Category Archives: Tales2Inspire Contest

* NO SUCH WORD AS CAN’T by Lois W. Stern

It’s easy to recognize dramatic acts of heroism, acts of great courage and selflessness. But what about the unsung heroes amongst us – the ones who think of themselves as absolutely ordinary while quietly living their lives with worthy acts of purpose. Enter Gerald and Sharon Bricker, for it is through them that their daughter Jennifer Bricker has reached unfathomable heights.

In 1987, Gerald and Sharon Bricker adopted their baby daughter Jennifer. Although they already had three biological sons, Sharon yearned for a daughter, a little girl she could dress in pink ruffles with trailing ribbons and bows. They adopted Jen, sight unseen, when she was 3 months old. She was a tiny baby, only 13 ½ inches long, but to Gerald and Sharon she was perfect.

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Jen as a baby

Luck shone down on this infant from the moment she entered the Bricker household. She felt the unconditional love of her parents and three older brothers, all with solid values that helped her grow into the remarkable person she is today. As a young woman reflecting back on her childhood, Jen says with admiration:

They are amazing and they don’t even realize it, they are just good people. I don’t know how, but they always managed to handle each situation exactly the right way.

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Jen with her parents, Mr. an Mrs. Bricker and friend Dave

From early on the Brickers told Jen that there was no such word as “can’t.” Instead they taught her how to go after the things she really wanted. With their guidance, Jen’s indomitable spirit and confidence soared. She vigorously dove into sports, meeting each challenge head on with confidence and the expectation of success. More often than not, she realized her dreams. Jen led a happy, rewarding life, playing softball, basketball and volleyball. But her passion was gymnastics. When she was 10, she won fourth place in the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympics in Hampton, Va., and was Illinois state power tumbling champion in her division.

Jen grew up idolizing popular gymnast Dominique Moceanu. It wasn’t just that the two girls shared a common Romanian heritage. They shared the same good looks: dark hair, sparkling eyes. ready smiles. Jen felt a magnetic attraction to Dominique, becoming her biggest fan. At fifteen years of age, Dominique was catapulted into the limelight as the youngest member of the “Magnificent Seven”, the U.S. gymnastics team that won gold at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta. As she stood in line to receive her gold, the name Moceanu rang a distant bell. The Brickers quietly reopened the adoption papers they had signed years earlier. What it had taken them nine years to realize was that Dominique wasn’t just Jen’s idol — she was also her biological sister.

This story continues in Tales2Inspire™ ~

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* THE GIFT OF FAMILY by Donna Surface

When I was introduced to Pat Surface he was sitting down. Then he stood up to shake my hand, and it seemed like he just kept going . . . up. I am only 5′ tall and at nearly 6’8″ Pat’s stature, and his story, both really impressed me.

Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

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Pat and his beloved guitar

 Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

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Pat, center, with his sister, Linda and brother, Jim

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

Another gift from his family was his love of music. His mom was born a LaPlant, a family with a strong musical heritage. Her mother, Bessie LaPlant, was related to William Boyd, known as Hopalong Cassidy, The Singing Cowboy. She passed her musical legacy on to her eleven children. Years later, Pat wrote the song, “Belle of the Ball”, to honor her.

The LaPlants have been fiddle champions for decades, best known for their gospel and bluegrass music. They are also well-recognized for their instrument building skills with LaPlant crafted instruments, described by The Minnesota Monthly Magazine as “exquisite guitars and flawless mandolins of national note”. Pat remembers the day he received his first LaPlant guitar – he was 19, it was Christmas, and the gift changed his life. To this day, Pat plays the guitars hand-built by his eighty-two year old Uncle Lloyd LaPlant – the master builder whose amazing guitars and mandolins are used by famous bluegrass performers even today.

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Uncle Lloyd, Pat, his mom, and Uncle String

Music was calling Pat, and in 1987 it became his full-time commitment.

This story continues in the Tales2Inspire™  

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* THE VOICE: A MEDICAL MIRACLE – by Stan Cupery M.D.

