Those Last Tenths of a Mile Before Heaven Began


before Heaven

It’s the route that we take when we remember those lives before Heaven.

The roads on this route are full of curves and hills. Each homeowner/store owner remembers those days in 1998 and 2011. We do, too.

A few weeks ago when Dave traveled out of town for a meeting, he mapped out the route we’d take this Saturday for the annual Jerrel Good/Paul Slabach Memorial Bike Ride.  (You can read more about the people in this event here.) He stopped at each place we’ll visit and scouted the surrounding area for safety issues for the two dozen bikers who will be on this ride. He’d taken his weed eater and trimmed around the edges of the bank where the cross we’d place a few years ago could hardly be seen for the weeds and brambles.

Dave took the time to cross the road to visit with the store owner – who recognized him and marked his calendar for the event this year – June 17, 2017.

before Heaven

Because he traveled the route alone, Dave had a lot of time to think.  If you know Dave, you’ll know he’s a thinker, and you’ll understand how this route caused him to think. I wasn’t with him, but I am as sure as I can be that he also cried.

On Sunday when he continued his messages on the Lord’s Prayer and shared from Thy Will be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven,  he shared. That poignant sharing came from the depths of his heart.

We see life on this earth from our human perspective. As parents, we want to offer the best for our kids. We want their happiness, their health, and their success, and strive to help them achieve those goals.  Then, when “bad things happen to good people,” we don’t get it because we’re looking from our perspective as parents and not from the perspective that our Heavenly Father sees. The Eternal View.

“I watched the odometer as I neared the crash sites.  These guys had no idea that they were nearing the place where God would call them Home in a matter of minutes. They had no idea, but God knew. Five-tenths . . .  four-tenths . . . three-tenths . . . two-tenths . . .  one tenth, and BAM!  It was over.”

As he recounted those scenes, he cried. So did we.

“But THEN I remembered that it wasn’t over. It was only the beginning!”

That is why we ride.

This Saturday when we ride, we’ll certainly be remembering. We will remember the ripping rawness, the horrendous ache, the harrowing questions, and definite uncertainty. We will remember asking Why? over and over again.

This side of Heaven, life often doesn’t make sense – and sometimes it’s so unfair. Before Heaven, we wrestle and we groan.

Then comes Heaven – where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow. Where the old things will be passed away and all things will be new.

I’ve learned that when we answer the questions of our kids – and even questions of our own – it helps solidify our faith. We find answers to our own questions when we have to contemplate the ones others are asking.

This I also know: we can look back and see that God continues to be good, even when life hurts and doesn’t make sense. We know that His will is done here on earth – as it is in Heaven. Truly, reaching Heaven is really what this life is about.

before Heaven


So we ride and we remember. We will not forget the ache, the sorrow, or the pain.


before Heaven

before Heaven


Yet, more importantly, we will remember the faithfulness of the God we serve.

We have traced His hand in the years since Heaven claimed our guys.

This we will remember: that our God has been faithful.

And He is always eternally good.






Pinterest Before Heaven

Wait Until the Tenth of May


We are waiting for spring.

Sometimes it seems like it’s here, and sometimes like it’s not.

It’s been some winter. Warm days, little snow and ice, and temperatures fluctuating from warm to cold and back to Indian summer, right in the dead of winter.


I heard old-timers talk about what this was going to do to the fruit trees – but fruit time seemed a long time away, so I didn’t fret about it.  Besides, we don’t have any fruit trees about which to be concerned.

Sunday morning, Dave noticed that the north sides of the trees along the church entrance were darker than they should be. It hadn’t been that cold over the weekend, but this was a new development from the week before.

So the men, being men, sauntered out to check those trees.  Was it a blight, or a disease? they wondered.

“Oh, just give it time,” Jim said. “Mr. Carden used to say, just wait until the tenth of May, and it will be okay.”

Mr. Carden was Jim’s father-in-law, and he is no longer living, but he knew a lot about gardening and fruit trees. Come to find out, Mr. Carden was right.


“It always worked out,” Jim told the men in his southern drawl.  The men believed him and quit wondering if they should do something about those trees.

The leaves started pushing when the weather turned warm in February. When it got cold and then warm again, those baby leaves couldn’t handle the cold.  They have started to wither, turn brown, and fall to the ground.

“Just give them time. It will shed those leaves, and new leaves will come out.” Jim assured the folks.

Life is like that. Time has a way of bringing healing and of bringing new life.

Dreams and aspirations are pushed ahead, and then adversity circumvents the growth. Instead of abandoning goals and ambitions, just give it time. Instead of giving up, keep hanging in there.


In time, healing takes place. New growth appears where the old once was.

So we are waiting. Nobody’s doing anything to the trees. We will just wait. We will give it time.

Healing will take place, and new life will burst forth from what once was maimed and broken and deformed.

Just wait until the tenth of May.

You’ll see.

Be patient. The tenth of May won’t arrive any earlier by becoming impatient. It won’t show up earlier because we stand and gawk and wait on the trees. May tenth won’t arrive sooner because we are frustrated with what happened.

