What God’s Gonna Say When My Mama Gets to Heaven

 

One day, mama will enter through those the pearly gates of gold

Into heaven and all its splendor as the scriptures have foretold

The angels will see her coming and they’ll run to her and cheer

They’ll lead her to the Throne of Grace and say “Look, Joanna’s here.”

 

God will look up from his work, on his face they’ll be a smile

“Girl, come sit down next to me”, he’ll say. “Let’s talk a little while.”

Let’s take some time and review your life and all that you have done

Let’s recount all of the battles that I’ve fought for you and won.

 

I formed you in your mother’s womb and gave you your first breath

I  watched you grow and protected you from an untimely death

As a child, you and your twin sister had to struggle to survive

It was me who whispered in your ear, “Don’t worry, I’ll provide.

 

At school, you loved to do your work; you took it seriously

And I gifted you especially for math and Chemistry

You wanted to become a nurse, but instead became a wife

I blessed your union and over time you began to birth new life

 

Your duties as a wife and mom became your new career

And you served your family faithfully each and every year.

You trained your children and taught them to obey the “Golden Rule”

And every week you took them to church and Sunday School

 

When your family needed money, you helped and went to work

You used your skills and took a job as a library clerk

But then your husband, Richard, died and that was such a blow

You fell into a deep, dark place; your heart had sunk so low

 

But there’s no place where you can go where I am not there, too

The darkness is as light to me and I have perfect view

I was there, I saw your tears and heard your painful groans

It was me who whispered in your ear, “You are not alone.

 

I helped renew your courage and you again began to run,

the race that I ordained for you and that you had begun

You finished raising your young girls; got remarried to a chef

The two of you looked forward to the years that you had left

 

Your children, now, had children and you were blessed to see

Another generation and grow your family tree

Some grands you helped to raise and rear; helped others when in need,

But you shared your love with all of them and in their lives sowed seeds

 

Then, as time would have it, your sweet, twin sister died

You said goodbye to your best friend and once again you cried

But life continued to move on; you explored a new frontier

And at the age of 65, you started your school career

 

At school, you served the children and the teachers, too

And help them with their lessons and all they have to do

You loved the work you did each day, but I know that you got tired

And many days you wondered if you ever would retire

 

Again, you lost a husband. now, you were widowed twice.

The future seemed so lonely, you needed some advice.

You asked, “What lies ahead? What will my life now be?”

“Don’t worry about tomorrow,” I said.  “I’m your sufficiency.”

 

So you went about the business of completing final tasks

And faithfully you did them well, each thing that I had asked

And just like at the first, I was there for your last breath

It was me who whispered in your ear, “Don’t be afraid of death.

 

When God was finished with his talk, he took mama by the hand

And He gave her a personal tour around the Promise Land

They walked along an avenue, then down a tree-lined street

And came upon a mansion and there they made entry

 

Once inside the house they saw people everywhere

It was a huge celebration; a real upscale affair.

There was music, lots of food, that’s good, ‘cause mama loves to eat

God said, “Come here, Joanna. There’s some people you should meet.”

 

At first, she didn’t see them, she didn’t recognize

The outline of their faces, but then she saw their eyes

It was auntie and my grandma and then my father, too

They hugged and cried, and then they said, “We’ve been waiting here for you.”

 

They talked and laughed for quite some time, but then got up to leave

“Where are you going,”? Mama said. “Take me with you, please.”

Then God said, This house is yours. These people are just guests.

Come, relax, and sit down and enjoy your well-earned rest.

 

Remember how on Earth you said that you wanted a retreat–

How you were sick and tired of having to work all week.?

Well, this is it. Here you are. You have finally arrived.

And I’m giving you a chauffeur, cause I know you hate to drive.

 

Well done, my good and faithful servant. Today, new life begins.

No more struggles. You’re home at last. Now, come and enter in.

 

Embracing the Gift of Singleness

By Deanna Johnson Cauthen

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Some of you may be wondering why a happily married woman of almost 16 years is writing an article about being single. Well, the truth of the matter is, I haven’t always been happily married.  

