Tag Archives: Daddy

Channeling my dad

I (obviously) haven’t had much to say here, but I’ve been kinda busy. Well, busy for me, anyway. The driving job comes in waves; I’ll go for two weeks with no assignments, then I’ll get 5 in 3 days. Looks like I’ll be spending most of this week with one client. The job really is perfect for me. I drive, I spend time reading or doing errands, I get to help people out. Everyone who uses this service is on workman’s comp, and every person I’ve met has said the same thing: I wanna go back to work.

After thinking about it a little, I realize that I’m channeling Daddy. He was a salesman with a territory, so he drove a lot. No, I’m not selling anything, but I am definitely driving a lot, and learning things about where I live, like how to get from my house to High Point without using the highway, or the exact location of Archdale and Trinity. But the REAL channeling started a couple of weeks ago when I decided to take up a new hobby….working with stained glass. Daddy started with a lampshade kit and a community continuing education class. There must be a hundred sheets of glass in my basement. Daddy had big plans, I suppose. Seemed kind of silly to have all that glass, and the equipment to work with it, and not use it. So a couple of weekends ago, Hubby and I pulled out all the equipment and found enough supplies, like copper foil and flux and soldering irons, etc. to last quite a while. I went online and found a beginning stained glass book, watched a few videos on Youtube, and ordered what I thought would be an easy kit. Well, turns out I probably chose the most difficult type of work to solder. It’s a sculpture sort of thing, a twisted wire about 18 inches long, with butterflies and flowers soldered together then attached to the wire.

What that means is that, instead of doing a panel with relatively large pieces of glass, I’m foiling small pre-cut pieces of glass, then tinning each individual piece. They only way it would have been more difficult would have been if I cut the pieces myself. I guess the thought process was a) learn to foil and solder, THEN b) learn to cut the glass. At least I know my way around a soldering iron, thanks to my first “real” job….working for AT&T, soldering relay switches. Tiny relay switches. The foiling wasn’t too bad. Daddy had a pretty neat foiler. And the utensil you use to smooth the foil, a lathekin, well, is very well worn from Daddy’s years of smoothing and shaping the foil to the glass. But I wish I had started out with a panel. Here’s a leaf from the project, the very first thing I “tinned”:

It doesn’t look too bad, but a closer inspection shows that there is WAY too much solder on there. Turns out tinning is supposed to be a very light covering of solder. I watched a few more videos yesterday and tried again and got a much better result. Live and learn and embrace my suck-i-ness. Here’s my workspace, for now:

It has issues. I moved a desk lamp in, so I can see much better. But it won’t do once I start actually cutting glass because there’s carpet under that desk. No glass dust in the carpet. Yesterday I finished tinning all the pieces and realized that there’s probably no way I’ll ever get this project finished. At least not any time soon. I was supposed to use U-channel lead, not foil and solder. Lead would have been much easire to work with, since the only thing that would need soldering on each piece was the joint where the lead came together. And I need lead to give the poor butterflies some bodies. AND lead would be easier to solder to the twisted wire that holds the sculpture together. Note to self: when the instructions say “use U-channel lead”, do what it says. This could have been relatively easy, but in my zeal to get busy with glass I made it REALLY hard.

Once I realized the error of my learning ways, I got back online and found a beginning beveled glass panel. Everything is cut except for the corners of 4 squares that need to be cut away. Four straight cuts. I can manage that. So the sad butterflies and flowers will most likely get chalked up to live-and-learn. I’m a silly perfectionist, so it’s hard to put that aside and let the first piece go unfinished. The more I think about it, though, the easier it gets to leave it and move on to something else. I would like for the first piece I finish to be something I could actually SHOW to someone else, and that certainly would not be the case with the sculpture thing.

