All Dogs DO Go To Heaven


lucy-collage

As I sat and watched her slow, sporadic breathing, I knew the time was near. Our almost sixteen years together was coming to an end and I couldn’t even begin to imagine how much I was going to miss my favorite little redhead.

Named after another favorite redhead, comedienne Lucille Ball, Lucy certainly lived up to her name. She was a fire-cracker, full of personality and sass. She was a princess. She was funny and goofy, and always, always the boss. If another dog or even an opossum thought her tiny stature made her a pushover, she would quickly set them straight. You couldn’t help but love her.

Closing my eyes, I began asking God for peace and comfort during this difficult time. I’m not sure if I drifted off or not, but what happened next fulfilled both of my requests.

I saw myself walking into the yard of what appeared to be my future heavenly home. As soon as I stepped foot on the property, a pack of playful pups ran up, pushing me backwards into the grass. They covered my face in sweet, sloppy kisses and I was instantly filled with joy.

There was my Lucy. And Beanie. And Charlie. Tippy. And, even Dena, my first childhood dog. Every dog that I had ever loved, full of life and youth, filled my back yard and my new home as well as my heart with unconditional love.

Thank you, Jesus, for Lucy; for her energetic and fun loving life and for allowing her to drift off peacefully when it was time for her to go. But, most of all, Jesus, thank you for taking good care of her until I come home. Amen and Ehmen.

Her Birthday, My Blessing.


One Year Ago:


As I sit here and listen to you and Billy moving your stuff about just on the other side of the wall, preparing to load it on the trailer to move it to your new house, tears are flowing. Unexpected tears. Out of left field tears. I guess I’m just finally stopping long enough and the sounds from the next room are making it more real. My baby is getting married and moving out.

I hear your voice and, intellectually, I know it’s the voice of a 23 year old beautiful, smart, mature woman, but my heart is hearing a little girl. Mama. Mama. Mama. Come here, Mama. My heart cries a little as I know that you will soon have to use the phone to call me.

I see you walk out the door with a suitcase full of clothes. Intellectually, I see a beautiful, smart, mature 23 year old woman, but my heart sees a little girl. Bye. Bye Mama. I’ll be back. My heart cries a little as I know soon you will only be back for visits.

Then, I watch you as you watch him. Your eyes light up and all of a sudden I see a beautiful, smart, mature 23 year old woman very much in love. I hear you tell him you love him and my heart cries for joy as I know that my baby has found her soulmate and life partner.

I love you, my beautiful daughter, and can’t wait to see what you do in Chapter 2.


billie-and-brenda

One year later, on your 24th Birthday:


Here I sit in the same spot, your Chapter 2 well underway and I will never be able to put this book down. It is impossible to put into words how blessed I feel when I see you being a blessing to so many others—through your work at the church, through your marriage and love of family, through just being you and caring for others. God is using you in such a mighty way, baby girl, just as He has since the day you drew your first breath on this day 24 years ago.

Today, I want to thank you for staying true to God and allowing Him to use you, but first I must say thank you to God for creating you. You truly are the gift that keeps on giving and have changed my life—and the life of many others—not just forever, but for better. Happy Birthday my baby girl. I love you…to the ends of the earth and right on into eternity.

 

Of Tragedy and True Love


Writer’s Note: Scrolling through my old journals, I stumbled upon this diary entry from 2010. It is a personal account of a difficult, but precious conversation I had with my mother; a conversation that changed the way I would forever look at her and one that really drove home the importance of sharing The Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone that you can, most especially the ones that you love.

March 6, 2010

So, I had a nice, long talk with my mom today. I told her about the letter I wrote forgiving the man that killed my dad. She was surprisingly open. For the first time, she talked to me like I was just a friend. For the first time, I saw her as a wife and mother who lost a husband, and very tragically so. The tears that filled her eyes and spilled gently out onto her softly aged face transported me back to a time that I was then too young to experience.

