Three Years……

I still find it hard to believe that my daddy has been gone three years…. three years today.  He lived a full life and I thank God for the example he provided me and all those who knew him.

I miss him every day, but know he is in a place of eternal joy.

In many ways it seems like just yesterday since he left us, in others it seems like a lifetime.  It is good to know he still sits firmly in my heart each step of the way.

This is one of my favorite photos of the two of us, it was taken at my nephew Zach’s High School graduation and he still has that twinkle in his eye.

The words below are the ones I spoke at his funeral, they are as true today as they were then.

 

 

Ray Rumsey

Many of you knew him as Coach or Papa Ray.

Those who have known him since childhood knew him as Ray.

For his family.  He was known as Uncle Ray and to a lucky pair as Gaggy.

For me he was always daddy.

On behalf of my family, I want to thank you all for coming today as we honor Coach, Papa Ray, Uncle Ray, Ray, Gaggy and Daddy at this home going celebration.

If I am honest, I have to admit that as a child I was jealous of many of you.  Those he coached and taught were always part of our home life.

If I am honest, I must admit often times I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like sharing my daddy with all of you.

But as I grew older, I realized some people just had more love to give and he was one of those people.

He had enough love to give us all and I eventually realized I was the fortunate one.

I remember the day our relationship changed; from loving each other to making sure we knew we loved each other.

I always knew he loved me, but as much as we know it, sometimes a simple gesture solidifies those feelings.

After I left home and went to college I called home one day.  To be honest, I called home MOST days, but this particular day was different.

Long before cellphones, I would call home and mama and daddy both had a phone beside their chairs.  Mama and I did most of the talking and then at the end daddy would always ask me “how’s your little car?”  My response was the same every time, fine.

Then mama would say we love you and they would hang up the phone.

One day I called home and daddy answered.  I asked where mama was and he told me she was not home, so for a couple of minutes we tried to carry on a conversation until he asked the question he always asked, “how’s your little car?”  Fine.

Then everything changed……, “alright buddy, your daddy loves you.”  and from that moment on, I never hung up on a call, walked out of a room or left the house without hearing my daddy say those words, “alright buddy, your daddy loves you.”

It also changed for me; I never left his presence without saying it back.  I love you too daddy.

Years later, mama sent me an article she had clipped from Reader’s Digest.  It was about how fathers and sons express their love for one another.  One of the examples cited was when a father asks his son about his car.  Little did I know, but my father had been telling me he loved me all those years, it just took Reader’s Digest to point it out to me.

My daddy had an amazing life.  A couple of weeks ago he told Sam and me he wouldn’t change a thing.  I believe him.

As a teacher he taught more than a text book ever could.  Daddy would hold court with his students. American Government was the subject, but life was the lesson.

I remember the very first test I took in my daddy’s class.  We used those scantron forms that you would fill in the bubble for a true / false question.

The tests were designed to run through a machine to electronically grade, but for some reason daddy would pass out the scantrons and we would go question by question through the test.

The very first question of the very first test in my father’s American Government class was…..  In the United States court system a defendant is guilty until proven innocent.

Daddy went into one of his animated dialogues about of course this is false as anyone knows that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.  And then he said it…..  did anyone miss this question?

Lane Pritchett, my nemesis since elementary school raised his hand and without skipping a beat said “your son.”

My heart sank and I got one of those looks that you didn’t want to get from my daddy.

Just a look that will shut it down, no words necessary.  I felt about 2 inches tall.

That night when we got home, daddy called me downstairs.  All he said was, don’t rush through everything, slow down and understand what you are being asked, it’s not about finishing first, it’s about doing your best.

End of discussion…. Life lesson learned.

As a coach, my daddy taught his teams not to leave a team member without backup.  Every good teammate watches over those on the field with them and makes sure to cover for the opposition.

A couple of years ago, daddy got really sick.  We almost lost him.

