Five More Minutes: In Loving Memory of Jody Marie Sanford

We’ve all got that one friend, or even multiple friends, that we feel are immortal. The kind of friends that have been with us through all heartbreak and the joys of life. The highs, lows, and everything included in this rollercoaster ride called life.

I’ve got several friends of that variety, but the one that’s been with me the longest is now at the Right Hand of God.

In fact, eight years ago today, she was called to her eternal home by God. On February 2, 2014, the one that I still consider to be the sister that I never had took her last breath and began that Heavenly journey that she has been on for eight years.

I can only imagine what she has seen over the last eight years in Heaven. I was so blessed to have been able to share 16 years of my life, her entire life, with her.

Although the time we shared together was far too short, we shared a lifetime worth of memories that I’m forever grateful for. Happy memories, sad memories, and everything in between.

By now, you’re probably thinking we had a perfect friendship. But believe me, there were multiple times in those 16 years that we got on each other’s last nerve.

But we never left each other’s side. She got on my nerves some, but I know that I got on her nerves far more than she got on mine.

How do I know that I got on her nerves? Well, if you knew Jody, you know about that side-eyed straight-faced look she’d give. Every time she gave me that look I’d playfully say “What is it Jody? What’s wrong?”

All while continuing to do what got on her nerves, not because I enjoyed getting the side-eyed, straight-faced treatment, but because I knew that it would only be a matter of seconds before she busted out laughing saying “You’re so stupid. You know that gets on my last nerve.” To which I’d pause and say “Yeah, I know. You want me to do it again?” And she’d playfully say, “No, you idiot.”

I’m forever grateful for the lifetime worth of memories that the two of us shared. From the trips to Mardi Gras in Mobile, to spending the summers at the city baseball fields, and everything in between.

On February 2, 2014, I was in the back of the house on the computer at about 4:30 p.m., when mom came running into the room and headed for her closet.

I wondered what she was doing so I asked “What are you doing?” She replied hurriedly “It’s Jody!” I was so confused at this point.

What has she done now? Was it something great, was she in trouble? What was going on? I was completely lost as to what was happening. The next minute my brother comes into the room and takes my phone.

After about two hours, the house phone rings and it’s mom. I pick it up, completely unprepared for what was about to be said on the other end. “Hello?” I said expecting just a normal answer to what was occurring.

I could hear people crying on the other end. Mom replied “Jody’s gone.” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It had to be a prank right?? This just wasn’t possible. I slowly hung the phone up after mom said that she’d be home in a little while.

February 5, 2014 rolls around, the day of the visitation, or viewing as some people refer to it and by this time I had already accepted the role as pallbearer. A role that I wasn’t too sure about taking on, but I knew that she wouldn’t want it any other way.

After all, I’d been with her for her whole life, why not carry her one last time? I wasn’t sure about taking on this responsibility, but I would be doing it the next day at the funeral.

But now, it was time to face my worst nightmare. I entered Thelma Baptist Church, which is about a mile from my house, through the back side door, where I was met by her entire family.

I didn’t know if I had the strength to face what I was going to have to face whether I wanted or not, so her mom and dad escorted me to the sanctuary where the casket was located and her brother and sister walked behind me.

I entered the sanctuary and made a right turn. There it was. There she was. My best friend’s lifeless body laying in a casket. I broke down. I walked up to the casket, leaned down and whispered “You’re safe with me.”

I got there early and sat about mid-ways down the isle. Before long what seemed like a thousand people were showing up in droves to pay their final earthly respects to not only my best friend, but also my very first friend.

The next morning, the funeral was supposed to start at 9 a.m., so I got there around 8 a.m, went inside the sanctuary, sat right in front of the casket and prayed for the strength to get through the day. I can confidently say that I had never heard of an entire school shutting down for a funeral, that is until this one of course.

Afterwards, I looked up and point to the sky and was met with hundreds of hugs from mutual friends that the two of us share. During the funeral the preacher said “Sixteen years…too short some might say, but if it’s a life that was lived and loved, was it really too short?” Those words will always stick close to my heart

That girl loved life. She loved her family and friends, but most importantly, she loved God. She loved hard. You never left her company with the question of “Does Jody love me?” Because she was going to make sure you knew the answer to that question. But if you messed up, or she didn’t like what you did, or how you did it, she was going to give you an earful about it.

