Humble Pie

Humble Pie


lit match and a believer


ImageI am an Army veteran, and one of the benefits of being a veteran is receiving healthcare from the Veterans Administration (VA). On May 7, 2012 I had an appointment at the Birmingham VA Hospital to get my hearing checked. The Sheffield Disabled American Veterans (DAV) have a van that transports vets back and forth from the Shoals to Birmingham, and the day of my appointment I met at the designated spot for a ride. There I met a very old, very distinguished gentleman and we struck up a conversation. We found out that we were both writers, and that cemented our friendship. We chatted nonstop the whole way there and back. I learned that his name was Charles Snell, that he was 91 years young, that he served in World War Two in the Philippines (he said he once had a Japanese bullet bounce off his helmet) and earned a Bronze Star. He was a natural genius when it came to math and electronics, so his career was spent improving early computers, inventing such things as the remote-controlled meter reader device, and top secret programs with a sub contractor of the military developing what was then advanced systems. He told me with pride that he was in the 1988 Who’s Who of California. He was also a painter and a poet. I had not only met a true Renaissance man, but a new friend.

He told me that day that he lived alone in Tuscumbia, that he had lost his license after being involved in a couple of recent accidents, and that he was being fleeced by a neighborhood woman who charged him $20 every time he wanted to go anywhere or have her help him. I drove him home that evening when we returned and found his home to be almost devoid of groceries (he was a small, very gaunt man) and his surroundings somewhat disheveled. It was easy to see that he struggled to take care of himself, but he was fiercely independent. I promised to help him, and in my heart adopted him as my Papa. He said that he had one remaining son who lived in Puerto Rico but that they had a very contentious relationship. Papa said his son wanted him to move down there and live in a nursing home, but he adamantly refused for all sorts of colorful reasons. His son would later tell me that his father had been a strict disciplinarian, and that he had left home as soon as he could and never looked back. The two were basically one insult away from disowning each other.

I began visiting Papa every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, taking him where he wished to go, helping him prepare his meals and chipping in wherever I could. At first he insisted on doing everything himself, and I respected that, but his vision, hearing and coordination was seriously failing, and he knew it, so ultimately he allowed me to help him more often.  I learned that Papa could not paint anymore because his hands had grown too shaky, but the work he had once done was beautiful. He had also written seventeen books but had never tried seriously to get them published. Well, he did have three published, but they were all from vanity presses that charged him hundreds of dollars. Over the next year I personally edited, prepared and successfully published his books (his pen-name is Selrahln Dsomeijda, of all things) and even created a website for him to sell his writings: . We slowly but surely developed a close father-son relationship.

In October of 2012 his son sent Papa and I two tickets to Puerto Rico, and even though Papa didn’t want to go he knew I would enjoy the experience. Once there, I could tell that there were deep scars between them that they did not want to reveal or heal. The visit was strained and muted. Papa and I had more fun on the trip there and back than the two weeks we stayed. His son wanted me to help try and convince Papa to stay, but I couldn’t. All three of us knew it wasn’t going to happen.

Once back, Papa and I settled into our regular routine again. I began to notice that he seemed more tremulous, less sure of his footing. He also became upset easier, his usual political rants became more vehement and he began to complain bitterly about the state of the world. I worked harder during my visits to try and keep Papa from getting into those moods, but it grew more difficult as time went on.

Then late in the evening of February 12th Papa called me and said he had fallen and dragged himself to the phone to call me. I rushed over there and found him still on the floor in obvious pain. As I dialed 911 the fear that he had broken his hip filled me with dread. X-rays did not reveal a fracture, thank goodness, but he was kept overnight for observation. The next day while still in the hospital Papa had an episode of atrial fibrillation and was moved to the cardiac floor. After a week of care he was sent to a nursing facility that also had a rehab dedicated to returning seniors to their homes. Papa thrived there and became able to ambulate with a walker, and between the nursing staff and myself we began preparing for his return home. Two days before his discharge, however, Papa fell and this time broke his hip. The surgery was successful, but from the stress on his body and mind, it was evident he would never return home. Papa agreed to let me be his power of attorney, and over the next two months I worked to have him eligible for Medicaid, which meant jumping over countless hoops, including letting his home go to forclosure and moving all his belongings into my home. When I told his son that Papa had broken his hip, the man said “Just let me know when the funeral is.” I was literally on my own, which was ok by me because I felt it was a supreme honor and blessing to become part of Papa’s life.

