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Look Forward to Seeing 2020 in the Rear View Mirror...

Doubtful I’m alone considering 2020 one of the worst years endured in recent memory. I type this year’s Alabama Gazette Christmas column with very heavy hands knowing it will be the first without William “Bill” Grant in the mix; an integral part of establishing this wonderful paper 21 years ago. Those who recall past Christmas writings know I consider the Grants a “Bailey Family” in Montgomery similar to the classic story and Spirit of Bedford Falls. Jimmy Stewart (George Bailey) and Donna Reed (Mary) could easily have played a Southern version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ movie in keeping with Bill and Loretta Grant’s lives. Those they’ve touched in positive way are many and unknown to most. This poor wordsmith can’t convey how blessed I feel to know them and recognize how much they’ve accomplished. My Christmas wish (perhaps more a prayer) is for many more good souls of this sort to continue nurturing and amplifying the Holy Spirit as the circle of life unfolds.

Former State legislator John Rice is my ‘go-to’ guy for history on Alabama people and events these past few score. Upon requesting some words on Bill Grant, Senator Rice provided the following:

“William Grant had his best day ever when Loretta took his hand in marriage. He has now had another great day as he ascended to his Savior and left his wonderful wife behind and still in charge of the Alabama Gazette. Through over three decades of working with Montgomery Coca Cola, he showed his patience and love of his fellow workers. A graduate of Montgomery High School in Ramer, he was always a hometown guy. He will be dearly missed by all his friends and family, including Loretta and all the children. Just a good man.”

Amen, Brother Rice. Bill was indeed blessed with a wonderful life.

In similar Spirit of 2020 losses, many thanks for all the kind calls, e-mails, Facebook posts, etc. with respect to my Mother's recent (10/23/20) passing. An avid Gazette subscriber who read (dare I type suffered?) all my columns these past dozen years; she likely learned more about an aging son’s thoughts and deeds than most mothers. Approaching the end, it seemed apparent (even to one like me – a poor example of knowing/following the Holy Spirit well) my Mother's beautiful soul was slipping away early that Friday morning after 8 long nights of being the 'night watchman' and dispenser of meds. Mom would often remind me of my reluctant entrance into this world – making her endure one more day to not have the same birth day as my early father she was married to for 62 years. Fitting for me to be there for her reluctant exit...

I found a way to get a computer to play her “My Heart Sings” CD (she cut in 1999) that last night along with Alexa's help playing Sinatra's “All the Way” – Mom & Pop's song that in my humble opinion I thought they lived up to well. Perhaps my imagination, but singing appeared to be getting through more than talking. The last thing in English I sang to her was The Lord’s Prayer. Those who know my Mom and how many times she sang it flawlessly at so many special events these past decades will appreciate the irony that the last she would hear it sung here on earth would be my inferior voice; certainly more emotional than the times she immaculately accomplished the task as the professional singer she truly was. I pray what it lacked in quality was ameliorated by the loving effort of her son who’s not been the best or strongest among men – esp. at that moment.

As for those last sung to her in my poor Greek; “Meterra mou Gleka”–the song she wrote and scored for her mother, and some hymns which included the Rubanis version of “Se Imnou men” [We Praise You] we loved to sing together. The final one was “E tho men to fos” [We have seen the Light] which makes more sense in retrospect. Last words said (via phone) to my earthly father in April was I love you, the last to my mother were those words sung in Greek and bid her a loving farewell to go with God. I pray all may be as blessed to part as well with their parents and all they hold dear.

It meant so much more to have her fellow Annunciation (Baltimore Cathedral) Choir members offer song at the funeral under these difficult pandemic constraints. Also, to have the comfort of three pastors (Roland Austin, Shirley Myers and Dean Moralis) meant a great deal. Pastor Austin, Dave & Anne Laband and my eldest Godson Peter Byrd thinking of and checking in on my bride was the only way I could imagine spending so many weeks away to be there for my mother’s passing. Again, I pray all are blessed to have so many good souls of this sort in support when enduring such loss. Shirley Myers being there in person, Spirit and in song (with fellow joyful voices in tow) to sing some of the Gospel Mom held dear when a member of “All God’s Children” group was such a wonderful, completely unexpected blessing. And finally, Fr. Dean (who I still see as younger fellow Altar boy about half a century ago) was precious in his heartfelt, personal eulogy.

In closing, I fear many readers unfamiliar with Greek Orthodoxy and/or Black Gospel will find these last paragraphs a mystery. In many ways, it (myseterion) is also a mystery to me – God’s Love is always there for those who embrace it. I don’t know how one endures loss of this sort without knowing such Love. No matter if agnostic or Atheist, Buddhist, Christian, Druid to Zionist, I’m certain many others look forward to seeing 2020 fade in the rear view mirror...


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