Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Tie That Binds

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
John Fawcett

As I think over the past couple of months and the visitors that Frank and I have had in our home, I'm reminded of this old hymn. Our hearts truly are bound to those of our visitors in Christian love because all of us are believers. However, the common beliefs that we hold were just part of the reason that we had so much fun together. Let me share our friends with you.

Our first visitors, Anne and Bill Duncan, came in May. I've known Anne for years, but I didn't become close friends with her until after she retired from teaching English at Gulf Breeze High School. Shortly before she retired, her husband died; however, after a few years, she met Bill, and soon they were married. A better match I've never seen! They are so happy, and that makes all of their friends happy, too. This summer, they took a trip to the Southwest, with stops in
Texas for Anne's reunion with college friends, Taos, the Grand Canyon, and Cerrillos, NM. What an honor that they'd include the Youngs in their itinerary! There was no dead air in this house while they were here, I assure you. Since Anne and Bill are members of our dinner group in Pensacola, The Taste Buddies, we had lots of folks to catch up on, plus they filled us in on Pensacola goings on. Naturally, we gave them a tour of Cerrillos, Madrid, and a little bit of Santa Fe, always our pleasure with folks who visit us for the first time.
They arrived on Monday afternoon, May 26, and left on Thursday morning, May 28. What a great time we had!

Next came Judy and Bob Sanders, from College Station, Texas. They, too, were taking a vacation in the West and made our house one of their stops, actually, the first one. Again, we were honored. Judy, Frank, and I have been friends since Mississippi College days, back in the late '50s and early '60s. In fact, Judy was our "wedding director." In college, we called Judy "Mookie Mae," but that's a story for another time. I remember Judy always talking about Bobby Sanders when we were in college, so I never thought she'd marry anyone else. They've been married just about as long as Frank and I have, and that's a long time. They have four children and a veritable gaggle of grandchildren! Such a beautiful family! Again, there was no dead air in this house from the afternoon of Monday, June 8, to Thursday morning, June 10. We took Judy and Bob on the same tour that we took
Anne and Bill on, and all four loved our new digs. Where we live now is so very much different from our Southland, where all of our visitors still live, that it's quite a shock to find the Youngs in their new surroundings. The villages of Cerrillos and Madrid are shockers to them because they're such "wild west" places in comparison to Pensacola and the green parts of Texas. We'll see Judy and Bob again Labor Day Weekend, when my family gathers only about 30 miles from them for our Kolb Family Reunion. It'll be so much fun to be with them again after such a short time.

Sandy and Joe Dorsett were our third visitors. I've actually known Sandy the longest of the "girls" who came to visit; however, I really didn't know her well until last year. She and I graduated from Pensacola High School in 1958, but we really didn't know each other in high school. When we wrote our bios for the PHS Web site last year, we discovered that we had something in common -- both of us had lost our sons. Her son, Tom, died in an Air Force plane crash in 1990, and our son, Jay, died in 1992. We immediately connected. When she and Joe told me last year that this summer would be their "westerly" vacation, I immediately invited them to come to see us. They are RVers, so they parked their motor home in Santa Fe. We met
them for dinner on Wednesday, July 8; the next day they went to Durango for the train ride to Silverton; they returned to Santa Fe on Saturday, July 11; and we spent all day Sunday, July 12, together. So much to catch up on! Again, we gave them the tour . . . just Cerrillos and Madrid, though. One thing different for them, though, was that they were here on Sunday, so they could go to church with us. As good Episcopalians, they expected to find Rodeo Road Baptist Church stuffy and stodgy -- the way they thought all Baptist churches would be -- and were ever so pleased to find our little church quite lively and our pastor right on target with what they believe. I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours of visiting with them at Starbucks on Tuesday before they set
out for home in south Texas on Wednesday, July 15 (today). Another great visit!

Before these three visits, the ladies were the ones whom I knew best. Now, however, the husbands, too, are good friends. We're all very much different in personalities, looks, ideas, but we all have that "tie that binds," and these three couples will always have a special place in our hearts! Anne and Bill, Judy and Bob, and Sandy and Joe . . . I hope you know that we love you and welcome another visit anytime.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

(6) Seventeen Years Ago -- July 2, 1992

(continued from 7/1/09)

I'll begin the entry today, July 2, 2009, with a quote concerning what I was feeling one year after Jay's death (July 2, 1993):

