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IMG_1064At 12:57 AM, Friday, October 9, 2015, my dad passed into glory. Three months and two days after mom. Dad’s health was on a steady decline after mom passed away. The hospital labeled it as “Failure to Thrive”. I labeled it as a broken heart.

Over the past three months I had the joy of spending many hours with him. Albeit many of those hours were at the Emergency Room or by his bed in a hospital. Since the technological wonders of this generation do not work in hospitals (maybe for a good reason?) we got to sit and talk. Much of the talk consisted of dad grumbling that he was ready to go home. That was always a good indication that he was feeling better. So we would talk about things important to him, and the topic always centered on his eagerness for the rapture to occur so that he could once again be with mom.

He could not speak of mom without tearing up and telling everyone with a willing ear, what a wonderful woman she was. He showed everyone in the Scan0018hospital, and later at Gosnell, a small black and white photo that he had of mom. It was her graduation picture with a faded inscription on the back speaking of future plans and how much she loved him. He was so proud of mom, the love of his life, and that picture never left his wallet.12079439_498722676962734_22662963006478559_n

As the days wore on, I could hear increasing sadness in his voice, see the loneliness in his eyes, his walk turning to a shuffle and his overall decrease in health. He had been admitted in the hospital several times for pneumonia and falling. Even though we were making sure that he would eat, he was rapidly losing weight. I hired a Health Care Agency to start assisting him at home. All of us were taking turns doing his medications, housework and errands. Yet in spite of all we could do, we all knew we were losing him. One day my brother and his wife showed up at his house and found him lying on his kitchen floor. Living alone was no longer an option for him.

My wife and I found a wonderful assisted living home for him just a few miles from his own home. I talked with him about the necessity of the move. He just simply agreed and went along with everything we suggested. Once living in his new “home” he seemed content but he often told me that it was not his home. That he was tired, missed mom, and was ready to go to his final home.

IMG_1046He lived at the assisted living home for one month, and every day his health and strength continued to decline. On September 27th, Wendy and I brought him to church with us and out to eat lunch. He was very weak and slow but always happy to be with family. The next day, he went into the Emergency Room for what I thought was another case of pneumonia. Every test (and there were many) that they performed indicated nothing physically wrong with him. Though he had no strength and could no longer walk. They admitted him for the night for observation. The next day I went to the hospital and had a meeting with the social worker. She had been following his case since mom’s death, and she told me that the decline in dad’s health was severe and rapid. Failure to Thrive was the diagnosis and she told me he now was at the point of needing Hospice.

Difficult words for all of us to hear, but we all knew she was right. The only difference is that we said he was dying from a broken heart.

Gosnell Hospice Home in Scarborough was mentioned and chosen. The next day we met him by ambulance as they checked him into his private room. I cannot begin to say enough good about Gosnell Home or the loving staff. Everyone we spoke with always had the time to listen and acted like dad was their only patient.

His room was usually flooded with so many faithful family and friends. All very special moments with laughter and tears that I will forever hold very dear to my heartV9595EDE7IMG_1065

From October 2nd to his death on October 9th was without doubt the hardest week of my life. Mom’s death happened so fast that none of us hardly had time to think before it happened. This last week that I spent with dad has bitter sweet memories for me that I will carry to my own grave.

I was there every day before sunrise and left late in the evenings. Outside of stealing a catnap in my van a couple of days, I sat by his bed holding his hand. No longer able to swallow, he ceased eating and drinking and we did all we could do to keep him comfortable. He slept most of the time, but would wake to our touch, offering a small smile and a raspy hi. He told me numerous times how tired he was and that he was ready to go home.

Unable to open his once brilliant blue eyes, speak or move for the past two days, I would take a pillow, lay it on the bed by his head and I would just sit in my wheelchair, resting beside of him while holding his hand and often softly humming to him. Somewhere in his mind I hope he knew how much I loved him and was there for him.

He slipped away in the middle of the night peacefully drawing and exhaling his last breath. A man of great faith that was finally at home with his Savior and reunited with his wife. No longer with a broken heart, but singing praises to his God and King for all eternity.

Both of my parents now deceased, in earthly terms, leaves me an orphan. Yet both of my parents made sure that I would never be an orphan. They left me with the knowledge of my heavenly Father leaving me not an orphan, but a child of a King. That is the legacy that my brothers and I were left. That is the legacy that as parents, I pray that I can pass on to my children.

