It was reading a magazine article speaking of home décor that reminded me again to appreciate what I have rather than what I don’t.
The writer said, “I have a back door, for example, that can only be opened or closed if you know the right push, shove, tug, slam, lock-twist technique….My house is full of things that are not as they should be.”
I couldn’t help but feel I was reading a feature story about the house I’ve lived in for over thirty-two years! Considering I’ve spent most of those years looking forward to moving out, it’s hard to believe I am as content and comfortable as I now am. Actually, I’m ready to take on a remodeling project for another house we’ve inherited, but that’s another story.
This story is about how gratitude has the power to broaden our vision and help us see options that are obscured by a limited point of view.
Several years ago an artist friend was visiting our little farmhouse and pointed out various unique features – details that I had never appreciated or valued. I eventually realized that I was too consumed with focusing on what I didn’t like to notice anything that I did or could.
The miracle in this story was how gratitude helped me to see present possibilities and completely altered my view of not only my little farmhouse, but my entire life.
With Thanksgiving in the not-so-distant future, my magazine writer wrote, “So this Thanksgiving, do not fret about the perfect turkey or the perfect table or the perfect house. Instead, give thanks for all the things in your life that are made somehow more interesting by being old, broken, missing, or otherwise slightly off. It’s what makes a house a home.” (Letter from the editor, Coastal Living, November 2013
I can remember times in my childhood when I didn’t have a house to live in. But whether I was living out of a car or old trailer, I always felt I had a home. That’s because home was where ever my mamma was. Or maybe it was because my mamma knew the secret for making any place feel like home.
My mamma approached every situation we were in with certainty, expectancy, and creativity. She confronted each challenge step by step, being grateful for and valuing any progress – whether big or small. She never became daunted by any single task that was required. She never took her eye off the ball – her goal, her destination, her dream. This is because she was certain she could accomplish her goals.
Mamma has always said it was imperative to appreciate every step of progress and to never fail to recognize what is good in your life and what you do have.
Indeed, my mamma taught me that when I view my life through the lens of gratitude, I will be able me to see what is there instead of what is not.
My mamma has always been right!
Once upon a time a daddy named Ray and mamma named Nellie welcomed their third son whom they named Walter Gary Moody. Big brothers Jimmy and Danny also welcomed this little boy whom they named Hopalong because they were certain he looked like Hopalong Cassidy. Fortunately, mamma was able to nip that idea in the bud before it became a neighborhood rumor.
Gary was a very active toddler and especially loved to have his two big brothers chase after him. His favorite chase determined which brother could catch him before he ran into the street. The street was where all the best rocks could be found.
Gary kept his big brothers busy!
Gary loved to talk. Mamma says his best childhood friend was Martin. She says she would see the two boys talking, sitting on the grass in the backyard for hours, day after day. She always tried to imagine what in the world they could be talking about!
There was one thing that never changed in Gary’s life. He did NOT like to eat. Mamma recalls Sunday dinners. Daddy would fix a plate of food for Gary and Gary would sit there staring at the plate. Eventually – always – Daddy would gruffly tell Gary: “If you’re not going to eat just go to your room.” Which was exactly what Gary was waiting to hear.”
Once Gary’s little sister joined the family and was old enough to be the official brother spy and informant, she observed her brother’s trips into the kitchen later in the evening to get something to eat when no one was looking. She remembers cold wieners, Fritos and Pepsi.
Breakfast was however one meal that Gary loved and never missed. And he probably ate enough at breakfast to last him much of the day. As a teenager, breakfast included 4-6 eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. Little sister Annette describes how intriguing it was to watch him carefully and meticulously dip his toast into his coffee and scoop it out with his spoon.
It was during these years, that Gary and Annette would both sit on the front porch after school each day waiting for brother Jimmy to come home from work and take them to the corner store. Big Jim was such a good brother as he would buy his little brother and sister all the candy, chips and soda pop they wanted. Annette now says this is why neither of them was hungry at suppertime.