"To continue the last sentence from yesterday . . . Tomorrow will be difficult. Last night I had the hardest time going to bed. I don't really know why. Maybe I thought I'd just lie there and cry, and I really didn't want to do that. I detoured by Jay's room and sat there for a few minutes, just holding the soprano sax and looking around. It was almost as though I could feel his fingers on that instrument. That physical closeness is one of the things that I miss the most because there was hardly a time that Jay came into the room where I was that he didn't stop to give me a hug. Homesickness is one of the worst illnesses in the world. I know because I've been both homesick and physically ill, and in most cases, I'd choose the physical illness over the homesickness. I'm homesick for Jay . . . have been for one year now, and there is no way that the feeling can be eradicated. Someday when I'm 'home' with him again, the feeling may abate. This morning, I called Mrs. Gaines to check on Fred and Jo's progress in moving. During the course of the conversation, I mentioned that today is the anniversary of Jay's death. Once again she told me that it would get easier to bear but that the grief would never go away. I believe her. She knows. I suppose it's been twenty-five years or so since her daughter Nelda died in that tragic accident while she was on the way home from college for Thanksgiving. At the time, I didn't have even an inkling of what the mother was feeling. I couldn't imagine ever losing a child. Nothing like that would ever happen to one of my children."

To continue my narrative . . . Most of you who are reading this don't know the people whom I mention in this entry. Just know that they are all either relatives or very dear friends and that we couldn't have gotten through our ordeal without them.