So, I’m going to the beach, and when I get back I’ll have something new to start with that will have a better chance at seeing completion. Who knows? Maybe I won’t be able to cut it, being a glass crafter. Ha! Cut it….funny. On the other hand, I may be able to put all that glass to good use. Maybe there’s just enough of daddy in me to get past the fear of failure and do something new. I won’t really know until I give it a real try.


impromptu travels, parts 1 and 2

Well, May was just too much fun.

Part 1: not  much fun. So, back on the 6th I had to go for some routine blood work, and a strange thing happened. Actually, strange things have been happening for a while now. I’ve been having sudden episodes of hypo tension…rapid drop in blood pressure. We’ve been trying to figure out what the problem was, but couldn’t find anything obvious. Sooooo, there I am, in the Outpatient clinic at the local hospital getting routine blood work done. Unfortunately, my veins didn’t feel like cooperating. No big deal, happens every now and then and they just try again. We’re discussing this, the nurses and I, and I feel it coming….the BP drop. I remember telling the nurses I didn’t feel well, at all. I remember someone saying they needed a BP monitor, NOW, and I remember them checking it: 60/30, pulse rate 50-something. A wheelchair appeared out of nowhere, and I was hauled down the hall to ER where things started happening very fast. IV: not going the first time, and I still have the knot in my arm to prove it. Second IV: much better. Nurse calling Hubby and telling him he might want to high-tail it down the road to Lexington. Several very nice ER gentlemen helping me w/ IVs, blood samples, morphine for some chest pain that decided to show up in the middle of all this. (Why anyone would deliberately take morphine is a complete mystery to me….it felt AWFUL.)

Things started to calm down a bit, a really nice CNA helped me get out of my soaked clothes and into a dry gown, complete w/ rear end hanging out. Sigh. My family history with respect to cardiac problems is less than stellar, resulting in a 24 hours stay in cardiac ICU. People should not be allowed to have that much fun all at once. Chest x-ray (still in ER); cardiac sonogram (some nice respiratory therapy volunteer came in during the sonogram and asked me what was on the TV!), a very nice doctor that explained vasovagal syncope and the fact that I probably shouldn’t be on a diuretic for high blood pressure, and since I just finished an Anatomy and Physiology class, I understood what he was saying. Another very nice cardiologist came by and explained the same thing about the syncope and the BP medication. The two of them agreed to change the BP med, and keep me overnight.

Cardiac ICU is NOT  a place where you get any rest. I remember my dad saying that very thing every time he was in there, which was more times than I’d like to count. The next morning I had a cardiac CT scan, complete with contrast die that makes a hot flash feel like a spring breeze. No coronary issues. So they sent me home, wearing a heart monitor for 48 hours, just to make sure nothing was going on that they missed.

Long story short: I’m fine, I just shouldn’t have been on HCTZ (I can spell that word out if you’d like to be impressed, but that would just be showing off!) So far I don’t show any signs of inheriting any of my dad’s cardiac problems, which is a relief to know.

I also learned just how much hell my dad went through every time he was hospitalized. And my respect for his ability to remain positive in the midst of  each escalating crisis grew ten-fold. He was always in good spirits, at least when we were there to visit. He loved to chat w/ the nurses and doctors who cared for him throughout his illness, and even went so far as to construct a stained glass piece of a broken and reassembled heart to give to his cardiologist, the man he called the “heart mender.”

