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January 1, 2017. This new year will be different than any year in our history. Barack Obama, the first black president of the US, is stepping down. His two terms showed us what an intelligent, rational, calm, and decent man he is, His family, Michelle and their two daughters, are wonderful role models ad fine human beings. There have been no scandals, no bad behavior. The only negative thing about his tenure is that his Republican-dominant Congress said they intended to make him a one term president. When he won again by a comfortable margin, Mitch McConnell said they would refuse to cooperate with him, even for things that would help all the people. He and his family were subjected to ugly comments, death threats,rampant racism, and conducted themselves with absolute dignity. Obama’s approval rate at the end of his term is 53%, the highest ever for an outgoing president.
It’s been a long, exhausting two years for Americans. The months leading up to our presidential election were nasty, divisive, and sometime incredible. Donald Trump – yes, THAT Donald Trump, the orange-haired, hate-filled reality star. At first it seemed like a goof. There were 17 other Republican candidates. One by one, they fell, with taunts like “Loser””Low energy” and worse from Trump. And he begin to win. No, he’ll never get the nomination. Right? Wrong. His scowling rubbery face was everywhere, insulting and demeaning everyone who’s not white, American-born, and Republican. He got more popular. Groups of people who’d been largely ignored crawled out of the swamp, proudly chanting”Trump’s “Lock up her up,” his favorite slam on Hillary Clinton. He escalated, telling Russia to hack her emails, calling her crooked, corrupt, a liar. His crowds began shouting “Hank her, ” wore shirts proudly proclaiming “Hillary for prison.” He got louder and meaner, his people started attacking protestors and calling Hillary obscene things. He got more popular. He said he could stand in the middle of Times Square and shoot somebody and his people would still love him. He SAID that! A man who wanted to be president of the United States. Right up to the end, on election day, Nov. 8, those of us who thought he was not fit for that office had hope that she would win. Even Trump didn’t really expect to win. Yet somehow, despite his ugly attacks on just about everybody, against all odds, HE WON! Wednesday morning, Nov. 9, there was a whole new world on the horizon. Hispanics feared deportation, Muslims wondered if they should leave the country, women who support a woman’s right to control her own body, LGBT folks, including my 20 year old granddaughter, feared they would lose their hard fought for rights … Kids in schools wore Trump tee-shirts, drew racial slurs and Nazi symbols on bathroom walls, Muslims and gays were attack at a much higher rate, blacks were called the n word even more feverishly. And this is only Day Three of Trump’s America. Tea Party Republicans gloat and mock those of us who are so upset, not understanding that Trump does not have their best interests in mind either. Trump didn’t expect to win, he just wanted the chance to accuse Hillary and the liberal media of rigging the system, and to harp on her damned emails. Oh yeah, the Russians have admitted that they have been in contact with his staff all along, and were responsible for the ugly crap that came from Wikileaks. I read this and can hardly believe this is not a bad dream.
Trump, who said he would immediately gut Obamacare 3 days ago, now says that “in respect for President Obama” he will consider keeping some of the provisions, like covering those with pre-existing conditions. When protestors took to the street Wednesday night, he tweeted that they were professionals guided by the media. Last night he said it was so nice that people were peacefully protesting, as is their right. (I suspect that came from someone else. His staff have tried, and mostly failed, to reign him in)
What will happen tomorrow? Who knows. He’s working on appointing his peers to high government offices. Rudy Guilani as Attorney General. Newt Gringrich, Sarah Palin- maybe Secretary of the Environment – drill, baby, drill, Ben Carson – who denies climate change and evolution – for Secretary of Education!
Trump is becoming calmer and is already walking back some of his most outrageous promises. Maybe he will not be as big a disaster as we fear. What can’t go back in the bottle are the people he empowered to be bullies, racists (the KKK and White Supremists adore him) bigots …
As a wise woman once said, we have to “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”
We’re going to do our best to save our country.
I’ve been away awhile, and now I can’t seem to figure out how to add a new post. Oh well, I’ll try it this way.