"Frank and I got up rather early and started for home. I have a few impressions of the day . . . nothing really specific until later that evening. Breakfast at The Cracker Barrel on the way out of Nashville, many naps because of the medication that I was still on for vertigo, a quick ice cream just before leaving I-65 (the last 'meal' we would have for almost twenty-four hours), still more dozing, the 'maintenance required' light going on in the van just after we turned on to Wilde Lake Blvd. . . . could that light have been prophetic?
"We arrived at home around 5:20, just about ten minutes after Jay and Todd (the drummer in Velvet Melon) came in. As I was walking up the stairs with my suitcase, I asked Todd where Jay was. He told me that he was asleep, but I didn't think anything strange about that; many times he went straight to bed after getting home from a road gig. How he did love to sleep! Not at the times that I would choose, but he lived on a different clock from mine. I went into our bathroom and did something that I rarely do: I unpacked my suitcase immediately and set it on the ledge just outside my bathtub. I wish I hadn't been so industrious. My laziness might have saved my boy's life, but I doubt it. Then I went downstairs to read mail. Frank had gone outside immediately after we got home, and when he came in, I asked him if he'd be satisfied with Pizza Hut pizza for dinner. Of course. I still wasn't feeling well, and he was concerned about me. Shortly after he came in, Frank heard a thud in our bathroom, went to check -- fearing that I had fallen from my dizziness -- saw my suitcase on the ledge, and assumed that he had heard me drop it after unpacking. These actions don't really coincide, but we were both tired and not thinking very clearly. I don't think I've written things exactly as Frank tells them, but that's not important. Frank then lay down on the couch upstairs to watch the news. We had been out of touch with the world for a few days.
"I called Pizza Hut with our order so that I would be ready when I went to pick it up; then I went upstairs to brush my teeth, forgetting that my overnight bag was still downstairs. Oh well . . . I thought I'd just go to the bathroom while I was there, and that's when I discovered Jay. We don't really know how long he had been there. Was it he that Frank heard fall when he thought it was my suitcase? We'll never really know, but it wouldn't have made any difference anyway. When I cried out Jay's name, Frank ran in and told me to dial 911 and to ask Todd what Jay had had to eat that day. Todd was coming up the stairs at the time. When I asked him, he told us that Jay had had nothing to eat that day but that he had had an awful lot to drink the night before and had been sick all day. As I was giving directions to the 911 operator, Todd began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Jay, to no avail, of course, because he was already dead. Poor Todd. He tried so hard to revive his buddy, all the time crying and begging Jay to respond. An eternity passed, so it seemed, before the paramedics arrived. They hooked up all sorts of mechanical and computerized things to my boy, but he never responded. He was breathing, but only with machinery.
"Frank wouldn't let me go back into the bathroom, but every once in a while, I would walk around just to see for myself what they were doing to my child. I was numb. Actually, the operator stayed on the phone with me for a long time, until the paramedics arrived. It really wasn't very long . . . probably only five minutes or so from the time that I called until the first crew came. To a mother, it seemed like forever. I sat in my recliner most of the time, praying. My immediate prayer was, "Oh, Lord, please don't let him die!" Then I thought about what I had said, and I added, "But please don't let him be a vegetable." Death would be far better for Jay Young than life if he could not live it the way he wanted to. He would not have been a gracious paraplegic. Who knows how long his brain had been without oxygen? But then, who knows what the Lord could have done in the way of miracles? I certainly don't.
"The medics had done all that they could do. I could hear the flap-flap of the helicopter blades. What a shame that Jay couldn't enjoy the ride! I remember thinking that, realizing that he was dead. Frank didn't know that I knew, but I did. He knew, but he was trying to protect me. This is so strange, but as I followed the stretcher down the stairs, I saw mud on the carpet and thought, 'Maybe I should get out the vacuum and get this up before it leaves a terrible stain.' What weird things the subconscious does! The stain is there to this day. It will not come up, but do I wish I had stopped? No. It's just one more reminder of my boy. I don't worry about it. Frank claims that it's a different stain, but I know better. To me, it's a reminder.
"Another strange thing . . . As they were taking Jay across the front lawn to the preacher's yard, where the helicopter was parked, Adrian Webb and someone (I don't remember who) came up to see if something was wrong with Frank. He discovered that it was Jay, disappeared, and never came back. How strange. I don't know. Maybe he couldn't face the death of one so young. I've seen him in the grocery store several times during the past year, but he has never mentioned Jay.
"I remember calling to the last of the paramedics to ask him if Jay was breathing. His reply was, 'Not on his own.' I knew what his answer would be. I remember walking over to the mailboxes and watching the helicopter take off with my boy in it. What an empty feeling. And I hadn't even hugged him as he left the house the night before.
"Before we left to go to the hospital, I tried to get in touch with Wendy. No answer. A brief message on the machine telling her and Steve that we had gone to the hospital because of Jay. Got through to Jimmy, though, and he beat us to the hospital. Todd rode with us. Silence. As we parked, Frank turned to me and said, 'Don't get your hopes up.' I wouldn't. I already knew. But every time that the nurse came into the little waiting room where Frank, Jimmy, Todd, and I sat, my 'mother hopes' rose, thinking that I might hear her say something like, 'We were mistaken. He's fine. He sat up, looked around, and said, "What's happenin'?" You may take him home now.' Instead, each time she entered, she said something to the effect of 'The doctors are trying everything . . . They're doing their best . . . .' Then, 'They did everything that they could. I'm sorry.' Would we like to see him? Of course. The room was so cold; no wonder he was blue. No, it was just death on him. Death on my precious little boy. I hope I don't sound maudlin; I don't mean to be. I just remember the awful color, his cold skin, no life. No life here, that is. I knew immediately that my boy wasn't in that cold, blue, hard body. My boy was with Jesus. Jay said, 'I don't mix drugs with rock and roll/I've got Jesus in my heart to save my soul' . . . said it right in 'I'm Not Crazy' . . . right out where everyone could hear him. He was not ashamed of his God.
"The ride home was quiet. Before we left the hospital, I remember clinging to Frank and begging him not to leave me. I really don't know why I did that. Guess I've read one too many stories and articles about families falling apart after the death of a child. On the way home, I recall saying that I didn't want to put the pictures away. Again, too much reading. Frank probably thought I was crazy.
"When we arrived at home, I called JoAnn. Naturally, she was devastated. She agreed to call the relatives for me. We had so many calls to make. I think we called Fran and Bob next, but they weren't at home. Maybe we left a message on the answering machine . . . anyway, they returned our call soon, and Frank told them what had happened. Almost immediately our phone started ringing. Frank called Wendy Bennett, who called Sophia, who called Melrose . . . etc., etc., etc. Anyway, our friends were with us immediately. Frank had called Bob right after he called the Crumptons, and he and Deb were here for us just as soon as they could get themselves together. Others who came immediately were Tim Key, the youth director at church; Bill and Louise Santo; and Jim Wilson. I had called for Carol, but she was at her mother's house in Alabama. Jim came just as soon as he could. What a relief!
"I remember sitting at the dining room table with Bill Santo, discussing arrangements. We had decided on Harper-Morris Funeral Home, with the funeral itself being held there, as well as the visitation. The Fourth of July weekend would pose a problem for us. Even though Jay died on Thursday, we couldn't have the funeral until Monday because of the holiday on Saturday and because no funerals are held on Sunday in Pensacola. Bill and I talked briefly about how it would be all right to have the funeral there instead of at the church because numbers would not be a problem. Wrong! My mother had instilled into me the idea that it's not good to have a funeral at church because you'd always think of it during the services each Sunday. I concur; however, it might have been a good idea to make an exception in this case.
"During the evening, I tried to get myself together enough to call someone in the Singles department at our church; however, I never could muster up whatever it was I needed. Around ten or eleven o'clock, I looked around to see several of them walk in. What relief! My best friends in the whole world were here! They have come to our rescue after a death so many times. Maybe that's why God put us together so many years ago. They have seen us through Grandpa, Mother, and now Jay. I always get the feeling that I've never done anything for them when they come to our rescue. Truly, the only thing we've ever done is to open up our hearts and our home to them. Maybe that was enough for them; it doesn't seem like much to me.
"I vaguely remember calling Mike in Nashville. I didn't handle it well. The words 'Mike, Jay died' just tumbled out . . . no warning . . . just the fact. Just as we feared, they started for home immediately. Terri was pregnant, and the night travel worried me. Sure enough, when they arrived, she didn't look well; she hadn't slept at all. Jay was dead. Who could sleep?
"One of the Singles vacuumed up the paramedic mess for me. I was thankful. That mud really bothered me. Wendy and Rob Bennett went out for survival equipment -- breakfast food and paper goods. What would we have done without them? I don't even want to think about it. The Hinkleys arrived with 'guardian angel' pins in hand. I wore mine gratefully. The Hinkleys, the Bennetts, and Bob and Deb would be our salvation during the weekend. There was hardly a time when at least one of the families wasn't here. Angela handled all calls. Superwoman!
"The biggest problem after we came home from the hospital was finding Wendy. Frank called Patti and told her what had happened. She didn't know where Wendy was either, but she called Joy Waters (Wendy's co-worker in pre-school) to see if she had heard Wendy say anything about where she was going after pre-school. She hadn't. I've always been thankful that Patti made that call because Joy and Bill are the ones who let the Singles know about Jay. We were so worried that Wendy would hear about her brother from someone besides us because word was spreading rapidly. Finally, around nine o'clock, Wendy and Corey came in, wondering what kind of party we were having because of all the cars around the house. I can't even remember how we told her. I'm afraid, though, that I just blurted it out the same way that I had done to Mike. What can I say about Wendy's reaction? It was what any normal sister's reaction would be, a sister who loved her brother unconditionally. She was devastated. Corey just didn't know what to think. She wanted to know where Jay died, and I told her; however, I said, 'Grammy just can't go back up there right now, though.' She wanted to go alone, and she did. When she came back downstairs, she said, 'Look what I found, Grammy.' Opening her hand, she revealed Jay's cross . . . the one that matched Tara's. She wanted to keep it, but I told her that I needed it. No problem. Todd had already attached himself to Jay's watch and bracelets. That was fine. The nurse at the hospital had given me Jay's earring, the one made from Tara's ring. I wanted her to have that.
"Speaking of Tara, Frank made the call to her. I could tell that it wasn't going well. Her dad had died just a year ago, and she was still grieving for him. This wasn't fair to her. Once again, life had been jerked from her grasp. Not fair. I can't remember if Cheryl brought her over on Friday or Saturday."

