I have never met J. L. Strickland in person.  But I do know he worked in the textile mills for many years in “the valley” where the Chattahoochee River becomes the Georgia-Alabama border.  And he is a heck of a story teller, which is important in order to be a good writer–which he is.  He has shared some of his pieces with me for a long time and I always enjoy them.

Now his beloved wife of many years, Yvonne, has passed away and like so many writers, me included, at such times you turn to the written word to express your emotions.  I wanted to share his heartfelt thoughts with you.

As well as to make the point that while the TV news focuses on the same handful of people 24-7 as if they were the only humans alive, this is hardy the case.  It’s easy to see a crowd and simply dismiss each as a stranger with unknown faces and unknown feelings.  However, they are all real people, with real thoughts and feelings and struggles with all the things life deals us every day.  We cheat ourselves when we don’t recognize them as such.

People like my friend J. L. Strickland.

My father and his older brother used to sing an old song with lyrics that went, “Life’s evening sun is sinking low, a few more days, and I must go.”   To that generation from up in the sticks, death was often brutal, and frequently as familiar as a next-door neighbor. .  
 
 Yvonne’s sun has disappeared below the horizon, and, man, is it dark and cold right now. 
 
BTW, I can’t say enough good things about the Bethany House Hospice in Auburn.   That place is a blessing for terminal patients and their families.

“I’ve never experienced such a laid-back, subdued, comforting atmosphere. I never heard or saw anything other than kind acts and caring words during our stay.
 
Even the fellow who cleans the floors always had a smile and a kind word for everybody.   Yvonne and I were there only three days, but I felt like he and I had become old friends. 
 
A real rarity in this increasingly “not my problem” world.”  Someone put some real thought into how this place is designed and operated. I didn’t see or hear a single, jarring note in the place, only what can be described as a tangible calm. 
 
And if anybody ever needed a respite and a kind word, it was ol’ self-centered “woe is me.” 
 
Even the soft, overstuffed chairs in the place are like floating on a cloud — in contrast to the reinforced concrete furniture usually found in hospitals.

After a combined seven hospital stays over the past few years,  Yvonne and I had become experts in such matters. When she was admitted, I always stayed the entire time with her; and when I was admitted she did the same for me. 
 
Bethany House, a ten-patient facility–is the end of the line, for sure. The final exit. But, they make the passing as comfortable as possible. And it costs nothing.
 
Seriously ill patients can stay at Bethany House for up to six months, maximum.  However, I think the average stay is about a week or so.  Maybe less.  When a patient is sent to Bethany House, somebody better start making funeral arrangements. 
 
When they transferred her from East Alabama Hospital, I rode down to Bethany House in the ambulance with the comatose Yvonne; and walked into the place and pulled out my checkbook.

The friendly, soft-spoken angel who runs Bethany House immediately told me to put it away — there were no charges to patients at Bethany House.  They accept whatever Medicare pays with no cost to the patient. 
 
I thought I was hallucinating.   As it is, I’ll probably have to take a second mortgage on my soul to pay off East Alabama Hospital. (Not that I’m worried about it. With my many and nasty ailments, they’ll probably have to send the bill Resthaven Memorial Gardens, in care of my cemetery lot.) 
 
However, if I had a million bucks, I’d probably sign it over to Bethany House and move to the projects.   The place is a blessing on earth — for those who’s life script is ending, and their loved ones who really hate to see them go.
 
And, did I ever hate to see my darling brown-eyed girl go.”..