He was in North east Georgia Medical Center and several times we didn’t think he would make it out.  When he turned the corner and started to make a recovery, we needed to move him to a rehab center to continue his progress.

Unfortunately insurance reared its head and we were being pushed into directions we didn’t want to go and we didn’t feel were best for daddy’s ultimate recovery.  The doctor’s agreed with us, but as often is the case big insurance decided they knew better.

Well, they thought they knew better until they met the team of Ray Rumsey.

Sam turned me loose on Facebook to fight and with your help we fought hard.  We let my daddy’s story get out onto the internet and you helped push it.

Someone even got us the phone number for the President of daddy’s insurance company and from what I understand he had many, many….. many messages left on his line.

We fought and in the long run, we won.  Together we all covered our teammate, we held off the opposition and daddy got the care he deserved.

I have never publically been able to tell you all thank you for what you did to help daddy and our family through that time, but your loyalty, friendship and love carried us, just as it has through this final journey.

The people of Rabun County, both living here and around the world, have carried the Rumsey family on many occasions.  You have made sure to block for us when it was needed, to cover our backs and provide defense.

Lessons my father the coach taught, a life lesson learned.

Two weeks ago as we sat in North East Georgia once again, we knew that we were moving towards the end.

One afternoon my cousins Puddin and Jeremy, our friend Andrew, Sam, Donna, Chelsea, Zack and myself were all in the room and daddy was sitting up holding court.

He told us stories we had never heard before.  Stories of his time as a kid running the streets of Toccoa.

He talked about being a boxer and about his friends growing up.

At one point, with us all hanging on every word, he stopped.  He looked around the room and smiled.

“This is all you need, look at the love” he said.  Nothing is as important as love and this is all I need.

I think my father epitomized a life of love every day.

From every Coach loves you, ……boy you are ugly, ……have a good day, …….give Ray some sugar and your daddy loves you, my father has epitomized love his entire life.  A life lesson we can all carry with us.

A life of love, a life of coaching a life of teaching… a life of lessons all led to a great life.

There were many great days in my father’s life.  The day he met a young girl sitting on the wall at the old Toccoa High School who would one day become his wife.

The day his first and second sons were born and that special blessing, on his birthday, when the perfect child a baby boy named Ken was born.

The day he led a weaker, smaller team to victory over his alma mater.

The nights on the sidelines and the Saturdays in Sanford Stadium cheering for his beloved Wildcats and Bulldogs.

One day, Sam brought a girl home, Donna, that was a good day, a day he would always look back on as one of the most important for our family.

The day Chelsea Leigh Rumsey was born, his first grandchild and a girl who wrapped him around her finger with her first breath that was a great day.  And the day Zachary Bo Thomas Rumsey came on the scene his joy was complete.

All these days were good days, travels across the country in an RV.  Finding any and every opportunity he could to embarrass his sons, all good days.

Daddy had a life filled with good days and he shared them with each of us.

Recently my Pastor was preaching a series entitled “This I Believe.”  Over six weeks we discussed the Holy Trinity, Baptism, the Virgin Birth and others.

The final week’s lesson was “This I Believe…. Heaven.”  I knew this was an important sermon for me to hear.

My Pastor talked about heaven and how we would reunite with those we have loved through the course of our lives.  But what hit me most during the sermon was how he wrapped it up.

My Pastor said.  If you know Jesus, the day you die will be the best day of your life.

Through all the football games, and trips and embarrassing stories, the births, the falling in love and celebrations, my daddy had not even come close to the best day of his life.

My father, because he knows Jesus, just enjoyed his greatest day, one that will live on into eternity, the day he went home to meet the Lord.

In my mind daddy’s entry into heaven was like one of those flash mobs you see on YouTube, a big welcome home party.  I envision my daddy walking into heaven and being met by the Lord with Chris Mance as his tour guide.

Mance is there to welcome him on behalf of all those he loved.

As he walks along the streets of everlasting life, he sees friends new and old.  From his childhood and adult life.

