Sunday, October 27, 2019

Ghastly Graveside Grief

Ghastly Graveside Grief

     It was through Daphne that I first learned about Julie.  Daphne had been a valued friend for several years.  When I first met her I thought she was a Hallmark model.  With her ear-to-ear smile, beautiful teeth, dark hair and joyful laughter she was a delight.  I'll never forget her joyful faith.  She bubbled over with gratefulness.

     One day as we visited she asked if I would help her friend...Julie.  Daphne had introduced me to several other friends over the years.  Her tender heart and charisma always got results.  So I looked forward to meeting Julie.

     Julie was thin, light-haired and an introverted woman...probably in her mid-thirties.  I listened as she expressed deep grief, sadness, and fear about her husband Ted, and son Perry.  "They just won't..." she wept.

     "Tenderly I spoke, "Please go ahead, Julie.  I'm here to help you."

     "I'm very sick...I have cancer...I'm going to die...but Ted just can't accept it.  I tried to get him to help me explain it to Perry...but he wouldn't do it.  He said, "Julie, you promised you'd never leave me."  I told him the doctor said the tumor is close to my brain stem and is inoperable.  But, he repeated, "You told me you'd never leave me."

     "Have you been able to talk to Perry yet?

     "No.  I just don't know-how. Perry and his Dad are not Christians yet and my dream of seeing them come to the Lord isn't going to happen now.  I'm not sad about dying.  I'm looking forward to being freed from these awful headaches.  Heaven will mean no more pain or sorrow.  But I feel ripped wide open about my men. I'm letting them down."

     Admiring her strong faith and yet feeling anguished over her desperate plight I asked, "Julie how might I help you the most?"

     We visited about the numerous items needing attention during her final days.  After the mundane concerns were completed Julie began weeping again.  This time more mournfully.  Wiping her face she winced, ""

     "Absolutely, Julie.  What is it?"

     "Will you take my place?"

     Stupefied, I gestured for her to explain.

     "When I die will you take my place and lead my husband and son to Christ?  I can't bear the thought of never seeing them again."

     My jaw locked.  I had never heard such a intensely passionate plea it was.

     Finally, I whispered, "Julie I will do my best."

     "Will you hold my hand, look me in the eyes and promise me?"

     I'll never forget that moment.  It struck me like a lightning bolt.  I can still see her woefully poignant eyes.  My focus was blurry like trying to see through a rain-drenched windshield.

     Her Memorial Service was a modest event attended by church members and her extended family.

     I rode in the hearse up the winding road to the grave site on a bucolic hillside overlooking a scenic river and mountain peaks.

     As the internment began I quickly locked arms with Ted...fearing he might do something desperate.  It was a smart decision as it took all of my strength and pleading words to get him through this ordeal.  I suspect my coat still has some of his tears on it. I can't ever recall a man sobbing like Ted.  Between gasps, he kept uttering, "Julie you promised you'd never leave me."

     I tried my best to keep my promise to Julie.  But day after day Ted wasn't home or at work.  I wondered if he had moved or worse.  After a week or two the neighbor came out, "Son, I've seen you knocking on that door nearly every day.  But Ted doesn't come home much anymore.  He is still grieving horribly."

     Do you have any idea where he might be?  I need to talk with him."

     Oh, I thought maybe you knew.  He...he goes to her graveside every day...for hours.

     As my car crested the final rise I could see Ted's car.  I parked next to it and hoped he was inside.  But the car was empty.  I walked along the bluff looking down at the grave sites, not seeing anyone.  Until from the corner of my eye, I saw movement.

     Someone was lying on the grass, moaning, and mumbling.  I couldn't recognize the words, but I knew that distinctive voice.  It was Ted.  He was lying on her gravesite pounding his fists in the sod and crying out... "Julie, you promised me you'd never leave me.  Please come back.  I miss you so."

