Being thankful for the wonderful people in our lives

By EDRIE ROYALS,

Some people come into our lives, offer us unqualified love, and we are never the same. They see the good in us, overlook our faults and forgive our failures. 

During this season of Thanksgiving when we pause as a nation and as individuals to thank God for our blessings, my thoughts return again to those good souls God placed in my path who made the difference in my life’s journey.

I remember one.

His face was framed in an abundance of jet black, wavy hair which toward the end became the hallmark gray of advancing years. His eyes were his mother’s—greenish brown. “You have my cat eyes,” she often told him.

His demeanor was serious, reflecting the birthright that was his. His life neither taught him how nor gave him time to relax and play; he was not granted the privilege of letting go.  He had to be, and he was, responsible. His purpose always was about taking care of others, mainly his mother and sister. 

From an early age he experienced chronic illness, a cross he bore without complaining. He refused to be defined by infirmity. He was not blessed with wealth or a stable family. He grew up in a single-parent household long before the phrase was in common use. He experienced up close the ravaging effects of alcoholism in loved ones. He bore his heartaches privately.

In spite of, and perhaps because of, the adversities, his life became a success story.  He was determined to change the narrative of his circumstances. He especially wanted to create a better life for his mother and sister.  He knew failure was not his option. Neither a safety net nor a fallback plan existed. Making everything better was his to do. He accepted the challenge, and his motivation carried him far.

He worked his way through Mississippi State University holding three jobs simultaneously. He began his career in the manufacturing world and rose to leadership positions in his beloved Mississippi Delta and in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Toronto and London. He also acquired significant real estate holdings and was elected to the Mississippi State Legislature House of Representatives where he served for six years. He gave freely of his time to professional and community organizations and served on the boards of many.

In 1976, he had surgery to replace an incompetent aortic valve. The procedure, at that time in medical history, was a few steps beyond experimental. In the moments prior to going to the operating room, he reached for his sister’s hand and said, “If I don’t make it, Mother needs me and I’m going to take care of her. If I do make it, that will mean she is okay.” Their mother had died two months earlier.

On another occasion, he called her from an out of town business meeting. When he learned she was facing a difficult situation, he decided, without telling her, to leave the meeting and fly to her home. Awakened by a late night knock on her door, she was surprised to see her brother standing there. He wanted to know “everything that’s going on.” When she finished talking, he said, “This isn’t your fault. You can and will handle this.” He believed in her. She stayed the course.

His favorite poem was IF by Rudyard Kipling, and he often quoted,

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds` worth of distance run,

Yours is the earth and everything that`s in it,

And --which is more--you`ll be a man, my son!"

The text of his life was never give up; follow your dreams and reach for heaven even if the odds are against you; face physical illness without complaining; be supportive without creating dependency; and, above all, be committed to family and friends. In the words of  Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7, he fought the good fight and finished the race.

His life on earth ended in 2006; and even though he was a saver and toward the end had bought a warehouse to hold his earthly things, what’s left now doesn’t fill a small closet. He is gone and so are the physical possessions, but his influence lives on in my life. His name was Joseph Anthony George Jr. He was called Joedy. He was one of God’s faces to me. How blessed I was. How thankful I am.

Edrie Royals is a Northsider.

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1. He drove a blue ‘77 Chevy Nova in high school. 2. He played on Jackson Prep’s 1985 and 1986 state championship basketball teams.