Life is Beautiful, Treasure Each Day
Here’s why I wasn’t at the North Carolina Writers’ Network annual fall convention this past weekend (November 20-22) in Asheville, NC.
My cousin, William Bainster Wood Jr. – Chip to the family – died on November 9 at his home in Chapel Hill, NC, after a long bout with cancer. Chip was 60 years old, just a little over a month older than me. A memorial service was held Saturday afternoon (November 21) in his honor, and I will be in Chapel Hill to console family and friends, and to pay respects.
It was a beautiful day, a fitting memorial and wonderful tribute to Chip, who touched many lives in his time on Earth.
Chip and I were not close as adults, really not even as children. My uncle Bill and aunt Ginny raised their family in North Carolina while my dad’s company moved us to Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and then back to Nashville in 1973, where I went to college (at MTSU), got a job (The Tennessean), met Bennie thirty years ago in the fall of 1985 and married her four months later on Valentines Day of 1986.
But Mom, Dad, me and sisters Cheri and Tracey saw Chip and all the cousins, aunts, uncles and other relatives from both sides of the extended family every summer and many Christmases in Greensboro, NC, at my grandparents’ modest but immaculate home, where they raised five sons.
Those summer/winter reunions produced a lifetime of memories for me and the rest of the Wood clan, and we shared plenty of them at the September 2012 Wood family reunion in Elkin, NC. It was the first one I had attended in thirty-plus years; it’s difficult for a sportswriter to get time off during football season.
I admired Chip for the hard-fought battle he waged against cancer, a seventeen-month battle that ended on November 9, surrounded by his family. He was at peace, and so was everyone else, his brother Tim told me. So am I, but I wasn’t expecting his death at the time it occurred. Nobody ever is, even when it appears imminent. We are all on God’s timetable, not our own.
As I said, I was supposed to be attending the NCNW fall convention this weekend in Asheville, a great event where I have made many contacts with fellow authors in my home state, where I have been re-establishing my roots since I chose to go down this life path.
I had signed up early for the convention, but when a couple of Florida newspapers came calling for coverage of a tournament in Nashville that same weekend … well, the money talked. That was November 4, and the deadline to get a convention cancellation refund was two days later. So a decision, not an easy one, had to be made. (Sorry, NCWN president Ed Southern, but I will definitely at the spring convention in Greensboro.)
A couple of days later, it was a grand and glorious Sunday morning in Nashville. Perfect weather this November 8, hardly a cloud in the sky; I remember thanking the Lord for such a beautiful day, not knowing my cousin was spending his final hours on Earth.
I had two events scheduled that marvelous afternoon, and while the Tennessee Titans were upsetting the New Orleans Saints 34-28, I drove to nearby Franklin to greet Sharon Campbell Wilharm and her husband Fred for the premiere of their latest Christian movie “Providence” later that evening at historic Franklin Theater. I was cast as an extra for an extremely small role, and it was a lot of fun shooting the movie and seeing them again that day. I thanked them for allowing me to be a part of their silent movie, and left thinking what a great and wonderful day it was. Unaware my cousin was dying.
From there, I drove up Hillsboro Road and stopped at Miss Daisy’s Kitchen inside Grassland Foodland, where she carries my fictional true-crime thriller Vendetta Stone and the works of other local authors. The grocery store recently underwent a major remodel, and I wanted to check out the display (and also to see if I needed to deliver more books). I did the same at Parnassus Books in Green Hills, and also to tack up a flier about the next event scheduled just an hour later. I never thought once about my cousin Chip or what would be his final hours of life, but I do remember thanking God for his wonder and glory, and for allowing me to partake in all the things I’ve been doing these past three years.
My final stop was at the inaugural Noir at the Bar event at Blackstone Brewery, a fundraiser for the Nashville Adult Literacy Council. I was one of five local authors invited by organizer Kathleen Cosgrove to serve as a co-host, appear on stage in a noir-themed skit and to sell books. As the word “noir” implies, we partied like it was 1949, and invited attendees to do the same. They did, to our delight and everyone else’s. Everyone had a great time, the NALC got some much-needed funds and everybody had a blast. Never once did it occur to me that my cousin Chip lay dying in Chapel Hill. But as I drove home, I did say a prayer thanking God for what had been a wonderful day.
The following morning, I got a text message from another cousin, Rob, informing me of Chip’s death. A memorial service was planned, but he didn’t know when. I made plans to leave for North Carolina that weekend, then got another text message that it will be held this Saturday, November 21.
That meant calling the sports editors in Florida and letting them know about the change in plans, that I would be unavailable to cover the tournament for them. They understood. “Family first,” one emailed. And so, I won’t be at the writers’ convention, nor will I be playing sportswriter again. I will be joining friends and family to say farewell to Chip’s time on Earth. There are no goodbyes, and we’ll all see each other again. This I know.
Shortly after learning of Chip’s death that crisp Monday morning, I had one final thought about that Sunday, and just how beautiful a day it truly was. Chip was going home; his burdens had been lifted.
This Saturday – whether it’s rainy and cold or breezy and sunny – will also be beautiful.
Rest In Peace, Chip.
As always, thanks for reading.