Thursday, June 22, 2017

Legacies

A picture on Facebook this morning reminded me of someone else, Sarah Colley.



Sarah Colley used to travel around the country to help communities put on shows starring the children and other folks of the town.  She had graduated with a degree in theater and dance from the prestigious Tennessee school now called Belmont University and now she was putting that learning to use. In the early thirties Bibb Manufacturing brought her to Porterdale, Georgia, their mill town and home of little Sarah Ruth Baird. Quiet little Ruth was somehow coaxed to play the part of "Rita, the Bold Senorita" in the show that resulted. 

Half a century later, Larisa Johnston (now Featherstone), one of Ruth's granddaughters, became part of the confirmation group at Brentwood United Methodist Church. Sarah Colley Cannon, was now a seventy- or eighty-something, and an active and highly respected member of that congregation in the suburbs of Nashville.



Sarah became Larisa's "Friend in Faith". If I remember correctly Larisa's confirmation mentor and prayer partner not only prayed for her and sent little notes of encouragement, but also arranged for her backstage tours of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. (see comment from Larisa's mom, below.)

Of course, there is more to the story. 

In between those two events involving Ruth and Larisa, Sarah Cannon, a smart, cultured, serious, and dignified person in her personal and church life became world-famous for hanging price tags on her hat, hollering "How-deeeee!" and pretending to be brash and plain. 

As part of her theatrical efforts Sarah developed a comedy act filled with characters distilled from her Tennessee neighbors. She renamed her hometown "Grinder's Switch" after a tiny neighboring community, and she peopled it with lovingly lampooned "hillbillies" including her own alter ego: Minnie Pearl.





Others look at the pictures above and see a famous rube. I think also of a loving Christian, who faced terrible illness (breast cancer, double mastectomy, and stroke) and left a cancer-fighting legacy at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, and also left an impact on the lives of two people "I love... so much it hurts!" 

Do you suppose her work with the introverted preteen who would become my mother might have helped Ruth Baird Shaw, at least a little, to build the self-confidence that would later allow her to face widowhood, the horrible pain of trigeminal neuralgia, and aging, with the determination and dedication needed to build a new career as a pastor?

Do you suppose her willingness to mentor a young Christian helped my beloved little niece explore her faith and, perhaps, build the strength with which she would face, later in life, with heartbreak but dogged determination and great courage, the reality of her young daughter's battle with leukemia? (And Larisa with her daughter Lily and other family members and friends would build their own legacy by establishing Lily's Garden.)

I love Minnie Pearl, but there was a lot more to Sarah Colley Cannon than a dangling pricetag and that cheery "How-deeeee!" and tagline: "I love you so much it hurts!"  

Friday, May 05, 2017

Healthcare: What does your heart say?

Some of my former students from our years at Nature's Classroom on Lookout Mountain will fondly remember the many wonderful camp field-group leaders there. Those who were lucky enough to be assigned to the field group led by D.J. will always remember him. He's the guy splayed out at the bottom of the steps in front of the group. 


The staff at NC was always outstanding but none were better loved than D.J. The kids were thrilled to find that D.J. was engaged to beautiful fellow staffer Sarah!

Well now Sarah and DJ are still doing outdoor education (as am I!) and happily sharing their commingled lives with two daughters.

But the journey of the last decade has not been an easy ride. Read D.J.'s story as he wrote it today on his Facebook page.
----------------------------------------------------

What does your heart say?
by Darrell Fedchak (alias DJ)

I'm going to tell you a story only a few people know. I've kept my silence until now, and recent events have led me to believe this story might open people's eyes.
In February 2007, I stood in an office and had an insurance rep look me dead in the eye and tell me I was denied health insurance based on a pre-existing condition.
I remember asking him why. He replied that since my condition "sometimes required surgery," I was ineligible for benefits. Benefits that would make it affordable to get the medication that would let me avoid surgery. I told him this, and he responded (and I'll never forget this exchange as long as I live): "Doesn't matter, it's your problem."
I was diagnosed with advanced stage ulcerative colitis is 2006. Short version: every so often my body would decide to bleed internally. I nearly died several times over the next three years.
----------------------------- 
"Doesn't matter, it's your problem."
----------------------------- 

In 2009, it got so bad I could barely get out of bed. I couldn't work. The meds I needed would have cost me over $300 A WEEK. People don't pay that much in rent. But I couldn't work, and my family couldn't afford that kind of cost. I was too old to go back on my parent's insurance, even though I heard them on the phone a few times, fighting to get me covered.
It never worked out.
I got lucky. I qualified for a clinic that helped people in my situation. They helped me get Medicaid, and then helped me find a doctor and a surgeon who helped me with the initial surgeries. I needed three because I almost died in the hospital while recovering from the first one. I was in Buffalo General for a month. A MONTH.
Three years, eight surgeries, and a whole lot of good Samaritans later, I walked out with a clean bill of health. It was the hardest time of my life, and not just for me, but for my family and friends as well. There are still complications, still hardships, everyday. But I'm alive.