     Later I learned he had quit his job, sent Perry to live with Julie's sister and laid on her grave desperately ~ day after day, rain or shine, calling for her to come back.  When I spoke he was silent and didn't turn to look at me.  I nudged his shoulder pleading for him to rise up and chat. He was disheveled and unshaven.  His clothes were soiled and he was shivering in the cold.

     Irritably he told me to go away and live him to his grief.

     "Ted, I have a message from Julie.  If you'll sit in my car I'll share it with you."

     This perked some curiosity and he studied my face to see if I was being truthful.

     He arose and we got out of the frosty morning.  I turned the heater to high trying to warm his frigid body.

     About 6 months later the neighbor said that Ted was admitted to a psychiatric care facility as he could not cope with Julie being gone.  My efforts there were futile. He was locked in a catatonic-type trance and unable to carry on any meaningful discourse.  I had not kept my pledge to Julie and my soul still regrets that.  You always wonder what might I have done differently.

     I was overjoyed to keep half of my promise.  Julie's sister and I taught Perry about the Lord Jesus and were thrilled to see him become a Christian.  She was a lot like her sister and he trusted her. She nurtured him through the dark times and we all rejoiced for his Mom's dream come true.

     Ted never recovered.  In a later visit as his gray was turning white, I said, "Ted, if Julie could sing one final song to you ~ it would be:
"When I'm Gone" by Joey & Rory

     Over 50 years ago a dear older minister, Ed Henry, shared a song he'd written about heaven.  But today all I can recall is this phrase, "No tears in Heaven, How Can it be because I'll know I'll cry when he calls my name."  I believe Julie suffered no more pain or sensed the heartbroken story about her husband.  And if she did shed a tear that is the language God understands and He would have wiped her eyes.

     I found great courage in the Psalmist's words, "Lord, you know all my desires and deepest longings.  My tears are liquid words and you can read them all."  (Psalms 38"9', TPT)

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Mom's Nuclear Tantrum Boomerangs

Mom's Nuclear Tantrum Boomerangs

     I drove the 7 miles to visit Maude, our oldest and sweetest widow.  She was 76 and still spry as a spring chicken.  When younger her testimony had led friends to the Lord.  Children loved her Sunday School class and invited their friends to join them.

     Across the street was a family of four.  Maude frequently  made peanut-butter cookies and other treats for them.  "After all they are my neighbors."

     They grew to love her.  One day as Maude handed Theresa a plate of cookies she invited her to church.  Theresa quipped, "Oh, if I ever entered a church the roof would cave in."  Maude genially responded, "Well how about your children? They could join me when the preacher gives me a ride on Sundays.

     "That might be OK.  They could certainly learn to behave better"

     Sunday when I picked up Maude two beaming faces climbed into the back seat.  Maude introduced us and I felt a connection.  Riley age 15 and Leona age 11 were actually excited to be going to church.  They had school mates who attended.

     I picked them up Sundays for about a year and a half.  Leona fit in well socially.  Riley was more serious and asked many questions.  It was clear the Lord was working in his heart.  A visiting minister, Rodney Reyman was speaking Sunday night.  Riley's Mom said, I guess it'll be OK for you to go."

     After a heart-touching sermon Riley responded to the invitation.  With tears flushing his cheeks he said that he wanted to be baptized.  Knowing Riley, though 6'1", was a minor, Rodney said, "We better get his parents permission."

     It was a cold and dark winter night. We drove to his home, but it was dark.  Riley said, "Oh, they must still be at the lodge."

     "Can you show me how to get there?"  Riley nodded and pointed the way.

     As we twisted up the long gravel road I pondered just what to say.  Riley said, "That's it" as he pointed to a building nearly hidden by fir trees.  Christmas lights dangling from the porch were all the exterior lighting I could see.  But the parking area had a lot of cars.

     As Riley and I headed to the door he said, "My Dad plays the piano and my Mom's probably dancing."  He was right on both counts but I couldn't believe my eyes nor hear anything.  It was a huge crowd rocking to ear shattering music with the pulsing stench of booze and cigars.