Part 2: Last Sunday Hubby and I ran away from home for the day to Oak Island. For the unenlightened, Oak Island is probably the least developed of North Carolina’s coastal islands. It runs east to west, and sits south west of Wilmington, between Bald Head Island and Holden Beach, the next island to the south. There’s nothing much there except houses, a few condos, a U.S. Coast Guard station, the Oak Island lighthouse, Fort Caswell (a Southern Baptist retreat), 2 piers and one golf course. Maybe a couple of cheesy motels, and local restaurants. No fancy hotels, no 5-star restaurants (although there are a few very good local ones), no amusement parks. In other words, nothing but beach. We left home at 6 AM, gassed up the car, stopped about halfway there, in Laurinburg, and were on the island at 10. We drove up to Caswell, then back down to 59th Street  North, turned left and drove the 2 blocks to ocean front, parked the car, and hit the beach. It was the most crowded day we’ve ever seen on Oak Island, and we’ve been going there since 1993. And it was wonderful! Warm water, plenty of sand, calm surf….heaven. The SPF 30 didn’t quite do the trick, and we didn’t take an umbrella, so there was some sunburn to contend with, small price to pay as far as I’m concerned. Lunch came from the Food Lion back up the 2 blocks from ocean front. Hubby napped, I read a book. We left at 4 PM and were home at 8. Something we will definitely do again. Soon.

So, last weekend I’m sitting on the beach at Oak Island, a place my dad dearly loved, and thinking about everything he went through, all while watching a man surf fishing, just like daddy used to do, not really catching anything, or caring that nothing was biting (except for sea skates), and wishing he was there to share the day with me. And I suppose he was. The tears were there, at least a few, and I felt better knowing that, in some small way, he was there with me.

For Daddy:

I see you everywhere.

You are in Southport, on the waterfront–watching the fishermen on the pier, the boats coming in and going out; walking the pier, checking everyone’s catch, and finding someone you  knew thirty years ago.

You are walking the beach at low tide, looking for sand dollars in the surf, and finding “sand quarters.” You pick up driftwood.

You are fishing at sunset–one of the kids in your lap. When nothing is biting, you reel in the line and hold my son until he falls asleep in your arms.

You are chatting with the waitress at Edna’s (now Beana’s, but the food is just as good), teasing her about the check: “You can keep that!”, you say.

You are salty, unshaven, the tops of your feet sunburned and peeling. You bury them in the sand.

You are Daddy, and you are here.

I remember REALLY listening to this song one summer at Oak Island. It meant a lot to me then. It means so much more to me now, for many reasons. Maybe I’ll explain them eventually. But, for now, just listening to the words and being comforted by them, rather than pained, is enough:

Sand and Water

Dear Daddy,

Remember when we all went to Fancy Gap for a pig-picking after David’s wedding? You and Ray were sitting at a picnic table, reminiscing about how fast David had grown up, and about where the tine had gone. I heard you tell Ray, “You know, I’ll be fifty this year, but I  don’t feel it inside. I look in the mirror and see myself and say ‘Yep, you sure do look like fifty’, but I don’t FEEL it. I feel 18.” I remember thinking about how ridiculous that sounded, and that of course you had to “feel” your age.

Well Daddy, you were a wise man.I always thought, even after you got sick, that we’d have more time, that you’d be here to see Wubby grow up. He is so like me, which means we are like oil and water together. But he’s also so like you, kind and gentle to a fault, never met an enemy, always looking for ways to make other people feel better. I wish you could see that.

I wish you could see your granddaughter and her horse. They have come so far from those little shows we used to have at the barn. Remember that “pokey kid” who took first place from those other riders whose coach stood and the rail and yelled at her students, “Pass that pokey kid!”? Well, she’s not pokey now. She’s fearless on a horse. They are amazing together. I wish you could have seen that.

But here’s the real thing, Daddy. I turned 50 this year, and I’m starting to get what you told Ray all those years ago. I don’t feel 50, but I don’t feel 18 either. Right now I just don’t feel. Anything. Except the pain that never goes away, my constant companion fibro. And maybe anger. I’m angry that our little family is alone in the world. The family ties don’t really bind all that much anymore. The kids miss their grandparents, ALL of them. And we miss our parents, ALL of them. Hubby misses his sister and his brothers, who are now spread out all over the place and busy with their own lives. Isolation could be a good thing if the conditions were right, but these aren’t optimal conditions for living the self-sustaining lifestyle.

