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.

Hank Aaron: A Man Character, Integrity, Tenacity, and Fortitude

There are no words to adequately describe the man that was Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron. I don’t say that lightly. You see, it was nearly a year ago, that we lost a great man, a noble man, a man of the highest character, integrity, tenacity, and fortitude.

When Hank Aaron, a black man from Mobile, Alabama, passed away on January 22, 2021, we lost a man whom, so bravely stood face-to-face with social injustice in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s.

We lost a legend, but Hank Aaron didn’t care about his statistics, his fame, or what people thought of his career, he was more concerned with seeing that people were treated with the same amount of respect. He was an advocate, a servant, a legend, and an icon in every sense of his being.

He was and is highly revered in the baseball world, just as he deserves to be. Now, I never had the distinct honor of talking to Mr. Aaron during his 86 years of life here on Earth, but from what I’ve read in articles and books, he never wanted to discuss his historic 23-year Major League Baseball career that saw him break Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 714 home runs by sending a ball into the left-center field bullpen at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium at 9:07 p.m., eastern time on April 8, 1974.

He was more concerned with discussing how you were, discussing your needs, and wants. He never was self-centered at all. Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper Jones once said “When Mr. Aaron walked into a room, the crowd got quiet, when he spoke, you listened. But when he made himself available for conversation, you approached him, shook his massive hand, and heeded any advice he offered.”

The baseball world definitely hasn’t been the same since Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away just shy of a year ago because we’ve all felt the void that the absence of such a noble human has left in our hearts. I never got the chance to speak with Mr. Aaron here on Earth, but when my name is called one day to head to that big baseball stadium made of gold in Heaven, you can rest assured that I will approach Mr. Aaron and tell him just how much he means to not only me but to the baseball world in general.

Afterwards, if Mr. Aaron has any advice on how to hit 755 home runs, I will sit back and enjoy his company. Rest In Peace, Hammer. I l love you, brother.

Source (USA Today)

Virtual Grave Tour to return New Year’s Day

I’ve always had a love for cemetery. There’s just something peaceful about them. Most people see them as a place where one only goes when they die.

They see cemeteries as cold, dark, gloomy places of mourning and sadness. But to me, cemeteries aren’t all cold, dark, gloomy places of mourning and sadness. They aren’t places where one should only go when they die.

In fact, you can learn a lot just by going and walking through a cemetery and looking at the dates on the headstones, thinking about what all the people lived through and what they saw during their time here on Earth.

I’ve lived across the road from a cemetery all of my life. The graves in that cemetery range from 1863 up until 2010.

When I was a young boy, about 9 or 10, my brother and I, along with our friends would go up to the cemetery at night and play hide and seek with flashlights so that we could see and avoid disrespecting those that were peacefully sleeping at our feet.

So, I’ve always loved the history that cemeteries hold and the stories that are told by the dates on the headstone.

Stories of heart-ache, heartbreak, loneliness, illness, wellness, happiness and sadness. But above all, stories that in a way, make you feel a certain connection to the people that have walked the land before your time. The rich and poor, the old and the young, the famous and the ordinary, their stories all differ, but they’re all the same in a way. They’re all human just like you and I.

I say all of that to say this on January 1, 2022, the Virtual Grave Tour will return to a cemetery near you, wherever you may be, the Virtual Grave Tour travels all over this great land, from California to Florida and anywhere in between.

Come along won’t you? Relive and remember history one grave at a time.

For His Glory: 24 Years of Defying Odds

In the beginning of my life, it wasn’t easy for me. In fact, things were a bit rocky for me. At six weeks old, I was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy.

After that, it was discovered that I had developed gangrene and doctors and nurses in Birmingham, Alabama’s Children’s Hospital of Alabama, where I spent most of my infancy, gave me little to no chance of living outside of the four walls of that cold, dark hospital.

I was clinging to life at this point. Things weren’t looking great. In fact, they weren’t looking good at all. A short time after that, my small intestines ruptured and I had suffered a stroke and multiple surgeries.

The medical staff at the hospital had all but thrown in the towel on my life, when little did they know that I was just getting started. it’s so hard for me to believe that on Sunday, December 12, 2021, I will celebrate my 24th year of life on this Earth. It seems like just yesterday that I was in and out of hospitals almost every day having some sort of surgery.

I’ve also suffered from seizures in the past, but thankfully I have been seizure-free for more than eight years. 