She told me how his stomach had been completely destroyed by the shot from the sawed off shot gun. She told me how she held vigil in the hospital hallway outside his intensive care room, day and night, for the three weeks he lay in the hospital. She told me of all the doctors who went in and out of his room and of all the friends, acquaintances, doctors and nurses who sat with her, prayed with her and offered help in every fashion.

She told me about the two things he managed to say to her: the first, right after he was shot, he said “I didn’t know” meaning he did not know the guy had a gun; and the second, not long before he died and after the doctor warned her that he would not know her, she had gone in and placed her hands over his and he opened his eyes and said “I love you”. That was the last time she would hear him speak. The only other words she knew him to speak during those three weeks were to my brother, Gary. To him, he said, “Take care of your mama and the girls.” By now, tears were flowing down my own face and, as I write this, they are flowing again. For the first time, I can actually “see” it, like a very sad movie playing out in my head.

The worst part of all is that I am still left to wonder if my father knew Jesus as his personal Savior. Will I get to see him again, but, more importantly, will my mother get to again see the man that she loved with all her heart and who, to this day, 40+ years after his death, remains faithful to?  My mother said that he had gone to church with her time and again and he was indeed a good man, but, truth be told, she just wasn’t sure if he ever did business with God. They never talked about it. 

Now, it is time to share the letter I wrote to my dad’s killer with my brothers and sister. I simply can’t stand by and let another loved one pass from this earth without knowing that they have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.

I can forgive the man who killed my dad, but I would not be able to forgive myself if one of them leaves this earth unsaved. 

Today was a good day. I fell in love with my dad who spoke of love and concern for his family in his last words and I fell in love with my mom who stood by her husband in life and in death.

Amen and Ehmen.

It’s Yours For The Asking…

We are all His children and He really wants a relationship with each and every one of us.  He loves you and He loves me with all His heart and He is just a simple prayer away. But, you have to take the step and ask Him into your heart. He’s not going to do it without an invitation from you. You yourself have to acknowledge that Jesus is your Lord and Savior and that He died on the cross so that you can have eternal life.

You yourself have to accept Him and invite Him into your heart. When you’re ready, you just have to say a prayer something like this. It doesn’t have to be word for word and you don’t even have to understand it all. And, you don’t have to be perfect, for no one on earth is perfect. Just say something like this:

“Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. Please forgive me for my sins. I believe that your son, the Lord Jesus Christ, died to pay for my sins and I trust Him now as my personal Lord and Savior. I ask Him to come into my life. Amen.”

It’s that simple. If you pray this prayer and truly accept the Lord Jesus as your personal savior, you can be assured of going to heaven. No matter what you did on earth; no matter what you did in your past.

For more information, I like this website for answering questions about God. You are loved and you are in my prayers.

http://www.gotquestions.org/personal-Savior.html

Father’s Day Feelings…


Writer’s Note: My dad was on the receiving end of a robber’s bullet many, many years ago, when I was just a little girl, robbing me of the opportunity to grow up with a father in my life. I have since forgiven the one who took him from us, but it still hurts, even all of these decades later…

 

I sit and stare at the photograph. Like my memories, it is faded. I just don’t seem to dad and girlsremember much. Black and white, shades of gray memories. I know you once existed in physical form, but, unfortunately, our life together was way too short; pretty much just a foreword and preface to my own story. Sometimes I wonder if I have blocked memories of my childhood, just because your untimely departure hurt so much. Because I know if I remember the good times then I will also have to remember how those good times ended. Those were dark days, even for an 8-year old whose most pressing decision was whether or not to climb the tree in the backyard. One day you were there and the next you were gone.

