Thursday, July 7, 2011


Sometimes I find that one of the best ways to deal with grief is by writing, not so much about the grief itself as something related to it or a story. Take a look at this.

GusDavis Aughtry

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. Albert Schweitzer
Standing outside the door, I thought to myself, I'm not cut out for this. And, I wasn't. I'd run across many in the ministry who as clergy had some passion to be a hospital chaplain. Not me. The only reason I was in it today was through internal politics and a fluke. I'd just come back from Korea and was trying to get retired. Thus far, I wasn't having any luck. I was a Southern Baptist and there weren't all that many churches anyway. Plus, I was about as far removed from emotionally being a Southern Baptist as being on another planet. And, hell, they were political themselves and what Church wanted an Army chaplain anyway.
Ms. Byerly, (not her real name), looked at me but didn't really see me. One of the things I hated about hospital work was that I never felt I could do anything. A doc could give a shot or sound like they knew something and talk about treatment. I could say, I'd pray or some other innocuous bullshit, not that prayer was not important but nobody saw the results of it. Well hold it, I didn’t want to go overboard here. But, regardless, it always seemed to me to have a hollow ring like you didn't have anything else to say, so you said, "God bless you or I'll pray." Plus, it brought up all these questions in me. I could process the "mothers" in milliseconds. What about suffering, why did some suffer, others didn't. Why did the assholes of the world benefit and the good people suffer. F..k, during a hurricane or tornado, everybody in trailers or if you prefer mobil homes, got the shit kicked out of them immediately. See what I mean, I processed all of this in five seconds or less.
I said something like , Hi." And, then she threw up. All over my shoes. I got the nurse, the orderly came traipsing in: a big black guy who was imcredibly empathetic. "Don't worry bout it, this is my job and the chapain looks kind of scruffy anyway. This is good." He laughed. I laughed. But, I was ready to get the hell out of there but for some inextricable reason, I didn't but sat down in the chair beside her bed and watched her sleep. A couple of times, she opened her eyes and looked at me. So, very unlike my ADD self, I just sat. Finally, without opening her eyes she said, "Chaplain, there are three things I want to do before I die.” Without waiting for me to asked what, she moved on: “I want to go to Yosemite. I want to make peace with my mother and I want to have sex one last time. No, I'm not going to seduce you." She faintly smiled and then I could tell she dropped into a deep sleep.

Olivia and I became good friends. Once she was diagnosed with cancer, her husband had not touched her. We men are such f..king assholes. Then her Mom, from what she told me, was this narcissistic mother where everything revolved around her. We could be a TV movie she told me. My two brothers haven't spoken to Mom in years. She is on man three for marriage and several between. I suggested she call her. It was a disaster. It only works out in the movies or TV.

I didn't know the husband. He was a Sergeant Major stationed in Korea. I knew Korea. It is a culture that is inexplicably unknown unless one is immersed in it. I had believed for some time that we should get out of Korea. We had saved the country. The South Koreans had the best "ground" Army in the world. Meaning, of course, if they were attacked by the North, they could handle it and were prepared. I loved Korea but always stayed a little ticked off that they don't show more appreciation that we'd saved their ass. A GI, serving in Korea could get caught up in the milieu of life there: mainly involving a "business/working girl. Some might call them prostitutes. I never did as somehow I always thought they were doing what they had to do. Korea is a caste society. Plain and simple. It is governed by a strict Confucian code. If you were born the son or daughter of a taxi driver, you died the son or daughter of a taxi driver. Many of those on the lower rung of the cultural ladder, especially females moved to the little towns surrounding the military camps. It became a subculture that, for lack of a better term, trapped many a GI. He became ensnared, fell in love and the next thing you know, he's wanting to get married. At one count, there were 5000 American/Korean marriages a year. And, they did not all meet at the University.
When one of my young chaplains came with the request that we maybe could help in contacting Mrs. Byerly's husband, her pictured surfaced immediately on my radar screen. "Why couldn't she contact him?
"I don't know but one of the "Interns" thought would be good if her husband came home as she was terminally ill.
“Why wasn't he already home?” I suspected I knew.
"I don't know."
“I’ll check it out. “

Here is the basic difference in military chaplains and civilian clergy. Civilians will say God bless you and I'll pray for you. Military chaplains will say, "tell me what I need to do."