I don’t share this story as a pity on me, nor do I share it for sympathy or attention. Simply put, I’m sharing my testimony to tell you that you never know what people are going through in their lives. Often times, they don’t talk about it because it’s too tender of a subject for some.

As for me, I’ll gladly open up and share my testimony with anybody at any time in any place because I hope my story leads people to have a greater relationship with God. If it weren’t for His Glory, I wouldn’t be here right now. But thankfully, He had greater plans for me.

People are often battling things that we know nothing about. Be kind and always live for His Glory.

God Bless,

Braxton Parmer.

An Open Letter to Charlie Morton

As many of you are aware, the Atlanta Braves are in the World Series for the first time since 1999. To put that into perspective, most of this generation’s Braves fans weren’t even alive. As for me, I was alive, but barely.

I say that to say this, in my 23 and a half years of life, I’ve seen tons of baseball. I’ve seen many unprecedented moments in the sports.

Last night during Game one of the World Series was absolutely no exception. Jorge Soler became the first player in Major League Baseball history to homer in the first at-bat of Game one of the World Series and so much more.

But the thing that stood out to me the most was the guts and grit of Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton. In the second inning, he took a 103 mile-per-hour batted ball off the right leg.

He went on to finish the inning, in which he throw ten pitches and came out for the third inning and threw six pitches before exiting the game with a fractured right fibula. Meaning, he threw 16 pitches while pushing off on a broken leg. Tears filled his eyes as he was helped off the field out of the dugout.

You could tell that he wanted to be there for his teammates.

Dear Charlie Morton, you came through in the clutch for us all year long, especially in times when we needed it most. You gave us all something to be proud of. You gave us your all every time you stepped on the mound, no matter the situation and there’s nothing more that we as fans could ask of you.

We appreciate your toughness, resiliency, and drive to be the best version of yourself every day. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Take the time you need to heal up and come back stronger in 2022.

Thank you again, brother, We love you. We’ll take it from here man. We’ll make sure we pick up where you left off.

Thank you for everything this year, Charlie. See you in 2022 brother.

September 11, 2001: The Day the World Went Dark

20 years ago tomorrow, the world was shaken by the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC and a field out in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where a hijacked plane went down in a blaze. When 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group known as al Qaeda hijacked four aircrafts and carried out the gruesome events of that day. Two of the planes were flown into the Twin Towers, a third hit the Pentagon, and a fourth went down in that Pennsylvania field.

These events we will never forget. These events are forever burned into the memory of millions of Americans. That day, almost 3,000 American heroes were killed tragically in the events of September 11, 2001.

On September 11, 2001, at 8:45 a.m., what seemed to be just an ordinary Tuesday morning, turned into anything but ordinary when an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. A blazing, gaping hole was left smoldering near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly claiming hundreds of lives and leaving hundreds more in danger. 18 minutes later, a second 767 Boeing— United Airlines Flight 175 — sliced its way into the south tower.

Out in Washington, DC American Airlines Flight 77 circled over Washington, DC before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon military base at 9:45 a.m. Fuel from the Boeing 757 caused an awful fire that led to a structural collapse at the Department of Defense.

125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, along with 64 people aboard the airliner. At 10:30 a.m. the north tower collapsed 2,763 died at the World Trade Center including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City Police Officers and 37 Port Authority police officers. 2,996 lives were claimed that fateful day.

I was only 3 years old in 2001 but I miss the way things were on September 12, 2001. Not because of what happened, but because of the way people treated each other. The way the human race came together and mourned as one. The way for just a moment, America truly was suffering from the same thing.

If you lost a loved one on that fateful day or know someone who did, please assure them that their loved one went out a hero. If you survived the attacks, thank you for standing face to face with terror and doing what you could to save those around you.

May we never forget the day the world went dark.

Memorial Day 2021: A Day of Remembrance and Reflection

As humans, we often see Memorial Day as a day to party, a day to celebrate and barbecue. But Memorial Day isn’t about partying, celebrating, and barbecuing, it’s a day set aside each year to remember the selfless, honorable human beings who gave their lives for the sake of their love for this country.

There is no such saying as “Happy Memorial Day.” You see, somebody somewhere across this great country still struggling with the loss of a loved one, a friend, a fellow service member, etc.