I wish you were still here. I need to talk to you. I need to know some things. I need to know that I’m doing at least one thing right, that my life hasn’t been an entire screw-up, or if it has, I guess I need to know that too so I can maybe fix some things before it’s too late.

Please talk to me, Daddy. Somehow, some way, I need to hear your voice just once more. Tell me it’s going to be ok, that there’s nothing to be afraid of, that there’s still time to make a difference in this world, knowing full well that I could never come close to what you did.

When I was little you let me sit in your lap while you watch Walter Cronkite, and it was the safest place in the world. I need a safe place. Please tell me where to find one. Show me the way home.

All my love,

Your baby girl.

Via Dolorosa

Lent: from darkness, through death and into resurrected life.

It’s a common theme that takes many forms, a metaphor for the Christian life as well as a metaphor for many of us who’ve lived through brokenness and now walk the path of healing.

Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering. Literally, the path that Jesus walked through Jerusalem from his condemnation to the place of his execution. We all walk the path of suffering during seasons of life. They are difficult steps to take. We’ve all worn these shoes at one time or another. And sometimes we tend to think that our own brand of suffering is worse than everyone elses. But it’s not.

 I have fibromyalgia, which means I have pain, almost daily. Research suggests that people with fibro experience pain differently, such that what feels like intense pain to me would more than likely go unnoticed to you. If I could magically hand my pain over to someone else for a moment, that person would probably want to know what all the fuss is about because, for him, there would be no pain. For this reason, many people, many medical professionals, deny the reality of fibromyalgia. I’ve dealt with doctors in the past who denied my pain, who told me that I didn’t hurt, as I sat there looking at them in tears from the pain of physical examination. I don’t care if you don’t understand my pain, or don’t believe I have pain. But please don’t tell me that I’m not feeling what I feel, because you, whoever you are, have no idea how I feel. You are not me.

Fibromyalgia has a red-headed stepchild called depression. Think about it. If you hurt all the time, you might possibly become depressed. It’s also possible that a person can be susceptible to depression and, as a result of the effects of depression, have pain. You want to know something? It doesn’t really matter which one came first, the depression or the chronic pain, when you’re living with both. However, it does matter which comes first if you are trying to prove disability to a judge. Depression is considered to be more disabilitating than chronic pain.

This is fascinating to me for the simple reason that our society tends to take a dim view of mental illness. Look at medical insurance coverage for mental illness compared to physical illness and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Try telling someone that you have a mental illness, like depression, and watch the reaction. There’s a stigma around mental illness that is unmistakable. It’s OK to take medication for pain if you need it, but anti-depressants? Aren’t they “mood enhancing” or “mood altering” drugs?? Sounds like LSD, doesn’t it?

Why am I ranting about this? Because it’s Lent. It’s time to take some of the stones off my back and lay them by the side of the road, build an Ebeneezer from them and make room to pick up some pebbles that are easier to carry.

I’m playing the piano again Sunday, a piece entitled, you guessed it, Via Dolorosa. My daddy loved this particular piece and I don’t believe he ever heard me play it before, but there’s a first time for everything and I know he’ll be listening.

And I’ll still be walking my path.

The Last Gifts

They say that confession is good for the soul, so……..

I am re-gifting this year. Actually the items in question were re-gifted to me for my birthday in 2005. They were originally given to my dad for Christmas in 2003. His last Christmas.

Daddy loved to rag on tacky gifts, and tacky gift commercials. Think “Chia Pet”, “Popill Pocket Fisherman”, Ronco, K-tel, etc. OK, admit it, you probably had a K-tel greatest hits LP of some sort if you were a teenager in the 70’s. Anyway, he’d watch the commercials and wonder who in the world would buy such things and then give them as gifts?? Remember “Billy Bass”, the singing fish? Daddy received one of those for Christmas one year. My grandmother gave him a box of junk once, because that’s what he asked for–“Just some junk.” When he was a Boy Scout leader he wanted a “Smokey the Bear” hat, you know, a ranger hat. Grandma got him one, a little plastic yellow one, with the words “Smokey Bear” across the front in red letters. OK, she got him the real thing too, but the look on his face when he opened that big hat box and took out that little yellow plastic hat was priceless.