I wandered into Mrs. Byer's room on a Monday morning. She turned her head toward me and smiled weakly. We chatted for a moment. No, I take that back. We didn't chat. She looked like chatting was the last thing she wanted but she did do something very uncharacteristic. Reached out and took my hand. It was weak but touched me and said, "where have you been? I told you I was not going to seduce you." I smiled. She smiled and closed her eyes.
What the f..k, where is that sorry ass husband and then I ventured forth with a comment on him. "No, I'm fine without him."
" Why?"
" Well, he could have come if he wanted too."
"Sure but still..." My voice kind of trailed off and I thought to myself as she drifted into that drug induced slumber that took her away from my presence. I thought to myself,"looks like he's not coming and we can't make him". This was one of those times when I wish that I didn’t know about Korea. Are you sure now as I continued the conversation with myself. "I am sure."

I sighed as I left the room, still doing that 5 second think. This was one of those thousands of dilemmas that I often found myself in. A personality thing I guess. Nothing was required of me. But, I knew I wouldn't let it alone. Hell, I'd been fired four times in my not so illustrious career.

I had my suspicions about the good Sergeant Major Brown. The MFer was probably shacked up in Korea with some Korean business/working girl. I didn't blame him. Whoa! You don't know that. Reserve judgment until you really know what is going on. Give the man the benefit of the doubt. I'd learned a long time ago, none of us know what goes on inside families. This has probably been hard all the way around. Wife getting this insidious disease. A husband who couldn't step up to the plate. I don't believe my bullshit for a minute. The Sergeant Major, leader of men, this guy is suppose to be able to handle it. I was a little biased. I never could figure out what any Sergeant Major was suppose to do. In Vietnam, I remember thinking that all I saw them do was follow the commander around. Major Sansom, the Ops officer, probably prejudiced me as he kept saying, "if the Colonel stopped abruptly, the Sergeant Major would break his nose."
Anyway, this was all rolling around my head as I kept trying to find the Sergeant Major. Finally I chased him down at one of the support commands at Camp Humphrey. I knew it well. "Sergeant Major, this is the chaplain at Letterman." Long pause.
"I'm calling about your wife." Long pause.
"Yes." What is it with this fucker.
"Well, Sergeant Major, she's pretty sick."
"I know that. What do you want me to do about it?"
"Sergeant Major, I sure don't want to intrude but it might encourage your wife if you came home.”
"Chaplain, my wife and I have talked about it and frankly, it is none of your business." He hung up. Well, damn, that went well.
He would have been better off had he hit me in the face. One sorry son of a bitch. I walked around for awhile, went outside, sat down, stood up. I was seething. What the hell to do?
“Well Chaplain, if the Command Sergeant Major doesn't want to come home, I can't make him." Long pause.
“Colonel, you are his boss and this looks like one of the times for him to do the right thing. " Long pause
“Sorry Chaplain, not my call.” Long Pause.
Sir, I tell you and I understand but I can't let this go. My next call will be to the General or some general.” Long pause.
“Chaplain, are you threatening me?"
“I am” and this time I hung up.

