Posts from the ‘Loss’ Category

A Death in the Family


It’s not possible that Dan Miller  is gone from this world

No, he wasn’t what you’d call ‘Young” but Dan Miller, although he was 67, was somehow ageless.  At least he was to me. 

I’ve been in love with Dan Miller my whole life.  That is no lie. 

Dan Miller moved to Nashville in October of 1969 and started his career with what was then WSM TV.  That same month, the Collie’s from Southern California also moved to Nashville.  I was 8 months old.

The Dad was BIG on the evening news.  I mean, he was not a particularly anal, OCD kinda guy but at 6:00, it was Newstime.  Dan was his Newsguy of choice.  (The Dad was critical of broadcasters and Dan was just about the only one he was always complimentary of). 

I’ve seen Dan go through many co-anchors, sports guys and girls like Charlie MacAlexander, the late Paul Eels, and some girl named Robin Roberts who now greets us every morning on Good Morning America;  weather people ,including his good friend Pat Sajak, George Goldtrap (the Chalk Throwing Guy), the late Boyce Hawkins and of course….everybody’s Uncle Bill Hall…Carol Marin, John Tesh, Lonnie Lardner (Dad called her “Lardie Lardie” for some reason.)

One of the most memorable moments was the time Huell Howser did the story on Porky the Pig…who went to that Great Barnyard in the Sky.  Dan tried really hard not to lose it on the air but…to me, that always rivaled Chuckles the Clown. Oh lordy mercy….if somebody can find a video on that, give us a link. (Didn’t find one on the You Tubes). 

You have to watch this…Demetria shows us Dan’s office and some great outtakes.

Dan was just there.  He came to the house every evening about suppertime and about bedtime.  He told us of the goings on in Nashville.  We trusted him.  We loved him.  He was like part of the family…almost like that really cool, handsome uncle that you’re so proud of.  Whatever Dan Miller said was so.  Period.

I never actually met Dan but the times I ever saw him anywhere, to me, it was like seeing a rock star. He was so tall and handsome and just plain dreamy. We corresponded here and there and something that tickled me to no end was Dan being my Facebook friend. (Shut up…he LOVED me!) 

 I emailed him one time and told him they oughta bring back Miller & Company.  He thanked me and said he didn’t think a show like that could fly nowadays.   (Dan Miller emailed me! See, I told you he adored me)

I reckon if it’s your time to check out, there was no better way for a fella to leave than by being in his hometown at the Master’s with your good friends.  To go out for a little walk, showing your friend your childhood neighborhood  and keep on walking into the next life on the same street where you entered life?  To be here one minute and gone the next….good for Dan because he didn’t suffer but for his family, friends and all of us who felt like close, personal friends….it’s gonna take some getting used to. 

I remember in 1986 or so when Dan left Nashville to take a job in LA.  They ran a goodbye tribute that had all of Nashville in tears.  Dan went off to LA and anchored some news for a bit.  I was out there during that period and was SO HAPPY to see him on tv.  I missed him.

As much as Nashville cried when Dan left here for LA, we cheered when he came back in the early 90’s and resurrected “Miller & Company” on TNN. and then when he came back to WSMV, where he belonged.  It was like he never left. 

I can’t stand it that he won’t be back this time. 


You must go to WSMV’s website and see their beautiful tributes.  Channel 5 offered their own very sweet tribute as well.

Go see Dan’s blog while you’re at it.

Heaven’s Gates Are Open Wide

I don’t know what posessed me to put that video up early this morning of the Gaither Vocal Band singing Jesus Loves Me. Maybe it was to prepare me for a phone conversation I had to have this evening.

My mom calls me, sounded a little frantic “Mary [her sister in law] called and left a message. Said it’s bad news. I’m ‘fraid my brother’s gone.”

Her brother is 86 years old and has been blessed with pretty good health considering his age and the one-after-the-other tragedies he and his wife have experienced since 1994:

1-Only daughter dies unexpectedly of pneumonia after surgery. I think she was 40-41 years old.
2-Oldest son gets lung cancer. Goes through treatment. Things look good. Then, about a year later, I think it was on a Wednesday, they discovered it was in his liver. He had worked that day. Was dead by that Saturday. I think he was 52 or 53.
3-3 years later, their other son commits suicide.
4-2 years later, daughter in law, wife of oldest son dies of Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
5-Last year, daughter in law, wife of son that died in 2003 dies of cancer. Two late teen/early 20ish sons.