And even though my present mind sees our days together as a mere outline, like the beginning of a sketch without the details filled in, today, on this Father’s Day, I sit here and FEEL a flood of memories. I FEEL your warmth as we cuddled up on the couch and watched Elvis movies AFTER my bedtime. I FEEL your strength when you’d catch me as I leaped into your arms when you came home from work. Please forgive me if I ever hugged your neck too tight as I searched for that ever-present piece of gum in the pocket of your starched white shirt. I FEEL your gentleness and compassion as—after being banished to my room to “just wait until your father gets home—you arrived to lovingly correct me and, with the fluffy wallop of a pillow, forgave me of my transgressions. I FEEL the pride I felt when I was up at “daddy’s work.” Yes, that was me that was always rummaging in your desk drawers for change for the coke and snack machines, and no, I still do NOT want a piece of the fruitcake you sold for the Civitan Club. I FEEL thankful for all the family times, the vacations in Clearwater, Florida at the Sandlewood Hotel, the holidays, the dinners around the dining room table and all the moments for the eight years that we were together. For though I don’t remember many of the details, I DO remember the FEELINGs of LOVE—feelings powerful enough to help me navigate through your most devastating and tragic departure; through the difficult years that followed as we tried to put our lives back together; through the many years and many milestones that would have been so much more with you here; all the way through today as I spend this Father’s Day weekend feeling memories made more than four decades ago; memories that turned into a life time of love.

Thank you, God, for my earthly dad and for this walk down memory lane. But, most of all, God, I thank you for YOU and for your promise that one day my stroll down Memory Lane will bring me to Heaven’s Gate where I will once again have the chance to jump into my Daddy’s arms. Make sure you have Juicy Fruit. It was always my favorite. Happy Father’s Day to you both. Amen and Ehmen!

amen and ehmen!

dad and girlsWriter’s Note: My dad was on the receiving end of a robber’s bullet many, many years ago, when I was just a little girl, robbing me of the opportunity to grow up with a father in my life. I have since forgiven the one who took him from us, but it still hurts, even all of these decades later…

I sit and stare at the photograph. Like my memories, it is faded. I just don’t seem to remember much. Black and white, shades of gray memories. I know you once existed in physical form, but, unfortunately, our life together was way too short; pretty much just a foreword and preface to my own story. Sometimes I wonder if I have blocked memories of my childhood, just because your untimely departure hurt so much. Because I know if I remember the good times then I will also have to remember how…

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She’s getting married…


As I sit here and listen to you and Billy moving your stuff about on the other side of Getting Ready for Marriagethe wall, preparing to load it on the trailer to move it to your new house, tears are flowing. Unexpected tears. Out of left field tears. I guess I’m just finally stopping long enough and the sounds coming from the next room are making it more real. My baby is getting married and moving out.

I hear your voice and, intellectually, I know it’s the voice of a 23-year-old beautiful, smart, mature woman, but my heart is hearing a little girl. Mama. Mama. Mama. Come here, Mama. My heart cries a little as I know that you will soon have to use the phone to call me.

I see you walk out the door with a suitcase full of clothes. Intellectually, I see a beautiful, smart, mature 23-year-old woman, but my heart sees a little girl. Bye. Bye Mama. I’ll be back. My heart cries a little as I know soon you will only be back for visits.

Then, I watch you as you watch him. Your eyes light up and all of a sudden I see a beautiful, smart, mature 23-year-old woman very much in love. I hear you tell him you love him and my heart cries for joy as I know that my baby has found her soulmate and life partner.

I love you, Billie, and these unexpected, out-of-left field tears are tears of joy. I simply can’t wait to see what you do in Chapter 2. Billy is a lucky man.

 

Holidays Forever Changed


It was this time last year that my brother had started showing slight signs of illness. It wasn’t anything drastic, but by Christmas that all had changed.

Standing in the kitchen on Christmas morning, the words falling from my sister-in-law’s lips left me dazed and confused. Out of left field came the news that my brother was gravely ill.