There are certain events in our lives that are very stressful, both good stress and bad stress. Losing a loved one; serious illness; retirement; vacations. Add to that remodeling your house. I went through all of the above in 2014. I lost my mother, Velma Ruth Steward Robertson Hornsby, on June 17. She was 93 and in poor health, but it was still a shock. I am an orphan child. That was the week before my retirement, after 33 years, from Rice University. I’m still waking up at the usual time, but I quickly realize I don’t have to anymore. I dream often that I am back at work, although I really don’t want to – or maybe a little. Thirty-three years in Fondren Library, five more years in grad school at Rice, that’s a big chunk of my life. I’m still trying to reorganize my life, but I’m getting there. The night before my last day at work, I started having chest pain and a severe pain behind my left shoulder blade. I waited for it to pass for several hours, but it didn’t. I took myself to urgent care, thinking surely it’s not a real heart attack, but the folks at the clinic sure were taking it seriously. They gave me the drug for angina, and sure enough the pain started to abate. I spent 3 days in the hospital, after calling my boss to say sorry, but I’d have to miss my last day at work. Every possible test was given. I was poked and prodded and ex-rayed and ultrasounded … Finally one of the staff doctors decided it was all caused by my Barrett’s Esophagus, which can have the same symptoms. Now I know.
Now for the good stress: In August, I took my two sons and three granddaughters on an Alaskan cruise. One of the girls was already in college, and the other two were about to start. I didn’t know if we would ever be able to gather like that, and I hoped to make some lasting memories. Memories were made, and a good time was had by all. In September, I traveled to western Ireland with my folk singing Irish-American friends, Annie and Marie Burns and several like-minded folks. It was my first trip, and I fell in love with the beautiful landscape and the gentle people.
In October I went to Long Beach, California, where I attended Bouchercon, the main convention for mystery writers and readers. I’m a bit of both. Mystery writers are fun and funny and generous and not at all weird (well, maybe some good weird) or bloodthirsty, even if their books are. I’ve gotten to know several writers, and several are good friends. I couldn’t go this year, but I’ll be in New Orleans in 2016.
There was another reason to go to Long Beach in 2014. In October 1944, my mother took the train from Texas to Long Beach to marry my father, who was in between ships. His first ship, the USS Elliot, was stationed at Pearl Harbor. As fate would have it, his was one of the ships who left port on Dec. 5. When the Elliot returned to the harbor, he was stunned by all the damage. He said :here I was, a 20 year old kid, never been out of Texas, and I couldn’t believe what men can do to others. I didn’t mean to include this story, but with what’s going on right now I had to express my feelings, which are much like my father’s. Anyway, they were married at city hall. I was hoping it would still be there, but time marches on. The art deco gem where they pledged their troth was gone, replaced by a 60’s box. There was a model of that old one in the lobby, so I at least got to see what it looked like 70 years ago.
Let’s see if this works. If so, I’ll be back with photos.
I know I’ve been silent for a long time, but life got in the way. I got a wakeup call when WP sent me a notice that “someone” had asked to change my password, and that someone wasn’t me. I have re-claimed my turf! Several big life events happened in the last year or so. I retired, after 33 years in the same job at Rice University. My mother went into hospice in 2013, and in June 2014, finally went to join her two husbands, Hulbert H. Robertson, the young hero and father of my big sister Gwen, who died in WWII, and the old hero, my dad, Sterling L. Hornsby, who survived that war and lived to be 89. I had some health issues and one big scare. My son, my rock, left Houston to move to L.A. This month he moved back, so that’s a Good Thing that happened. I took my two sons and three granddaughters on an Alaskan cruise in Aug. 2014. I took myself on a Viking River cruise from Paris to Prague in Aug. 2015. Pix to come. Steve Jones, if you see this post, I will be writing you soon, I promise. Love to you and Sabina.
More to come.
Posted in Jewel E. Whisenant, steel-covered Bibles, Uncategorized, World War II, tagged battle-field conversions, Jewel E. Whisenant, steel-covered Bibles, World War II on May 22, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
This is my story of my Uncle Jewel E. Whisenant, a hero in war and in life:
Jewel E. Whisenant: The Young Man Arose From the Dead
By Shirley Wetzel
Jewel Edward Whisenant, son of M. C. and Thula Whisenant, was born on April 29, 1918. He grew up in Dublin, Erath County, Texas. For his first two decades, he drifted, without a goal in life. Then, with World War II looming on the horizon, he enlisted in the Army. This decision changed his life forever. He trained to be a half-track driver in the Mojave Desert, and excelled in all he did. He was not a Christian, but while in training he became close friends with a young man who was, Allen Lee Jones. He admired Allen’s strong faith, but did not share it.