Baby sister says one of her earliest memories of her brother Gary was on Christmas Eve when she was 5 or 6 years old. He took her outside and pointed up to the sky at a tiny flashing red light. Gary told his baby sister that it was Rudolph and Santa Claus looking for houses with sleeping little girls. Since Annette believed anything her brother told her, she went promptly to bed so Santa would come visit their house. Gary was so convincing, he made his baby sister a lifelong Santa believer!
Mamma reminisces much earlier memories of Gary and Annette together. Apparently, his baby sister thought he was the funniest thing she had ever seen. He could make her laugh simply by standing in front of her crib and hopping up and down.
Grown up baby sister says Gary could always make her laugh. This never changed. Gary loved to laugh and his laugh was infectious. He loved to tell jokes and funny stories and he always had a story to tell.
Gary’s smooth talking charisma won him an extra special place in his mamma’s heart. He still makes her smile when she remembers his words: “After you put that little girl to bed, you and I can have a date.” And when he got in trouble, she often heard him say, “Ok Mom, let’s sit and pray about this.”
Mamma says Gary loved to aggravate his big brothers whenever he could. One sure-fire way he was successful was getting out of his Sunday School class early to get baby sister out of the nursery before his big brothers could AND have baby sister running the hallways with him. This was after his brother Danny would instruct him EVERY Sunday to NOT do what he ended up doing anyway.
One time in high school Gary had a teacher accuse him of cheating on a test. Gary was a cut-up in class and was very good at making other students laugh, too. Perhaps the teacher was assuming Gary had not been paying good enough attention in class to make a perfect score on his test. She made Gary take the test a second time while she watched him closely and he again made a perfect score.
What this teacher didn’t realize was that Gary loved history and probably had his entire history book read through a couple of times before the rest of the class read it once. And he seemed to have a photographic memory.
One of Gary’s favorite school projects was memorizing a speech given by Davy Crockett when he became a Congressman. Year after year, at every family gathering, Gary would recite it. It included such phrases as, “I’m David Crockett, fresh from the backwoods, half-horse, half-alligator, with a touch of snapping turtle; I can wade the Mississippi, leap the Ohio, ride upon a streak of lightning, and slide down a honey locust tree without a scratch.”
“I’ve got the rowdiest racing horse, the prettiest sister, the surest rifle, and the ugliest dog in the district.”
“I can out-speak any man on this floor, and give him two hours start. I can run faster, dive deeper, stay longer under, and come out drier, than any chap this side of the big Swamp.”
“I can walk like an ox, run like a fox, swim like an eel, yell like an Indian, fight like a devil, spout like an earthquake, and make love like a mad bull”
Actually, there are many renditions of this speech since there are no official transcripts and we’re pretty sure Gary flowered up his version a tad bit. His baby sister thinks Gary probably believed he and Davy had a lot in common.
Gary was a happy baby and happy man. Even in the worst of times, he could smile and laugh. Regardless of his own circumstances, if he thought you needed cheering up, he would do whatever he could to make you feel better. His empathy for others was great.
Mamma recalls a Christmas when Gary was a little boy (maybe 8 or 9 years old) and his uncle James gave him his first pair of cowboy boots that he was so very proud to get. He wore them to school one morning but when he came home he was wearing his Sunday shoes instead.
She asked him where in the world was his boots. He explained that when he got to the school bus stop at the corner a little boy who lived up the hill was there barefooted. Gary asked him where were his shoes and he said he didn’t have any. So Gary took his beloved new boots off and gave them to this little boy. Then Gary slipped back into the house and put on his Sunday shoes to wear to school.
Although this may sound like a very unselfish gesture on Gary’s part, his gift was not without a stipulation. Gary told this little boy he would give him his cowboy boots but he had to show up at Gary’s house every Sunday morning to go to Sunday School with him. And mamma says he did indeed arrive every Sunday morning. But she had to wash his face and neck because he was usually pretty rusty looking from not bathing.
Throughout his life, Gary has quite literally given the shirt off his back numerous times to someone in need.
Gary had many talents and skills. Fortunately, others benefitted by some of his skills with his carpentry. He spent a lifetime constructing beautiful structures such as churches, offices, restaurants, condominium complexes, as well as buildings for the summer Olympics hosted by Atlanta. He also built his mamma and sister exquisite ship hatch door tables and the lovely cedar cover over his mamma’s back patio.