But not even the warning just minutes before could prepare me for actually seeing him. He didn’t look like my brother at all. Always the picture of health and happiness, his face was sunken and his neck collapsed. He shuffled like a man twenty years his senior. I simply couldn’t understand how he could have changed so much since Thanksgiving. I found it hard to make eye contact with him, afraid that I’d spontaneously combust into an emotional inferno, or worse yet, that my shock would hurt his feelings.

We didn’t talk of his condition or appearance other than him letting everyone know that we all needed to make sure our wills were done. He left and—with his loving finance’, Karen, and devoted brother Stan by his side—he went through all the medical testing and processes to get himself on the liver transplant list. He followed the rules, at least for the most part, and we all dreamed of the day he would get his new lease on life.

That day never came, at least not in an earthly sense, and just as quickly as he had fallen ill, he was gone. This will be our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without him and, though I know that he would want us to still gather, laugh and love, it will simply never be the same. Thanksgiving and Christmas are forever changed. We miss you, Gary.

 

gary lake posted by friend after memorial

Gary’s Song

Though we know you are just beyond heaven’s door

In a place we, too, will one day live forever more

There is still an emptiness beginning to swell

In the place where love once lived and dwelled

So, today, we ask you Father to close the gap

To take us and hold us tight in your lap

To give us the strength to make this story

One that gives us peace and you all Glory.

–B. Gibson–Amen and Ehmen

 

Remembering Gary…


My brother, Gary,  passed away this week, but before he did, the entire family got to spend some one-on-one time with him in his final days and hours. We talked about everything, including some thoughts and words he wanted to share with his family and friends after he was gone. He had wanted to write them down himself, but ran out of time, so instead I was asked to do so. While it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, it was, at the same time, one of the easiest as, with prayer and thanksgiving, the ink flowed…from his heart to the page. He also asked that his good buddy, Burton, read it at the memorial service. He insisted that Burton had the perfect voice and boy was he right.  I so wish we would have recorded it, but since we didn’t I have decided to share the written version here, as many, many have asked for a copy.  My brother loved his friends and family so very much and I hope you cherish his memory as much as we do.  We will miss him immensely, but look forward to the day that we see him again. Thank you, Jesus, for being our Lord and Savior and for blessing us with your son, Gary, for 63 wonderful years. Amen and Ehmen.

gary lake posted by friend after memorial

A photo taken and posted by a friend the evening of Gary’s memorial service. Solemn and serene, it’s as if the lake itself paused to wish our loved one a peaceful journey.

Remembering Gary

September 10, 2015

Live every moment. Laugh every day. Love beyond words.

To some, this is just a nice saying; a plaque on the wall. To Gary, it was a way of life. And, he lived it until his very last breath which he drew surrounded by loved ones on the morning of September 7, 2015.

Without a doubt, Gary touched many people with his life; from his family to his true love, Karen, to the many with whom he worked and played throughout his 63 years. Stories have always been plentiful, most especially over these last few days as he spoke and lived his final chapter on earth and as others have offered their memories to comfort and console one another. Stories of gratitude from the many that came to him for advice; for those who just needed a listening ear and shoulder to cry on; for those that just needed a bit of laughter to brighten their day. Stories of love; of how family—whether biological or extended—was so important to him; of how he had a knack and a heart for always showing up when and where he was needed; his unyielding thoughtfulness, and, of course, his warm and fuzzy, not-so-hidden romantic side.

A man of gentle soul just like his father, he was warm-hearted, wise, witty and welcoming. He was a friend in the truest sense of the word, never meeting a stranger and always making people smile. If he could make your day brighter, he was going to do it. One of the favorite stories told in the last hours of his life seemed to encapsulate much of who Gary was—fun and a lover of life. He had gone on a beach and fishing vacation to Florida with sister Pam and her husband, Jimmy. As they were leaving a particularly crowded restaurant, Pam and Jimmy noticed that they had lost Gary. They began looking around, finally spotting him standing in the middle of a nearby wedding reception…having his picture made with the bride! When we asked him about it, he just laughed and said: “Well, I was walking past and she grabbed me and asked if she knew me and if I wanted a picture with her. Who was I to ruin her special day?” We suspect that every time these strangers flip through the pages of their photo album, they get a chuckle over the relative that nobody can seem to remember.