     Riley's Mom saw us.  She looked puzzled but instantly she turned grim.  "What are you doing here Riley?" yelled Theresa over the noise?

     "I love Jesus and I want to become a Christian.  I want to be baptized tonight."

     Turning faster than a bull at a rodeo she screamed at me, "You're trying to make my son a religious nut.  Riley can not join your church or ever attend again."

     She capped her ferocity, "DON'T EVER DARKEN OUR DOOR AGAIN!"

     A year or so later when I took Maude home, I walked across the road and hoped they'd let me in.  Theresa opened the door and gestured to a chair.  Leona sat on the couch watching TV.  Riley wasn't there, nor was the Dad.

     "I've thought about you folks lately and wondered how you're all doing."

     Leona was glued to her program and didn't reply.  Theresa, scoffed, "We're doing just fine.  Why wouldn't we be?"

     Her smug coolness dashed my hope of restoring civility.  It was not to be.  After a long silent period I excused myself and went back to say goodbye to Maude.

     "Well how did it go over there?"

     "Theresa let me in but was not friendly at all.
     I asked her how they were all doing."

     "What did she say?"

     "She said, 'We're doing just fine.  Why wouldn't we be?'"

     "Oh did she, huh!  She's not telling the truth."

     "What do you mean?"

     "Riley robbed a store and is in prison."

     I wept all the way home.  I never saw Riley again.  But though the Lord moved me far away I never forgot him.  Nor the sad, very sad, decision Theresa made.

"Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest.  The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds.  All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds!  But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life."  (Galatians 6:7-8, MSG)


     When a farmer sows corn seeds he expects the crop to be a billion times greater than that tiny seed.

     We reap what we the crop growth.  Like what King David sowed when he lusted for Bathsheba.  He reaped far more than he ever considered.  She got pregnant. He murdered her husband.  The baby died.  His great desire to build the Temple was denied and he lost the respect of his people.

     Even sadder is David's admission and confession in Psalms 51:

1  Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
    according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
2  Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
3  For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
4  Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
    so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.
5  Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
    you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8  Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9  Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.
10  Create in me a pure heart, O God,
      and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11  Do not cast me from your presence
      or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation
      and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13  Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
      so that sinners will turn back to you.
14  Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
      you who are God my Savior,
      and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15  Open my lips, Lord,
      and my mouth will declare your praise.
16  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
      you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17  My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
      a broken and contrite heart
      you, God, will not despise.
18  May it please you to prosper Zion,
      to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19  Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
      in burnt offerings offered whole;
      then bulls will be offered on your altar.
                              (Psalms 51, NIV)
     The Lord is forgiving of each and everyone who returns to him after devastating sin.  He is the most incredible Man ever to walk on the planet.
What Kind of Man 
by Legacy 5

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Forbid The Doll And Break Her Heart

Forbid The Doll And Break Her Heart

     Sharon's Mom and Dad came for counseling.  I knew the family pretty well as the Dad bragged in a Men's Meeting about how he was raising his kids.

     "I'm teaching my kids (Sharon's brother was 16) how to conduct themselves in all situations."

     An older man seemed to know a lot more about Dad than the rest of us.  He asked, "Well Clark...what do you mean?"

     "I teach them to be obedient to us and all authorities.  They are not to refer to any adult by their first name. Instead they must say, Sir or Mam.  With their allowances and any other money they receive they must tithe to the church.  They cannot do any activities Saturday nights as they must get up early Sunday and do their chores before we go to church.  They better not get into any trouble at school or they'll pay the piper."

     The older man wasn't liking Clark's attitude.  "Clark there are other things you expect of them ~ aren't there?"

     "Of course.  They can never use pepper - it is a symbol of dark sin.  Oh, and whenever my son gets a card or letter from anyone he must open it in front of us and read the entire message to the whole family... as will Sharon when she's older."  (This was before the cell-phone era).

     Several of the men, including me, squirmed in our chairs.

     Enjoying the men's reactions, Clark boasted, "And they can never go on a date unless we accompany them.  I call that a double date."