But one of Gary’s greatest natural gifts was his singing voice. He loved to sing and wasn’t shy about it. Many of his nurses in the past few months have complimented his singing. Annette says every birthday for the past few years featured a serenating phone call from her brother singing such songs as Red River Valley, Shenandoah, Amazing Grace and Dixieland.
When Gary was seven years old, mamma wrote this in his baby book: “Gary is a very unusual child. Never gets mad. And loves and thinks of everyone. He has the greatest love of people and concern that we grownups need more of. He is very easy to control and make mind. Gary now, seven years old, has decided he wants to be a missionary. Telling others about Jesus. Maybe my prayers are being answered. May God help me to continue to guide him right. He prays beautifully, all words from his heart. I shall leave this space to be answered when he grows up.”
Although Gary wandered and traversed down many paths and winding roads during his 62 years, he had a good heart and blessed the lives of many people with his joy, his thoughtfulness, his love, his laughter and … his cowboy boots and shirts.
Surely of these kind and endearing qualities that he exemplified so beautifully, God is saying, well done my son!
I begin this message on a somber note and I’m not sure where it’s heading. I have three older brothers. The brother closest to me in age is seven years older. And it’s this dear brother who seems destined to pass on before the rest of us as he now lies in a hospital bed waiting for that moment to arrive.
My sadness of losing this beloved brother is based upon agonizing images in my mind that are crying “what shouldn’t be and what should have been.”
I know that these images and thoughts will serve no good purpose and are some I need to come to grips with eventually. But I’m having great difficulty in doing that today. So I’m writing in an effort to convince myself I guess.
Certainly, there have been other times in my life when I’ve struggled with regrets of what might have been. But those times were usually about my own life and I would come to realize I could still make changes, move forward and do things differently.
It is a whole other story when you’re looking at the end of life for a loved one and you can only see a life story filled with actions and decisions that scream what should have been. “He’s too young,” my heart sobs. “This shouldn’t be,” my heart laments. There was so much potential not reached, talent not utilized, passion not directed in the way it was meant. In the past year or so he spoke to me about new dreams that break my heart to know he can’t fulfill them.
I’m trying to believe his spiritual life will go on. But at the moment, I’m not finding solace in that hope.
What is building in my heart and soul is a growing determination to make the most of my own life. To stop waiting for another day or for tomorrow or for another year to do the things I dream of. I don’t want to reach my end of days and think what should have been or what I should have done. And I really don’t want my loved ones to look at me and think the same.
I’m also becoming more passionate about not missing opportunities to say or do whatever could or should be said or done.
I missed my brother’s last phone call to me. If only I could hear “Hey baby sister!” a few more times. I remember our last normal conversation very well. It was months ago actually and I recall having the feeling that I didn’t want it to end.
Have you ever been on the telephone with a loved one and the whole time you were anxious to get off because you had other things you wanted or needed to do?
My advice to you is to always be present in your time spent with those you love. To not be mentally distracted by what is often inconsequential details of your life. Nothing is probably more valuable to you than the time you spend with someone you love. So relish and cherish those times. It could be your last spent with that someone.
I’m so very grateful now that I didn’t hurry my last long normal conversation with my brother. I know now it was a gift.
Maybe that’s my answer today. I’m going to think about my brother as a gift in my life. And gifts of times spent together can’t be taken away. Their memories remain forever…
My last photo with my brother Gary – Summer 2011
P.S. I’m adding a P.S. note to my previously published post! I am also reminding myself RIGHT NOW that my brother is NOT gone yet and I’m going to STOP grieving for him as if he was! I’m going to focus on his presence in this moment and letting him know how much he is loved!
I’m tacking on a final sad note a few days after my original post to say my dear sweet brother, Walter Gary Moody, passed on this morning, October 5, 2013. Not sure what more I will publish in the future about my brother, but I will tell you here that I’ve began a journal recording my earliest memories of the brother who was seven years old when I was born. And these memories are making me smile!