Book Excerpts

Selections from my recently released book:
When Ties Break: A Memoir About How to Thrive After Loss

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My father was barely cold in the ground. The asbestos he worked with for a short time as a young man finally took his life. Cancer struck during his first year of retirement and robbed my parents of all the things they planned to do in their golden years – despite many prayers offered to God for my father’s healing, God’s work he still wanted to do, and how much I wanted him to stay. It wasn’t meant to be. A life well-lived ended before I was ready to let him go.

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His scent lingered in the bedroom where he spent his last days. It was a mixture of medicine, Old Spice, and a sick man confined to his room for weeks. The blinds were open, with sunshine pouring in, while his favorite flowers adorned the room; but they couldn’t cancel the smell of his death. Just down the hall, his office remained untouched. There he spent much of his time, preparing sermons and talking to God. Built-in bookcases held reference books and treasured mementos he spent his life collecting. I liked going into his office, even though he was dying, his spirit was alive in the work he had created. My favorite collection was his seashells; they reminded me of earlier, happier times as a child. The funeral service lasted as long as a TV miniseries, with many ministers and former church members in attendance. I doubted that was the kind of funeral my dad wanted. He never sought attention, though he believed in showing appreciation to the living. In many of his sermons, he said, “Don’t wait until someone’s dead to let him know you care. What good does it do then?” His sermons were often illustrated by one of his favorite poems. If I close my eyes, I can hear him recite one.

If with pleasure you are viewing any work a man is doing
And you like him or love him, tell him now.
Don’t withhold your approbation till the parson makes oration
And he lies with snowy lilies o’er his brow …
For he cannot read his tombstone when he’s dead.

Daddy was buried in the family cemetery in Williamston, North Carolina, on July 6, 1989. To his right is my sister’s grave, and to the left is where my mother will eventually lie. His brother, killed in World War Two, and several of his sisters are nearby, as is the mother he loved so dearly. The graveside service was much shorter than the one in the church, and I dreaded its end because I wanted to stay with my father as long as I could. The cemetery was decorated with flags and bunting for the Fourth of July, but I didn’t feel like celebrating. My dad was the glue that held our family together, and that glue began to melt in the hot July sun. My parents were married for forty-six years, and our family and the church were my mother’s life. My father knew how much I loved and appreciated him before his death; but he didn’t know…

Interested in reading more? Click here to purchase a copy of When Ties Break

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