The young chaplain spotted in the doorway. “Sir, the Sergeant Major is here.”
“Good.” I went to Olivia's room. The Sergeant Major and I were civil. Olivia seemed to be a little more alert. As far as she knew, the Sergeant Major came on his own. Maybe he did.
There's some postscript to this tale. I was in the hospital early one morning and Olivia was in the little snack bar. I was so happy to see her and she me. We chatted and suddenly she said, "Chaplain, I have some great news.” Without answering she said, “God has healed me. I just know it.” For a moment I was at a loss for words. OK, where are my five seconds?
“Oh, that is wonderful., how did it come about.”
“I just felt it and can’t wait to see my doctor. I seem to feel so much better.” Maybe having the Sergeant Major home has made her feel better. I saw it in men all the time who had been to Korea, once they were home, they took another look at that life in the “land of the almost just right” as we often called Korea.
Olivia died two weeks later. I was sad beyond belief. Her services were a few days later. As I sat toward the back in a full Church, the Priest did his thing and I momentarily thought, how in the hell can people get into this stuff. The priest in all his garb, waving something that was water I guess and then a pot with smoke. What the hell was that. I immediately slapped myself. My five seconds. What the f..k is wrong with me. I am an asshole. I’m going to miss my friend, wish I could tell these folks how wonderful I thought she was. I guess this was the Sergeant Major’s last “got you”, not including me in her services. MFer, asshole. I am so awful.
The Priest stood. “It is always my custom to asked anyone who is here if they would like to say a word. If so, just please come up and comment.” I was on my feet and moving toward the front. I stopped momentarily and put my hand on the casket. Thanks Olivia, I’ll miss you.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Reverend Denise Autry and her husband Wally, have a wonderful ministry in North Carolina with prison inmates. Below is one among many with an interesting story. Hello. Thank you for visiting TYL CHRISTIAN CROSSES.I think you will find this site is a little different from what you usually see. If I may, let me tell you the reason and the meaning for our crosses.Seven years ago, after over 30 years in sales, I found myselfstanding in a courtroom in front of a judge. No, no drugs, noviolent crime, just,(as they call it), white collar/paper/moneycrimes. I had tried to do the right things, but ended up doingit in the wrong ways.If anyone had ever told me I would go to prison I would have told them they had lost their mind. You see, I had always tried to be a good person, to help people, and had gone to churchall my life. I took my children to church and, yes, had beenbaptized. But, as we sometimes learn, the Lord can bringyou to His purposes in some strange ways.As I lay on a plastic mattress, on the floor of the jail that firstnight, I closed my eyes and said, "Lord, I don't know what youdid today, but I know I trust you and that you will take care of meand my family." Thus, the journey began.I decided that instead of looking at it as being in prison I would look at it as going to college. I would read, learn, assess, research,and plan for the future. What happened was, I thought about the pastand what had brought me to where I was, and I studied, researched, andplanned new ideas for when I returned home. But most importantly,where I used to go to church once a week I now went 3 to 4 timesa week. I had read through the Bible years earlier, but I now took ayear and ahalf and studied through it, and then read it 2 more times.And, this is what I realized. I had had religion all my life, but there isa difference between having religion and having a relationship.I realized that it's not about me/us, it's about Him. We are here for Him.Of course, my entire outlook on life and way of living changed. I'm sureyou know and understand.Okay, where did the crosses come from you're asking? One of the jobs Ihad while there was in an engineering department. I had always worna cross, but had been without one for 3 years. I missed my cross. So,one day I hand made a stainless steel cross. I cut it out with a hacksaw,hand filed and shaped it, and polished it. Then came the idea to stampsomething across the front. I was so used to saying" Thank You Lord"all day, every day, whenever something good happened, or when I asked the Lord for guidence, that the perfect letters to me were, TYL, Thank You Lord.Wearing the cross, and touching it through my shirt each time I said this,gave me such a feeling of peace and comfort, but even more so it kept mein constant, all day, praise to Him. And, you know how when God gives yousomething you want to share it. I begin to think that maybe this was a wayHe gave me to share with you and maybe the cross would bring you somepeace and comfort and help you remember to give thanks each day to Him.The crosses are individually hand made from stainless steel, (chains are stainless also), so they will always stay clean and shiny. And last, in keeping with the teachings of the Bible, 10% of the price of each crosswill be given to -------------------. Shipping is free and each cross has a 100% guarantee.Thank you again for visiting TYL CHRISTAIN CROSSES. Have a blessed day. Jerry, for Bob it was considered a white collar crime. Basically he sold property that was not his to sell. He paid the money back to the individual but the judge still ruled prison time. Bob says he could have used the money for a "good" lawyer. He knows now there was a purpose for his time. He lived in Raleigh for a number of years but decided to move back to Lillington after getting out of prison a year ago. He stays with his 84 year old mother who has some bouts with dementia. He says sometimes he runs into old high school friends and they ask where he has been the last few years...then he has the opportunity to tell his story. Bob is 62 years old. He is involved in a local church in Lillington. He saved all his money that he made while on weekly work release in prison, he gets social security now. He also buys cars, makes upgrades and resells them. He also collects wood pallets that companies do not want and he resells them. He also sells scrap metal. He is not lazy for sure and has an entrepreneural spirit. He now documents all sales, saves all receipts for tax purposes for his own protection. You can tell he is thankful for his freedom. He does admit that $5000 was not a lot of money to do 7 years in prison but amazingly he has no regrets. Unfortunately most ex inmates do not have that attitude.