I will spare you the sorted details, but let’s just say that my first marriage of 10 years did not work out, and at age 30, I was facing divorce along with the daunting task of supporting three young children. I had gotten married at the tender age of 20 years old, so I basically had been in a relationship all of my adult life and the idea of being single was not only scary but repulsive.  After all, who wants to be single, right?

I spent the first several months of my separation dreading singleness and living in denial. I  hoped against hope that things would work out with my former husband. It didn’t. After two years of being separated, my divorce became final and slowly the reality of the situation began to set in.  I was, now, unmarried, and the question became how was I going to handle it?

Well, the good news is that I not only survived, but I thrived during my time of singleness. The very thing that I despised, ended up being one of my life’s greatest gifts because it challenged me to do several things that up to that point I had not been doing.

Below are seven things I learned during my time as a single person. I encourage you to take some time and consider each of them to see how you can incorporate them into your life.
 

  1. I embraced my community.

During the five years that I was single, I discovered that there were a wealth of people who wanted to be there for me. Not only did I have a biological family who cared about me, but I had a church family which loved and helped me in practical ways. I  also began to talk to and form close, meaningful relationships with my neighbors, most of whom were older, and they nurtured me and my children.

Singleness does not have to equate to a life sentence of loneliness and relegate you into the shadows of society. Community is all around you–it’s your family, your church, your neighbors, the lady at the grocery store, the kid walking down the street. And, remember, being in community is a two-way street. It’s not just about getting support. You need to be giving back, as well. Consider becoming a volunteer with an organization. Start reaching out to the people around you and they will reach back.

  1. I engaged my brain and helped myself.  

One of the first decisions I had to make as a single mom was where I and my kids were going to live. I had a little money in savings, and with the help of my parents, I was able to purchase my first house. As a new homeowner, I was faced with fixing and maintaining things on a regular basis. I learned how to paint walls, repair broken window panes and screens, patch holes in the sheetrock, plant a garden, and a host of other things. I also learned how to make a budget and manage the money for my household.

Although naturally independent, up until this point, I had not made many decisions on my own. Because I married so young, I basically went from my parent’s house to my husband’s house. Being unattached was empowering because it forced me to stand on my own two feet and think of ways to help myself. It allowed me to tap into my own strengths, make decisions, and value and trust my own thoughts, abilities, and ideas.

  1. I took the time to address unfinished emotional business.

Singleness gave me the time that I needed to work through some of my own underlying emotional issues. There was a reason that my first marriage failed, and although my former husband had serious issues, I married him, which meant I had issues, too. I had entered the marriage prematurely trying to escape the pain of my past, but the marriage didn’t solve any of my original problems. At best, it served as a temporary distraction.

Being alone can feel scary, but resist the temptation to jump into the next relationship before you’re ready. I know people who have done this and it has resulted in a string of failed unions. Do the hard work required to get healthy. If it means getting professional therapy or joining a 12-step support group, do it. You’ll be glad you did.

  1. I stopped looking for people to complete me.

Here’s a news flash: No one can complete you. Only God can do that and there are no substitutes. Does God put people in our lives who can share life’s journey with us? Of course, he does, but that’s very different from the codependent, dysfunctional relationships that are played out in the media.

A friend of mine, who is also a math teacher, told me something a long time ago and I’ve never forgotten it. She said, A half times another half does not equal a whole, but a quarter.” When broken people get together, it just creates more brokenness.

  1. I found an accountability partner.

Like any good pilot, sometimes you need help navigating the journey of your life. This is where a good friend can be a priceless tool. My accountability partner was the person I went to when I was about to make an important life decision and I needed help applying the practical truths of scripture to the situation. Having this component in place was the single most important element for growth in my life.

The trick is finding someone in your life who is strong enough to tell you the truth when you need to hear it, but gentle enough to provide a crying shoulder, as well.  It needs to be someone who is spiritually mature and someone who has proven themselves trustworthy. Ask God to send them to you. He will.

Let me offer a word of caution, though. Because of the advisory role this person will be playing in your life, there may be a temptation to become overly dependent on them or to put them on a spiritual pedestal. Remember that they are just an instrument of grace in the hands of the Master and that God is the ultimate source for meeting your needs.

