A light snow showed up a couple days after Christmas and
rain finally diminshed the last week of December in our hometown preparing for
a quiet entry into 2013, as we wonder how lucky or unlucky it may be.
The rain slowed last Sunday evening as I drove along
Highway 160 looking for the barn and its covering of Christmas lights in memory
of Wesley "Brad" Dawson. You read the interesting story that Nelson
Morais wrote in the Plain Talk before Christmas. I wanted to see the sign,
photograph it, but also meet and talk with Brad's parents, Terry and Judy
Dawson. I've only driven on Sawyer Hollow Road a few times so now I know folks
who live on the road, the last one before the Nolichucky River where Brad
drowned in spring of 2011.
There are two residences across the road from each other,
as the families have close and strong ties. I couldn't help but smile seeing an
old bus draped with white lights on the Johnny and Lena Smith property to my
right. Pulling into the drive on the left, where there are fewer lights, Terry
Dawson came out. Minutes later so
did his wife, Judy. She said that she always tries to keep Brad in her thoughts
and wants his spirit to be with them, especially during the holidays. I am sure
there is never a day that goes by that they don't think of Brad. His memory
surrounds them. Despite their loss, the Dawson and Smith families had plenty of
Christmas lights and holiday goodwill. The larger Christmas light display is in
the Smith's yard, Judy's parents. I got to meet her brother, Jeff, and also
Johnny, who posed with a giant lighted globe with snowmen inside.
When speaking to Terry earlier in the week to know his
location and the memorial to Brad, Terry's voice sounded familiar, and, when we
met, I recalled some business he had with the Plain Talk years ago. His family
is distantly related to a former Newport businessman and friend of ours, Bobby
Dawson. Terry said that Brad had been living with them several years and was
older than his brother, Travis. For about the past seven years Brad did
maintenance work for Norfolk Southern Railway on the line between Knoxville and
Bristol. The Dawsons could not say enough kind things about Brad's railroad
co-workers and their outpouring of love and compassion.
When I photographed the giant electric-light message on
the barn, I couldn't help but seeing high on a hillside in the distance and
above the red barn three crosses. Terry had placed these for all to see and to
share during the season. It was sad to think of Brad's death, a young man
planning to marry soon but uplifting to see what powerful message of
remembrance and hope the Dawsons and Smiths are sharing at the end of 2012. Perhaps
the memorial will light again in Dec. 2013.
Medical pros key to recovery
We have been talking about how Ralph Valentine of Indian
Hills overcame cancer after fighting it most of the year. Weeks ago, I came
across Ralph out and about, and he looked slimmer and different so my question
on how he was feeling prompted his explanation of how he survived cancer. Days
later he brought in a four-page story entitled "Poppa's Journey" that
details what he calls his ordeal with a "horrible disease." He invited
me to share it with you. I think it most appropriate because we have been
talking about Lenny Zmich's recent diagnoses of pancreatic cancer. He is now
seeking other treatment, while Ralph endured chemo and feeding tubes in the
early months of the year.
Most of us would not call suffering with a kidney
infection good. But it looks to me that it was fortunate he went to Newport
Medical Center on December 31, 2011 with such an ailment and was hospitalized.
And further, he got a CT scan. Dr. Mike Hood brought the bad news that they
found a mass about ping-pong ball size near his stomach.
Ralph and Shelby's daughters made doctors'
appointments, one with gastroenterologist Dr. Michael Ellis, who performed a
scope and biopsy after seeing a "sore" on his esophagus and believed
it to be cancer. "This was such a devastating blow," Ralph writes in
his story. And though the cancer was a "bad one," testing by
oncologist Dr. Farooq Akbar revealed the cancer had only spread to one nearby
lymph node. Ralph was relieved and also felt comforted by Dr. Akbar's strong
faith in God and his immediate suggestion for Ralph and the family to pray. The
plan was to do both chemotherapy and radiation, overlapping these. The
treatment began with Dr. Anderson at the Morristown-Hamblen Hospital cancer
center. By then it was late February and radiation treatment involved five days
per week for six weeks.