Cucumber Hendricks, Ricky Crumley, Claudia and more are all there to welcome him.  Newt, Gracie, Family, both distant and close, his brothers Lloyd and Roy,  and their families, Granny Rumsey and Ben, they are all there to welcome daddy home.

And then the ultimate reward.  I envision my daddy reunited with our brother Tom and my mama, the very best day of his life.

He was a teacher, a coach, a lover of life and for me, he was my daddy and I look forward to the day, my best day, when I hear him say, “welcome home son, your daddy loves you.”

Wildcat Pride

My family moved to Rabun County in the summer of 1964, I was only a few months old when we settled here.

We moved to get closer to family who lived in Toccoa and for my father to become Assistant Football Coach at Rabun County High School.

Since those days in 1964, I have been a Rabun County Wildcat.

Wildcat football has always been a mainstay in our house, Fridays revolved around home or away games and weekday afternoons around practice.

Both of my brothers played football, I didn’t, but the passion for the Wildcats runs deep in my soul.   Even when I moved away, I was still a Wildcat.

I am a Rabun County Wildcat, followed by a Georgia Bulldog, and then no one else.

Over the years we have had some good teams and we have had some really bad teams, but the community has always stood behind our beloved boys in red and white.

Today I see the children, and in some cases, the grandchildren of the boys in red who put it all out on the field when I was in school.

When I moved back to Rabun, I got back into the swing of following the Cats.  Football is a passion in our community and the whole town gets behind the team.

I started attending home games to cheer on the team and to see friends I hadn’t seen in many years.

Rabun County Football is a lot different from it was when I was in high school.

Today it has a college atmosphere with music blaring over the loud speakers, tail gating prior to the game, a student body that is actively involved in the game, a stadium store and awesome tributes to the people who came before and members of the community who have given back.

There have also been a number of new traditions that have been created over the years.  The Wildcat “rock” that every player, coach and student touches entering the stadium.

The “cat walk” where fans, family and young kids greet the players as they enter the field of competition and “ringing the bell” after every Wildcat win.

Over the past several years that bell has been run a lot.

A couple of years before I moved back to God’s Country, one of the stars of my high school years was hired as head coach.

Coach Lee Shaw has brought a whole new attitude to Rabun County High School football.  From day one, Coach Shaw made our team believe they could beat anyone, he instilled discipline, pride and brotherhood into his players and it has paid off.

The players that represent Rabun are undefeated, on track to win their 4th straight Region Championship, they are ranked #4 in the State and are marching towards an historic season.

More than the wins on the field, these student athletes are just plain and simple good kids.  They go out of their way to encourage their teammates, they are role models for the little boys and girls who idolize them in the stands and they respect the history of Rabun County athletics that went before.

The players, coaches and staff that marches onto the field as a brotherhood each week represents us all well.  Their actions on and off the field make us all stand a little prouder.

This year’s Rabun County Widlcats are quickly moving towards a historic run and no matter where the season ends, the 2017 Rabun County Wildcats already hold a special place in the pages of RCHS greatness.

To this year’s Rabun County Wildcats, I say thank you and keep sharpening the sword towards your date with destiny.

 

Thanks to Von Watts for the photo steal.

Dished

These dishes were my grandmothers.  She called them her “evaday” dishes, not everyday, but “evaday”.

When my grandmother passed away my mother took them.

They have been in my parents kitchen since the day my mom took them home.

Last Friday my niece called to tell me she was redoing her kitchen, she said, “do you want these,” before the final word was out of her mouth I said YES!

It’s not that I need the dishes, I have my own.  I have my own “evaday” dishes, two sets in fact, I have my grandmother’s china, I have Christmas dishes, I have more dishes than any one person needs.

I didn’t need the dishes, I needed THOSE dishes.

You see, those dishes represent much more to me than a plate to put food on.  Those dishes represent memories of the two women I loved most in this world, my mother and my grandmother.