So here I am at the end of my writing from June 27, 1992 - July 2, 1992. I actually have lots more in my "One Year Journal," and I may post what I wrote about other days someday. I'll let you know if I do.

Thank you so much, dear friends, for joining me in my "Jay Week" reminiscences. And thanks for all of the beautiful responses that you wrote on Facebook and as comments on my blog. I'd have a difficult time telling you just how much you lifted my heart. Just trust that you did!

Frank, Jackson, and I were in Santa Fe today, and as we were eating lunch, Frank said, "It's so nice that Jackson's with us today." I heartily agreed and replied, "Little did we know at this time on July 2, 1992, what was in store for us later that day; and little did we know how much God would bless us thirteen years later by giving all of us Jackson." He's named for Frank and Jay, you know, and reminds me so much of my boy from time to time.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

(5) Seventeen Years Ago -- July 1, 1992

(continued from 6/30/09)

"I lay on the floor most of the morning. I remember Jay coming to check on me occasionally and Frank wracking his brain about what to do for/with me. We remembered that Bill Puryear mentioned his ear doctor in the office on Monday, so we called him to get the doctor's name. I was so happy when Frank discovered that the doctor could see me around three that afternoon. Diagnosis -- vertigo. He prescriber something . . . I forget what . . . for me, but I don't remember taking very many doses of it.
"Eventually, I began to feel better. After showering, I felt much better. Frank and I had decided to accompany Jimmy (the sound man for Velvet Melon) and a girl (Mimi, I think) from Chattanooga to a neat restaurant that night because Jay and Todd were leaving around six to go back to Chattanooga to hear Steve Ebe from Human Radio play drums with Head of Phineas Gage at Yesterday's. As Jay left, I remember looking at him and thinking that I understood exactly why the girls loved him so much. He never looked cuter -- denim shirt, jeans tight rolled, and multi-colored belt . . . and those shoes . . . the ones that he said that people in the audience always commented on at gigs . . . the mustard colored ones . . . the ones that the other guys liked so much that they bought their own. They were in such a hurry that I barely told him good-bye. I've always been sorry about that. I don't think I even got a hug. That means that he didn't either."