     So I was shocked when Clark asked me to counsel him and his wife.  I didn't have much experience yet and wasn't certain of just how to proceed.  But Clark didn't pause, and before I could say anything he set the boundary for me not to cross.

     "Whatever you do ~ don't tell us how to parent our kids."

     Then he opened Pandora's box.

     "Larry we don't know what to do with Sharon.  She's won't hardly talk or look us in the eyes.  She's way too young to be depressed, isn't she?"  We're trying not to discipline her...but we're running out of patience."

     "How old is she?"


     I tried probing a little deeper.  "Maybe she's coming down with the flu or something."

     "Oh, No, she's not sick.  It seems like she's being defiant.  But whatever is wrong with her wasn't caused by us."

     "Let me pray about this and meet in a few days."

     They strode out of my office.

     "Please Holy Father give me wisdom and help me see the whole picture."

     And the Lord spoke the key to the whole story through a person. Sharon's Aunt asked if she could share her concerns about Sharon.  I hadn't contacted her and realized this was a God thing.

     Elsie began, "Sweet little Sharon saw a beautiful doll in a drug store.  She saw the price tag and knew she didn't have enough money.  After all she's only 7."

     I nodded for Elsie to continue.

     "Her parents watched her gaze at the doll.  They said, 'Sharon there's no sense in wishing your life away.  We won't buy it and you don't have any money.'"

Image result for vintage baby dolls 1970's
     "Well if I save my allowance I could buy her."

     Clark snickered, "It would take you all Summer even if you saved every penny."  Just forget it!"

     The next day at home Sharon quietly asked her Mom if she could try to save up the money and get her doll.  Mom coaxed Clark to let her try.  That evening she told Sharon, "It's OK to try, but we doubt you can get it done.  You're just too young."

     Elsie said, Sharon told me the story and was resolved to buy the doll.  I encouraged her...every young girl should have a doll.

     Elsie continued, In late September Clark couldn't believe his ears, "Daddy, I saved up the money.  Can we please go and get my doll today?"

     "No, I've got too much to do the next few day.  I guess we can go Saturday."

     Sharon hardly could sleep nights as the days crawled bye.  Saturday she arose early and waited for her Dad to awaken.  "Dad can we please go now?

     As she rode in the car all she could think of was, I hope my doll is still there.

     Dad pulled into the parking space.  Sharon looked and saw her prize.  Excitedly she headed toward the door.  Then she heard her Dad say something I'm sure she'll remember when she's 99.  It happened as she was almost in the store.

     "Sharon, Don't go into the store. Come back to the car."

     "Why Daddy?"

     "You can not have that doll... you need to learn that in life you don't always get what you want."

     They drove home without the doll.

     Now I knew the whole story.

     "Forbid The Doll and Break Her Heart"

"Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart." (Colossians 3:21, NASB) 
“You men who are fathers—if your boy asks for bread, do you give him a stone? If he asks for fish, do you give him a snake?" (Luke 11:11, TLB)

“Do for others what you want them to do for you. This is the teaching of the laws of Moses and the prophets in a nutshell." (Matthew 7:12, TLB)

     Fathers ~ ~ Here is a better way to raise your child: 

"Butterfly Kisses" by Bob Carlisle

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

She Taught Me How To Fly ~ Higher

She Taught Me How To Fly ~ Higher 

     Mrs. Rettig, my 5th grade teacher was of the old school.  She ran the classroom.  Did I say “RAN?”  Yes, she RAN the classroom.  You know, raise  your hand to speak.  Call her only MRS. Rettig.  Be polite.  Earn your playtime or stay in and do school work while the rest of the class went out to play.  She knew how to lay the law down, as we used to say.  But, Mrs. Rettig also had a gracious way about her.

     She believed in her students.  Thinking back now I can see she probably saw more in me than I saw in myself.  She asked me to rewrite papers with, “Larry, you can do better than this.”  Or, when I turned in a science article I can still hear her say, “Go back and study this some more and make sure when you rewrite this that you put it in your own words.  Larry you’re capable of better thinking than this.”