Papa’s health continued to deteriorate and he spent about as much time in the hospital as he did the nursing home. Then on Friday, June 14th (flag day, ironically) Papa finally passed away. The hospital said I had to choose a funeral home to pick up Papa’s body, and after consulting a neighbor decided on one, then waited for them until they showed up and took him. I had no experience with after-death procedures, let alone what to do with the reality that he had no insurance and no money. His son would not help, either.

I knew Papa always told me he wanted to be cremated and his ashes spread over his beloved wife’s grave, so I told the funeral home his preference. Later that evening the funeral director called and said that a cremation would cost $2700 up front. I was floored. I am on disability and am barely above to keep food on my table, so the price might as well been two million dollars. I began calling other funeral homes and eventually found one that would cremate Papa for $600 down and $1,300 in payments.  This was a far better price, so I allowed them to bring Papa’s body to their funeral home. Now there was just the matter of raising the money. Without the funds, Papa would be buried in a potter’s field in an unmarked grave. I could not let that happen. Both the VA and Social Security told me he did not fit the criteria for help from them, and the county government said they would normally help defray the cost of Papa’s cremation, but because he had a living relative they would not help.

An old high school classmate, Lea Weathers, told this story to her Facebook friends that weekend, and numerous people pledged to give what they could to help. A woman even said she would donate a burial plot in Roselawn cemetery.  Then Sunday, a love offering was raised by the members of my church for $270. I began to think it might actually happen. I just had to find a way to let these good Samaritans help pay for Papa’s cremation and rescue him from obscurity, knowing that any extra money would be used to pay it forward by helping another indigent war vet whose family might be in the same situation. On Monday morning I went to Compass Bank in Muscle Shoals and was helped tremendously by Ms. Nancy Brakin, who said that while starting a trust fund required a process which took time and effort, I could open a debit account and give it a unique name so that people could go to any Compass bank and ask for money to be deposited. Since it had to have my name, I called it the Jay T Harding Papa’s Fund and put the love offering in.

After notifying the others that they had a mechanism to donate, I sat back and waited. That was yesterday (6-17-13). Papa’s body is still waiting to be cremated, and if people are true to their word I will finally be able to honor this brave soul whom I came to call Papa.

I believe no indigent, homeless war veteran without a family should be placed in a pauper’s grave and forgotten just because of money. Organizations like SS or the VA or county governments or funeral homes must have money to grease the wheels of a consumer based economy, but because of this there are men and women that once faced death daily in war to secure our freedoms who are tossed into shallow, unmarked graves all over this nation, and who are simply forgotten. I believe a trust fund can be developed to keep this from happening to our brave patriots; I understand that I may not be able to raise the funds to have Papa’s final request honored, but regardless of whether this becomes a reality for his legacy or not, I want to light a fire in someone’s belly to match mine so that we might be able to save others in the same situation.

By the way, Papa has not been cremated yet. I had to spend $245 of the $270 my church gave me to the funeral home just for transporting Papa’s body from the hospital to their facility. I am $575 away from giving Papa his wishes. Still, his body lays untouched unembalmed.

The Joy of Cheese Cutting

or Tooting Your Own Horn

Our Friend Needs a Light

Our Friend Needs a Light

From my blog “Beast by the Horns”

From Beans on the Grill

Ignorance, Ignorance Everywhere, and Not a Fop to Think

If You Must

To My Readers

For those of you who know anything about me by my writings, I like to push envelopes – majestically.  Whether it is my Christian horror book OOBERS: Kalamazoo, my Golden Vanguard articles, or the usual cynical blathering on my website, you usually find me hanging out on some ledge or another waving an off-color neon flag. I don’t often throw the full weight of solemnity or seriousness because, well, that’s not who I am.  At least I thought that about myself until two things firmly planted themselves into the very essence of my being. You are so dear to me, fair reader, and I am so incredibly grateful for your love and support.  Recently you have noticed a dramatic shift in my writing, and because of this it is important to me that you know and understand the reasons for such change.