The set isn’t perfect, there are some chips and there are six sets of some, four of others and seven or eight of others, but to me, this is a perfect set.

I remember sitting with my grandmother at her kitchen table, mornings when it was just the two of us.  She would drink her coffee and in a matching cup cover the bottom with a few drops of that decaf and fill the rest with Pet milk for me. Over our morning coffee we would talk.

These same plates served our family countless Sunday dinner’s as we crowded around my grandmother’s dining room table.

Fried chicken, chicken casserole, ham, turkey, fresh vegetables from my grandfather’s garden and dessert, my grandmother always made dessert!  But it wasn’t so much about the food, it was more about the family time we shared there.

When my mother took the plates I had already left home, but for years mama would set the table with these plates.

Over the years we have eaten everything on these plates, but the plates really don’t matter, it is about the memories that were created at the tables where they were used.

Memories of family times, times that included laughter, tears, arguments, debates, deep conversation and lots of love.  Like the simple design featured on the plates, we bloomed at those tables where we came together to eat, we grew strong and in our own ways beautiful.

I’ve now washed the plates and will put them in a cabinet in my kitchen.  I don’t plan on using them, it is just comforting to know they are here.

I have a feeling on one of those days when I am desperately missing my mom or craving one of those conversations with my grandmother I will pull one out.

I’ll place my meal on the plate and I will remember and I’ll feel closer to the two women who helped to shape my life and made me appreciate the simplicity of a plate and the incredible gift of the memories they represent.

Life’s Playlist… Home by Phillip Phillips

Tonight is my High School’s Homecoming game.

Decades later, the game doesn’t hold the same excitement as it did when I was in High School but Homecoming has a whole new meaning.

I never truly appreciated how special “Homecoming” was until I moved back to God’s Country two years ago, it really is a celebration of everyone who came before, those of us who helped make Rabun County High School what it is today.

It’s special to see people who worked at the school when I was a student still there and my former classmates now leading new generations through their youth.

Tonight I will don my red and white and cheer on the Wildcats.  The crowning of a new Homecoming Queen will hold special meaning to the students and all of us “old-timers” will cheer on the future while reflecting on the past.

Have a great Homecoming Rabun County High School, the memories you make today will carry you into your future!

Family Reunion – We’re Going to the Elk’s Lodge

Next weekend my extended family on my mother’s side will gather together for a long planned reunion.

Cousins that I haven’t seen in many years will gather from around the country.

Unfortunately due to other commitments many of us will not be able to attend, but when I think about these events, my mind is taken back to the “Elks Lodge” in Elberton, GA where we gathered many times in the past.

Today, I hope you will enjoy a remembrance of those days that I wrote back in 2009.

For my family that will gather and those of us who can’t, I love you all and send prayers and blessings your way.

We’re Going to the Elk’s Lodge

My family is big on tradition. We follow the same routine for Christmas, birthdays were always a big deal, Thanksgiving dinner has been the same since I was a child and today I cook the same meal in my own home. I love the traditions that were set forth by my parents and in many cases their parents before them.

One such tradition was the Clark Family Reunion in Elberton each summer. Elberton is about an hour from God’s Country, but it is where ma-ma and her brothers and sisters grew up. Known for its granite businesses, Elberton is a big producer of tomb stones. (Somebody has to do it!)

Ma-ma came from a big family and each year the descendants would descend on Elberton, The Elk’s Lodge to be exact and reunion.

Going into reunions I was never excited. As the youngest of the grand-children I didn’t have a lot in common with my cousins. More precisely I was closer in age to many of the second cousins, which kept me in limbo. I was too young to hang with my peers and the younger kids were too young to do much, which left me clinging to ma-ma and mama most of the day.

Reunion would begin early in the morning. These gatherings were pot luck, so mama would get up early and start putting together her contribution for the meal. With mama’s penchant for extreme cooking, she would usually prepare enough for a small army, when it comes to cooking for groups she has never understood the concept of everyone bringing something, she always wants to make sure there is enough just in case someone isn’t able to bring their share.