  1. I was willing to try new things.

During the five years that I was a single woman, I tried and learned more new things than at any of time in my adult life. In some ways, it was better than a college education.

It was during this time that I purchased and learned how to drive a stick-shift car, change a flat tire, ski down a mountain, and own and operate an office cleaning business. In the end, I discovered that I was stronger and more capable than I ever realized and that I had gifts and talents that I didn’t even know that I had.

I once heard it said, “That nothing beats a failure, but a try.” For those of you who’ve been shrinking back from doing the next thing, stop saying, ‘I can’t’ and get out there and try.

Cosmic Energy Fitness Studio Provides Support for a Stroke Survivor

doreen-ware-picBy Deanna Cauthen

Strokes kill more than 130,000 people a year, according to facts obtained from the Center for Disease Control. A stroke, which is also called a brain attack, occurs when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. 

Recovery after a stroke can sometimes be a long, arduous process and many survivors don’t feel emotionally or physically ready to put on their running shoes and go jogging. However, exercise can be just what the doctor ordered and is very important for preventing a recurring stroke.

 

Such was the case with Doreen Ware who had a stroke in 2013 which rendered the left side of her body immobile. In 2014, after my stroke, I started walking at Northlake Mall,” said Ware. She explained that it was not too long after that when, Cosmic Energy Fitness Studio owner and personal trainer, Patrice Peters, started reaching out to her. 

It’s always wonderful when you see people investing in their lives no matter what form of exercise they choose,” said Peters.

 

Ware shared about how she made the transition from walking in the mall to working out with Peters. “One day, Patrice said, ‘Come on in’, said Ware. I told her, ‘I can’t do what they can do’ and she said, ‘Don’t do what they can do, do what you can do’. She even let me come for free, one day, just to try it out,” said Ware.

 

Ware stated that she began working out at Cosmic Energy Fitness Studio about three months ago and that she and Peters concentrate mainly on exercises that will increase her strength and endurance.

 

“Patrice will modify the exercises and will even get up underneath my left arm to lift it. She’s shorter than me so she, sometimes, has to stand on a chair to help me execute certain exercises. She is very encouraging,” said Ware.

“We set goals and work together to accomplish them. I’ve received her records from her physical therapist and have incorporated some of those exercises into her workout,” said Peters.

According to information received from EverydayHealth.com, exercising and staying physically active will not only help stroke survivors recover quicker, but it can help prevent a second one, because it:

  • Controls cholesterol levels. Keeping your cholesterol level low is very important if you want to prevent another stroke. Exercise increases “good” cholesterol.

  • Fights high blood pressure. By keeping your blood vessels working well, you can fight high blood pressure.

  • Controls weight. Many stroke survivors need to lose weight to reduce their risk of another stroke. Even if you’re already at a healthy weight, exercise will help with weight management.

  • Fights depression. Depression is common after a stroke and can make it hard for you to find the motivation to do anything, let alone get moving. But being physically active fights stress and depression, which in turn reduces your additional heart disease and stroke risk.

 

Ware said that she knows first-hand how difficult things can be after a stroke, but she emphasized that stroke survivors must be willing to play an active role in their own recovery. “You have to get up and try,” said Ware.

Confessions of a Half-Hearted Recycler

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I remember when we first got our recycling paraphernalia from the county sanitation department. Actually, we were supposed to get it five years before, but we didn’t want to pay the materials fee. However, when the county decided to waive the charge, we no longer had an excuse, so we dutifully placed our order and they promptly delivered the items to our front door.

At first, I was excited about recycling (I’m always excited when I get free things)–all those pretty, blue plastic bags and a nice, new bin with wheels and a pull cord, no less. Right then and there, I pledged, to my family and my God, that I would be the best recycler on Pinehill Drive. After all, I am the block captain.

We went straight away to our neighborhood Walmart and purchased two additional kitchen garbage cans, came home and immediately labeled them, “Plastics” and “Paper”. I even led the way and ceremoniously threw the first recycling items into the bins, officially christening them.

I felt a real sense of pride and self-righteousness that first Thursday morning as I hauled our recycling items to the curb. I carefully positioned the bag and the bin at the road and made a point of waving to the neighbors across the way as they left for work.  

