateful for my church and all the relationships that it represents. Our Sunday school class is exceptional.

I am grateful for my country. I am a proud American. I am patriotic. We are not perfect as a nation but we are moving in the right direction. I am grateful for my city and state. I owe a great debt to the public schools, to Mars Hill College, Furman University, the University of Alabama, Louisiana State University and Lander University. I am grateful for my home town and all the wonderful people there who helped me grow. I am grateful to Northside Baptist Church and all those wonderful people who encouraged me. I am grateful to the Board of Directors of the Charleston Speech and Hearing Center. They not only gave me a job, they gave me a life.

As I start a new year I am mindful of the two great loves of my life. Liz, Suzanne and Michael’s mother, stretched me in every way possible. She took a chance on me when only love could have made that possible. Carol rescued me from hell after Liz died. She brought joy and adventure to a tortured soul. I grieve that they went on without me, but I am grateful that I had them for as long as I did. They brought love, beauty, challenge and comfort into my life.

I am simply grateful for life and all that entails. I live in a beautiful city, I have wonderful neighbors. I have books, music, an inquisitive mind, and a restless spirit. When I look at my grandchildren, I am confident of the future. I am an incurable optimist. The world will not end today because it is already tomorrow someplace else. I have a faith that sustains me. “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

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Pearl Harbor Day 2020

This is Pearl Harbor Day 2020.  I was seven years old when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I didn’t understand much about war, but I did understand how it impacted our family. My grandmother was so upset when my Uncle Jack was drafted. At first he was stationed at Ft. Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.  My grandmother walked the three blocks from her house to ours to beg my dad to take her to see him. Something my dad could not do. My dad along with three others did go to visit him when he was stationed in Arkansas.

My cousin Sarah was equally upset when her husband Clarence volunteered as were cousins Mildred and Margaret when their husbands were drafted, I did not know that Dwight Knight, Margaret’s husband, had been part of the D Day invasion until I read his obituary years later. Carl Hanna, my Aunt Sally Lou’s son, was the clerk for Admiral William Halsey Jr. The story was that he got the assignment because he was the fastest typist in the Navy.

We had air raid drills at school. When the alarm sounded, we got under our desks. We had drills at home. We turned out all the lights and closed the curtains or shades. My dad was an air raid warden and wore a fancy armband. At church we prayed that the war would be over soon. Of course, God was on our side against our godless enemies. At the movie theatre there were news reels about the war usually featuring General Douglas McArthur. Sugar and gasoline were rationed. My parents bought War Savings Bonds at work and my sister and I bought War Saving Stamps at school. Stars were placed in the windows of the homes when a loved one had been killed in battle.

There was great anguish when we learned that my friend’s father was a prisoner of war. He was one of those captured at Bataan. There was great rejoicing when he came home after the war, a skin and bones edition of his former self.

President Roosevelt made his famous fireside chats and everyone was glued to the radio to hear them. There was great mourning when he died at Warm Springs, Georgia a few months before the war ended. When I was older Uncle Jack would not tell me about the war. He did tell me about the places he had seen. He brought my dad a new German Walther P-38 pistol from Germany. He said that his unit had captured a factory where these were manufactured.  The Walther P-38 was the weapon of the German Army.

In the summer of 1956 I met Elizabeth Frei, Liz, who would become my wife. Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries to the Philippines before and during the war. Liz and her sister, Joan, were born there. The war then took on a new meaning for me. During one of the 50th. Commemorations of the war, Joan delivered a paper on, “A Child’s View of the War,” in which she quoted then four year old Liz. On our way to Australia in 1991 John Wallace, my brother-in-law, and I stopped in Hawaii. We visited the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. These are awe inspiring sights.

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My Friend, Joyce Harris Murray

“I give thanks for every remembrance of you.”

Joyce graced my life for more than 60 years. We were classmates at Furman University. We did not run in the same circles. Joyce was a beauty queen and I was not.

When I arrived in Charleston and First Baptist Church, Joyce and Bennett were already here. The four of us Bennett, Joyce, Liz and I became friends. Joyce and Liz shared the same birthday.

Joyce was a beautiful person inside and outside. Her hair was her crown and glory. She had the same beauty shop appointment for more than 50 years.

On my birthday after Bennett died I received a crazy birthday card from Bennett. The return address was Bennett Murray, Heaven. Joyce said she found it in Bennett’s things and knew it was meant for me.

My most cherished memories of Joyce are as Carol’s condition became worse, I started attending choir practice with Joyce, Gene Plyler, and Carol. We would go to Chick-fil-a afterwards for dinner. Joyce and Carol got the children’s meal which contained a small toy. The two women traded their toys for an ice cream cone. Something neither of them should have.

Joyce loved sausage biscuits and would stop at Hardee’s on the way to church to get one. One day when looking for something in that huge purse she had, there was a sausage biscuit hard as a rock. After my Aunt Alice, Joyce made the best ambrosia.

Other than her family, Joyce had three loves: First Baptist Church, the Furman singers and flowers. Joyce never had to tell anyone that she was a Christian. It oozed out of every pore.

Joyce and I differed on many topics and she never failed to chastise me. When I was writing a column for the Post and Courier, Joyce was an avid reader and an avid  critic.  but Joyce was the first to tell me that my efforts at Say Something Nice was my mission.

How do you say goodbye to an old and dear friend? You don’t.

Joyce Murray will be in my memory forever until I see her again. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

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