Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 18, 2013

In the end, we are the masters of our fate

Sometimes I write about silly things.

That’s when I hope to make you smile or even laugh, a momentary distraction from the chaos.

But today I muse about serious matters like life and death and faith and hope.

Recent encounters with two longtime friends left me in a reflective, introspective mood.

The first was a handwritten note from a grandfather who was awake at 2 a.m., hoping to ease his heartache while struggling to understand why this wondrous nation has been unable to protect even its little children from gun violence.

He wrote of his pride in America and how he knows we are a better people than we have been of late and that our nation must put differences aside to find answers to these vexing problems.

“Can we all get along?” was the quote he shared from the late Rodney King, whose beating by police and their later acquittal in court triggered a three-day race riot in Los Angeles in 1992 that left 55 persons dead, 2,000 injured and $1 billion in property damage.

I believe my friend was drawing a parallel between the consuming passion of civil rights activists and that of good folks on both sides of the gun control issue.

I was riveted by one statistic he shared. Does our nation really have nine times as many gun shops as it does McDonald’s restaurants?

My other experience was a visit from a friend recently diagnosed with cancer and given a small chance of living more than a year.

Awestruck by his courage, I listened intently as he talked calmly of being at peace with his circumstance and how he considers himself luckier than some.

His upbeat attitude reminded me of the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

The title means unconquered, a fitting epitaph for those facing defeat but who never give up. I dedicate it to my friend.

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