Going Back Home

Thomas Wolfe 1937 4

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Asheville native Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t go home again. I have wondered about that phrase. After all, one can almost always go home again unless there are extraordinary circumstances that prevent that from happening. But, after this past weekend I think I have a better grasp on what he meant.

My wife and I have different hometowns and at this time in our lives we live in hers, having lived in my hometown of Eden,NC  on two separate occasions.

For many reasons, some valid and some  not , we have not been to Eden  in over 20 years. As is often the case we returned under difficult circumstances; the  sudden death of a relative. One of my sisters lost her husband quite suddenly last Wednesday and were drawn home again, at least it was home in my case.

I  have tried to put the trip into some type of perspective, knowing all the while that the trip was not about me, but rather being there for my sister. My wife and I talked   a bit about going back as we traveled, particularly as we  drew closer. The main artery for us is NC Hwy 14 into town and  I was predictably astounded at what I observed. There were businesses galore that we did not know,and could scarcely believe that were there. They had a Cookout, for goodness sake. Old businesses were gone, others inexplicably remained. The hospital ( Morehead Memorial) seemed to be stretching its tentacles everywhere as if it were the only game in town and maybe it is.

Going down main street, Washington,was, as in most small towns sorta sad.  Alas,vacancies seemed to outnumber stores. But, even more surreal was arriving at my home church, Bethel Baptist. The church sanctuary was the venue for the receiving line prior to the funeral. This was a place where I had not set foot since probably 1970. Really, really strange.

Predictably, I  did   not know most of those paying their respects, but every now and then, a familiar face emerged and once again the past became the present and quite nicely I might add.

The service itself was not really a funeral but more of a celebration of what had transpired in my brother in laws life and really my sister’s as well. She was that crucial figure, largely unseen that made a lot of what he did possible. There was as much laughter as tears, largely due to the common bond of Christian faith shared by the members of my family.

The church’s pastor, Darrell Boles, was one whom I knew by word due to my sisters and their spouses, two of whom faithfully attend. I was so very pleased to met him and get to know him for myself. From this point of view he is the right man in   the right place at the right time. I would be remiss if I did not mention  the caring  but professional job done by Fair Funeral Home under the direction of Neil Fair.

So, we went “home” again and I think I learned once again that it’s not so much the  place but those people who are there and were once there that really provide that  unique aura that is no where else.

To all who were there,


February 21, 2011 Posted by | Family, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Moravian Boneyard

" God's Acre" at Old Salem

Sort of staying with the Saturday theme, this will approach the topic from a different perspective and maybe a more positive one at that. The place is Winston-Salem,NC or rather a part of that city known as Old Salem where  an old tradition will take place on Easter Sunday, April 4. It is a tradition that goes back to 1771, predating the birth of these United States.

This tradition is the Easter Sunrise service in  a place known as God’s Acre. In German the term is Gottesacker or field of God. It is actually a  burial ground for Moravians who lived in Winston-Salem. The site is organized by choirs; all married men buried together, all married women buried together and so on.

The site is the focal point for an annual sunrise service attended by thousands every year.My wife and I have atended twice. Our first visit was as  really young married couple while the second wasas chaperones for a rambunctious but wonderful group of young people who still have a special place in our hearts. Both times the service was quite moving and seemed to fill us with a great sense of awe and reverence. In spite of the crowds there was very little noise other than the musical communication  between the groups of strategically positioned Moravian musicians.

Since the service is  a “sunrise” service, one obviously has to arise  rather early, to make a bit of a sacrifice compared to one’s normal routine. That  plus the locale plus the local history of over 200 years added to the  fact that this is one incredible event that one is  celebrating made our two trips very, very unique and worshipful.

I  had actually attended a sunrise service around 10 years earlier while still in high school. That event was also very special but presented me with a unique “gift” that I have kept to this day. At that service  I was stung by some type of insect and came oh so close to going into anaphylactic shock. Yep, that is when I developed  my allergy to bee venom, an affliction that I still have some 40+ years later.

So, if you have never had the blessing of attending   a sunrise service, I encourage you to avail yourself of that  opportunity this Easter season. And, some day, I hope you make the trek to Old Salem for this event will show  you that our Moravian friends are known for much more than their culinary talents.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Christianity, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Had to step away from the health care fiasco for  a bit although I guess this may end up being related somehow or the other. One of my fellow bloggers did  a great  job raising issues and points of concern of which you may be  unaware. So check out warrantonegirl for some good info.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog. For the uninitiated, the title refers to  cemeteries. I had not heard the term until a co-worker identified where he lived as being across the street from the boneyard. Rather apt term, come to think of it. I actually grew up just a block or two from our local boneyard in Eden, nee Leaksville, NC. The name is Lawson Cemetery, the name of the street on which I lived.