On the 22nd of May an off-duty British soldier, Lee Rigby, was brutally killed by two self-proclaimed radical Islamists. The crime in itself was horrific, but when one of the killers – his hands covered in Lee Rigby’s blood and holding on to a meat cleaver and butcher knife – began babbling to a camera about his sick and twisted justification for committing such a heinous act, I noticed in the background a group of spectators milling about taking pictures and huddled together like scared sheep. One woman, pulling a wheeled shopping cart behind her, cut through the crowd toward the blathering killer, glanced over at Lee Rigby’s mutilated body, then walked right by the murderer as if nothing was wrong. I heard the straw snap, breaking the camel’s back; I felt the cup of my outrage running over; I heard the collective cries of every victim of terrorism calling out for justice. In that instant I knew I had to learn all I could about not only the agenda of radical Islam, the atmosphere of complicity permeating the social fabric of the world, and what specifically I could DO to try and turn the tide of our destruction. I’m on that learning curve now, and so far have read, heard and seen things about jihadists that frighten and anger me to my bones. I can no longer stand by and let the atrocities continue without sounding the call to action for all liberty-minded people. Listen, I’m by no means an authority on the subject. You could say I’m in kindergarten when it comes to this.  But I am a writer and a thinker, and I’m determined to use what skills I have to try and wake up as many people as I can before it is too late. I am compelled, I am driven, and I am not going to stay silent any more. Beginning today, dear reader, my writings on this subject will be posted on community walls, the Twittersphere and anywhere else I’m allowed to holler. I’ve created a new blog page called Beast by the Horns which will house these writings. The purpose of this is so I can separate this serious and urgent subject from all my other blathering.

The second, yet far more important force that has taken hold of my life, is the profound influence Jesus Christ has had in my life. In 2005 I was absolutely and irrefutably born again and baptized by the Holy Spirit. This was probably the last thing in the world I had ever considered happening to me, even though I have always been what is called a ‘God intoxicated soul’. I had come to believe that spiritual truth could be found in every religion, that there was as many ways to Heaven as there were people, even that God and Satan (the positive and negative force) was housed in the same divine consciousness. But on that warm summer day at my sister Marie McAbee’s church – the Parkview Baptist church in Tuscumbia, Alabama – I felt the presence of God wash over me like a tidal wave, an undeniable call Home, a complete conviction, a Knowing that Jesus of Nazareth was God-incarnate, that he lived a perfect life and that not only did he sacrifice his life for the sins of the entire world, he actually conquered death and was resurrected after three days and ascended to the right hand of God as part of the Triune Godhead. I became a new creature (“…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17); I became part of the body of Christ and was saved by the Grace of God. My love for God is not perfect, not by any stretch of the imagination, but God’s love for me is perfect, and I have nothing to fear. My constant prayer is simple: *Thank you, Lord, for your beautiful Mercy, for your abiding Grace, for loving me despite the fact that I am absolutely unworthy of it. Thank you for the sacrifice you made for me as the unblemished Lamb of God, shedding your precious blood and in doing so creating the way to salvation if I but believe in you and believe your promises. Please have your way with me, Lord; shape me into a vessel of Your Divine Will.* My dear reader, do not think I will try to shove Christianity down your throat. I believe a tree is known by its fruit. If your heart is open and receptive and softened, you will hear God’s spirit calling you, and your life will never be the same again. (“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” 2 Peter 1:3) I only ask one question of you: Are you at a place in your life that, if death comes for you right now, you are sure you are going to Heaven?  Now, I completely respect your beliefs, and I promise you again that I will not chase after you thumping my Bible and trying to drag you down to the river. If you wish, you may visit my blog page Back of the Choir which will contain my spiritual musings.

Finally, for all of you who enjoy my satirical and off-beat ravings, please feel free to bookmark my new blog page Beans on the Grill. You will not be disappointed, I assure you.

My primary website is still and will contain links to all my blogs and articles, as well as random pictures, poetry and other such literary nonsense.  So there you have it. If you care to read and comment, participate and debate my socio-political spewing, visit Beast by the Horns. If you are led to follow me on my ongoing spiritual journey, visit Back of the Choir. If you just want to be entertained by a semi-senile former hippy, visit Beans on the Grill. Most of all, my friend, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your interest. Don’t forget, you can email me at, you can find me on Facebook or Twitter, Google + or Goodreads. Wherever you visit, you will be welcome. 



Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These are called ‘unalienable rights’ in the Declaration of Independence, and a quick look in the dictionary tells us that ‘unalienable’ is something that cannot be bought or sold.  Unfortunately, not only is there a wolf at the door wanting to take these rights away from us, there is a wolf in sheep’s clothing inside our own house eager to sell the very same rights out from under our noses. These wolves hope that the majority of Americans are so weary and lethargic that the true meaning of these rights have become fuzzy, that they have somehow become abstract and illusionary, that they have become mere words and nothing more. Let’s pull these unalienable rights out from the shadow of neglect and into the light of reason, understand them for what they are, and then look at what the wolves within and without intend on doing with them.