     Honesty was a virtue she insisted upon.  “Larry always listen closely without interrupting.  Then answer honestly without guile.”   As I recall her words I think of a Bible verse:

     “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.”  (Prov 22:26, NIV)

     Did you have someone like Mrs. Rettig in your school years?  How do you feel about her now?  Personally, I believe Mrs. Rettig was my best teacher.  I’m thankful she kept urging me to improve.  Kept urging me to do my own thinking.  Kept seeking my best regardless of what my fellow classmates did.

     But, Mrs. Rettig did something even more memorable: she planted seed quotes in my mind.  Those seed quotes have produced quite a crop of results over the years.  It was Mrs. Rettig who first said, “Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.”  But, Mrs. Rettig’s power seed quote…that I have used as my marching order for the 50 years since she spoke it:
     Any job worth doing is worth doing well.

     She taught me how to fly higher than an eagle.  Her encouragement was heaven sent.

     Is this your philosophy?  Is this the philosophy of your friends and associates?  Wouldn’t our world be a much better place if each of us had this philosophy: Any job worth doing is worth doing well.

     Several years ago America buried a great president.  His son Michael Reagan, fed up and disgusted with the immoral behavior of a more recent president, in and around the oval office, contrasted him to his father.  “When my dad was President he refused to enter the oval office unless he was wearing a suit coat or sport coat.”  It is obvious that President Reagan’s philosophy was Any job worth doing is worth doing well.

     If each of us would follow this simple philosophy amazing things would happen.  Our yard would look manicured. Our automobiles would be tidy and shiny.  Our employers would say, “What has happened to you? Whatever it is…keep it up.”  Our Pastors would say, “Thanks for starting and completing that project. Too many folks don’t follow through.  But you did.” Sinks wouldn’t bulge with dirty dishes.  Garages would actually garage cars again.

     Yes…each of us has seed thoughts that determine who and what we are.  I often write a Thank You note with the phrase: “Thank you for who and what you are.”  Does that sound strange?  The Creator’s Guide book teaches praising others. You are acknowledging that they have reflected upon improving themselves and have made significant gains.

Undesirable Tendencies

Ignoring Good Sense Advice:

“Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
    honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
    If you find it, there is a future hope for you,
    and your hope will not be cut off.”    (Prov 24:13-14, NIV)

Not Giving Anything Much Effort:

“So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing?
    How long before you get out of bed?
A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there,
    sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next?
Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life,
    poverty your permanent houseguest!”   (Prov 6:6-11, MSG)

Ashamed and Afraid To Ask For God’s Help

“And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
    confirming the work that we do.
    Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!”  (Ps 90:17, MSG)


     Seed thoughts are intriguing critters.  Sometimes, in spite of ourselves, they impact our lives with desirable OR undesirable outcomes.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A Most Bizarre Assignment

A Most Bizarre Assignment 

Some of my counseling clients asked me to hold a Woman’s Workshop

“Are there specific concerns you’d like me to address?” 

“Yes, we’ve made a list of our main concerns.”

Near the end of the seminar I handed out an assignment. “After you’ve completed this, we’ll discuss it.  This may help you more than anything else we’ve covered today.”

Startled by the strange assignment the women seemed to freeze-lock when they saw that word.  The assignment said, “Write Your Obituary As Though You Died Today.”

As they hesitantly tried to write most kept pausing with puzzled faces.  Not like they didn’t know how to write, they didn’t know what to say.  It was a stunning incident.

Gina bursting into tears confessed, “I’ve said terrible things to my husband for cheating on me.  Last month,” … she choked up, “I told him I hoped he rotted in Hell forever.”

Following her lead a couple more of the women said, “I feel so guilty for what I’ve done.”

I said, “Let’s pray for healing.   Then let’s focus on finishing your obituaries.”

