Archive For November 28, 2016

Bella’s First Beach Trip

Bella finally got to see the ocean!  It had been three years since we had visited my parents in Myrtle Beach, SC, having just relocated further up the Grand Stand in Surfside Beach, to a small, quaint home that suits the town in which it resides.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have my heart set on putting my toes in the sand.  Even though I got a free beach wheelchair rental from the local police department, it was very uncomfortable and cumbersome.  After one time, I didn’t go back, but I sure hated missing the sights of my mother building sand castles with my daughter or running after her as she chased the seagulls up and down the shoreline.

Needless to say, Bella loved the beach, just like her Mommy and Grandmommy.  Grandmommy wanted to be with Bella when she saw the beach for the first time.  From then on, Bella insisted that she be with her on every visit thereafter.  This made my heart happy!  I can recall Mom writing a college paper when I was very young stating how she dreamed of one day living on the beach and watching her grandchildren play in the sand.  I’m glad that is now a reality for her.  No one deserves a dream come true more than my mom.  I was also pleased when Bella and Grandmommy went on a private shopping trip together.

While the girls were enjoying beach bumming, I spent most of my time with Dad finalizing my details of my new book on his career, Herb Cooley: The Law Enforcement Legacy of My Father while enjoying the beautiful 80 degree weather from his front porch.  We also enjoyed two visits to the Grand Strand Church of Christ, a congregation of 225, more than a dozen times the size of our own.  Attending a big congregation, the singing is so beautiful.  The message was great and the people were very friendly.  We will most certainly visit again.

We were pampered above and beyond with favorite home-cooked dishes by my mother, spaghetti and nachos.  My dad’s specialty is steaks.  As there was no grill in that house, he treated us to dinners at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and Driftwoods Seafood & Steak instead, which were certainly not bad alternatives.

My sister joined us for the latter meal and it was wonderful to see how quickly Bella bonded with her.  As babies, the two of them remind me so much of each other.

The highlight of our trip was, however, on Halloween night, when Grandmommy took Bella to the trick-or treat event at Broadway at the Beach, where many of the storekeepers handed out candy.  We saw many great costumes, but Bella as Minnie Mouse was by far the cutest.  We followed that up with dinner at Johnny Rockets, a fabulous ’50s style restaurant with malts that were heavenly.

Another highlight was Bella’s first trip to Ripley’s Aquarium, at which we had an absolute ball!  Bella touched the stingrays and watched a diving show while running and giggling through the whole place, donned with a Christmas tree from each state as part of their annual Festival of Trees that runs through every November and December.

It was very hard to say goodbye.  I was reminded of former beach trips our family took and it made me sad that time passed so quickly and unappreciated.  I look forward to going back for Christmas and am grateful to God for every moment in this life when we are all together.  They get fewer and fewer these days.


Emily’s first solo show

15178221_10157798851975788_742706883610963254_nI couldn’t be prouder of my wife Emily. She had been so down about not being able to get any local solo gigs, when, as I was setting up her newest Facebook page, my old friend Christine Webb called me up inviting her to sing at the Abingdon Community Center’s annual indoor market, benefitting their local chapter of Meals on Wheels. We were both thrilled, but nervous. We had to come up with new material quickly. In addition to a number of songs from her debut CD, Live at the Bolling Wilson Hotel, we found backing tracks for several new numbers, too, which displayed Emily’s raw and impeccable talent. New backing tracks were supplied for previously performed songs as well. This was to ensure that Emily’s very first solo gig on November 18th was all her from the start. She opened and closed with an a cappella hymn. Her opener, “Amazing Grace” stopped shoppers and vendors dead in their tracks, ensconced with Emily’s perfect pitch. Her closing number “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” received a likewise response. Being a female powerhouse of a vocalist herself, her two-hour set list was filled with songs by the heaviest female hitters in the history of music including Dusty Springfield (“The Look of Love,” “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me), Bonnie Raitt (“Nick of Time,” “Thing Called Love,” “You,” “Not the Only One”), Aretha Franklin (“Until You Come Back to Me”), and Patsy Cline (“Faded Love,” “Crazy,” “Walkin’ After Midnight.”) She was booked for another slot the next day, but Christine called and told her that she didn’t have to come in. Patrons thought it was rude to have vendors selling and shoppers talking while Emily was up there singing her heart out to deaf ears. We agreed, but had come to expect it. Still, we thought it was a lovely gesture and were very grateful to Christine. As former marketing director at Barter, she now assumes that role with the Abingdon Community Center and it is great to be working with her again, especially now that I am representing my wife’s incredible talent. Obviously all those listening ears weren’t deaf, as she was invited to perform at a community jam there sometime in the near future. She was very thankful for all the compliments she received and for the potential future opportunities this afforded her. We look forward to being back in Abingdon, especially now that Emily has the confidence to know she can perform on her own. I couldn’t be prouder of her. She has a beautiful God-given talent that matches her inward and outward appearance. Now, she can share it with the world.

Remembering my friend Jarrod Kemp

Recently, I thought about looking up an old friend. He name was Jarrod Kemp. He helped Emily and me after we first moved into our home by doing some home improvement tasks. We had no money to pay him so we gave him ice cream. As he ate, we talked and laughed. Jarrod was the nicest guy who even offered to help lift me out of bed and into my wheelchair, something few people were willing to do, even if asked. Then, he disappeared off of Facebook, left Subway, where I usually saw him and apparently got a new phone number that I didn’t have.
Just a couple of days after he ran across my mind, I saw where he had just passed away from a car accident. He left behind a beautiful young wife of four years, Ruthanne, and two precious daughters, Lydia and Emmalynn, 22 and 6 months old. Both will grow up without knowing their father, who I know loved them more than anything. I can’t imagine how I would feel knowing I would leave my daughter behind with no memory of me. Likewise, I can’t imagine leaving Emily a widow at my age.
However, the fact is that Jarrod was much younger than me. He was only 24 years old. He experienced the joy of marriage, fatherhood and life for not even as long as I have. Yet he gave more to those he met than I ever could and certainly more than many who have live full lifetimes of 80 or 90 years. In doing so, Jarrod got more out of his brief life than many of us, in terms of God’s plan for us, which is after all, why we are here in the first place. In a tribute video made by his sister, the verse Romans 8:28 is used. Though we can’t understand why this has happened, we know it was part of God’s plan, which is always perfect.
In the meantime, God calls us to take care of widows and orphans and we can look after Jarrod’s family through prayer, donating to their GoFundMe account online or reaching out personally. Jarrod’s encounter in my life was brief, but everlasting. I will never forget his incomparably kind spirit and heart. I regret I’ll never have the chance to tell him how much he meant to me and how much I appreciated him. Jarrod understood God’s call to treat every person on Earth as a fellow brother or sister just passing through on this brief journey into eternity. I was his brother, in a sense, and he made me feel like it. I pray I can keep his legacy alive by doing kindness to others. In doing so, I will also be honoring God. I pray he rests in peace and that we will meet again one day.