Dr. Don Lloyd finished watching the ten o’clock news and flipped off the T.V. It was 10:30 p.m. He glanced outside and noted it was snowing. His window-mounted thermometer read fifteen degrees, about normal for mid-January in Wisconsin. By 11:00 p.m. he was in bed and snoring lightly when his telephone rang.  It was an emergency room nurse at the local hospital informing him that the rescue squad was bringing in a newborn baby girl from a home delivery. The baby was severely hypothermic. Dr. L. cradled the phone with his shoulder while he hurriedly dressed and listened to the rest of the story. On the ride to the E.R. he rehearsed in his mind the routine to treat hypothermia. He was apprehensive, to say the least. He was a family doctor, not a neonatal specialist.

The mother was a massively overweight teenager whose parents hadn’t even realized she was pregnant. The girl had gone off by herself, somehow delivered, placed the baby in a brown paper grocery bag and carried it to an abandoned house. She left it there on the basement floor to freeze to death.

By the time the girl returned home, she was bleeding so heavily her parents had to rush her to the E.R. The resident on duty removed some placental tissue, which quickly stopped the bleeding. He then quizzed the young mother on the whereabouts of the baby. She was evasive at first, but when the resident threatened to call the police, she finally admitted to what she had done. A frantic city-wide search by all available rescue personnel led to the baby’s discovery in a relatively short time. The baby, unfortunately, was already moribund when they found her.

When Dr. Lloyd arrived at the E.R., he was informed that the baby was so cold a rectal temperature could not be obtained. Her pulse rate was only twenty per minute and her weak, gasping respirations were only eight per minute. No blood pressure was obtainable. Her extremities had the consistency of frozen meat.

The snowstorm had morphed into a blizzard. A transfer by Med-Flight was out of the question. A neonatal I.C.U. ambulance was dispatched from University Hospital in Madison, but the normal driving time of forty five minutes was now estimated at closer to two or three hours. The I.C.U. personnel advised the local E.R. to keep up with their re-warming efforts, but added that they had never seen an infant survive with vital signs as dire as this little girl’s.

Upon arrival in the E.R., the little girl was immersed in tepid water to which warmer water was gradually added. After one hour of this routine, there was no response. No rise in temperature. All attempts to start an I.V. failed. The needles either bent or broke off in the hard tissue. Nothing was working. By this time, all of the rescue personnel had left. Only Dr. Lloyd and five nurses now remained in the E.R., which had suddenly turned very quiet. In desperation, Dr. Lloyd finally asked if anyone had any suggestions. The five nurses assisting him just shook their heads. Then all of them heard a soft voice say, “Ask God for help.”

Dr. L. asked if any of the nurses wished to pray. They didn’t, so he prayed.  He prayed like he’d never prayed before. Right in the middle of it, he had a brainstorm.

THIS  STORY CONTINUES IN the TALES2INSPIRE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Stan Cupery is a retired family physician presently living in Venice, Florida and summering in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. Dr. Cupery practiced medicine in Beaver Dam and Randolph, Wisconsin for thirty years. He received his B.A. from Oberlin College  (Ohio) and his M. D. from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine-where he was also an Associate Professor and administered the preceptor program.  He interned at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota and served two years in the U.S. Navy.

Get more info, ‘how to’s’ and ‘what if’s’ about Lois’ Tales2Inspire project

* DRAGONFLIES AND THE GREAT BLUE HERON by James Osborne

For more than a decade, Great Blue Herons had a special meaning for Brad and Cindy. During those years, Brad had no hint this special meaning would one day acquire a much deeper significance.

The couple enjoyed watching the graceful herons at their summer cottage feed one hundred feet away, drawn by schools of minnows in a bay below their deck.

Brad and Cindy also saw the birds feed in a cove where they often anchored their boat overnight.Blue herons became their favorite bird. To celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary they commissioned a watercolor of a pair of blue heron.

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Watercolor of a pair of Blue Herons, commissioned by Brad and Cindy for their 30th wedding anniversary

The years slipped by, as they will.  Those thirty years edged toward thirty-five. Their prized painting hadn’t been framed.  One day, Brad sneaked it out and got it framed. On the night of their 35th anniversary, as they prepared to turn in, there was the framed painting above their bed, where Brad had just finished hanging it minutes earlier.

Three years later, Cindy lost her battle with cancer.  And Brad, well . . . was lost, too.