But the tenth of May will arrive!

Right on time.


Just wait. Healing will happen. By the tenth of May, springtime will be here. Buds will have turned to blossoms. The barren will be blooming. The frost-bitten will be restored. Get ready. It will happen.

Just wait. You’ll see.

Pinterest Wait until the 10th of May


The Father Who Hated Cats and His Daughter Who Loved Them

cat kittens

We stopped to visit friends on our way back to Halifax County the other Sunday evening.  Amid the hugs and hellos, I noticed the kittens.  Eleven kittens, to be exact.   We picked them up and scratched their heads as they arched their backs and purred.  It was a cat lover’s paradise.

As we sat at dinner, I watched the antics of the kittens through the windows.  They tussled and tumbled, capered and bounced from tree to lawn.

“I can’t get over these kittens,” I said to the man of the house.  “What happened to the man who hated cats?”

He grinned at me, but he didn’t answer.  He didn’t need to.

cat black

I knew the answer, because there’s a story behind the kittens on their farm.  It’s more than just a story about cats.

It’s about a father and his little lass.

You see, there was a time when no cats were allowed at their house.  Even though Alison loved cats, her father didn’t.

“Cats scratch furniture,” he said.  “They shed hair.  They’re always underfoot.  Cats are nothing but a nuisance.”

Every time his daughter mentioned getting a cat, his response was simple and emphatic:  “No!”

But she was her father’s daughter, so she kept asking.

cat father daughter hug

“Please, Daddy,” she’d beg.   “I’ll take care of him all by myself.  You have a horse, and Nathan has a dog.  I just want a kitten of my own.”

Her birthday was coming in May.

Each time she was asked what she wanted for her birthday, her answer was the same:  “I want a cat.”

Finally, her father relented.

For her birthday, she got a cat – two of them, in fact.

One was a stuffed animal; the other was a wiggling, whiskery kitten.  He was little and playful, and black as night.

“I’ll call him Blackie,” she said, as she hugged him to herself.

cat black in house

Each morning she fed her kitten.  She gave him milk and fresh water. She gave him love, lots of hugs, and strokes.   He grew, and so did Alison.

She became attached to her kitten, and he to her.  He’d scamper outside and play at her feet.  Whether she slid down the slide, skipped with her jump rope, or hung upside down from the swing set her father had built, he was there.

Her father grew used to Blackie.  He became accustomed to watching as he opened the front door, to keep the kitten from slipping inside.  Yet he didn’t seem to mind when Blackie snuck in to sit on Alison’s lap.

He didn’t realize he was growing fond of his daughters’ kitten.

cat sunset sky

Then one warm evening in February, a man stopped at the house.  The father met him outside.

He was the only one who heard what the man had to tell.

“I ran over a black kitten,” the man said.  “Does he belong to you?”

“He belongs to my daughter,” the father replied.

The man offered to pay for the kitten.  He was so sorry, he said.

The cat had run out in front of his car, and he hadn’t seen him until it was too late.  He offered to be the one to tell the little girl what had happened.

The father wanted to tell his daughter himself.  He braced himself as he went inside, where the mother was putting dinner on the table.  Putting his arm around his little girl, he told her what had happened.

To his surprise, she didn’t cry.  She didn’t even seem to mind.

As they ate their dinner, the conversation centered on the death of the kitten.  They talked about heaven and souls and dead cats.

After dinner, the father went to get his shovel.

cat shovel

“I want to carry him myself,” his daughter said soberly, her lip quivering just a little.

They walked across the yard to the pasture nearby, the father with his shovel, the little girl with her dead kitten.

The father dug the grave, watching his daughter out of the corner of his eye.  When it was time to put Blackie in the hole, he reached for the kitten.  She pulled back.

Ever her father’s daughter, she wanted to do it herself.  She reached down and put the little black kitten in the ground.

Then she watched as her father covered him with dirt.

cat soil hand

Gently, her father took her hand in one of his.  Carrying his shovel in the other hand, he walked with her back to the house.

It was quiet and still.  There was no black bundle waiting to pounce at her feet.

On the back porch, he put his shovel down.

His little girl was sobbing now.

Gently, her father picked her up and sat down on a chair.

She buried her face in his shoulder, as he wrapped his arms around her.  And she cried.  How she cried!

He didn’t say anything as he held her.  He didn’t need to.

Yet she noticed even as she was absorbed in her own grief, that her father was crying, too.

She felt his tears as they ran down his cheeks and fell onto her head.

So they sat there in the darkness, holding each other; the big man who used to hate cats, and his little girl, crying together.

In the years since that winter evening, the daughter has grown and become a teenager.  Even now, when she hears folks compare God’s love to the love of a Father, she understands what they mean.

She can remember the shadowy twilight when she sat in the arms of her father and cried out her first deep ache and loss.

She will never forget that night, and the realization that she was not (and never will be) alone.

cat double rainbow

This story first appeared in a local community newsmagazine in 2000.  Later it was published in my book Southside Glimmers.  Alison is now a grown woman and a mother of three.  And her father is still there (and always has been) for his little girl.