Monday, February 7, 2011


I need some help with getting into the publishing world. Any ideas.

Cass, it almost seems criminal not to record these experiences you've had. I enjoy reading them. Publishing is so crazy and always has been. I've been working/messing with it seemingly forever, with limited or no success. I started Airborne Press to publish a children's book that my brother had written. And, it kind of evolved from there. I have had enough experiences about writing that I could write ten books. I go in these book stores and am blown away. Who is writing these books and who is reading them. Well mostly, nobody is reading the majority of them. And, for those who have a need to write, we have such a celebrity driven culture, it is super discouraging. Madonna writes a book on parenting, people are lined up for ten blocks to get a copy. You and I, even if we have it published, couldn't give it away.

The above is my realistic and discouraging view from experience. What somebody has to do is write out of their own need and decide what they want to do. For instance, for me, I mostly give away my stuff. Since I have a few resources, once it is ready, which I hire somebody to set up, I print just enough to give away and for Amazon. I tried publishing for Vietnam vets. It was a disaster as all Vietnam vets have things to say but with two that I worked with closely, attempting to edit their stuff was disastrous. What I do now is always buy lots of copies once they have published and give away.

It is mostly about marketing anyway. I've had an agent. We got to be great friends but she really didn't do much for me. I got a nice bite from UNC press on a memoir that my brother and I did but they wanted to take out mostly the very stuff that was important to me in particular and so said no. When I was at Leavenworth, I actually wrote, as I told you I think, this fictionalized account of my time in Vietnam. Of course, it was based on real guys. I sold it to a paperback publisher, Manor Books. Actually went to NY and met the editor. He said, "we'll publish as much of this sort of stuff as you can write." I thought I was off and running. Never heard from them again. They got sold, went out of business or something. And, they were a pretty big publisher, 200 titles a year. I still remember how impressed I was because they had dome a biography of Anwar Sadat, much in the news now of course.

Because I am a self diagnosed ADD and based on my own personality, once I have written anything, I do something with it and then forget it. I keep up about 8 blogs. In fact I have one called, More Writers Than Readers. Also, I put a lot of stuff on a site called, It helps me with my needs. The last thing I put on there were three short stories which was a small book. I made them free but could have charged. You might want to check it out.

Cass, I've written a book here. I guess what I saying is that you have to decide what you want to do with your writing/experiences and charge. You have had, in a sense, more experience than me in terms of marketing your cartoons and it is all pretty similar really. I would like to use enough of your story to explain the cartoon on the AP website. My niece is the webmaster. I pay her to keep it up. We get about five thousand hits a week which isn't much but for a noncommercial site, pretty good I think, especially as the hits are so consistent.