There were two particular items that confounded his senses in late 2003: the Dawn automatic dish brush, and the Black and Decker automatic cheese grater. According to daddy, these two items had something in common: their purpose was to do something that people were too lazy to do the normal way. Scrub dishes with your hands and a scrubby? Are you kidding me?? Not when there’s a Dawn dish brush waiting by your kitchen sink. Grate cheese, with an old-fashioned grater? No way, you might accidentally grate your fingers and no one wants skin along with the parmesan in their Ceasar salad. And besides, Daddy practically sawed his fingertips off with a table saw once. Every time a commercial for one of these products hit the airwaves, he just had to comment.

So we just had to purchase both of them for him for Christmas. His last Christmas.

I know we got him something else, a real gift. But I don’t remember what it was. Probably something like PJs or slippers or something, since he was spending more time in hospitals by then.

But nothing memorable.

The best gifts should have some characteristic that sets them apart from the ordinary, that will make them memorable.

These are some of my Daddy’s best gifts:

  • When one of his friends turned 50, Daddy borrowed a goat. He and another friend snuck into this man’s yard late on the eve of his birthday, put up signs that said “An old goat lives here!” and put the borrowed goat in the yard. Did I mention that these friends were both pastors at Daddy’s church?
  • In late June of 2004, Daddy was in the hospital at UVA in Charlottesville. He had been incorrectly treated for congestive heart failure at the local hospital and was transferred to UVA in complete kidney failure. We though we were going to lose him then, but he recovered. My mom’s birthday is in early July. From his hospital bed in Charlottesville, he organized a birthday part for my mom. He recovered completely from the kidney failure, and was home in time to celebrate her birthday with her the way he planned it.
  • In October of 2004 Mama and Daddy travelled to his sister’s place on Lake Gaston. My son and I met them there and we all attended the annual celebration of his home town, Skipwith. No, you’ve never heard of it. The real places closest to Skipwith are Chase City, South Hill, South Boston. Skipwith day is always the first Sunday in October. They make huge pots of Brunswick stew. People bring desserts. There’s even a parade, sort of. My mom, my son and I watched my dad yuk it up with folks he’d known his entire life. Both of his sisters were there. They were all together, and it was a sight to behold. It was the last time my son saw him alive. My last face-to-face conversations with him occurred that weekend. He spent time on Saturday relaxing with a book of poetry my aunt had: Cherished Poems that Touch the Heart. Daddy loved poetry and could quote a lot of it. That particular book contained many of his favorites. I remember scribbling down the name of the book so I could get him a copy of it for Christmas. I didn’t get the chance.
  • The day he had his stroke, husband and I didn’t get to the hospital until several hours later. He was conscious but unable to speak. He would hold my hand and then push it away. My mom said it meant “I’m going to be fine. You take care of your family.” Damn good words, though not spoken audibly.

It’s time to head to my mom’s for Christmas dinner. She’s getting some really good gifts: a poem I wrote, pictures of the kids, artistically framed by moi, a tin of homemade preacher cookies w/ a prescription on proper consumption so as not to overdose (cookies made by husband, prescription written by…moi!)

A book of poetry: Cherished Poems that Touch the Heart. 

And a Dawn automatic dish brush, and Black and Decker automatic cheese grater.

Thanksgiving, again

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, again.

We used to go to the beach for Thanksgiving, husband, kids, mom and dad. We’d rent a house and either cook a meal or order one from Food Lion. The last time we went to the beach for Thanksgiving was in 2003, and we took the flu with us. We all had it at one point or another during the week, except for Daddy. He was healthy the whole week, while the rest of us took turns with the fever, chills, headaches, etc. Daddy was looking at real estate magazines, and I think he and Mama might have actually considered selling out and moving to the beach. Since we were all sick, we went out for Thanksgiving dinner, to the buffet at the Lucky Fisherman. We all left the beach a day early because we were sick.

