Messages

You ever had that funny feeling that someone was reaching out to you from beyond the grave? It kind of stops you in your tracks. You pause for a moment.

Did I just. . .? Nooo. Couldn’t be. . . Whew, that was weird.

So, yeah, you know what I’m talking about. I see your shoulders shivering.

I got an email from Palmer Mills the other day. In fact, I’ve gotten several emails from Palmer in the last couple of weeks.

Back when I knew Palmer pretty well, he led the singing at First Baptist in Pine Mountain on Sunday mornings. He was a gentle and soft-spoken man. A faithful husband. A very likeable gentleman. A contemplative man who liked to talk about the history of the community. He was a bit of a silver fox with a full complement of thick wavey hair and a thin mustache. He often put his hand to his chin as he spoke.

“Let me think about that for a minute. Yeah, yeah. You might be right.” He was serious with most conversations.

The thing about the emails is that Palmer has been dead now for quite a while. Evidently, his new interest from the other side is in helping me update my website. He has a few helpful ideas that he wants to send right over so that I can improve my rankings among Google searches out there in website world.

I’m not clueless here. I know what’s going on. Some hack has tapped into my old FB files and is using names at random to try and trick me into opening some worm-file that will obliterate my operating system like buzzards on roadkill. I’m not buying it.

But in that first second, when you’re scrolling down the email list, and you see a name like that, it catches you off guard. Your mind plays with the out-of-place possibility.

It got me thinking. What would they say? All the people I’ve ever known who have died and gone on? I gotta think they’d have something to say. Some perspective from a person who has seen both sides. I believe they’re still living. Still paying attention to us down here. Even Palmer. That is Basic Belief 101 to everything that shapes my perspective on this world.

So, if they had email up there and they had something they wanted to pass along, they might just send me a message.

From Dad: Stop worrying about your kids. You and Beth did about as well as any parent can hope to do. None of us is perfect at that job. The kids? They’ve got it. They might not always do like you think they should. You sure didn’t. But they’re going to be fine. You gave them their core values. You gave them your unconditional love. You gave them their foundation in faith. So, trust that. Your job as their Papa is not over. It won’t be until you join me. But it’s their life now. Let them live it.

From Mama: I saw your naked behind covered in poison ivy. I saw you mess up. I saw you make me proud. I’ve seen about everything you’ve ever done, and I’m still watching.

From Billy Dan: You should go camping? The old style like we used to do in Scouts. Find yourself a lake or a river or a deep place in the woods. Set up a tent and sleep on the ground. Sit by a campfire and relax for a while. Keep practicing your knots. You never know when you’ll need to lash together a 20ft signal tower. Be prepared. Always.

From Uncle Robert: Buy yourself an old truck. Old men need old trucks. That new one you’re driving with all those computerized bells and whistles will never be as good as that Chevrolet Apache you and I used to ride around in. You remember riding around the Atlanta Motor Speedway so slow it felt like we were going to tumble down the embankment in the curve? You’ll make memories for your grandkids if you ride the dirt roads in an old truck. Trust me.

From Uncle Paul: When’s the last time you went bird hunting? I miss those days walking the fields with your Dad. A good plug of Days Work tobacco. Your Dad used Brown Mule. Enjoy life a little. Get out in the woods. Put work aside for a while. Get yourself a good dog, a good chew, and good shotgun. You’ve got your Dad’s old 12 gauge pump. Take it out. There’s nothing quite like the smell of gunpowder in the air on a crisp fall morning.

From Uncle Doyle: You should drive a Buick.

From Ms. Mitchell (whom I think surely must be on the other side by now): I hear you’ve got a book. Well, if you’re going to write, you should really clean up all your split infinitives and run on sentences that just seem to go on and on without much sense of direction and full of confusing misplaced modifiers and way, too, many, commas between your mixed metaphors that make no sense. If you had only paid more attention in 7th grade English, you might actually become a good writer.

From Aunt Annie: Biscuits and gravy with fried chicken is good for the soul. Eat enough to make you smile but not enough to bust your belt loops. And get yourself some Guineas to run around the yard. They’ll keep the tics cleaned up and they send up warnings if anybody comes into the yard. Plus, I just like to listen to them fuss.

From Elvis: You ain’t nothing but a hound dog. Don’t get too uppity.

From Beth: Hey Darling. That looked like a great Thanksgiving today. Sorry I couldn’t be there, but really, I am there. Right there with all of you. Give the kids a hug for me. Big hugs to the little ones. I’m so happy that you are all together. I really miss the fireplace and blankets on the couch. Make sure you give away some turkey for sandwiches. (Don’t worry) And hey, I still love you.

She’s been on my mind all day. Today is just another day, but the holiday emphasis makes the absence more intense, I guess. The girls spent a little time in the attic going through some of her things. They came down with keepsakes. We used some of her favorite dishes. We didn’t talk about her at all until the very end of the evening.

Laura confessed. “I dreamed about her this morning for the first time.”

“Yeah,” I told her. “I saw that white dish with the handles come out of the microwave, and I had to walk over to the door and stare outside for a few minutes.”

So, yeah, I’d say she was sending us messages all day long. The food was great. The grandkids were running full tilt. It was a great family day in every way.

Thanks for all your messages today, too. You know who you are.

From Palmer: Don’t fall for it. I know nothing about websites.

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