John 18 says “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him”

I am not an orphan. What I am is a son that was blessed with a wonderful earthly father that taught me about my heavenly father. Someday soon, I will see my parents again and be part of God’s family where we will never be separated again.

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I’m sitting here in dad’s room alone with him, and the time is precious and needed. I have sung a few hymns to him, held his hand, prayed with him and even played some fake piano to him on my iPad.

A mix of the present and the past. He is lying peacefully in bed, breathing slowly and never moves. How much longer will this be? Only God knows. This makes day four that he has had no liquids or nourishment because he can no longer swallow.

I don’t have a lot to say here at the moment, but I did want to share an old family picture that has been taken out of hiding after many years.

IMG_1063The person on the far left is my Uncle Les, now deceased. My dad is the dashingly handsome man (my words) behind him. Next is the youngest of the four brothers, my Uncle Fred. The man with the pipe is my Uncle Walt, now deceased. The young lady in front is my Aunt Ruth, then my Grandmother, Carlotta, and my Grandfather, Carl, both deceased.

Looking at this picture now, about 60 years after it was taken, my dad looks so much like his father that it is uncanny.

From that small group came 20 grandchildren, great grand children and more than I can remember or count or future generations.

Time marches on.

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WP_000532It may not be Christmas yet, but I am just about as excited. We found a perfect building lot in Waterboro, Maine. It is right in the center of everything that we need to be involved with once we move home. Very close to all of our family and so we can help out when needed. Huntress Bridge Road is not the road we will be living on…but it is home!

 

Finding the right building lot took a lot of time. There is plenty of land for sale but we were looking for very specific qualities because of accessibility concerns. For instance, lots that were beautiful but on the side of a mountain were out of the question. I would have felt trapped inside of our home if every time I went outside I rolled down a mountainside.

 

I would recommend to anyone who is buying land, or a home, to find a broker that you like and trust. We had a fantastic one. He photo4instantly knew what we were looking for and why. He did not waste our time showing us MLS listings that would not work. I asked many questions of photo1him that he was always willing to find answers for. He certainly went above and beyond his call of duty. Since we are still living in South Carolina, I had to depend on him a lot to find the perfect location. I also had my brother looking with him at land. My brother’s construction firm will be building our home and he is very familiar with disability needs.

 

Once we found a lot and signed a contract, Wendy and I made a trip to Maine to check it out. We spent a week there going over plans on how it would work best, took lots of pictures, talked to neighbors and put mock computer homes onto the property to see how it would look. Once we were sure it would work for us, we closed on the deal.photo5

 

Now the real fun begins. We are already getting the land cleared and hopefully by next week we will settle on the final design. Then the footprint can be started on, septic put in and well drilled. We are currently going through lots of home magazines and contractor books to settle on things like siding, roofing, chimneys, etc. The inside choices will come a little later.

 

The pics do not look like much right now but it will give you an idea. The lot is surrounded by old beautiful New England stone walls. We are getting them back into ship, shape condition. After about 200 years, anything needs a little TLC.

 

I hope you enjoy the pics and follow the process throughout. My goal is to build the perfect wheelchair accessible home. Success? Probably for me, but everyone that is in a wheelchair faces different obstacles, and would need different accommodations. But maybe you will get some ideas here for yourself and to share with others.

 

 

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IMG_9012I am sure that most of us have heard that the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. The Bible speaks of only two people that escaped death…for the time being. And as for taxes, I could write a lengthy political treatise concerning taxation. Many try to skirt around them, avoid them and even lie about them. But eventually the tax will be collected in one form or another. Henry David Thoreau thought he could go without paying his taxes because he did not agree with how they were being spent. He ended up spending one night in jail because of it and probably would have been incarcerated longer if family members had not paid the tax.  But since I am not in the mood to discuss the pros and cons of civil disobedience, I’ll leave that one alone.

What I do want to propose here is a third item that cannot be avoided – history will always repeat itself. I’m not even referring to a large global scale of this reality, but on an individual and personal level.

