Saturday, October 25, 2014


This past week Honeybuns and I attended a big airplane convention/trade show in Orlando, FL.  The airplane business is a network of folks that love to soar.  They spend time flying, talking about flying, buying their own planes, or fixing the planes that others own.  It's a type of family!  And having been a part of this professional family for many years, these types of events are usually attended by the same folks. It's always interesting to see who moved to new positions, relocated across country, and joined new companies. Family news is always on the table and we've come to know these people well. It's a pleasant reunion which takes place once a year.

This time I met someone entirely different.  I sat across from a NEW face at one of the business dinners and a delightful conversation began. I guessed this gal to be in her 50's, perhaps in the aviation business or married to someone that is.

AFTER speaking the general niceties, she just happened to mention that her son was a professional football player.  WHAT?  I asked all the right questions and she gladly shared her story.  It was fascinating. ( I will not tell you her name or her son's name because I don't have her permission. If I were to share it, ALL football fans would recognize the name.)

She became a first time mom at the age of 16.  The father of the new little boy disappeared from her life and she was thrown into the world of single motherhood. She and her precious child were dirt-poor!  She got a job, then two and then three. Working night and day meant weary visits with her baby and then teachers and then coaches.  But no matter how she felt she was ALWAYS present in the events of her child's life.

At age 8 she realized he was a gifted athlete.  He stood out at sporting events, being the ONE that ran the fastest and carried  the ball the farthest. He was MADE to play football.  And he loved it.

From that moment she began attending EVERY practice and EVERY game! Struggling to keep her eyes open and herself upright in the stands, she was there, alone!

She pinched every nickel until the buffalo hollered and raised her son with used bicycles, hand me down clothes and TONS of love.  He went off to college and she continued to go to EVERY practice and EVERY game. They struggled financially together.

THEN, the day came that he was offered a contract with the NFL! They had no idea that their world was about to enlarge 10 fold.

A wise agent told them that they were about to be handed a huge cake, and everyone they knew wanted a piece.  He encouraged them to not allow that to happen or soon they would be without any cake at all.  She listened naively.

He started playing professionally and he was good!  The money started rolling in, millions of dollars!
Distant relatives and friends came out of the woodwork begging for hand-outs. Fans were everywhere, they couldn't go out to eat without him being recognized and interrupted for an autograph.

The government took over 40% of his income.   She was given an allowance, her son was now supporting her.  After all, they were IN THIS together!!

She bought a huge house and before long all 7 bedrooms were filled with people that "needed a place to stay" for a short while.  She sold it!!

He moved into a lovely but modest home to begin his adult life complete with privacy shades. Prying cameras are everywhere.  She purchased a simple 3 bedroom a couple of hours away. They both live simply, realizing the life of his career is short.  And his body will be racked with problems once hes on the other side of professional football. She says of her boy, "he has no idea of the size of his wealth."  His heart is good, he is kind and his wants are few.

We talked about the journey of going from "rags to riches" and agreed that being poor and then gaining wealth is a whole lot easier than starting out rich and losing it all.  That just seems to be a very difficult adjustment.

Publishers are urging her to write a book of her life's story.  I encouraged her to get at it.  What a wonderful life of love, sacrifice, generosity, wisdom, pain and victory.

So why was she at an AIRPLANE convention?  She has a JOB in the industry.  She goes to work every day, saves her pennies and on the day we met she was trying to decide what to get her son for his birthday. He told her she could make a down-payment on some piece of equipment he'd been admiring.  (Like he couldn't buy it outright himself!)

I love this woman and I wish her the best.  She did a FINE job raising her son.

AND now I find myself looking for her boy when football is on the TV.

ME?  A football fan?  That's a miracle in itself.!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Matt, Andy, Philip, Mark

There's nothing like it!

This past September our Uncle Bub Gaines left this earth on his journey to eternity.

 90 years of life as we know it here, ended.  Most folks would say, "he had a good long life, it was time."  But, it's never a good time for those left behind that loved deeply.

We got the call and quickly proceeded to  Illinois, his home all his life.  Friends, relatives and  the small cemetery are there. He would rest beside his parents that passed away many years ago.

Funeral plans were made over the phone during the rainy, cloudy day drive from Tulsa to Illinois.  A huge rainbow finally filled the sky as we approached St. Louis.  That was helpful!

We moved into my sister and brother-in-laws home for the duration of funeral week.  We met with the local funeral director and finalized the details.  We assured the professionals that the funeral would be small since he'd been living at the Veterans Home in Quincy, Illinois for the past few years and before that had been confined to his house with round- the- clock caregivers for several years.
Surely, a single, elderly WWII veteran's passing would not garner much attention.

Andy flew from CO to officiate, Philip flew from TX to be a pallbearer. (He brought Thompson along, age 3 as a delightful distraction.)  Nephews Mark and Matt Leischner rearranged their schedules to also attend.  Close friends were also called to serve.

I was convinced that we would experience a tiny intimate family gathering and that would be just fine.

Boy, was I wrong.

Saturday morning the hearse arrived at the Concord Christian Church and we watched those very dignified men prepare for the visitation one hour before the service.  It was just US, saying good-bye.  It was hard and sweet and so appropriate.

An hour passed and the designated time arrived.

People started pouring into that beautiful little white clapboard country church, standing in line filling up the aisle.

Faces from 40-50 years ago appeared.  There were more wrinkles and weight, but after a few hints we were quickly transported back in time. Old school chums, neighbors, church members, long lost relatives and Bub's co-workers filed in. Some of his old buddies were wheeled down the aisle in their wheel chairs, unable to speak but determined to attend. After an hour of shaking hands, hugging and shedding several tears the service began.

Andy spoke about sacrifice, his description of his great-uncle, I read my prepared eulogy, we sang hymns, prayed and told stories.  It was tender and so honoring. We were reminded that there is a "time and season for every purpose under heaven."

 I looked around as we sang Amazing Grace and then followed the casket down the aisle and out the door.

THAT LITTLE CHURCH WAS FILLED!  Old friends, distant relatives, neighbors, caretakers, church members and townspeople turned out!  It was absolutely amazing. Concord: Population about 150.  As we counted names later we decided over 100 had attended.  (High attendance for that sweet church is normally 54!)

The churches pastor and the funeral professionals were as surprised as we were!

We proceeded to the cemetery. Cars followed behind us. As we arrived at the grave site we saw a line of very patriotic elderly veterans standing at attention in honor of their comrade.  They fired a 21 gun salute. The sound rang out over that beautiful familiar cemetery.  The flag was folded and presented to my sister, along with heart-felt thanks, dignity and honor.  Taps were played. Andy reminded us of the necessity of leaving our grief in that place and that life must continue beyond that day.

Reluctantly we left that place, comforted by knowing he was NOT there, but that we gave him a sweet, loving and grateful send-off.

We went back to the church where once again we were surprised by the amount of food prepared and served by the ladies of the community.  Folks gathered again to eat, tell stories and remind us of what it means to be loved in a small town.

Pictures were taken, folks introduced to each other, new babies hugged, recipes shared,  sincere condolences spoken and old friendships rekindled.

Those folks have no idea of the comfort they brought to this family. Or maybe they do!
Because, that's how it's done in a small mid western town where "everybody knows your name."