Harwood and Gracie Collins, July 1907 (click for full picture)
When I was in junior high school in Alice, Texas, I spent many evenings across the street at Mama Grace’s house, picking her brain about people and dates and places so that I could fill in all the pertinent details on my genealogical charts. Every time I asked a fact-finding question, she would start into a story, often trailing off into laughter as she recounted precious memories of her childhood years growing up in Cass County, Texas.
It’s hard to believe it has been eight years: November 24, 2001. Sometimes it seems as though it was only yesterday that you left us, Ashley. Then there are moments when it seems that a lifetime has passed since that awful day.
I still miss you like crazy. We’re doing OK, though. You taught us to cherish every day. Most days we remember to do that. You taught us to live life to the fullest, to squeeze every drop of adventure out of every day that God gives us. You showed us that the real beauty of life is living with a complete trust in God. It’s funny how I’ve been a minister most of my adult life, but you figured that out so much better and lived it so much more completely than I ever have.
Horace Bratcher is a dear friend. He has been around nearly twice as long as I have, and he likes to say that he has spent his life “collecting experiences”. He is quite the philosopher, and has spent untold hours at the local Public Library reading voraciously, expanding his knowledge, always looking for tidbits of wisdom that he can incorporate into his already vast storehouse, and can then share with others.
Horace comes by my office nearly every day to visit. He almost always has one of those tidbits of philosophical wisdom to offer, usually accompanied by a story. Horace has lots of stories. I have learned much from Horace Bratcher, from his homespun philosophy, and from his stories. Now, it is time to tell Horace’s story.
Earlier this evening I found myself wandering around Lions Park, the four-field baseball/softball complex where Justin played Little League ball for a couple of years back in his younger days. Susan and I both spent some time on those fields as well, participating at various times on several church-league softball teams.
A few years ago, the City of Waxahachie built a new Sports Complex out on Highway 287 with much nicer, more modern fields and facilities. As a result, Lions Park has become almost forgotten. The fields are in poor shape, some of the fences and backstops have weeds and vines almost covering them, the bleachers have been removed, and the concession stand building is no longer there. I was overcome with a palpable sense of sadness as I stood there taking it all in and reminiscing.
Ashley Jean O’Rear was born on April 27, 1987, in Corpus Christi, Texas. I was 25 years old, Susan was 22, and Ashley was our first child. We were young, and we were so excited to have been blessed by God with such a beautiful child. Ashley was the classic “bundle of joy”. Her presence in our lives would cause us to experience life, and love, and joy from a whole new perspective and at a much deeper level than we had ever imagined before becoming parents. In the words of a song that I wrote in Ashley’s memory shortly after her death, “The day you came into my life, my world began anew. I didn’t know that love could run as deep as I love you.”