At Cindy’s memorial service, her  dear friend, Ellen led the service. She wanted to help Cindy’s young grandchildren comprehend what had occurred. Here is the story she told:

Once upon a time, a happy group of tiny bugs were playing on the bottom of a lily pond. One by one, the bugs climbed up a lily stem and disappeared. Those left behind wondered what had happened to their friends.  Then they agreed the next bug to venture beyond the surface of the pond would return and tell the others what they’d experienced.  

One day, a bug left and found itself on a lily pad. It fell asleep. When it awoke, the warm sunshine had dried its body. Instinctively, it spread the wings it had grown while asleep and began flying away. The bug had become a beautiful dragonfly with four resplendent wings. Then it remembered the promise. It swooped back toward the surface of the pond and headed downward. The dragonfly hit the surface and could go no farther. It was not able to return. Finally, it realized the others would just need to have faith that it was going to be all right.

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Original photo contributed by Sonia M. Smith

Before she passed away, Cindy had asked Brad to make two promises to her:

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE™

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EMERALD COLLECTION

Finalist award – 2013

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* THE FLOWERS – by Cheryl Stewart

She was a beautiful woman who left her home state of Washington to move to Alaska. She and her husband had a dream of moving north. They packed up their belongings and drove to this territory of the United States. Alaska was not yet a state and they settled in the small town of Anchorage.  She was a woman with a pioneer spirit, but never left her house without her signature Coco Chanel red lipstick.  This woman whom I speak of was model perfect in every sense of the word. She even appeared on TV every Wednesday afternoon for a local show called “The Women’s Touch”.

This woman was my mother.

Even though she was a stay home mom, she was the busiest person I ever knew. She loved her newly founded state and became a socialite and was involved in multiple committees that ranged from the PTA, local causes, and church functions. Once we children had left home, she volunteered once a week at the Anchorage Visitor’s Center. The Visitor’s Center is a log cabin originally built in 1955, complete with a grass-tundra covered roof. It used to be one the original houses of an earlier time, and now stands in the middle of the financial district of downtown Anchorage. It is a landmark building

Loreane Rose’s philanthropy won her the Mayor’s Moose Award, 2003 Log Cabin Volunteer of The Year

Every Thursday while walking to the center, she passed a Native Alaskan homeless woman sitting on a park bench asking for money. My mother never gave her money, knowing all too well where the cash would be spent. Instead she brought her coffee in the morning and soup or a sandwich in the afternoon. My mother was curious about this person and her story, and started arriving downtown earlier. She sat with her to get to know her.

This homeless street person was initially intimated by her questions, but my mother eventually made her feel at ease.

When asked her name, the native lady replied “Violet”. With her signature smile, my mother responded that her name was Loraene Rose. Without skipping a beat, she told her that they already had something in common. Both of their mother’s decided to name their daughters after their favorite flower. A friendship had blossomed.

Over the summer, they got to know each other better. Violet was an Inuit lady from Western Alaska in a small village on the Kuskokwim River Delta. She revealed her difficult life and that she had a daughter.  For some undisclosed reason, she had left her village and her daughter as well. The last time she had seen her daughter, she was 13 years old. My mother listened to her story, and then shared her own.  Loraene Rose had lost her mother to cancer when she was 13 years of age and didn’t have a second chance of ever seeing her again. Violet still had the opportunity of providing her daughter with that second chance. Not unlike most Native Americans, they have a predisposed affliction to alcohol. Once experienced, difficult to stop. Violet missed her daughter, but knew her daughter was ashamed of her. She redirected her shame and blame, and became helpful with other street living native people in Anchorage. She was the matriarch of the fallen natives. Autumn came and the weather began to change. In Alaska, weather changes without hesitation or anyone’s permission.

Inuit Family

It was a particular cold morning and my mother had purchased Violet a new hat and gloves. When she turned the corner onto 5th Ave, approaching The Visitor’s Center, to bring Violet her coffee and gifts, something was missing. The park bench was empty. Violet was not there.

It was not uncommon that street people froze to death during a cold night. My mother quickly ran to The Visitor’s Center and started making phone calls to the local missions and hospitals. Her colleagues stopped her and said, “Violet was here earlier and left you something.”