About that time, he had another life-changing event. He fell in love with Frances Stewart, also of Dublin. Her father wasn’t too happy about her choice, as Jewel had a reputation for being kind of wild, but love would not be denied. They were married in a beautiful ceremony, then moved up to Camp Kilmer, Pennsylvania, in 1942, where he had more training to prepare him for battle. She came from a Christian family, but religion wasn’t a big part of their life. She taught Jewel the only prayer she knew: “Now I lay me down to sleep…”
After he left for deployment, she saw a small steel-covered Bible in a shop window. She wasn’t sure whether to buy it, but she heard the voice of God telling her that if she didn’t, she’d never see him again. Finally she bought it, and mailed it to Jewel. She included a note: “May this book keep you from harm.” In the last mail call before boarding the ship for Europe, Jewel heard his name called. “Old Tex has a package!” He treasured that gift of love, and carried it in his breast pocket every day thereafter.
He arrived in England to await the invasion of Europe. On September 17, 1943, he was leading his men in a battle in an orchard in Belgium. There had been 70% casualties, including many officers, and he was promoted from Sergeant to acting Lieutenant. They were pinned down in a trench under heavy fire when replacements began coming in. One young man was cut down just a few feet from safety. He said “Sarg, I’m dying, send for the medics,” but nothing could be done. The mortally wounded soldier began to recite the Lord’s Prayer as he slipped away. Jewel said to himself that if God can give that young man such peace in battle and in death, that’s the God I want to serve. He gave his life to God that day. With new strength and resolve, he led his men out of the orchard, saying “follow me,” and they all did. He still carried that Bible next to his heart, with the list of the names of his men tucked inside.
January 3, 1944. During a fierce battle, Jewel was shot multiple times, in the left eye, the stomach, chest and leg. He was carried to the operating theater, and remembers nothing until he woke up in a large room, surrounded by bodies, with a tag on his toe. He saw a woman in white, and called “Nurse!” She replied, in shock, “Sergeant, what are you doing awake? You’re supposed to be dead!”
“Set me up, help me, my face hurts!” He had lost sight in his left eye, and had thirty-seven stitches in his face, but he was alive. The nurse pulled the Bible from his shirt pocket. A bullet was lodged in it; the steel jacket and the list of his men’s names had stopped it from penetrating his heart. The bullet stopped at Luke 7:12:
And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. Now when he came near to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said to her, Weep not. …
And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.
And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
The war was over for Jewel Whisenant. He went home to Dublin, to his mother and his beloved wife, and started a church. The Southside Baptist Church was the first of over a hundred he was to establish during his long career. He died on December 19, 2009, and the church was full of ministers he had trained and the many friends and loved ones whose lives he’d touched.
I am proud to say that he was my uncle, married to my mother’s baby sister Frances. There have never been two more kind, generous, courageous, and funny human beings on this earth. He was a hero on the battlefield and a hero in his life. Frances, who always referred to herself as his encourager, wrote a book about their years together. The title is, appropriately enough, The Encourager. If you’d like to learn more about Jewel and Frances Whisenant and their inspiring life, I recommend you read this book.
A friend reminded me I haven’t posted here in several months, so here I am again. There have been some changes, some sadness, some soul-searching since then. My last post was about springing my 91 year old mother from the nursing home and moving her to my sister’s home. That was almost a year ago. Mother is still with us, but barely. Her eyesight and hearing are pretty much gone, her body is shot, but her mind was strong until recently. When I went to see her at Christmas, though, she didn’t know me. She asked for her sister Frances, who’s been gone for 5 years. They were as close as twins, and the best of friends. We couldn’t get through to her to explain. I wonder if, during all those hours she’s drifting between sleep and consciousness, she’s been making visits to the other side, getting ready for her permanent relocation. Mother, it’s all right, there are so many of our loved ones waiting for you there, it’s okay to let go.
Sadness – my 52 year old niece Becky slipped into a diabetic coma and left us suddenly last spring. She was born profoundly deaf, and with neurological problems, and her life was not easy, but she loved life and her two beautiful children and her cats … sweet girl, I hope you passed into the arms of your Papa who loved you so, and got to meet the grandfather who died so long ago on a mountain in Wales, and all the others we miss down here.
I turned 66 in September and had to face the fact that I’m far beyond middle age now, unless people live to be 120. I started receiving my late ex-husband’s Social Security benefit as a Divorced Widow. It’s a few hundred more than mine. Don, I appreciate the extra $, but I’d far prefer for you to still be here.
Do you know Baylor is about to get that Ph.D., and has turned out to be a terrific teacher? And to think we both warned him he was not cut out for the academic life! Guess he showed us! That makes me happy. Our oldest granddaughter just started college. Autism has never stopped her from being a spectacular young lady. She was asked to join the School of Engineering which thrills her engineer grandfather to no end. The twins are almost 17, smart, talented, well-mannered (thanks, Lisa) and total nerds like their dad, and now like me. I came to nerddom rather late, re-discovering Doctor Who a few years ago and falling madly for #10, David Tennant.
Just got back in touch with my dear Welsh friend, Steve Jones. He’s had some experience as a movie extra, and I’m trying to convince him to get a job on one of David’s projects so I can come over and meet him. Come on Steve, I know you can do it! And I am so happy to hear that after all these years the lovely Sabina has made an honest man of you! I do hope to see you both again, even if you don’t come through on my very reasonable request.
So, after years of counting the months, weeks and days until I reached retirement age, I decided not to retire after all. I’d spent a few months after foot surgery on house arrest, and I actually got tired of reading, watching tv, and doing nothing. I’d planned to write, but just couldn’t make the words flow. Since I couldn’t drive for much of that time, maybe it wasn’t a fair comparison to what retirement might bring, I still fear that if I do retire I will slowly vegetate, accomplishing nothing. More importantly, I wasn’t sure about the economy. I decided to keep working while I can, for another year or two anyway, and save the SS money to make some really nice trips.
Another thing is, if I’m a retiree, that officially means I’m old. I remember my mother, a couple of decades ago, telling a friend that she knew she wasn’t young any more, but in her head she still felt the same as she did when she was 38. Me, my head tells me I’m 43 … my body says otherwise.
Mortality rears its ugly head. I had a health issue last spring that is now under control, but could prove to be a Bad Thing eventually. I am in what, statistically speaking, should be the last 1/3 of my life, but because of that thing, and because I’ve seen so many people my age and younger leave this world too soon – well, we are not promised tomorrow. I wonder if my first-born son will forgive me for whatever it is he holds against me before I’m gone. I hope he does, for my sake and his. I know he will regret it if he waits too late, just as he did with his father. Son, I couldn’t love anyone more than I love you. Parents are human too, and young parents can make mistakes they regret when they become older and wiser. Jeff, my baby boy, I am so proud of you and you are my rock.
What else? The presidential horror show, where I watched the country I love tear itself apart, with an us and them mentality I can’t even believe. Facebook has been great for keeping in touch with friends and kin and getting to know family I’d never have met in real life. Thing is, we got along fine until this came up, then I discovered that I am a liberal, socialist commie pinko intellectual hippie atheist baby-murdering – oh, the list goes on. Just too sad.
More sadness, 20 little children were cut to pieces in a school massacre called Sandy Hook, and things turned even uglier. The first thought of many of my more conservative acquaintances was “Óh sh–t, Obama is going to take my guns away! “Now I am a mild mannered, laid-back, calm, reasonable, open-minded librarian, but as time went by, I got branded as one of those who wanted to take their guns away, even though that was not what I said, and it is not what the president is saying. Our country seems to be getting even farther divided and I don’t see any relief in the foreseeable future.
My guru Ma Jaya left her body last spring. I did not get to say goodbye. I have talked to her since then, so that’s okay. In October I went to the beautiful Berkshires for the Guthrie Center church concerts, reuniting with many of my dearest of dear friends in a soul-renewing week. Arlo did three incredible, uplifting, emotional shows, despite, or maybe in part because, his wife Jackie was fighting her last fight. His courage, and that of the rest of the Guthrie family, was indescribable, so I won’t even try to describe it. So much love and grace and strength. Jackie was the heart of the family, but she did her job so well they will be able to go on without her.
Now we’re back to Christmas, You know what happened then. Oh yes, the family home was finally sold, and all the years of memories had to be sorted through, divided up, and given away or, least favorite thing, discarded. No more family photos on the old front porch, but things hadn’t been the same since our own heart, my silver-haired daddy, joined the heavenly band on Dec. 24, 2009. Time marches on. For everything, there is a season …
And now it’s a new year. Blank slate, fresh start, let’s see what happens next.
The day finally arrived for Mother’s new stage of life to begin. I arrived from Dallas Friday afternoon, expecting the bags to be packed and the special treasures Mother wanted to take all selected. She and my niece had been working on it for two weeks, my sister said. I found one box, with some sheets and towels, and that was it. Somehow I figured out Mother’s heart really wasn’t in it. She did know she wanted her bed, a few end tables, a tv, photographs, and a recliner. Dad’s recliner, not hers. I made the selections for her: a photo of her with her first husband and daughter Gwen, another photo of her with Gwen and my father, a photo of her first husband with his brothers, her brother, and, for some reason, my dad’s brother, all in uniform, a photo of Trent, her great-grandson who did not make it to his fifth birthday, a raggedy stuffed bunny that had been his, and my father’s flag. I started to bring the vase containing nine white silk roses and one red one, then I put it back on the mantel. It is part of our family history. The roses represent the ten members of mother’s family – her parents, Irvin and Lizzie Stewart, and their eight children. At one of my aunt’s funerals, a tradition was started: each time one of the siblings passed away, a family member would take out a red rose and place it in his or her parent’s casket. A white rose would be put in the vase. When Mother’s baby sister Frances died, my family got the vase. Mother is the last of the Stewarts, and it makes me sad to look at that single red rose, knowing that soon there will be ten white roses. I decided it was best left where it was until the time comes.
While the rest of the family took Mother’s furniture to her new home, I took her to Walmart’s – an outing she’d been asking for for ages. She said nobody ever had the time to take her, and she wanted to see things for herself, not have others just pick out something. In truth, she can’t really “see” much of anything, but it was the principle of the thing. I couldn’t put her on one of the scooters for the disabled, because I had visions of her plowing through the displays, mowing down anything in her path, so I pushed her in her wheelchair. We spent some time looking at the microwaves, trying to find one that she could work with minimal effort, and found one with numbers she could see. Then as we went through the towel section, she spotted a hot pink bathroom rug, and we bought that. I asked if she wanted the matching towel, but she said “no, then I’d need the hand towel, and the wash rag, and it’s just too expensive.” I will get that for her on my next visit, I can afford $20 and she loves pink.
When we got to the facility – I can’t bring myself to call it a home–nice as it is, it ain’t home. The furniture was arranged, but Mother decided it needed to be re-arranged. She wanted her chair to be next to her window, so she could watch the comings and goings of the residents and their visitors, and maybe see a bird or two. When her world view became small because of her disabilities, my dad used to put birdseed and bread crumbs on a staircase outside her window at home, and she spent hours watching the antics of the birds and squirrels haggling over the food. We bought every variety of squirrel-proof bird feeder there is, but none of them worked for long. It tickled her to see how resourceful those squirrels could be. Now she watches the resident we have already named The Cigarette-Smoking Man, who drives himself outside every hour or so, wrapped in a blanket during those chilly days, stops by a pillar ten feet from her window, and lights up. We walked by him several times during the weekend, and he never smiled or even acknowledged our presence.
I stayed with her the first night. She was sick, and didn’t have to make the dreaded trip to the dining room while I was there. Neither of us slept much, but I didn’t hear her cry. She’d told her niece she probably would, and I said it was okay to cry if she wanted to. She can cry without making a sound, so I don’t know if she did, but I did. Quietly. Next morning, she didn’t eat any breakfast, and she didn’t care for the coffee. My sister came around lunchtime with snacks, shower curtain, and other necessities, and I told Mother I had to go back to Houston. I’d told her at the beginning of the weekend I would be leaving Sunday, but she looked at me with sad eyes and said “I was hoping you could stay another day or two.” I explained again that I don’t have much vacation saved up. I didn’t say I was saving it for when the time comes that I’ll need to be there, the time when she takes that last journey.
It’s been almost two weeks now, and she still doesn’t have a telephone. I get my news from my nieces, my sister is too busy taking care of things. I heard that she complained that an old man had been grumpy with her at dinner – I wondered if it was the Cigarette -Smoking Man. I want to go see her this weekend, but I’ve promised her a 3 day trip to her hometown of Comanche to put flowers on her parents’ graves, and to Dublin to visit with her cousins, nieces and nephews. That trip from Houston to Dallas has gotten longer and harder on me physically and emotionally, but I will keep making it as often as I can.