Died on the Fourth of July

On this day as we gather our families together with picnics and fireworks to celebrate our country’s independence I can’t help but think of my 2nd great-grandfather Edward Byron Patton. He was 34 years old on this date in 1860. Less than a year later Abraham Lincoln would become president. The father of 4 small children ages 1-6, the youngest, my great grandmother Mary Jane.

Edward Byron Patton

Edward Byron Patton

There was no celebration for Edward or his family on that Fourth of July and I would imagine it was tainted every year after. For on that morning his 27-year old wife Esther passed away. A newspaper account read that so greatly admired was she, and through respect to her memory in their small town, “all patriotic demonstrations were suspended and not an unnecessary sound was heard throughout the day.”

Edward never remarried and over all those years ahead, as a single father, he raised his children. Along the way he became a successful builder and contractor. I can imagine he was a beloved father, grandfather and patriarch.

I often think of what it must have been like for my great grandfather on that solemn day, traditionally set aside for happy celebration. I wonder what it would have been like to have watched him on that day conduct his affairs with the loss of his young wife. He was once a breathing living person, as real as you and I. Not just a name with dates and places among a long list of thousands who came before us. How I would like to set across the table from him and get to know him.

That’s a little of what I think about, every 4th of July.

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Uncharted Territory and the Road Ahead

Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances are weighing you down you can choose your response…. How you live your life is totally up to you.  It’s not dependent on your circumstances, it’s dependent on your choices. ~~ Joel Osteen

I have a young, teenaged friend “CJ” who over the last eight months I’ve come to know. He was far from his home, family and friends and looking for a new life. I like him. He’s tall, 6’4″ personable and outgoing. An all-American kidCJ002a  from a small town in south-central Texas (population 857). He’s been referred to as an “18-year old man.” The reality is he’s just a kid and, like a lot of 18-year olds, restless, self-assured, a little cocky, but naïve nevertheless. CJ has no lack of confidence. The last few times I’ve seen him (most recently earlier this week), as we said goodbye, I would routinely say to him — somewhat tongue-in-cheek — “Stay out of trouble CJ!” He’d reply with something like “All is good” and be on his way. Little did we realize how much trouble he would soon find himself in. Life has a way of changing dramatically with the passage of a few brief moments and seemingly unrelated, foolish choices.

Yesterday my young friend was charged with Murder in the First Degree accused with a 20-year old companion, whom he’d just met, in the brutal bludgeoning death of a man in a nearby community. This is new, uncharted territory for me, something I was unprepared for. I find myself uncertain how to react and even a bit lost for the right words. How I wish I could have seen the road ahead! I feel bad that I didn’t do more. I should have contacted CJ’s parents as I watched his downward spiral. No… things aren’t always as they appear. But instead I chose to think, “He’s a good kid, he’ll grow up. It’s a stage. He can take care of himself.”

CJ and I sat together and talked a lot, many times while I worked on previous blogs. I enjoyed his company. It was an education to learn from him the distractions, challenges and temptations he and his peers live with. I already knew about most of them but, with CJ we talked specifics.

While I honestly worried about his welfare, I had faith in his abilities to conquer his youthful impulses and to find for himself the right path. From his narrow perspective and among his crowd, he was “normal … things are cool.” I understood his thinking but I knew it wasn’t true and I told him so. In CJ I saw potential — rays of hope — and a better life ahead, but ultimately I knew he was in control, as he liked it, as he wanted it. Besides, is it really any of my business? I have my own problems, my own children and who am I? Especially when CJ and I really have so little in common? But then again, No Man is an Island and CJ will remain my friend.

One thing in all of this is certain… no one should forget the victim, Rich Bergeson, whose life was brutally and so needlessly taken and to whom the video at the link below pays tribute. The reality is, there are many other victims as well. Along with all the affected families and friends whose lives would intersect in such a tragic meeting, I am but one of them, and together we cry, knowing our lives will never again be the same.

Another day of work, another paycheck. The future is looking bright.
Christopher John “CJ” Shade, 20 August 2014

Click on this link for more about this story

Young Love: War Interrupted

Stories of young love are often remembered as the folly of our youth. They are the stuff that is part of growing up. A few sometimes strike our youthful, tender spirits with the sting of heartbreak, just as it can in adulthood. Such is puppy love and the price we pay for being teenagers. But few young romances are enveloped in the drama of war, surrounded by a devastated world. This is the story of Anne and Peter Schiff and of a missing image that took more than 60 years to be discovered. Continue reading

Favorite Quotes Friday – 4/11/2014

I have failed at times to live by the truth that follows. I guess it’s human nature to be judgmental of others. It gives us a false sense of superiority, a boost to the ego. But I do believe in a higher power and life beyond the grave. Life is short. What goes around definitely comes around… sooner or later. Buddhists and others call it karma, I call it common sense.

The man quoted below was a German Lutheran Pastor, an author and dissident anti-Nazi. An outstanding academic theologian he earned two doctorate degrees before he was 25. Later he studied in the United States. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world became widely influential and his book, from which the quote came, is considered a classic.  He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and executed by hanging two years later while imprisoned at a Nazi concentration camp just 23 days before the Germans surrendered. He was only 39 years old.

By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. ~~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Generation to Generation

Life is an everyday occurrence, until one day it’s not. ~~ Susanne Strempek Shea

A few weeks ago I was looking at hand tools, many of them with a lifetime replacement guarantee. As I read those words I was reminded there really are no guarantees, not with tools and not especially when it comes to lifetimes. Here today, gone tomorrow — no time outs, no second chances and few replacement parts.

Like most of us when young and stupid I thought myself invincible, that I would live forever. At least I envisioned the inevitable so far off that it seemed that way. Even when I experienced the death of What was I thinkingcontemporaries my attitude, my life style and the risks I often took spoke of an assumed immunity.  That only happens to the other guy, tomorrow never comes! But as one ages — receiving experiences and education that almost always come with the passage of time — we realize the years quickly pass us by. For me the inevitable is a lot closer than it was once perceived.  So, I’ve changed my mind, time to savor the moments. Continue reading

Say Hello to My Little Friend!

My iPhone is a constant companion that I use throughout all my waking hours. It’s literally the first thing I grab in the morning and the last thing I relinquish at night. Really, it is! When I dreamed of owning one I knew I would have many uses for it, but I never imagined how much it would become an integral part of my everyday life. How it would become… my best little friend.

I’ve often said that if I lost my laptop computer, it would be like cutting off my right arm. With my iPhone and its instant ease of use and portability it’s far worse! (The same said arm and a leg of your choice below the knee). And the funny thing is… I rarely use it to make phone calls! Maybe they should name it something else. iPhone no longer does it justice! Continue reading

Music Monday – A Brand New Day


Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner was born in October of 1951 and grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Following work as a bus conductor, a construction laborer, and a tax officer, he attended a teachers college and in the mid 1970s taught elementary school children. During weekends, evenings and breaks from teaching Gordon would play in jazz bands. While performing he’d wear a black and yellow sweater with hooped stripes. Some thought the sweater made him look like a bee. Soon he would be nicknamed “Sting”.

The rest — as they say — is history. An international sensation he’s received sixteen Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, and several Oscar nominations. He is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Sting is one of my favorites.

Continue reading