Life itself is the most fundamental of all rights. We could debate all day on the essential right of a pre-birth child to live, but I’m not just talking about the right to stay alive once infused with life.  We could even muse over the philosophical meaning of what constitutes life, but the drainpipe of our conversation would get hopelessly clogged with all those split hairs. I’m talking about the privilege of self-sustainability, the entitlement (yes, I used that dirty word!) to thrive by one’s own effort, to act according to the dictate of his or her own basic needs. Who truly lives when their decisions are made for them, when they are slaves to government or religion, when they are handed what others decide should be adequate for their survival? Just recently in the news a Mr. Michael Cole from Great Britain stabbed his wife to death and then tried taking his own life because they were both on benefits and could only sit and watch TV all day and night. Life is not freedom from frustration, but freedom from despair. Life is not the right to merely have those things that sustains itself, but the right to earn them. We cannot demand that an unborn child live, but we can try to give that child every chance to fight for his own right to live. The right to life means not being deprived of it for the benefit of others.

Liberty is the freedom from being oppressed, particularly by a government or religion. Remember, our founding fathers were breaking free of coercion by the tyrannical rule of King George the Third. The right to liberty, contrary to popular belief, does not mean the freedom from all laws and governance. Liberty is choice, pure and simple. When an institution is allowed to whittle your choices away, your liberty is at stake. Recently MSNBC anchor Melissa Harris-Perry took Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book idea that “It Takes A Village” to a disturbing new level when she said that we need to stop thinking of the responsibilities of parenting as being a ‘private notion’ because (and I quote her here) “These are OUR children …We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents…and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.” The government is currently working on a program that will collect individual databases on all schoolchildren under the guise of helping maximize the individual’s education, but is in essence an effort to gain more control by the state. Fingerprint all the kids, take samples of their DNA, find out what they think, how they feel, and then manipulate them into government drones. Sounds like “A Brave New World,” doesn’t it? Liberty is the freedom to raise your children the way YOU see fit, the freedom to vote for whatever candidate you want without fear of Big Brother giving you a hard time over it, the freedom to live without the daily threat of coercion. Remember the patriot’s call to “Live free or die!” Are you willing to die for your liberty?

The unalienable right for the pursuit of happiness can only be realized when the individual is free to seek his own her own bliss. The pursuit of happiness is the mantra of free enterprise, of entrepreneurialism, of capitalism and the very backbone of healthy competition. The writer Ayn Rand said in her book “Atlas Shrugged” (if you haven’t read it, stop right now before you take another breath, get the book, read it, and then send me a thousand word essay on how it changed your life) – she said “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” The wolf outside and the wolf in your midst wants nothing more than to deprive you of your pursuit for happiness, because when they accomplish that, they will have taken your purpose and with it your will. Barak Obama said “You didn’t make that yourself!” If he succeeds in convincing you of that it will be no great leap for him and others like him to tell you that the pursuit of happiness means your efforts are for the good of the whole, that you should sacrifice your own goals for the collective, that you have no right to succeed when there are others in need. Don’t buy into it!

The wolf outside the door is radical Islam. Its goal is global domination, and it wants you to surrender your freedoms and submit to their oppressive, subjugating and violent Sharia laws. Radical Islam is growing at an alarming rate; it is not shy about telling you what it wants: complete surrender to the will of their god, or death. Pure and simple.  Do not under any circumstances let the petty politics and dramas of the world take your attention off the very real threat they pose to your unalienable rights. Unless you live in or near a country that is under the thumb of these animals, you probably feel sure you won’t have to worry about someone coming along and slicing your head off. Tell that to Lee Rigby’s widow. The wolf is right outside your door, and the wolf inside wants to let it in under the guise of religious tolerance. This sheep-covered danger around you is Progressivism, the steady eroding influence of a socialistic government wearing away at your individual freedoms. It wants to reduce you to a disposable and replaceable gear inside the machine of the collective, much as radical Islam wants to reduce you to a disposable and replaceable slave to the desires and whims of pure evil. Both wolves hate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and together they constitute the vise-like jaws that want nothing more than to crush your freedoms.  Be aware and be prepared, my friends!