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finalist Finalist – 2012

ALLISON DYSART by G. E. Burrows

If you think that it takes a competitive type-A personality to succeed in the political arena, you need an introduction to Allison Dysart. Born in 1880 in the little village of Grande Digue, New Brunswick, Allison began his education in a school in Cocagne, eventually attending Agricultural College in Guelph, Ontario. After completing college, he started raising chickens and prize cattle. One day his brother Robert came home and found that the chickens were roaming around the house and had soiled some furniture. Robert said, No more farming for you. You are going to be a lawyer. This would have a profound effect on Allison’s future as  well as the future of New Brunswick.

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Allison as a young lawyer

Allison obtained his LL.B. from Dalhousie University in 1912, was called to the Bar of New Brunswick in 1913 and set up his law practice in the small friendly town of Bouctouche, N.B,. He spent 23 years as a politician, never losing in any election, even though he was a Catholic running in a predominantly Protestant province. In 1921 Allison became the Speaker of the House. He fulfilled the functions of his office admirably, with a commanding presence, strong voice and agreeable manner. Under his regime the legislature maintained its reputation for dignity.

‘Judgie’, as his wife and family called him, was a pleasant, fun loving man with a warm, jovial personality. He became a great orator,  usually holding the audience in the palm of his hand, telling his many stories while at the same time selling his side of a political issue. It was said that, He could give a speech in the middle of the summer, wearing a three piece tweed suit, and never sweat a drop.

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Allison (left) taking time out for some lunch

When his party lost power in the 1925 elections, their leader resigned to become Postmaster General in the Dominion Cabinet of W.L. MacKenzie King. Many Liberal insiders believed that their party lost power because their defeated candidate was a Catholic and the people would never support a Catholic as Premier.

The Conservatives called an election for June 27, 1930. Despite his general support at the widely attended Liberal convention, Dysart bowed out of the leadership race under pressure from the executive, and nominated Wendell Jones, a former cabinet minister, as the new leader of the party. The election returned the Conservative Government to power with fewer seats than it held before. Ironically, Wendell Jones lost the  election and Dysart was re-elected and once again resumed leadership of the party. The executive were wrong in not backing Dysart.

Some of the executive of the Liberal party continued to be convinced that although Allison was an excellent leader for the party, they would never be successful in gaining power with a Catholic as their leader in the next elections. In 1932 one of the Liberal executives wrote to the National Association seeking their backing to have Allison Dysart step down as leader of the provincial party and have John McNair lead them into the election in his place. He was convinced that they would gain power if led by a Protestant. MacKenzie King refused to get involved.

A later letter from the same man said that on poling some of the party members he was now convinced that McNair would win over Dysart at the next party convention. He could not have been more wrong. Allison Dysart beat John McNair in every riding with an overall 82.7 % of the votes at the convention. About this time the Liberals disclosed that a “letter” purported to have been issued by the Ku Klux Klan of Canada was being circulated. The “letter” urged the Klan members not to vote for Allison Dysart because he was a Catholic. It claimed that if Dysart were elected, the Province of New Brunswick would be run from Rome by the Pope.

The headline of the Moncton Daily Times on June 27 read, Swing Victory for Tilley Government. The article went on to say, On the eve of voting in the Provincial election, reports from all constituencies throughout New Brunswick indicate that the Tilley Conservative Government will be handsomely sustained at the polls. However the actual results turned out to be the exact opposite. The Liberals were swept into power by an overwhelming majority. The headline in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on June 28, the day after the election, read, OPPOSITION SWEEP THE PROVINCE IN ELECTIONS – Liberals elect 43 of the 48 seats Premier Tilley and his Cabinet Ministers All defeated.  What an upset!

The Premier’s office consisted of three rooms plus a washroom and a cloak room. There was an old carpet that was threadbare and musty. The Premier occupied the private office; his secretary, Robert Tweedy, and two stenographers occupied the outer office, with the third office being for the Superintendent of Insurance.

Although Allison’s schedule was busy enough to warrant his being the first Premier to employ a full-time secretary at the public’s expense, he was generally unhurried in his personal manner. When he arrived late for a meeting he would nonchalantly stride in, full of good cheer and joke that he was, Working on Bouctouche time. Dysart’s secretary, Robert Tweedie, describes Allison as being, A big burly and very handsome man with a personality to match. Tweedie goes on to say that it was impossible to remain angry with him for more than a few minutes because of his manner. Apparently Allison relished a good time and did not take life too seriously. He usually greeted those he knew well with, Behold the Monarch of the Wood, and when the conversation ended he would say, On with the dance.