Our youngest daughter graduates from college on Friday, and Wendy and I will officially have the empty nest syndrome. She will be overseas for the summer working on an internship, and when she returns, she will be starting graduate school. I have spent the last couple of weeks listening, watching and doing a lot of thinking. Everything that she is doing is something so exciting and new for her, but something that is not so new for a dad that is 52 years old. Thinking back over the portion of those 52 years that I can remember, it is like I continually press some enormous rewind button and keep repeating the same positives and negatives of my life. Every time I think something is done and over with…voila! There it is again.

For instance, when I added my book, Better to Be Broken, to the millions of other inspirational books clogging the shelves of bookstores, I looked at that as a parenthetical moment in my life. Book written, story told, lessons learned and time to move on. That was not even a year ago and I already find myself dealing with so many of the same issues I wrote about. Perhaps a little twist here, a slightly different nuance, or a new person involved, but the same story repeats itself nonetheless.

Everyone speaks of the “great circle of life,” but I think I would prefer the great timeline of life. Always moving ahead, facing new and uncharted territory and leaving the past behind. Of course we can learn from history. Things to do better or different, and pitfalls to avoid. The only problem with that, is that I often find I learned nothing, along with the rest of humanity, and am doomed to repeating my previous failures.

So as Ariel faces her future with arms open wide, I pray that she also has her eyes open wide. Perhaps she has watched me enough over the years to avoid some of my mistakes. She may make some new ones of her own, but perhaps, just maybe, a little portion of history will not repeat itself.

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894655_10151462189646236_1553605846_oWith an endless source of life possibilities, how does one choose what to do in life? Our early years are pretty much laid out for us with family and school dictating our time. In college we start to spread our wings a bit to test our flying skills. And then we find ourselves plunged into the working world. If things progress in the natural order, we will spend the next 45 years 887124_10151462469301236_1445459261_oworking for a living, possibly raising a family and trying to find time to accomplish everything we want to do. Then in our senior years we all hope to relax, enjoy friends and family and never have to worry about money.

But let’s say you were given the opportunity to time travel to the end of your life. What would you see when you look back? Joy, sorrow, regrets, or even worse…nothing at all. In a sense, my injury allowed me the chance to read the last chapter first. What I saw was not very pretty. So many things that I would have done differently. I was so wrapped up in always keeping myself happy, that I completely missed the boat on serving others.

894001_10151462191721236_1160386490_oFriday of last week I had the opportunity to briefly share my testimony in chapel at my Alma Mater, Bob Jones University. Two friends of mine, also in wheelchairs, shared similar stories. God is always faithful. The past 16 years in a wheelchair has blessed me with serving instead of being served, and realizing that life is not about what I can get, but what I can give. I’m not sure of the exact number of people I was speaking to, but my guess would be around 2500. As I looked out over the sea of faces, I saw so many different expressions looking back at me. Happy, sad, interested, indifferent and even sleeping. What could I possibly say to have a positive impact on so many young people? Something to make a difference?1363974113299

I wanted to impress on them that what matters most in life, is loving God and loving others. That is what we will be remembered for. So let me encourage you to start writing your history today. A history of love and service. Be smarter than I was, and live your life with a greater concern for others than yourself.

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imagesCA1N0BXRI think one of the most disappointing things about growing up is when we outgrow our memories. Things that seemed so real and solid when we were younger, slowly melt away like morning mist when the sun rises.

My mother’s parents lived in a New England style Cape that was neither large or breathtakingly beautiful. In my mind I can still see every detail of that home. The granite slab for the front door step, each room right down to the furniture placement, worn spots in the kitchen linoleum, the smell of baking cookies and even the cracks in the old plaster walls and ceilings. I thought the home was beautiful surrounded by lilacs, bright orange day lilies and a huge chestnut tree in the front yard. And on the inside I would stare in awe at the antiques that were so different from my own home with the “lovely” 60’s decor of plaids, oranges, browns and shag carpeting. EEEKS!

But the childhood memory which filled me with a mixture of excitement and fear was the attic. Typical of most old New England homes, there were two rooms upstairs with an open area at the top of the stairs. Since my grandmother did not use the upstairs at all, there was no furniture and the rooms had fallen into disrepair due to neglect. The wallpaper was faded and peeling, bare wood floors and large jagged cracks across the ceilings. There were three small doors that I could creek open which allowed entrance along the length of the house behind the bedroom walls. The only light daring to invade the darkness filtered in through the cracks in the walls.