I know very little about the place other than it has always been there( since 1843 I learned) and it was the final earthly resting place for  both of my parents. I was always intrigued by the place as a child with all the different  tombstones and grave markers and how old I thought they were, little did I know how true that was.

So why boneyards? I suppose with the onset of spring and the approach of Easter I have ben thinking about such issues. I typically read and re-read the Gospel narratives (Matthew,Mark,Luke and John) about Passion Week that of course culminates in Jesus resurrection. There will be  a time a bit later for more about that subject.

But, strictly from a boneyard aspect, I remember teaching a high school age Sunday School class many years ago on the above topic and discovering that in New Orleans and in Israel ( not sure where else) that people  had to be buried above ground due to those  areas being largely below sea level. Not sure if the class was as fascinated with that trivia as was I .

I have noticed since my arrival in the northeastern corridor of our state that not all boneyards are like that of my childhood. There is a plethora of small, family plots in some of the most unlikely places. Usually there are just a handful of graves, often barely marked and separated from a busy highway by  virtually no barrier at all. But, ahh the history that lies in these small plots, gradually but inexorably fading away.

March 27, 2010 Posted by | Christianity, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Now?

Obamacare is now the law of the land. Democrats are seen on the House floor cheering and shouting “yes, we can.” Speaker Pelosi and others have expressions of joy heretofore reserved for World Series winners, Super Bowl champs and children who get their perfect Christmas present. Some probably think that is exactly what has happened. A gentleman in Durham,NC is online saying that very thing. “It’s like Christmas.”

As a child I never wondered how my textile worker parents paid for the presents. I was just thrilled to get them. Fast forward 15 years or so and I was the one paying for the presents. Bottom line, someone has to pay for the goodies. The numbers are bandied about that 30+ million uninsured Americans will finally have health care. Well, maybe they will, but not just yet-maybe by 2014. And, as for those who don’t want health care? Guess what, you lose. Get it or pay a fine, courtesy of our newest health care cops- the IRS. As far as the revenue boys are concerned this bill is  a bonanza. Estimates of  5 billion dollars or more in new agents and enforcement tools are being mentioned.

I thought a lot today about all those uninsured who are somehow  seen as a monolithic group. I thought about all the reasons they might be without insurance. Have no clue about percentages but I daresay that many cannot afford coverage. How will they all of a sudden be able to afford it? They won’t of course. There is this thing of a tax credit to enable them to purchase coverage. Wonder how many in their euphoria realize this ain’t happening overnight? Just wondering.

I feel a bit qualified to speak about the uninsured since for several years, my wife and I were in that group. During that time, I had surgery, she had an accident, along with the normal prescriptions and doctor visits. Were we concerned at times? Sure. And we were quite blessed to have no life threatening situations. Neither of us recall thinking that someone owed us health coverage, much less, Uncle Sam.

You see, contrary to what the President said a day or so ago and what many signs and doubtless many politicians have said, I  firmly believe that health insurance is not a right. Perhaps one can make a much better case that it is right. I fear that we as a nation have manufactured yet another right and still another reason to look to and depend on Washington for anything we need.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Life and Death, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suicide Bombers

Right upfront, I will confess to a great lack of understanding  as to why there are such people as suicide bombers. Any time such a tragic occurrence takes place, I am struck with anger, sorrow and confusion. Why did it happen, to what end and why would men, women or children engage in such a practice?

I suppose there is very little certainty about suicide bombers but there seem to  be several common denominators. Virtually all suicide bombings seem to take  place in the Middle East and almost all the bombers are Arab,but not necessarily Islamic.  Almost all the targets are civilan, which differs marekedly from the Japanese kamikaze  attacks of WWII.

Within the past couple  of weeks  have read about religious pilgrims being targeted in Iraq. We  periodically hear of attacks at busy marketplaces, on buses, at tourism sites, even in or near houses of worship. The attacks  by nature are somewhat random, hard to predict or prevent and designed to instill   shock and fear in those impacted. ( Israel has had some success in preventing such attacks, more than most  target countries.)

So, back to my greatest source of puzzlement. Why would individuals perpetrate such acts? For glory that they leave behind, monetary gain for their families or a perceived reward in the afterlife? I have heard of  these and there may be more. In terms of casualties inflicted, the individual numbers seem significant because of the type of people targeted. In reality the overall numbers are not so great, except for one quite notable exception. That, alas, would be the horrific attacks of 9/11.