That happened once before, on a trip to the beach for Thanksgiving. We had rented a different house. Mama and Daddy left for the beach before we did, because hubby and I both had to work. When we got to there on Tuesday, Daddy wasn’t feeling very well and he got worse as the week progressed. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner. On Friday morning, I got up to find Mama and Daddy packed and leaving, heading straight for home and the hospital. We thought then that we’d had our last Thanksgiving together. I remember Mama asking me to take a lot of pictures that year, just in case. After they left for the hospital, I felt so lost and confused. We went to a local gift shop and I bought a Christmas present for Daddy, a tide clock for the Cape Fear River inlet, so he’d always know when the tides were at the beach, even when he was home. I think I was gambling that as long as he had the tide clock he wouldn’t leave, and I guess it worked for a couple of years at least.

Daddy died 3 weeks before Thanksgiving in 2004. On the Friday before Thanksgiving my baby boy came home from school and said that someone had found a suicide note in his 4th period desk and he had been questioned about it, but that he hadn’t written it. The following Monday he admitted that he had written it, and my emotions kicked into overdrive. I called my next-door neighbor to ask her about finding a counselor for him and in the process I became completely unglued. My last 2 grandparents had died, both of my in-laws had died, my father had died, and my son had written a suicide note.

And I broke.

My neighbor asked me to let her take me to the emergency room. Husband was two hours away, at a job site. Mom was two hours away, at her home. I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t stop crying. So we went to the hospital. I walked in the emergency room door and the first person I saw, the volunteer working the sign-in desk, was a man from our church. A man who has, and continues to remind me of Daddy. I knew I was in the right place. I spent the afternoon in the ER. Bill, the man from church, came and checked on me several times. My friend Lori, the Parish Nurse from our church, came. (Yes, I belong to a Baptist church w/ a Parish Nurse on staff. Interesting, huh?) My neighbor brought me a teddy bear that travels with me whenever I go on trips now. My husband met the kids at home and took care of them, and we all decided that I should probably stay in the psych hospital.

Only there were no beds available.

So my neighbor had to take me to another hospital in a larger city. I was checked in about midnight, went through a modified strip search, had all of my belongings searched for anything I could use to hurt myself, like the string from my sweatpants. I was allowed to keep the teddy bear, some paper and a pen. I spent the next 3 days at that hospital, and was released on Thanksgiving Day. My mom had taken the kids to her house, so husband and I spent the day doing nothing, just trying to understand what had happened and maybe what was going to happen next.

Now it’s 3 years later, and we’re still trying to understand what’s going to happen next. I don’t work any more, and know that I will never be able to work at the technical level I did before all of this happened. There was long term disability income, but only for 24 months so it’s gone now. We’re trying to stay afloat while a lawyer and the Social Security Administration try to decide what to do with me. There are things that have happened during these past 3 years that I have been able to experience only because of being broken. Good things. Other peoples’ lives that have been changed, for the better, because I was broken. Things can never be the way they were, and I wouldn’t want them to be.

Last night we watched the movie “Evan Almighty”. I remember when “Bruce Almighty” came out, and I saw the trailer for it and thought it would be blasphemous and swore I’d never see it. Then husband and son saw it at the $2.00 theater, and husband told me about it. Yes, it’s childish and silly and vulgar at times, but I like it. “Evan” was milder than “Bruce” and I like it better. The scene where God talks to Evan’s wife in the restaurant resonated with me. If you pray for patience, does God give you patience, or the opportunity to practice patience? If you pray for courage, does God give you courage, or the opportunity to be courageous? If you pray for a closer family….well, you get the idea.