She also was a fighter. She fought for those she loved and in turn those of us whom she loved are left here to defend her name and to keep her memory alive.

She stood up for what and who she believed in and you never had to question her loyalty. It was evident as soon as you met her.

As the funeral ended, the funeral director asked the congregation to rise and prepared the casket to be carried out. I stood up, pulled my sunglasses down, even though it was a cloudy day, took a deep breath and grabbed the casket with my right arm.

Once we were out of the church, we loaded the casket into the back of the hearse and I leaned down saying in between tears “This isn’t the end.”

Afterwards I was met with more hugs and words of encouragement to get me through this rough time. At the graveside, I lifted my sunglasses and wiped my eyes with a tissue. Then I was met by more mutual friends that needed a shoulder to cry on, but little did they know, I needed that shoulder to cry on also.

Tell your family and friends you love them, you never know when you’ll see them for the last time. I’d give the world to be able to spend five more minutes with my best friend. Rest In Peace, angel. You are loved and missed more than you will ever know.

Happy eight years, angel. I love you and I’ll see you again one day soon. Until we pick up where we left off, do me a favor and give Heaven some hell.

Friends Forever: Remembering Jody Marie Sanford

24 years ago tomorrow, you saw the world for the first time. Exactly two months to the day later, I was born into the world. Even though it’s almost been eight years since I said “See you on the other side,” It feels like it’s been a lot longer.

A lot has changed in the last seven and a half years, but the one thing that will never change is the love that I have for you. I can only imagine what you will experience tomorrow in God’s kingdom.

A lot has changed since you took the first step on your heavenly journey, and I can’t help but think of how proud you would be of me.

I was so blessed to have you here with me on Earth for 16 years. It may have only been 16 years, but those 16 years hold a lifetime worth of memory. Thank you for everything Jody Marie. Thousands of memories in such a short amount of time.

Memories that I will cherish forever until I see you again. I know you’re looking down on me giving me that stare that only you could give, telling me to “dry it up, you’ll be fine.”

But the truth is, there will never be another person quite like you. Your heart was so pure, your personality was incredible, your smile lit up a room and if only you knew how loved and missed you are by hundreds of people, you would understand. What they say is true, “True friendship goes far beyond the grave.” I’ll love you forever and always.

Happy Birthday, beautiful. Until we meet again, you’re safe with me.

Folsom Prison Breakout: The Dog Named After The Man in Black

Monday was shaping up to be a normal day in my life, I got home Monday afternoon and sat down on the couch and was gearing up to listen to the Braves as they were set to take on National League East Division rival, New York Mets.

I noticed dad wasn’t home, but I didn’t think much of it, I assumed he had simply gone to the store or somewhere like that.

About 45 minutes passed and in comes dad holding a leash, I could hear what sounded like a dog walking. So, I got up from the couch and saw a beautiful black dog in tow with dad.

I asked if the dog had a name, and dad said “No, I don’t think so.” Immediately following that statement, I began to think of a name for my new four-legged friend.

I thought about it all night and all day for the next day and a half, and finally on Wednesday afternoon, as I was looking at my new friend’s shiny black coat.

I’ve always been one that enjoys music, particularly old school country, such as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, etc.

As I glanced at his coat, it reminded me of Johnny Cash’s trademark black attire. I immediately sent dad a text and said “I believe I have a name for him, ‘Cash.’”

Dad then proceeded to walk through the door after returning from the store, and I mentioned it to him again, because I knew that he hadn’t checked his phone yet.

He said “Ask your brother,” so I went to my brother’s room and proposed the name to him and he responded “Sure.”

So, I reported back to dad and he said “We’ll then, his name is Cash.”

As soon as I figured his name out, I turned to Cash and said “Welcome home, you old ‘Man in Black.’”

Ever since then, Cash has stuck by my side, only leaving my side when I go to work. He seems to be warming up at a rapid pace, playing with toys, licking my face, ignoring the pesky Jack Russell we have that doesn’t particularly know what to think of her new “roommate”.

Because Cash knows that she’s harmless, I’ve tried to tell our Jack Russell that Cash is also harmless, but she doesn’t seem to think so.

They say everything new takes time to get used to, but I’d say Cash is getting used to things easily.

He also seems to be glad to finally be free of “Folsom Prison.”

Everywhere I go, I have a little black four-legged shadow now. So, if you see me and you see a black shadow, just know that’s the Dog in Black.