In 1937 Dysart went to London, England representing New Brunswick at the coronation of Edward VII. On his return, he warned New Brunswick producers that they would have to watch their step if they intended to retain or extend their British markets. He predicted that British consumption had reached its peak and saw the possibility of a curtailment.

Allison’s gave his ministries and committees the widest latitude in freely administering all matters which fell under their purview. As a result, the Liberal Party did not always act as a harmonious unit.

Since New Brunswick, was still recovering from the Great Depression, the Dysart Government concentrated on programs to improve the economy. With these programs they accomplished the first government surplus in nineteen years. The Liberals were re-elected in the 1939 elections but Allison found it necessary to resign for health reasons. He then became a judge of Westmoreland and Kent Counties. He died in 1962.

Allison Dysart hardly fit the stereotype of the hard driven politician. He led a successful life as a farmer, lawyer, elected official, orator and judge. He was also a good family man and friend. Allison accomplished a great deal for the Province of New Brunswick in spite of the fact that he was a Catholic from a small farm outside a small village and the country was still recovering from the Great Depression. . . .

Allison Dysart was my wife’s great uncle.

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* MIRACLE – by Susan C. Haley

Sitting on the knoll above the barn, I watched the cow in the enclosure below. She was limping around nipping purple flowers from the clover. I swiped at the tears streaming down my face at the obvious pain the old mama was enduring in her hip. It was swollen and the bone protruded grotesquely.

I’d been caring for the animal for several days now. Her milk was running, signaling she was ready to give birth. Her burgeoning belly warned the calf was a large one. Shuddering, I thought of her bearing yet more agony than she was already experiencing in her arthritic joints. I worried if she’d have the strength to deliver. There was nothing more to do but wait and my helplessness angered me.

Hasn’t this poor creature suffered enough? I cried out to whatever Power had control of these affairs. It’s up to You to do something! I implored. If You care for a fallen sparrow, why aren’t You helping this poor cow? She’s a good girl; too gentle, to bear this any longer. No answer came and finally in full darkness I trudged, dejected, to the house. City bred, the country ways were often difficult for me.

Hours later I woke up with a start, an unexplainable fear stuck in my throat. I jumped up and grabbed my jeans, struggling into them while running to the door. It was just pre-dawn and the cool grass was dew wet under my feet. Backtracking, I grabbed my barn boots from the porch.At the barn, I fumbled for the light and nearly fainted at what I saw. There, on the piled hay, the old heifer lay panting, the spot beneath her turning crimson. I remember gasping, My God! as I dropped to my knees beside the heaving cow. Then I saw it.

Oh, God, the baby! It’s going to suffocate! I jumped up and yelled out the door. Jerry! Somebody! Help me! Frantic, I rushed back to the heifer’s side, terrified at what was happening. The calf, a large one, indeed, seemed to be lodged in the birth canal. All that was visible were its head, shoulders, and one leg. Then some Force took me over. I ripped the membrane from the baby’s face, furiously wiping the mucous from its nostrils.

Oh, God, it isn’t breathing! Jerry! I wailed again. Stumbling, I threw myself on the cow’s bulging sides and pushed as hard as I could. The baby didn’t move and the old mama groaned in agony. I’ve got to get it out! Somehow . . . oh God, help me, please! Jerry! God! Why isn’t he coming?

I grabbed the baby’s head and pulled, pulled with every ounce of my strength, but the calf didn’t budge. Positioning myself with my feet against the old cow’s rump, I hugged the baby’s shoulders and pulled again. My screams for help were barely audible raspings now. I was hysterical. No one was coming and the baby wasn’t moving! Then in horror, I saw that the old cow’s sides were no longer heaving.

No! NO! You can’t die on me! Wake up! I cried. I need your help here. Oh please, you have to wake up! I kicked the rump of the cow wildly and the baby suddenly inched toward me. God, it’s moving! That’s it. Come ON! I pulled again and a strength came from somewhere other than me. Just a little more! I urged. Don’t you quit on me, too!”