A son. A brother. A marine. A college graduate. A parole officer and devoted employee of the state. An uncle. A friend. A lover of people, the lake and BB community; a lover of cars and traveling. And a man in love with life, his family and his fiancé. A man that still had many plans—so much more love to share and adventures to enjoy. And, while we will all miss him and miss being a part of his earthly plans, we can all take solace in knowing that he is on an adventure of eternal proportions right now, most likely speeding up and down heaven’s byways in the fastest, sleekest corvette available on his way to paradise’s version of Booger Bottom, where he will, undoubtedly, plant himself behind the bar and serve up plenty of laughter, joy and love to his dad, his grandmama and granddaddy, his Aunt Hazel and all the family and friends that have gone before. And, one day, we, too will all join him on his adventure. But, until that joyful day, he did leave some words for those of us left behind; words and feelings he shared from his heart in his last days and hours…

To Karen and Step Family: Dearest Karen, you are, hands-down the love of my life. I have had loves before you and each one owned a piece of my heart. But, you owned the whole thing. You are everything I ever dreamed of and your family has become my family; your children have become my children—or my step-adults, I guess I should say. It meant so much that they accepted me as a part of the family and I was always honored that they came to me for advice. I know you are proud of your kids, and you should be. You raised them right.

And, Abbey. Thank you for Abbey; for making me a Pop-Pop. In a time when my health tried to upstage everything else in my life, that sweet baby brought me so much joy and fullness of life.

Karen, you are my best friend and everything I ever wanted in a life partner. I’m just sorry that we didn’t have more time to enjoy all the plans that we made together; to travel and explore. There was nothing I enjoyed more than researching and planning every detail of our trips and seeing the delight on your face as we experienced adventures together. And, last, but far from the least, thank you for taking such good care of me and for sending me on my final journey with more love and joy than I could have ever imagined. I love you.

To Mom: I love you. I know I put you and dad through a lot when I was growing up, especially when I was a teenager and dropped out of school. But, thank you for standing by me and letting me find my own way back; for supporting me when I joined the Marines; when I came out and got my G.E.D., went to college and started my career. But, most of all, mom, thank you for being the strong woman that you are; for surviving the devastation of losing dad and raising Pam and Brenda, while taking care of Grandmama and Granddaddy. I hope you know how proud of you I have always been. Did you know that you are the reason I became a Red Coat at Crisp Regional? I was always so proud to tell everyone that you were the longest-serving volunteer in Houston County. They were always in awe of the fact that you had worked 15,000+ volunteer hours and my five-year service as a Red Coat was in your honor. Mama, I just want you to take good care of yourself and am thankful that Stan, Pam and Brenda will continue to look after you. I can assure you that I will be looking over you until we are together again. Thanks for being such a great mama and for also sending me to heaven with so much love and joy. I love you.

To My Siblings and Family: We have the same blood, the same DNA and I am proud to have been born into THIS family. But just to put to rest which one of is the best looking of the offspring—including Wade—I have to say it was me! Seriously, I want to thank each one of you for adding many special moments, lots of laughter and much love to my life. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that Christmas at Tybee Island. What a great time, even when mama decided to flash everyone on the beach. I’m not sure any of us have ever laughed so hard. I cherished our time together and only wish that we had spent even more. I tried to be there for each of you and I thank you for being there for me, until the very end. I always knew, no matter what, I could count on you. Please continue to get together every chance you get and please do NOT draw names at Christmas! Oh, and by the way, Wade, do you remember that time you visited when you were a little boy and we went fishing? It was NOT a six pack. I love you guys. All of you. Be good to yourselves and one another. And, Billie, I promise to be looking over you as you get married and start your new life with The Boy. Your dress is pretty, but, more importantly, your house is a steal. Good job, kid.

