Tidbits - December 29 - 2022

TIDBITS by RALPH SHEALY


IT’S CHRISTMAS
  I’m writing this on Tuesday night, December 20, for our Thursday, December 29, paper that I have to send to the printer Wednesday, December 21.
  So, for me, it’s five days from Christmas, but in this business with changing deadlines, you do what you can do.
  As I wrote recently, I haven’t caught the Christmas spirit this year, due to deaths of four family members and two church family members, to go along with other friends who have died.
  I guess the older you get the more this happens, but I don’t have to like it.
  People had been asking about my outdoor reindeer display. I usually put it up the Sunday after Thanksgiving, but not this year.
  I’ve blamed it on the weather, but to be truthful, I’ve had no desire. Daddy first put up the log reindeer display  in 1982, 40 years ago. A reporter for The State newspaper happened to be driving by when Daddy was putting up the deer. He stopped andinterviewed Daddy and featured him in the paper a few days later. Needless to say he was proud.
  As I’ve written before, the only year I didn’t put up the reindeer was 1997, the Christmas Daddy was dying in the hospital.
  Mother died over 25 years after the last time the deer weren’t put up. No one would begrudge me for not putting them up the year she died, would they?
  There is one person, who is not here physically, but in spirit. This is the 40th anniversary of the reindeer. They had to go up, whether I wanted to do it or not!
  So, Sunday afternoon, a week before Christmas, I forced myself to go to the shop.
  The wet ground is a factor. One year, I almost got my truck stuck after loading the display in the bed,, so subsequent wet years, I have carried all the display items to the front yard by hand.
  I’ve outgrown that now. This year I used a wheelbarrow.
  Jamie came over and we got the display up and running.
  Forty years ago, I was 31-years-old. I could get down on the ground and hop back up. Now when I get on the ground, I wonder IF I can get back up.
  I accomplished that Sunday, but today I am ashamed of myself when I used to laugh at the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial when it came out when I was in my youth.
  Any elderly person will tell you, we don’t get on the ground or floor until we first determine how we’re going to get back up.
  The deer culminated a weekend that also concluded a family gathering and a funeral.
  The funeral was for our first cousin Kevin Parris’s wife Melissa, who has been a member of our family since 1994. She lost her several year’s battle with cancer at the age of 54. She touched many lives in Spartanburg County as a first grade teacher for 30 years.
  Her daughters, Katie and Sarah, put out the word they wanted everyone to wear pink or other bright colors to the funeral.. Well, you know me, I’ve got every color in the book, even a pink sports coat, but I thought that would be a little much. Ironically, Jamie and I had pink ties, but our two sisters, Dibbie and Elizabeth, didn’t own anything pink!
  In the family room before the funeral at the beautiful old Central United Methodist Church, a funeral director by the name of Glenn Miller walked up.
  Noticing his name I said, “I like your band.”
  He came back with, “Where do you live in Saluda?”
  I told him the Batesburg Highway, then he told me his family was from the Denny Highway area and were affiliated with Butler and  Bethany Churches.
  I told him my church Emory used to be with Butler and Bethany on the Butler Circuit. Then he told me he was the nephew of Willette and Ansel Miller, who are buried at Emory, and were longtime, loyal members.
  Another small world incident happened at visitation after the service, when I saw Jamie speaking to someone. It turned out to be Ruby Yonce,  originally from Johnston, who is first cousin to Larry Yonce, who is married to our first cousin Nina.
  Ruby had visited my office years ago, and brought me a Columbia Record story prior to the second Saluda-Strom Thurmond game in 1962. Little did we know then the two teams would play twice again in 2022.
  Melissa had a  beautiful funeral, and all followed her instructions not to make it sad. The guest preacher Willie Teague did get choked up a few times, but that can be excused,  because Melissa was his niece. For local Methodists, you  may remember Willie was the longtime editor of the S.C. Methodist Advocate, which is the longest running state Methodist newspaper in America, he told me.
  I did get a little teary eyed when “His Eye is on the Sparrow” was sung. My grandfather, Ralph Killingsworth, used to solo that song at Red Bank Baptist Church. Sheila Shealy sang the song at my mother’s funeral in May, and it was sung at the funeral of Mother’s sister, Kay, Kevin’s mother, in 1987.
  It is sadly ironic what Kevin and his father Keith have gone through. Keith’s wife and Kevin’s mother Kay was a P.E. teacher.She got the flu, and within a week complications developed and she died. She was only 52, just two years younger than Melissa. Keith then was about the same age Kevin is now.
  Keith was married to Kay for  29 years. Kevin and Melissa would have observed their 29th anniversary next year.
  And to add even more to the ironies, when Keith remarried and he and Louise bought new house, Kevin bought the house he grow up in from his father, so all the mourning in two generations is taking place in the same house.
  Someone told Kevin, “Your father can help you, because he’s gone through what you’re going through, and you can help your daughters, because you’ve gone through what they’re going through.”
  That’s what we go through when our loved ones die. So many of us face that first Christmas without our loved ones this year, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that the baby whose birth we celebrate on Christmas Day, our loved ones have seen Him  face to face.
  I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!