Recently, I saw a post on social media asking about a fireworks display for Memorial Day. I thought to myself, “Do they have no idea what the true meaning of Memorial Day is?” It’s not a time for fireworks, it’s a time of reflection, remembrance, and honoring those who never made it home to their loved ones for the sake of the freedom of citizens like you and I.

Tomorrow, as we observe the very somber holiday that is Memorial Day, I ask that you take a moment to pause and remember the many men and women who died protecting this great nation, the ones who came home draped by an American Flag.

If you are struggling with the loss of a spouse, friend, fellow service member as Memorial Day approaches, I want you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

All gave some, some gave all. Love your country, live with pride, and don’t forget those who died.

Success Comes with a Price You Must Pay

Let your losses of yesterday be the fuel that drives you to your wins of tomorrow. Everybody has a past. We all have dark moments in life. We all have faced some type of adversity in life. But the sweetest success in life comes when we find the strength to overcome all the stress and strife.

Life will cut you like a knife, but we were made to heal from our wounds. We were made to stand strong in the faces of evil and stand firm in the midst of life’s many storms.

Life will knock you down more times than I can count, but you’ve got to be willing to get back up and fight back. You will fail more times than you like.

But it’s okay to fail, as long as you retain the lesson from that failure and use it to turn into success. Victory requires countless hours of preparation, heart and dedication.

It’s the will, passion, and desire that creates the separation of the winners and losers in life. If you make your mind believe, your body will follow.

The sour taste of failure can be a hard pill to swallow. But it’s necessary and only those that are determined to overcome setbacks and stomach the harsh reality of defeat fall down constantly, but refuse to stay down.

Success can’t be borrowed, it must be bought. You must be willing to pay the price.

Staying in the Fight: Indians to host Mustangs in Area Championship Thursday

It’s been a long season, one full of ups and downs for teams all over the State of Alabama no matter what the classification might be.

Every team has their high points and low points over the course of a season, no matter what length it is. Wetumpka (20-7) seems to be hitting their stride at the perfect time.

Indians’ third baseman Kyle Morrison stated “This is just another game to me, we have a lot of confidence in our teammates and we know what we’re capable of doing, all we have to do is take it pitch by pitch.”

Morrison also stated “We don’t want to overlook those guys (Stanhope Elmore), they are a talented group and nothing will be easy in this one, it never does. As long as we compete for seven solid innings, we’ll be fine.”

The Indians return to the friendly confines of Bazemore Field on Thursday for a doubleheader against Stanhope Elmore, whom the Tribe defeated 8-2 on Tuesday in Millbrook, Alabama, at Furlow Field.

With the rivalry between Stanhope Elmore and Wetumpka being one of Elmore County’s best, Morrison uses it as motivation every time they take the field donning the black and gold.

“This rivalry definitely pushes us harder to go out there and be our best.”

He also credits the tough schedule that Wetumpka was faced with this year as a stepping stone in preparing for this moment.

“This schedule has definitely prepared us not only for this moment, but also for the playoffs. We have faced a lot of talented teams this year with bright futures and we’ve our share of adversity, but in the long run that’s what it takes if you want to succeed.”

“This season has definitely taught us some lessons that we will cherish for the rest of our lives, we definitely won’t take this opportunity for granted because it could be taken away tomorrow.”

It’s the Indians and Mustangs, Wetumpka and Stanhope Elmore, for the Class 6A Area 5 Championship. First pitch is slated for 4:30pm with a second game to follow if necessary.

The Empty Tomb: The Day Death Lost

Thousands of years ago, long before you and I or anyone living today were ever thought of Jesus Christ defeated death. Long before we were here, He fought a battle that He knew we couldn’t bare.

His body lay in the tomb for three days, for a short time the devil thought he had defeated the Mighty One. The devil was laughing, everything was silent.

But on the third day thousands of years ago, Jesus’ buried body began to breathe, and He rolled that rock away from His Tomb. The roaring Lion declared the grave has no claim on Him.

The grave couldn’t keep Him down and because of that, death has lost its grip on me. The greatest man in the history of mankind had no servants, yet they called Him Master. He had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher. He had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer. He had no army, but was feared by kings. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world. He committed no crimes, yet they crucified Him.

The Cross has spoken, I am forgiven, The Tomb is empty, and the King of Kings calls me His Own.

May we never forget the real reason for this glorious day, the day death lost.

(Picture: Pinterest)