Having the recycling bins was a status symbol, of sorts. Hardly anyone else on the street was doing it and I wanted them to see that I, their fearless leader, had taken the first step to making the world a better place to live.

Things were good for a couple of weeks or so, but it didn’t take long for my zeal for recycling to wear off. I quickly realized that recycling was not fun. It was work. I was being forced to think about my garbage. I didn’t like that. I didn’t like that at all.

Before the bags and the bins came, I could walk over to the garbage can, throw my trash away and leave without a thought. Now, I was faced with the task of designating pieces of rubbish to their rightful container. This was an emotional burden I was not prepared to bear.

There have been times when I defiantly threw my trash into the wrong bin, only to return hours later because of guilt, rummage through the cans, remove the misplaced pieces, and deposit them into their appropriate pail. The struggle is real, folks.

Recycling has even changed the way I view my vacations. It used to be that I looked forward to going on our annual family vacations to enjoy the majestic view of the mountains or to hear the soothing sounds of the waves crashing against the shores of the beach. These days, my main motivation for going on vacation is to get away from the recycling bins. It’s the one week out of the year when I’m free to throw my trash in whatever receptacle that I please.

The more that I think about it, the more I recognize that recycling does not fit in with my worldview. By nature, I am a fatalist. Do I really care about saving the earth? Not so much. We’re all going to die anyway. My body will decompose and return to the dust from which it came. That’s a form of recycling, isn’t it? I figure, I’ll just do all of mine on the back end.

So, I’m Not Dying?

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In the beginning, I didn’t know what the heck what happening to me.  I really thought that I was dying.  I mean, at one point, I had taken a pen and paper and was starting to write out my last will and testament.

My energy was gone and I struggled to do even the most basic things.  I was gaining more and more weight.  I had chronic sinus headaches and allergies.  My periods were heavier than ever and I was super anemic.  I was having trouble sleeping and my memory seemed to be slipping.  I was anxious and irritable and depression was starting to set in.  I felt fragile, desperate and very much out of control.

I would feel a pain and run to the computer to see if I could match the symptoms to a disease on WebMD.  There were days when I would diagnose myself with one disease in the morning only to have a completely different problem when my husband came home in the evening. On one particular day, I had Multiple Sclerosis, stage-three brain cancer, and Lupus all within a 24-hour period.  My poor husband didn’t know what to think of me. It was awful.

It took me five long years to finally accept that I wasn’t dying and that what I was dealing with was perimenopause.

Sometimes, I think if I could go into hibernation, kind of like bears do in the winter, and take a break from everything—children, grandchildren, work, church, extended family—  I could wake up refreshed, renewed, and ready for next season in my life. It would be a sabbatical, of sorts. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, that is not going to happen, but at least I know, I’m not dying.

The Real ‘Women of the Year’: A Rebuttal

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By now, you’ve probably heard the stories surrounding Bruce Jenner’s sex change and the process he’s gone through to transform himself into “Caitlyn”.  When the story first broke, I made up my mind to ignore it and I was doing a pretty good job of it until I heard the news that “Caitlyn” had been awarded “Woman of the Year” by the popular magazine, Glamour.  

Initially, I was annoyed by the fact that Glamour had chosen to exploit the situation and use it as a cheap stunt to sell more magazines, but over the last several weeks, my annoyance has given way to anger and outrage.

I’m outraged not just for myself, but for all of my friends who are mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters and who selflessly and tirelessly serve in their calling as women each day. Yes, to be a woman is a divine calling and to applaud what Jenner has become, is to desecrate and degrade the authenticity of womanhood and make a mockery of the real struggles that so many of us face on a daily basis.

At age 50, I am in the throngs of menopause and struggle with my weight and other issues, as do many of my women friends. For me, it’s a challenge to balance all of my many duties with basic things like getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet and doing regular exercise.

As the mother of three daughters, I have the additional responsibility of trying to stress to my girls that their worth is not based on how they look. We, as women, are regularly bombarded with the messages from the media that want us to compare ourselves with the airbrushed bodies of mannequin-like models. We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and so we’re constantly struggling with our self-worth.

And isn’t it just like Enemy to use an imposter like Jenner to highjack the female agenda, catapult the transgender mandate into the headlines, and give them accolades and rewards for being “brave”.