To My Friends and Extended Family: I have been blessed with many friends and extended family members over the years and could not have dreamed of a better place to call home. I want to give a special thank you to my neighbors and friends for making my life more beautiful and full and, above all, fun! Spending time with you all at Booger Bottom was one of the highlights of my life. The Bottom is not just some bar, it is a community center, the heartbeat of our neighborhood; a place where people from all walks of life gather—lawyers, judges, crop-dusters, politicians, teachers, salesmen, medical professionals and farmers, just to name a few. Social status and differences are left at the threshold and everyone is the same—friends and family. I can’t tell you how very much you all meant to me. I am so thankful to have met each and every one of my friends at Booger Bottom and beyond. Thank you for the good times, for the laughter, and the friendship.

To All of You: I know by now, you are probably getting hot sitting here outside. Though these are my thoughts, I had to get my sister Brenda to write them down and she gets a little long-winded sometimes. So, if you are enjoying the words, then you can thank me, but if you are ready to get up and go inside where it is air conditioned, blame her.

Seriously, I’d say that only about one percent of my life was not so great, but the remaining 99 percent was awesome, and I have all of you to thank for that. Thank you for the good times, for the laughter and for the love and the joy. They say you can’t take it with you, but they were wrong. I took it all!

Just keep on living, loving and laughing. I’ll see you all again…just around the bend.

Love, Gary

Good Family Genes…


From my personal God Journals…

Hey, God!

It’s me again. I only have about 30 minutes right now, but I cannot think of any better dear godway to spend them than with you, right here, right now. I love that you have given me the gift of writing as it is so exhilarating to record our precious time together. I learn so much when I reread the entries and I suspect that others will as well. I am just honored that you allow me to do this; to have this assignment. May every word I write and share give you and only you glory. Help me to keep my pride in check, Lord. You know the flesh can easily become boastful, but my heart wants to remain humble in you. There is a fine line between being happy that people are gathering and harvesting good crops from the words I write and taking all the credit. Please, please help me always give you the credit and the glory and help me to always, always remember that it is not a matter of talent, but a matter of obedience. I want to be obedient, Lord. Help me. I love you, forever and ever. Amen and Ehmen.

Dear Child of Mine,

You do make me proud. Your heart is in the right place and I am so very proud of you. I made you in my image and you are looking more and more like me every single day. We have good family genes, child. Even though the world exists now in a fallen state and even though Adam and Eve introduced sin into the human race when they ate from the Tree of Knowledge, it is I that knits together your D.N.A. It is My Holy Spirit that provides you with the refreshing, reviving Breath of Life. You are programmed to seek Me and it is I and only I that will complete you. It pleases me so that you are understanding this and, just as I have promised, as long as you seek Me, I promise you will find Me. As long as you seek wisdom, it is yours. I promised it to you and I delight in fulfilling My promises. Every single one of them. I have never broke a promise, child. And I never will. I am still fulfilling the promises I made Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and will do so until all of my children have walked through the gates of heaven and into my arms. Child, you can count on me. Don’t ever forget this. You may never find anyone of this earth that you feel you can trust completely, but that is ok, because you have me and I will never leave nor forsake you. Rest in that fact, my child. The promise and peace of heaven goes with you wherever you go.

Oh, sweet Jesus, the peace of the Father just rained down upon me. From head to toe, I can feel the promise and peace of heaven coursing through my veins. I love you, Lord. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. In Your Holy Name I Pray. Amen and Ehmen.

And the Word of God Says…

Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Psalm 105: 4-8 4 Depend on the Lord and his strength; always go to him for help. 5 Remember the miracles he has done; remember his wonders and his decisions. 6 You are descendants of his servant Abraham, the children of Jacob, his chosen people. 7 He is the Lord our God. His laws are for all the world. 8 He will keep his agreement forever; He will keep his promises always.