Today, the House of Representatives voted to remove Obama Era protections for those with pre-existing conditions. They voted to allow insurance companies to charge sick people more for their coverage, coverage they may no longer be able to afford. Coverage that could keep them alive and able to contribute to society.
I almost died because a man who did not know me denied me access to medication that would have allowed me to keep working, to keep contributing to society. I picked up $30k in medical debt just to stay alive; I'm still paying it off. I pray every single day that this condition isn't genetic; I'm deathly afraid that I may have passed this hardship onto my daughters.
It's too late for me to change what happened to me, but I can try to make things better for my kids. I can try to help build a world where they can get help if they need it. Not for me, for them.


----------------------------- 
"There are still complications, still hardships, everyday.
But I'm alive."
----------------------------- 

Put your politics aside for a moment and ask yourself this: 
"If I were sick, how would I feel about this new legislation?" 
"If it was my child, would they be able to get care?"

What does your heart say?



----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Terrell's Amen

The 24 million folks who may lose insurance because of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act are actually individual people like Darrell. Each has a bloved child, a wife, a husband, a sweetheart, daughters, sons, jobs, churches or synagogues or mosques, favorite walks, hometown teams they support, best friends, favorite pets, songs they love, pet peeves, aggravating faults, great skills, and/or any of the plethora of abilities, disabilities, loves and hates that you and I have seen in our acquaintances. I will be thrilled for my taxes to go toward the healthcare of all my fellow citizens, even Klan members and Brietbart staffers.

Universal healthcare will:
-save lives
-lessen pain
-reduce suffering
-reduce costs

Call your Senators and Representatives.
Tell them you support the ACA.
Tell them you want Medicare and Medicaid protected and expanded.
Tell them you want Social Security protected.





Saturday, January 07, 2017

Renaissance Man

A friend reminded me of this favorite quote from Robert Heinlein:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

How close have you come to his ideal? Here's my record...

• change a diaper
I learned to sort of almost enjoy changing diapers in a way. After watching the courage and labor of Sheila in delivering our precious little rugrats and then nursing them, and mothering them, it felt good to know there was a necessary unpleasantness that I could do efficiently to make things better.
• plan an invasion
Of play forts in the woods, plastic soldiers in the dirt, and then there's Statego and Chess?
• butcher a hog
Not really, but I was there at about eight with my buddy to watch the process... and step on the bladder to see the dead pig urinate. Strange child.
• conn a ship
Kayaks, canoes, and jon-boats with that old 5 h.p. Johnson motor.
• design a building
Does a small shed count? And worked at a lot of renovation/remodeling of our own homes.
• write a sonnet
In eleventh grade, a poetic plea to the student teacher to get me out of the teacher's class. A a couple of others since.
• balance accounts
Yes.
• build a wall
Yes.
• set a bone
No, but a terrifying memory is helping the doc try to pull a bone back into place.
• comfort the dying
I hope. I've tried.
• take orders
A challenge but I've done it.
• give orders
Brief executive experience.
• cooperate
Best work I've ever done.
• act alone
Proudest moment.
• solve equations
Yep.
• analyze a new problem
Yep.
• pitch manure
Literally and figuratively. A favorite time was when Kathy Fincher (now Wilson) allowed me to shovel out her stable for the manure which fed the biggest garden I ever raised... out at Chubbtown.
• program a computer
I taught my elementary kids to do exciting stuff like drawing a rectangle with BASIC. Ha!
• cook a tasty meal
Absolutely! I'm pretty good at pantry/frig soup... concocting a palatable combination of items that happen to be in the house at the moment.
• fight efficiently
I've had few opportunities. The highlight of fifth grade was when Mrs. Anderson broke up the fight just at the moment I happen to have rolled on top. Yay!
• die gallantly
Y'all will have to judge that when the time comes. I'm shooting for three digits, but I think I'll be as ready as most if it happens tomorrow.