History is full of women who were really brave–women, who despite their “weaker vessel” status, endured harsh and sometimes horrific circumstances to save not only themselves, but others.

Take for instance, Queen Esther, who risked her life and courageously spoke out to save the Jewish people from being annihilated. Fast forward some and let’s talk about Sacagawea, the Native American guide who accompanied Lewis and Clark and helped them open up the American frontier, Harriet Tubman and all the people she lead to freedom via the Underground Railroad, Florence Nightingale who was a pioneer in modern nursing, Marie Curie, the famous chemist and physicist who won the Nobel Peace Prize and made many advances for science, Helen Keller who was blind and deaf from the age of two, but who overcame her handicaps and became a champion for the rights of others with handicaps, Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator, Mother Theresa, who was literally, saint and Oprah Winfrey, who despite discrimination due to race and gender, rose through the ranks to become one of the most successful people in television broadcasting.

I could go on and on because there are literally thousands of women who deserve to be mentioned. And yet we dare to call Caitlyn Jenner “brave” because she now has to learn how to put on a dress and high-heeled shoes? The whole thing is nothing short of offensive and it makes my blood boil. To accept and affirm Caitlyn Jenner’s actions is to deny and degrade the organic essence of real womanhood.

Being a woman involves a whole lot more than dressing up, getting our hair and fingernails done, or putting on makeup. As 1 Peter 3:3 says, it’s more than “the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.”  Ask any scientist and they will tell you that being a female is, literally, in our DNA, but beyond that, it’s a God-given calling that can’t be acquired or abolished by reconstructive surgery. Our bodies and minds are uniquely created and designed to perform certain tasks specific to our gender. We are an original design made by the Master and we cannot to be copied or manufactured by human hands.

And so, for all the women around the world who suffer with menstrual cramps each month and who deal with the severe anemia that comes as a result of the heavy bleeding, who have carried babies and bared down in labor to bring them into this world or who have died in childbirth trying, who have lost babies due to miscarriage, who agonize because of the pain of infertility, who have sat up nursing their infants in the middle of the night, who bear the battle scars of mastectomies or who lost their lives due to breast cancer, who struggle with hormonal imbalances and all of the changes that come with menopause, who have dealt with uterine fibroids, endometriosis, urinary tract infections, cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer, who struggled and conquered eating disorders, I salute and hereby declare you ‘Women of the Year”.

A Very Personal “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” Encounter

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Many of you know that my husband, Andrew, is the managing editor of The Champion Newspaper, a weekly publication in the metro-Atlanta area. You should also remember that Tuesday, November 3, was Election Day which means that the media has the job of reporting the final results of election races around the area.

Election Day ended up being a very long work day for him since the returns don’t start to come in until after the polls close at 7:00pm, but since he works so close to home, he was able to come home for supper, rest for a little while and then head over to the Board of Elections office around 7:30pm.  As he was leaving, I asked him when he thought he’d be finished and he told me that he should be done around 9:30 or so.

When the clock in the kitchen showed 9:30 pm and he had not arrived home, I wasn’t very concerned because Andrew has covered Election Day for the past several years and getting the final results can sometimes take a little longer than expected. So I went into the bedroom and laid down. I fell asleep, but woke up when he called to tell me that he was going to have to go back to the office. The lady who does the graphic design was having trouble uploading things remotely and would need him to physically go in and upload the graphics. Again, this was not unusual.

He finally arrived home around 12:00 am and it was then that he shared the scary encounter he had just with the police.

It seems that when he went to his office, the alarm panel was having some problems and he accidentally set it off. He quickly keyed in the code unarming the system and since he hadn’t received a phone call from the alarm company, he assumed everything was okay. He proceeded to his office, turned on the computer, called the graphic design employee, and went about the business of putting the final details of the election results onto the pages of the newspaper.

As he talked on the phone in the office, he could hear noises coming from the hallway and so he told the employee to hold on and walked over to the door to see if he could hear more. At that point, he heard a voice yell, “This is the police. Come out with your hands up!”.