Volumes have been written about the why. But even that signature event, why? Perhaps those “in charge” felt the United States would not respond but rather pull back. Needless to say, that did not occur. So, here we are, back to  the beginning and   asking a  question that may be  unanswerable.

It is  a war in a sense, I guess. But it has no rules or battle ground and anyone  can be a  target. One more question to pose.  I wonder why that the   act is   not universally condemned by left and  right, liberal and conservative, by those who lean toward  Israel and those who lean toward the Arabs.  It would seem to an easy act  to condemn, but such is not the case.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nature Abhors a Vaccum”

Or,”who’s in charge here? Alas, this well could describe the situation in the earthquake ravaged Haiti. ( By the way, we know now what caused the earthquake. Hugo Chavez has announced that it was caused by a  new U S weapon. His statement would by ludicrous beyond belief if not for the fact that there are people who will believe it. And others who blame it on George Bush.) Now back  to our original subject.

My son and I were talking briefly about things in Haiti and one or both of us commented on Haiti’s state before the earthquake. They already  had a barely functioning government and crushing poverty and now this devastation caused by a  massive earthquake. Virtually anywhere else in the world would have better positioned to deal with the aftermath than Haiti.

So, what is happening there? The country’ s leadership is either dead or invisible. The United Nations has suffered grave losses in personnel and facilities so who takes charge, provided security, operates the airport etc.? It seems, almost by default, that the U S military has taken charge ( see title quote by Francois Rabelas) of the country in  a sense. And that brings a vast amount of criticism, from numerous sources.

People such as our friend Chavez, good ol Daniel Ortega from Nicaragua, the group Doctors Without Borders, Bolivian leader Evo Morales, various French groups and other humanitarian groups. Our troops are in a no-win position. Someone has to do what they are doing. And no , they are not there to occupy the country. Without some semblance of order the over one billion dollars  that has been pledged so far  will be squandered, stolen or  worse.Our own Time magazine is calling it a” compassionate invasion.” Thanks for nothing fellows.

82nd Airborne troops are already there, probably some Marines and Navy  as well as directed by Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen. So, just one question, maybe two for all these clowns who are protesting. Who do want to handle all this stuff ? Political commentator Janet Daley, writing in the  U K Telegraph called it a case  of ” America is always wrong, part 85.” Reckon the French are just jealous.  She made this telling point. If our interventions are kept to a minimum, they are “callous” and  ” selfish.” If  we accept full responsibility we are engaged in “imperialist occupation.”

For the troops that are there, I wish you God speed. We know you will do your country proud.

January 21, 2010 Posted by | International politics, Life and Death, Media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Should I Say ?

There has been an enormous outpouring of media coverage since Michael Jackson died . Magazines from  People to Us and more  have had covers and lengthy articles. Some of their coverage has been appropriate, some not so appropriate. I think of one cover in particular that showed Jackson  on a stretcher being taken to  the hospital. It made me wonder, how did they get the picture and why would they chose to publish such an invasive photo on their cover, no less? Oh yeah, money. Predictably, there  has been a big surge in record sales since his death and that will likely continue. I was talking with someone about  this the other day and he mentioned the list of highest grossing dead celebrities, a list which is typically topped by Elvis Presley. It is somewhat amazing to me to realize that many years after their death that entertainers still make large sums of money.

Forbes has been publishing such a list of the top 13 since 2001. The most recent list showed Elvis at #1 with $50 Marvin Gaye #13 with $3.5 million.There is alas, already speculation about how much money  Michael Jackson will make relative to the above referenced list. Dr Kate  Woodthorpe was quoted thusly, “We could see some kind of continuing bond with a dead pop star on a scale that has never been seen before. The question that remains at this point is whether the momentum of nostalgia can, and will, continue, or whether people’s disposable cash will quickly move on to the next big thing.” (Woodthorpe is on the faculty of The Open University, a distance learning  university founded in 1969 by the government   of the United Kingdom.)

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Life and Death, Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Perspective on Deaths

Over the past several days, there have been some very high profile deaths with which we are all somewhat familiar. The most prominent and the most puzzling is probably that of  Michael Jackson. To me, it has been eerily similar to that of Elvis Presley in a number of ways. Of course, there has the less unexpected   but very public passing of Farah Fawcett due to cancer. Another quite unexpected death was that of television pitchman Billy Mays whose death was tragic but due to an all too common cause.