Upstairs in the attic, I could let my imagination run wild. I fought Indian wars, hid from pirates, hoarded my childhood treasures, and of course there were monsters to slay and the dreaded bogey man to hide from. Depending on the day, the weather, and my mood of the moment determined which adventure I would experience. All I had to do was open the attic door, walk up the narrow creaky stairs and I was no longer seven year old Ricky Huntress. I became hero’s of old and never suffered defeat to my foes.

untitledBut time marches on. My grandmother went into a nursing home and the attic sat empty of even my company. I think I was around 16 when I went with my parents to the house for the last time before it would be torn down. While they were cleaning out some last minute items from downstairs, I went into the attic. My heart raced as I walked up the stairs. And there I stood looking around. The rooms were smaller, the windows let in more light than I remembered, and the attic crawl spaces no longer seemed dark and unwelcoming. Everything seemed “practical” and the magic had left. In truth, the magic had not left the house, it had left me. The seven year old boy had grown up and was more interested in other pursuits than drafty old attics.

But deep inside there was an ache of loss. I walked back downstairs, leaving part of my childhood in grandma’s attic.

“Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,

Whose only play was what he found himself,

Summer or winter, and could play alone.”

Robert Frost – Birches

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When we left Athens, we started the drive along the coast to the ancient city of Corinth. Before we got there, we stopped at a place to eat lunch that was right beside ofIMG_0610 the modern day Corinth Canal. Construction on the canal started in 1881 and was completed in 1893. It is four miles long and about 23 feet wide. Cut through solid stone and built at sea level, there are no locks involved. But because of the canal being so narrow, it serves very little purpose economically today and is mostly used by tourists with small boats. Even so, it is still impressive to see.

If you were to study the geography of Greece, it is easy to see why the ancient city of Corinth was such a strategic place for military and commercial reasons. Located on a narrow isthmus connecting northern and southern Greece, Corinth was the first century hub of Greek civilization. The narrow isthmus virtually provided southern Greece from any land invasion. A very small military regiment would be able to defend the land with little difficulty. And commercially, anyone traveling north, south, east or west would pass through Corinth with money to spend.

IMG_0602At the time of the Apostle Paul, first century AD, Corinth stretched the four mile distance across the isthmus. It would have been thronging with merchants, IMG_0605sailors, travelers and military. The central focus of Corinth, the Agora, was located near the Corinthian Acropolis which was close to 2000 ft. above sea level. This was the main thoroughfare to go from the Mediterranean Sea to the Aegean Sea, and Corinth took full advantage of that. The merchants shouting to the passing crowds to buy their goods, eating places with delightful smells enticing people to spend their coins, places to rest and spend the night, and many temples for the gods making their fortunes from the very old profession of prostitution. It is believed that the temple of Aphrodite had over 1000 temple prostitutes.

Because of an earthquake in 1858 which destroyed the city of Corinth, people rebuilt the present day city of Corinth about three miles away on the coast. This allowed unhindered excavation of ancient Corinth that has been going on since that time. One of the most imposing structures found was the temple of Apollo. Seven of the 35 original IMG_0607columns remain standing. And in the middle of all of this hustle and bustle, the Apostle Paul arrives to preach Christianity to the Corinthians. There was a large Jewish population in Corinth that did not like Paul’s message. They accused him before Gallio of breaking the law. The bema, that Paul would have stood on for his trial, has been found in the center of about 30 shops and businesses. Surrounded by unbelieving gentiles and Jewish people, Paul was prepared to defend himself and his message, but Gallio spoke before Paul could utter a word. He told the people that Paul had broken no laws and that they needed to deal with it themselves. So basically the case against Paul was thrown out of court. For those of you that might be interested, the account of this can be found in the Bible in Acts chapter 18.

While we were there in the middle of the excavations, looking around me, it was very easy to picture the entire scene of that time. I was asked to share a short devotional here which was very humbling. I say humbling because I had to ask myself “would I have had the courage of Paul, to stand so strongly for my beliefs, facing the opposition that he did?” I doubt it. Like many, I am content to live my faith in a very mediocre version. I certainly left Corinth with much to think about in my own life.

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