A hush came over the room as they continued trying to write how they might, in deed, be remembered when they passed on.

In the quiet my mind wandered to a person who read his own obituary while still alive.  Do you know who it was?

Alfred Nobel, sipping coffee and chewing on a biscuit, was shocked to read that he had died the night before.  The erroneous article written in 1888 appeared in a French newspaper.  A man named Nobel had died last night, but it was Ludvid, Alfred’s brother.  But the obituary was horrible.

What he read horrified him: The newspaper described him as “Alfred Nobel ~ The merchant of death is dead.”  It continued, “He was a man who had made it possible to kill more people more quickly than anyone else who had ever lived.”

At that moment, Alfred realized two things: that this was how he was going to be remembered, and that this was not how he wanted to be remembered.

“It pained him so much he never forgot it,” says Kenne Fant in Alfred Nobel: A Biography, and the insatiable inventor “became so obsessed with his posthumous reputation” that he would not rest until he had crafted “a cause upon which no future obituary writer would be able to cast aspersions.”

The facts are that Alfred was a brilliant chemist and had 255 patents for his creative inventions.  Among other things, Nobel invented dynamite and nitroglycerin.  He stated his purpose was for the explosives to be used to remove highway, bridge and building obstacles.  “Pulverize those boulders.”

Scheming war mongers, betrayed his wishes.  They had ungodly evil plans of using his destructive explosives to maim and kill countless people and hungered for the fortunes awaiting them.

Yes, Alfred had amassed his fortune by producing explosives.  But when he read that he was known as “The merchant of death” he spent his remaining 8 years turning his life around 180 degrees.  I don’t doubt history contains biographies of many who improved their reputations.  But Alfred’s turnaround was more than incredible.

Nobel set out to ensure that his name would forever be tied to humankind’s highest achievements, and not its destructive potential.  But having been burned by the true merchants of death he wrote, “I intend to leave after my death a large fund for the promotion of the peace idea, but I am skeptical as to its results.”

His promotion of peace plan was to reward one prize to the international winner (Nobel Laureate) in each of the 6 categories out of which all are given each year.  They are awarded for outstanding contributions for humanity in chemistry, economics, literature, peace, physics, or physiology or medicine.

To insure he would be forever remembered as a Philanthropist he scribbled a handwritten will stating that his fund should be invested and the resultant interest be used for paying for the prizes. The fund itself was to remain intact.  The large fund he left totaled SEK 31.5 million Krones which equaled $191,205,000.00 in his time.  Today that fund has more than doubled.

  Alfred Bernhard Nobel

          Nobel Peace Medal

The Nobel Prizes come with a diploma, a medal, and a cash award. Each medallion has a different appearance.  The one above is the Nobel Laureate Medal for Peace.  Each year the Nobel Foundation decides on the cash prize awarded to each Nobel laureate.  The cash prize is 8 million SEK (about US $1.1 million dollars).

If you were to write your obituary right now what would it say?

Pondering how your obituary is going to read ought to cause the deepest reflection.  If you had a moment to change each regret ~ what would they be?   Unforgiveness?  Selfishness?  Greediness? Pride?  Unfaithfulness?  Neglectful?  Abusive?  Dishonest? Procrastinator?  Addiction?  Hypocrisy?

Sobering isn’t it.

I’ve never heard any Eulogy which used these remembrances.  Never.

A call to someone who is lonely, a listening ear to a person in need, long walks with our children, saying thank you to a spouse, forgiving others, compassionate, loving, cheerful, helping the homeless, widows and those in grief and being true to God is how we want to be remembered.  This is the character marrow of a life well lived.

A wise person was once asked, “Exactly how much did Howard Hughes or John Rockefeller leave?”  He answered, “He left it all.”

So will I, and so will you.

None of us are guaranteed the next breath in their lungs.  Living people die every day.  Some pass unexpectedly.  It will then be too late to change their obituary.

Why not take one moment in time to turn your regrets into blossoming memories.

One Moment In Time
Whitney Houston

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