The vast majority of us have never met these people. We have seen them on television on the movies or in concert, but there remains a disconnect for most of us, although their deaths were all regrettable. In fact, both Jackson and Mays were younger than I am. Deaths in that particularly age group seem to impact me more.

But there was yet another tragic death of late. This one, except in Iowa, has been somewhat under reported due in large part to its more regional impact. I am speaking of high school coach Ed Thomas who was shot to death at age 58. Thomas was killed on June 24 by a former football player in the school’s weight room.

There have been some amazing stories about Thomas, NFL  national coach of the year 1n 2005, winner of 2 state titles and owner of  a coaching record of  292-84. He even had several former players who played in the NFL to serve as pallbearers. Somehow, I don’t think that is why his funeral drew a crowd larger than the 1,800 population of Parkersburg, Ia. He was doubtless a n excellent coach but had to be much more than that. For one, when an F5 tornado struck the town last year , he was  in  the forefront of the rescue and rebuilding.

Perhaps 2 people said it best. Pastor Brad Zinnecker of First Congregational Church  said of the mourners, ” They recognized a man after God’s own heart. His personal life and public life were one and the same.” And, one of his sons, Aaron, said that his dad would have wanted  the community to “get going” and do something to improve the town.

He left behind his wife as well as two sons, a brother and his mom. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Thomas family. But they go as well to those family members of Billy Mays, Farrah  Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

July 2, 2009 Posted by | Life and Death | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bete Noir”

The French call it the black or dark beast, some call it anathema. In any language, it is something strongly detested or avoided. We all have at least one of these, if not more.

For me, at the the top of the list has always been to be buried alive. I have seen television shows where this was deliberately done and in other cases done by accident. It never ceases to give me a cold chill when I imagine the body bag being  zipped up and being unable to prevent it. I suppose my fear works in tandem with the fact that  I have long dreaded being in the hospital  and being powerless to communicate what is wrong with me. Being buried alive  takes this fear to a much greater level.

I was reminded of my “dark beast” when I  read of an 84 year old Polish woman being prematurely declared dead. Seems that the lady from Jablonowo in central Poland fell unconscious at home. Her husband called an ambulance  and an ems doctor declared her dead. Several hours later at the morgue, an employee noticed her moving and called for a doctor. Upon examination, he discovered that her vital signs had returned. She was taken to a local hospital where she remains in serous condition.

Please, no Polish jokes. I can only imagine the lady’s horror and am very thankful for the alert employee who noticed her alive. Here’s hoping she makes a complete recovery.

FYI: Pray for the people of Iran. I sense a big-time crackdown coming.

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Life and Death | , , , , | Leave a comment

Making Death More Palatable

Try these descriptive phrases on for size. Euthanasia, assisted suicide, right to die and death with dignity. All describe the same thing but each one seems somehow a more “humane” description than its predecessor. Of course, all describe the process by which someone dies with the overt assistance of someone else.

This has long been a troubling topic for me, well before the growing push for its legalization. I suppose my thoughts  hark back to a video series I saw in the early 80’s, put together by the late Francis Schaffer. Euthanasia was not the only subject addressed but it was the one that seemed most chilling to me. Those feelings have never really departed and they return almost every time I am reminded of the issue  by various media outlets.

The “movement” if that is accurate seems most active on the  west coast, i.e. Washington and California. Douglas LeBlanc wrote  an excellent post on the  topic on Get Religion on May 8 and articulated many of my thoughts. He used  phrases such as “the breezy dismissal of moral concerns” by some advocates, a thought that really resonates with me.

He wrote  of an advocacy group in Washington called Compassion and Choices, headed by Robb Miller. The group says that through 2008, some 41 people in Oregon and 3 in Washington have legally obtained prescriptions allowing  them to facilitate their own demise. Predictably the American Medical Association opposes the group’s efforts and the law that these 44 people  used I would think that virtually all physicians would have difficulty with any type of assisted suicide. How does it square with the Hippocratic oath’s admonition to first do no harm? Don’t know, I’m afraid.

It just seems to me that  if the “death with dignity”  movement gets momentum and maybe even gets a law passed ensuring a” right to die”, still another manufactured right would have  appeared from thin air.

Questions for me at least, multiply. Who has the ultimate right to decide who dies? The sufferer, the physician , the family. the state? Can you say, rationing of health care? Or perhaps, get rid of the old, they are useless?This is no doubt a troubling issue and I fear that it isn’t  going away.

May 11, 2009 Posted by | Life and Death | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments