Essays/Opinion

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Cherished Memories

As I was preparing to leave my office at the close of a busy day, my phone rang.  A gentleman asked if he could speak with me about the recent loss of his dear wife.  His anguish was heartbreaking and as he recounted his experience and emotions to me, I was impressed in so many ways by the depth of his love for her, his devotion to her, his ability to evaluate his spiritual reliance on her, his awareness of his emotional wound without her beside him, his ability and willingness to express his loneliness and fear of life without her by his side, and his desire to openly seek assistance.  There were so many impressive attributes expressed during our conversation, that when it was over, although I remained worried and deeply saddened for him, I was comforted that he was on the right track for recovery. A loved one’s death is overwhelming.  Prior to your loved one’s death, you understand that you love that person deeply; however, you may not realize that without that person, your life is barely manageable; barely maintainable.  Upon the other’s death, your life is suddenly in danger as well.  Your life is filled with turmoil.  Disorganization rules every aspect of your functionality.  Indeed, at times, your will to live may be called into question.  These are very frightening facts.  Moreover, upon the death of a significant loved one, someone with whom you have been married for decades upon decades, with whom you have created generations of descendants, with whom you have established reputation, successful business, wealth, and happiness; these facts do indeed become burdens of distress, that if not properly managed will end your life.  The gentleman caller on the other end of my phone understood the gravity of these issues and wanted to understand and apply the remedies for them. Unfortunately, the only quick fix for grief is to be a shallow person – a person who does not love others.  To be this type of person is undesirable.  To live this type of life is empty and lonely.  For my caller to swiftly recover from his wife’s death, he would have to forget about the many wonderful years they spent together, the trials they conquered together, the foes they battled together, the fears they triumphed over, their accomplishments, their setbacks, their hardships, their disagreements, their makeup’s, their holidays, their illnesses, their recoveries, the births of their children and grandchildren, the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren, and the list continues.  These are things this man would not give up if his life depended on it, and at this point, it does. These experiences that have built his life with his wife, strengthened his resolve to be her eternal companion and solidified his love for her are exactly what have caused his grief upon her death.  They are also the exact same experiences that will save his life and cause his recovery as he begins to reorganize his existence without her by his side.  Day by day, he will understand more and more that these sweet memories are what get him through his days and allow him to keep breathing.  Although his heart is momentarily rent in two, these memories that he sees as reminders too painful to recall, are slowly turning into bandages that will spiritually bridge his existence to that of his wife’s beyond the veil.  As he opens his heart to celestial infusion, he will realize that his wife’s love remains with him, that she has not and will not forget him, and that she awaits his arrival with the greatest anticipation just beyond his view, but never beyond his reach, in that glorious place called paradise.  And that one day, they will reunite where families are forever, where love is eternal, and where the trials and sorrows of this life will become cherished memories. My name is Tracy Renee Lee. Continue Reading →

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Suicide, Recognizing and Preventing It, Part 3

This is part 3 of Tracy Lee’s Suicide Prevention articles.  If you missed the first two, please look them up in our history. SUICIDE PREVENTION TIP #2:  RESPOND QUICKLY IN A CRISIS

Once you have confirmed your suspicions that your friend or family member is indeed contemplating suicide, you need to evaluate their immediate risk level.  Persons intending (INTENT) immediate action upon themselves will have mapped out a specific plan of action (PLAN), they will have prepared their mode or means of action (MEANS), they will have planned or set aside a specific time for the deed (TIME). Exploratory Questions

Asking the following questions will allow you to evaluate their immediate risk factor. INTENT: Do you intend to take your own life? Continue Reading →

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Bang, Pow, Zap –Goodbye Batman

I stumbled through the news reports this afternoon to discover that my world had changed.  It did not change from some crisis of a political storm in Europe, Trump had not released some new and informing Tweet, and no new war had caught my attention.  What caught my attention in fact was to most people likely only a small affair.  Adam West has died. Adam West was to me, and likely will always to me and millions of others, Batman.  He was the first to hook me as a fan of the Dark Knight.   During those three short seasons, we watched weekly as Batman and Robin battled the bad guys, got themselves captured, and waited for pending doom.  A week later we would find that Batman always had something up his sleeve.  What would follow next would be a huge fight with words like “Bang” “Clang” and “Bloop” flashing across the screen.  In the end, Batman and Robin would catch the bad guys, receive a hearty thanks from the commissioner, and drive off in the coolest Batmobile ever made.  For all the quirky little sayings, and there were plenty of them, all the silly little signs on everything in Gotham and the Batcave, and for all the “Holy” this or “Holy” that from Robin, everyone wanted to be on and watch Batman.  There were tons of stars that made guest appearances, and it is said that they pushed their agents to get the slots on Batman.  Those major stars usually ended up looking out windows and making comments to Batman and Robin as the dynamic-duo climbed the side of buildings with strings often visible holding their capes.  For a brief time in those wild 1960s,  Batman was the place to be. After Batman, Adam West had a hard time finding work.  He did make thousands of guest appearances, also became another fan-favorite character as Mayor West on Family Guy, and ultimately settled into a life of comic book themed appearances and autograph signings.  He signed millions of autographs – most are sure to skyrocket on EBay today- and I am blessed to have a few in my collection.  I am also lucky to have met Adam West once. Continue Reading →

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How To Recognize a Suicidal Person

Note:  This is Part I of three parts dealing with Suicide

Last year, I worked diligently at acquiring a placement for my mother and my aunt in an assisted living facility.  They reside just across the hall from each other in a lovely facility about 20 minutes from my home.  Although I am very happy with the facility and their services, I am not sure my mother and aunt are nearly as satisfied.  They miss their health and their independence, and they naturally blame the center’s employees for their loss of emancipation. Since their move there, I have seen a change in their attitudes.  My mother and my aunt have become less and less cooperative with the staff.  They both suffer extreme pain and depend on prescription medications to manage their quality of life.  Recently, I have noticed an increase in self-destructive behavior from my aunt.  I have addressed this with her and she has been unwilling to discuss it calmly and politely.  She angrily strikes at me with menacing words, tells me that her choices are her choices, and insists that I should leave her alone. I would be happy to accommodate my aunt’s request to leave her alone except that I love her and she has no children nor anyone else to care for her.  My aunt only has my mother’s children to care for her as she ages.  If we were to walk away, there would be no one to manage her end of life care.  I live the closest to the assisted living facility, so I am usually the relative called upon when a family member is needed. Last week I requested that my aunt willfully place herself in a behavioral unit for medication evaluation and possible modification.  At first, my aunt was very angry with me, but I remained firm in my request.  As a funeral director, I have witnessed many methods of suicide and my aunt vocalized a disregard for life during our conversations.  Although I did not know beyond question if my aunt were suicidal, I believed she was nearing a cliff that I did not want to see her approach.  With the extreme changes in her behavior and medical condition, my aunt agreed to voluntarily enter the behavioral unit at the local hospital, and we have seen an immediate improvement in her psychological balance. Late last night I received a call from the local area coroner.  There was a suicide not far from my home.  As I prepared myself for travel to the place of suicide, I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving to my Father in Heaven.  I am so thankful that my aunt was strong enough to agree to admit herself into the behavioral unit at the hospital and get the medical treatment that she so desperately needed before something tragic happened to her at her own hand.  As I looked into the faces last night of the adult children of the decedent and spoke with them about what will happen today when they must come to the funeral home and arrange for their father’s final moments before burial, my heart ripped right in half for the pain they were suffering.  I wished in my heart that someone could have seen that their father was nearing a dangerous cliff before he ended his life and had been able to help him seek assistance. Continue Reading →

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The Meaning of the Rattlesnake (1775)

The rattlesnake was a significant symbol used throughout the American Revolution.  The Dept of War, established in 1789, included a rattlesnake in its seal in recognition of the rattlesnake’s importance.  The Dept of the Army (1947), successor of the Dept of War, continued the tradition and included a rattlesnake in its seal.  The Gadsden Flag, “to be used by… the American Navy” beginning in1776, and the First Navy Jack, which is currently flown by the U.S. Navy, both contain a rattlesnake and the motto “DONT TREAD ON ME”.  The following article, written by Benjamin Franklin one month after the formation of the [U.S.] Continental Marines, was his explanation of the rattlesnake. “I observe on one of the drums belonging to the marines… there was painted a rattlesnake, with this motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’  … I sat down to guess what could have been intended by this uncommon device. I took care, however, to consult, on this occasion, a person who is acquainted with heraldry [military artwork]… This rather raised than suppressed my curiosity, and having frequently seen the rattlesnake, I ran over in my mind every property by which she was distinguished…

I recollected that her eye excelled in brightness that of any other animal, and that she has no eyelids. Continue Reading →

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The History and Meaning of the Shreveport Confederate Monument

On May 31, 2017, I traveled to Shreveport, Louisiana to see the Confederate Monument located at the Caddo Parish Courthouse and to meet with Paul Gramling about the monument’s future.  Ronnie Dancer, who operates a Facebook page called “The Who’s Who of Miller County Elected Officials” is a friend of mine from Miller County, Arkansas.  Ronnie and I had started talking about the recent issues and monument removals from New Orleans.  During our conversations, Ronnie asked if the Four States News would like to interview some of the people involved in defending the monuments.  Naturally, I was interested in talking with them.  I know that Ronnie is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and is a Lieutenant in the organization’s “Mechanized Cavalry” division, a motorcycle branch of the SCV.   Ronnie was quickly able to arrange a meeting at the monument currently being reviewed in Shreveport, Louisiana. Prior to meeting Mr. Gramling, all I knew about him was that he was a member of the SCV, the Lt. Commander-in-Chief of the SCV, and a defender of keeping the monuments in their current and original locations.  We arrived, found parking and as we unloaded the car, I noticed a man who seemed out of place sitting on a park bench in front of the courthouse.  Around him were tourist, homeless people, and a few police officers walking the area.  Despite the variety of people, Gramling stood out for his unique dress and appearance.  He had the appearance of a college professor who should be buried behind research books in some dusty, college office researching and studying history.    As we grew closer and made introductions, I noticed the symbols on his label and the insignia on him that clearly said, “Lt. Commander-in-Chief”.  Through our brief talks before we sat down, I learned that Mr. Gramling is not only a defender of the monuments and a member of the SCV, but he is the current number two person of the SCV in the United States.  As we had small talk it was also apparent that Mr. Gramling was by no means an uneducated man.  He knew history as he explained many aspects about the courthouse, its history, and even the history of the grounds surrounding the courthouse.  He spoke with a soft, authoritative voice that a professor might use in a college class and I began to suspect that by the end of the interview, he might just take out a pop quiz to see how much I was paying attention. We found a place just behind the monument and close to the steps of the courthouse to sit down and talk.  What started out as a simple conversation with some basic questions quickly turned into an hour and a half discussion.  There is simply no way I can put all the information that Mr. Gramling supplied into this article; however, I want to tell the reader what he had to say, what I saw, and what we should all know about the SCV, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), and the various monuments erected by those organizations between the 1890s and the early 1900s.  It’s fascinating, it’s part of all of our history, and whether you agree with the history or not, it’s important that we know all sides in this battle over monuments that is currently being debated and discussed around the country. This monument to Confederate Veterans and those who died in the war is located at the Caddo Parish Courthouse.  The monument was built in 1905 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and placed on the National Historical Register by the Louisiana Department of Culture Recreation and Tourism.   As anyone can tell you, the monument has many meanings to different people.  Despite those different meanings that people feel and express, the purpose is clearly stated and documented in the United National Historical Register’s 52-page application and on the monument, itself.  The monument states that it was “Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  1905, Love’s Tribute to Our Gallant Dead.”  The left hand of Clio, who is considered the Muse of “History,” points to the word “Love”.  Her right hand is down and holds a scroll that before 2010 had the word “History” on it. Continue Reading →

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Texarkana Arkansas Board Takes Action After Silencing the Public

The information below was submitted by citizen Dwayne Hall in narrative format and is unchanged.  

Texarkana, AR – The Texarkana Arkansas Board voted to take action in furtherance of their Agenda Item #11 after silencing the public who asked to speak. An item on the Board’s agenda was entitled “Adopt an Ordinance authorizing and directing the City Manager to adjust the Public Works Department Fees.”

Dwayne Hall, a citizen who attended the meeting requested to speak, and the Mayor refused to allow him. He had filled out a card that gave notice of his opposition to the ordinance. When the item was introduced by Public Works Director, Jeff Whitten, the Board discussed the type of action that they might take. Continue Reading →

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Update from the Fouke Farmers’ Market

The information and pictures comes from Kevin and Ashley Matthews regarding the Fouke Farmers’ Market

June 3, 2017, Fouke, AR- The news is spreading fast about our small town market! Today was our unofficial first day to be able to come together with the exception of some of the vendors being out due to unforeseen circumstances but next week we intend to be in full swing! This week the theme was “kids day”. We did “pinch pot planters” for any child that visited the market. Next week the theme is “reuse reduce and recycle” so we will be planting in old toys rubber boots and what ever else we come across! Continue Reading →

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Happy Birthday Miss Texarkana

June 3, 2017 – The first Miss Texarkana turns 100 today, and yes, this wonderful, feisty, and funny lady is still alive and among us!  I first met Ann Cunningham while working with one of her daughters’ years ago.  Within ten minutes after the meeting started, I had been introduced to her wonderful daughters, told family stories, and made to laugh and cry almost at the same time.  I would later remark to a co-worker that Mrs. Cunningham was one of the most intelligent and fun loving people I had ever met. During those years I had direct interactions with Miss Texarkana, I learned a lot.  I learned that not only was this lady fun-loving, but you could find out just about anything you wanted to know just by listening to her.  She is a wealth of knowledge.  You could also find her in town at the strangest times.  I remember going to Walmart one night during the late hours only to find her riding a cart around shopping.  I glanced at my watch and it was 1:45 a.m. in the morning.  Apparently 1:45 a.m. is the best and easiest time to drive one of those cool, riding carts as fast as you can down the aisles of Walmart.  At that time she must have been at least 92 years of age.   I noticed that despite her driving the cart quickly around the store, not a single employee dared to approach her or attempt to stop her.  She stopped briefly, spoke with me and then zoomed off in another direction.  I told one of her daughters the next day about the encounter, and the response was, “Yes, that’s mom.  She goes to the store at all sorts of crazy times.”

In one of my many discussions with our first Miss Texarkana, I learned that she had almost been a movie star at one time.  She told me that she was working as a car hop when two gentlemen came one day and placed an order.  While a conversation was struck up during their visit, one of them asked if she would be interested in trying out for a role in a movie they were making.   At the time she was too shy to follow through with the offer and turned them down.  In hindsight, she likely made the right decision since she is now turning 100, and the actress who eventually got the role died at 53 years of age.  Naturally, being curious, I pressed Mrs. Cunningham as to what role and movie she had turned down.  She casually responded, as if it was nothing, with “Oh it was for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind.”    Needless to say, you could have picked my jaw up off the floor, but for Mrs. Cunningham, it was just another moment in her amazing life. Continue Reading →

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For the Children:   Lessons to Live By

I had the pleasure of delivering two graduation speeches this year to high school students embarking on the next stage of their lives.  I remember as a graduate how anxious I was for that next stage.  I am confident students today feel the same, and I am equally certain our state elected officials share that attitude after finalizing this year’s legislative session.  In fact, the content of my speech could probably apply just as much to Oklahoma’s politicians as it does to its high school graduates. I used three quotes as the foundation for my remarks to recent grads.  The first, pulled from comic book fanfare, is the basis of what drives one character to keep fighting against tremendous odds and constant obstacles.  Ben Parker imparted upon his nephew that “with great power comes great responsibility” (a comic book update to the Biblical lesson “to whom much is given, much is required”).  Those words go to the core of what keeps Spider-man going even through the toughest of times.  He has a responsibility to use his powers to better the world.  With graduates, they now have the responsibility to be an active part of society as adults, pay their taxes, and go to the polls and vote. This effort will make their neighborhoods, their communities, their state and their nation better. Our legislators have the power of the vote at the capitol. Continue Reading →

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