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Author bottle feeding a thirsty little calf

 

 Miracle alone

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winner_mintWINNER – 2013 

* PROOF OF LIFE by Melissa Dallago

My father was patient and kind. He did not envy, nor boast. He was proud of his wife and daughter. He was never self-seeking, was never rude and never easily angered.  He kept no record of wrongs. My father’s love never failed!

I modified 1 Corinthians 13:4 as a tribute to my father to read at his funeral. That day was the second hardest day of my life; the first being the day my father died. My dad’s name was Justin. He came into my life as my step-father when I was sixteen years old, and exited it as my dad.

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Author’s Dad, Justin

Dad’s health issues began in 1995 when he underwent heart bypass surgery. Shortly after that he was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease which led to kidney failure. He began dialysis in 1997 and it became the mainstay of his life, and ours, for the next 17 years.

Dad had a remarkable amount of strength and “never say die” attitude in dealing with his health; he never gave up. Each time we faced a critical diagnosis, and there were many, Dad did whatever was needed to survive, come hell or high water. For 17 years he fought. For 17 years we weathered the storms as a family and pulled enjoyment from life and each other. For 17 years Dad was the patient, Mom the caregiver and I the witness.

Dad was a lively, energetic, compassionate and loving man. He had a quiet dignity about him and was well respected. Dad had volunteered to serve in the army as an engineer during the Vietnam War and carried that military bearing for the rest of his life. He was precise and organized; his favorite motto was “measure twice, cut once.”

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One of  Justin’s “measure twice, cut once” drawings

There was a time when Dad did not “measure twice, cut once.” I can remember when I came home from work one day to find that Dad had hung shelves in my bedroom. As I began to put my knick knacks on the shelves, they promptly fell onto the floor. I took a closer look and saw that the shelves weren’t level. I told Dad that my shelves were crooked, and he said that there was no way they were crooked because he had precisely measured before he hung them. To demonstrate the crookedness, I placed a small item on the lower shelf and watched as it slid to the floor. Dad gave me a nasty look as I giggled. He got his tools to re-measure and re-hang the shelves, this time perfectly parallel to the floor, straight as an arrow. For Christmas that year I found him a Gary Larson “Far Side” comic that pictured an art gallery in which all of the paintings were hung crooked and wrote “Justin’s Gallery” in the corner. The reason for the paintings being hung that way was because the curator had a kinked neck and to him they looked straight, but to the non-kinked neck people they clearly leaned to the right. Dad scoffed at me when he read the comic, yet had a twinkle in his eye just the same.

The most important lesson I learned, and one that may help others, is that the emotions you experience, and the pain you feel in grief are proof of life. Every breath you take, everything you experience, and every moment you are aware of your unbearable pain is proof of life. It is proof that you are alive and living in a beautiful, vibrant world. You are not wonderful, but you are healing, and joy and happiness will return in time. The experience of grief will not be easy, it will not be over quickly and you will not enjoy it, but embrace the grief as proof that you are alive. Dad’s death taught me about proof of life, and it is something that I will never forget.

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TOPAZ COLLECTION

 

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FINALIST – 2013

* BECOMING GRANDMOTHER . . . AGAIN – An inspiring story by Charlotte Snead

finalistIs this Korea? asked my grandson, sporting his backpack and holding on to his little suitcase rolling behind him, looked around the busy airport in Atlanta.

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Son, arriving at the airport

My husband grinned and whispered, It’s going to be a long trip! We were dropping our son and his family off for the first leg of their flights to pick up the sibling the four-year-old had longed to have for over a year. Big brother had seen him on video, exchanged photos, and finally he was going to get him!

When my son and his wife flew to Korea to bring their new son home, their counselors were wrong about two things. First, they warned the new father that his size would frighten the child because Korean men are not large. Give the boy time, they advised. Second, they told them not to present him to the extended family until he had adjusted to the nuclear family: father, mother, and four-year-old brother.

The first photo our photographer/daughter-in-law emailed to us was a picture of the tot sitting on his father’s lap, placing a tin pie plate on his dad’s head, and laughing. His dancing black eyes were full of mischief. The agency underestimated my Pied Piper giant. The family flew home in stages, first flying from Korea to Seattle, and then, several days later, to Baltimore. We continued to receive happy photos of the brothers tussling like baby bears, sleeping side by side, or contented ones of our new grandson nestled in his father’s arms.