Stunned, he yelled back and said, “I’m coming out with my hands up.” and he slowly opened the door and entered the hallway. The three officers, one of which had his gun drawn, were at the other end of the long hallway. They instructed him to walk toward them. He walked toward them with his hands in the air (his phone was still in his hand and graphic design artist was still on the phone). When he got about halfway down the corridor, they then instructed him to put his phone on the floor, turn around, put his hands behind his head and walk backwards to them.

When he reached them, he was told to turn around again and they proceeded to ask him a series of questions–”Why was he in the building? What was he doing there?  Did he have a key to the building?” He told them that he was the managing editor of The Champion Newspaper, that it was Election Night and that he was working on the newspaper.

At that point, they asked him for identification which he promptly showed them. They asked to see his key to the building and told him to use it to unlock the door which he did. One of the officers asked if he would mind if they searched him and he gave them permission to search his body. They asked him if he had work identification and he told them that it was on his desk back in his office, so they walked him back to his office where he showed them his work identification. They ended the interrogation by asking him to give them specific details about the election. The police officers told him that there had been recent burglaries in the building, gave him their business card and finally left.

Obviously, this was an incident that could have went very badly as we have seen with other situations in recent months and years. So I wanted to use this as an opportunity to share a few important insights.

First and foremost, as a believer, this incident confirmed for me the importance of praying for my husband. Whenever he leaves the house, I walk him to the door, kiss him goodbye and I stand in the doorway and wave as he pulls out of the driveway and drives down the street.  In those moments, I pray for the Lord to bless, keep him and to protect him from hurt, harm and danger.  I’ve prayed those prayers too many times to count, and to be perfectly honest, sometimes I’ve wondered if they even work. Well, they do. So, wives, pray for your husbands because we never know what they will face each day.

Another important factor in this situation is possessing a spirit of humility and self-control.

Those of you who know Andrew know that he is a gentleman and I mean that in the truest sense of the word–he is a gentle man. He’s naturally reserved and pleasant. He doesn’t have a “thug” bone in his body. He’s well-learned, well spoken and well-mannered, and well dressed and these character traits have served him well.

Keep in mind, though, that it was very late and it had been a long day. He was tired and ready to go home. The last thing he expected to have to deal with was three police officers with guns drawn yelling at him to come out of his office with his hands up. He could have copped an attitude (pun intended) and said a lot of things in those moments, but he didn’t. He remained calm, collected his thoughts and cooperated and did what the police asked him to do. He knew that he hadn’t done anything wrong and he believed that he would have a chance to explain why he was there.

Now, some of you might be drawing the conclusion that the situation ended well because my husband is a good, black man and did as he was told, but that would be an inaccurate oversimplification. If we are to move forward as a nation and achieve racial reconciliation, it is vitally important to acknowledge the fact that insidious, pernicious racism still exists, that law enforcement, for the most part, has preconceived, negative ideas about black men, and that there are many times when innocent men of color who are doing nothing wrong (as in the case of the former professional tennis player, James Blake, who was tackled by a NYC police officer as he stood waiting outside of his hotel), still get treated badly. This brings me to my final point.

In order to have the best and most favorable outcome in these types of situations, respect cannot be one-sided. It must be shown by both parties. It is unreasonable to think that a police officer or a citizen can treat the other with disdain and disrespect and there not be some kind of negative repercussions.

The officers in this case came to the premises based on a legitimate call from the security company. They had reason to believe that an unauthorized person was in the building. Add to that the fact that there was an unlocked door (which my husband knew nothing about since he had locked the door he entered when he came into the building) which made things look even more suspicious.

I appreciate that the police officers took the time to listen to my husband as he explained what he was doing in the building that night. I also think that they exhibited a degree of civility when they “asked” him if they could frisk him for weapons and I’m grateful that they did not manhandle him.

Still, the idea of a police officer searching my law-abiding husband’s body like a common criminal after he showed his identification and explained why he was there is highly offensive to me and my feelings are tempered only by the fact that “all’s well, that ends well”. I wonder if they would have taken those same measures if my husband’s boss, who happens to be a white man, had been the one to step out of the office and into the hallway. Somehow, I don’t think they would have, but I don’t know. All I know is that my husband is home, safe and sound, and for that I am grateful.