Daddy wasn’t much into these family reunions, but he would always go and put on a happy face. By the end of the day, daddy would be in full spirit and entertaining the masses with his stories.

By the time mama was finished preparing her dishes the four of us would load up the car and start our trek to ma-ma and gramps house, about 30 miles away. Like mama, ma-ma would over indulge in the cooking department as well. There was always homemade chocolate cake, usually fried chicken, okra, corn from the garden and peas. Ma-ma would prepare for days for the reunions, these events were what she lived for. Getting together with her brothers and sisters and showing off their families.

Sam and I would always get a lecture in the car. No fighting and be on your best behavior, we were NOT to embarrass ma-ma in front of her family.

Off we would go, gramps, daddy and me in the front seat, ma-ma, mama and Sam in the back. Dressed in our new reunion clothes, a Bonneville filled with enough food for a third world nation and two kids threatened within an inch of our lives to behave.

Elberton is about 30 minutes from ma-ma and gramps house, not a far journey, but when it is made in a car that is over packed and over stuffed by six people in dress clothes on a summer day with the sun beating through the glass it isn’t always a pleasant trip. By the time we reached Elberton, we were all ready to get out of the car and stretch our legs.

Family reunions were held at the Elk’s Lodge, a rustic old building just off the main road. Without fail, the first person we would always see standing out waiting for the family would be Uncle Chester. If gramps would have had a twin it would have been Uncle Chester, although they were only related by marriage the two men were the mirror image of each other. Tall, lanky, distinguished southern gentlemen of few words, impeccably dressed with a sly smile and twinkle in their eyes. Gramps and Uncle Chester were the kind of men people gravitated to, not to be entertained but to learn from.

After the parking lot greeting, Uncle Chester would help us unload and move into the Elk’s Lodge. The interior of the lodge was exactly what you would imagine, one big open room with a kitchen in the back, a large rock fireplace, linoleum floors and dark stained panelling.

Aunt Laura Bea would be busily working when we came in. Setting up the buffet with her load of food big enough to feed an army, she would stop the pace of activity just long enough to greet us all with a hug and kiss, always stating what fine young boys Sam and I were.

Like ma-ma, Aunt Laura Bea was short in stature but big in personality. Like ma-ma, immaculately dressed and with a quick catch up story of where all her family was, what time they would arrive and who was bring what. Between ma-ma, Aunt Laura Bea and mama, the buffet was arranged and in place before anyone else could arrive to help.

Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, the other families would arrive. Our glamorous Aunt Frances and her family from South Carolina, the Virginia Clark’s and the Maxwell’s.

As the families arrived and the buffet grew to embarrassing proportions the sounds of laughter would echo through the Elk’s Lodge. Cheeks were pinched, kisses exchanged, hugs enveloped us all and the Clark Family Reunion would be in full swing.

Like other traditions passed down from generation to generation, Uncle Chester would round everyone up when it was time for the feast. Families would encircle the room, all holding hands and Uncle Chester would bless the meal.

Mealtime would find one big family, all mixed together around long tables in fold up chairs, enjoying the foods of our ancestors and recipes from the current Southern Living magazine. Laughing, joking, catching up and reminiscing about the years past and ancestors lost.

After grazing for what seemed like hours, the families would then move to the front lawn, games were played, conversations took place and pictures were taken. Instamatic cameras would be pulled from every purse in the crowd and every configuration of family was photographed. First cousins, second cousins, immediate family, family with grand parents, grandparents with children, grandparents with grandchildren…. pictures, pictures and more pictures. Creating memories that would carry us through to the next year’s reunion.

After a long day, after the last picture was taken, the lodge was cleaned and the last hug exchanged we would once again pile into the Bonneville. Stuffed bellies and empty dishes but most importantly complete, filled with shared moments, family traditions and the love of extended family.