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Brothers with their Grandmother

Shortly after they arrived home, I received a call. The new brother was adjusting beautifully, and they wanted to introduce him to grandma. Would grandmother come?

You betcha! My husband put me on a train, and I made the trip that day. We got along well, my grandson and I. Each morning I put him in the double stroller, walked him and his brother to the preschool to drop off the older boy, and then the little one and I rolled to the neighborhood coffee shop for juice and a treat. With language difficulties, the easiest way to get him down for a nap was to walk until he conked out in the stroller. Of course all passers-by wanted to know his story, and outside the Hyundai dealership, I proudly boasted about our beautiful boy.

Does he talk?, the lady asked.

Oh, constantly, but since it’s in Korean, I haven’t a clue what he’s saying.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE

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BEYOND COINCIDENCE

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To learn more about this book, click on the book cover, above.

To avoid publisher conflicts, only a portion of this story is posted here.

* AND THE MUSIC PLAYS ON by Charles Musgrave

Dan Johns is the ultimate all-round musician in our band – a tremendous leader with lots of enthusiasm. He started playing as a grade school child and joined a dance band in junior high school. Dan was an exceptional musician. He was chosen to play in every all-state high school band in Nebraska. Recognizing his talent as well as his thorough enjoyment of music, Dan’s band director suggested that he continue his musical studies in college. However, the United States Armed Services called him first to play in several army bands.

When he was discharged, Dan did enter a college music education program and signed up for the Nebraska Cornhusker marching band. The university band director, Dr. Don Lentz, selected Dan to be head Drum Major because he already had plenty of trumpets and needed someone tall to direct the band on the football field.

Drum_Major_with_Nebraska_Cornhusker Band

Dan in college as head Drum Major

Academically, Dan found that he also had a talent for woodworking and carpentry. He graduated with a degree from the Vocational Department so he could teach Wood Shop to high school students. Soon afterwards, Dan obtained a teaching position in Colorado at their new high school in Springs, Colorado, where he spent the rest of his teaching career.

But that’s not the end of this story, only the beginning!  You see, his trumpet was his best friend (after his new wife, Jean) and he continued playing it in local dance bands every chance he got.. He landed a job as lead trumpet in the Tavern Band at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and played there for 30 years. During that time, as many musicians did, he was a smoker without thinking too much about it.  It was just a way to pass the time during breaks in the “gig.”

Jean and Dan retired to Arizona in 2001 because breathing in the high country of Colorado was becoming a problem and he had been diagnosed with C.O.P.D.

Dan_Jean

Dan with his wife Jean

The dry desert air was what made life a lot more tolerable for him and his playing. He immediately volunteered with several of the bands in Sun City, Arizona. He found that several dance bands and concert bands were looking for talented retirees. He sat first chair in every band, and life was good. But during the next 10 years, breathing continued to become more and more difficult.

Dan_horn

Dan after his move to Arizona

In 2009, the doctors suggested that oxygen would alleviate some of the stress caused by the COPD. As most patients of this disease know, it is a “downhill run” as the body continues to lose lung capacity.  He tried to hide it from his friends for quite some time, until I challenged him to forget his vanity, and improve his performance.

Dan.siitting.horn2

Dan, with some oxygen support, blowing his horn

In the spring of 2011, Dan’s medical condition worsened and he became weaker, needing more oxygen than his failing lungs could provide. Dan entered the local Del Webb hospital for tests to evaluate his lung function, which was found to be at only 15%.  As his breathing became more stressful, he had to take more rest periods assisted by larger and larger doses of morphine.

The members of the Desert Brass band wanted to give Dan a surprise concert at the hospital. I approached the hospital administrator with the idea. He gave us his full support. and even allowed us to gather beneath his window for this event. Dan was beside himself with emotion. He couldn’t believe his own eyes and ears. To think that his colleagues would give of their time and talent to support him.  It was so inspiring to watch his face.

Finally, Dan’s doctors determined that his body was in need of more care than the hospital could provide and called for Hospice supportive services to step in. Their mission was to maintain him while keeping his pain and stress levels to a minimum.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE

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