So, what opportunities have made themselves known during these past 5 years? Patience? Yes. Courage? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. Trust? Most definitely, yes.

But I think the biggest opportunity has been…to be thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives.

Because tomorrow something or someone I thought I had might not be here.

It’s the opportunity to be thankful for……today.

Yep, it’s Thanksgiving again. And to those who are part of this life I have, I say “Thanks.”

Blessed BE.


The Servant’s Heart

I’m not quite ready to share my comments from Daddy’s memorial service. Mom asked me to write the obituary for the paper and I did. It’s somewhere in my house, tucked inside a Bible, and I can’t remember exactly what I wrote. But whatever it was, it caught the attention of someone on the staff of the regional newspaper. About 2 days after the memorial service, we received a phone call from the paper asking our permission to publish an article about Daddy. We agreed, several people were interviewed, and here’s what the paper published (with most names changed.)

GE Hughes – “Eddie” to anyone who knew him – was known for his handiness with stained glass and with just about everything else.
One of the very last stained-glass works he made before his death was a gift for his cardiologist: a heart, broken into pieces and put together again with an inscription reading, “To the Heart Mender.”

According to his friends and family, that was just the kind of man Hughes was. Despite his heart condition, which progressed to the heart failure that ended his life, Hughes kept busy doing things for others.

“He really was a great guy,” said John , a friend who met Hughes in church 10 years ago.

“He was my go-to guy,” adding that Hughes could fix anything from “heavy machinery to stained glass.”

Hughes was a tool and hardware supplier, he said.

“He was always scrounging and fixing things up. … He knew everyone from what we would call far Southwest – Carroll County and Lee County – to Lynchburg and Appomattox.”

When Hughes retired, he put his talents to work overtime for his community at MS Baptist Church in Christiansburg.

“He really had a servant’s heart,” John said – a sentiment echoed by Hughes’ daughter, Cielo, who described her father as having a “humility of spirit” and a “servant gift.”

That humility was recognized by those who knew Hughes. His family and friends speak of the quiet manner with which he helped others, and they say his quietly conducted service was an extension of his faith.

“He probably knew more about the Bible than he would let on,” said J.C., a long-time friend who said that Hughes wasn’t the type to “beat people over the head with the Bible.”

He didn’t need to, said J.C. “His actions spoke volumes about who he was and what his faith was all about.”

Evidence of Hughes’ service abounds in his church, where, according to his friends and family, it is impossible to look around without seeing something that Hughes built or repaired. According to his wife, D., near the end of his life Hughes told her, “I’ve left traces of myself all through this church.”

“And the truth,” she added, “is that he left traces of himself in the hearts of these people.”

Hughes was also a greeter at the church, and because of that, he was often the first person a new church member was likely to meet. “He made them feel so welcome and at home.”

Hughes was born in Richmond in 1937 and eventually moved with his family to Skipwith to a small house in a little railroad town in tobacco country no bigger than, as his wife put it, “twelve houses and a post office.” He graduated from high school and became an electrician’s apprentice. When in the late 1950s his company offered him a job to build a hospital in Mount Airy, N.C., he took the opportunity.

It turned out to be one of the most important decisions he would ever make because it was there, at a party a co-worker was having, where Hughes met his wife.

“I really can still remember the very first time I saw him,” she said joyfully. She was only 14 at the time, and he was 18. Eventually they were married – a union that lasted 45 years. They had a daughter, Cielo, and two grandchildren, Clayton, 14, and Katherine, 10.

Hughes’ personality and his faith continued to shine even at his memorial service, due to several of his requests. According to his wife, he had asked the pastors to conduct the service as a celebration. In that spirit, Hughes asked the pastors to wear bright-colored ties. (Cielo adds: There were many ties for them to choose from, all Daddy’s, and the directions were specific: they had to wear one of Daddy’s ties, not one of their own.)

“He loved life. He was always a joy,” his wife said. “I found a jewel.”