My mother only has a cell phone for long distance. She doesn’t keep the thing charged or on. She doesn’t even have a long distance carrier on her regular phone anymore. So, she calls me and asks me to call Mary. I am dreading this. I’m thinking that if my Uncle Nootsie (nickname) has passed, I am going to have to talk to his wife of 60+ years and it’s gonna be painful. Then, I’m thinking “Oh geez, I am going to have to call Mom and tell her that she is now the sole surviving Sullivan Kid.”

I’m dreading this call, but, at the same time, I’m thinking “Damn…Nootsie’s 86 years old. If he’s gone, then he didn’t suffer. It was probably his heart. He probably mowed his grass recently. A life well lived.”

Something told me though, as I dialed the phone and got the busy signal that it probably wasn’t Nootsie. This was confirmed when my Uncle answered the phone (and sounded eeerily like my mother when she first wakes up and hasn’t had coffee yet) and proceeded to tell me that Steven, his oldest grandchild, was killed in a car wreck today.

You want to hear something absolutely GUT wrenching, listen to an 86 year old man, who has been walking around with a piece of shrapnel in his head since WWII and has a Purple Heart, break down and cry uncontrollably on the phone and then pass the phone to his wife because he can’t say anymore.

Then, I talk to my Aunt Mary, who is crying and I’m thinking “Holy crap…what do you say to this???” I’m not believing what I’m hearing. It’s bad enough to outlive ONE of your children, much less THREE, plus two daughters in law that have been in your family for so long, it’s almost like you gave birth to them, and now their oldest grandchildm the same kid that was born the same week my grandfather died in 1971 and carried his middle name. What the hell????

How is it that Steven took his wife some lunch today at home because she was sick and now he’s dead? Left no skidmarks. Died on impact. And his younger brother and sister now are the only two left in that family? This young guy, who isn’t even 30 yet, helped care for his mother as she suffered that horrendous disease has to call his grandparents, as they’re sitting down for dinner to tell them that once again…….

That same Steven that we used to call “Stevie” who was probably one THE absolute most adorable little boys I’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen Steven since he was about 15. I’ve seen pictures but my picture of him is this kid right here with my sister in about…oh 1977 or 78-
Little Stevie…I think of him as about 3 or 4…with his pajamas with the rhinoceros on it and we’d ask him repeatedly….”Stevie…whats that on your pajamas?” We wanted to hear him say…again….”Ith a bunotheroth.”

So, there I am on the phone with my aunt….listening to her cry, talking about what a good husband Steven was and how crazy he and his wife were about each other…She asks how I am. I can’t quite describe how it humbled me when she asked, yet, I was a little hesitant because sheesh…I have NOTHING to complain about. Humbling because she stopped crying for a minute to ask about each kid by name, etc.

Then, I have to call my mother. She answers the phone and I can tell she’s been crying.
“Well…it’s not Nootsie.”

“Who is it?” she asked me.


“What happened?”

I tell her and she hollers “No! HOW MUCH MORE CAN THEY TAKE? THIS CAN’T BE! etc. etc ”

I haven’t heard my mother let loose like that since…gosh….I was probably a little kid. Mom tends to hold her emotions in. Oddly enough, I was glad to hear her do that.

But, it absolutely sucks. It would have been easier to tell her it was her brother, I think.

Livin’, Lovin’ & Losin’

I had just gotten over Co-Worker Dave leaving me for the Federal Government (it only took what, 4 months) and had finally stopped looking for him in his cube every snow-031.jpgmorning and then my girl, Cherry, drops a bomb (get it? a Cherry Bomb?) on me today that now SHE’S leaving me for Busy Mom’s workplace. Can you believe that?

I swanee to goodness. ..I think I have an issue and need a tissue.  I think this is why I’m a little skeered to get close to people and get overly fond of people cause they leave.  You keep a safe distance, then you don’t grieve when they go, right?

I have grown fond of a few people I’ve worked with through the years.  Only a handful of the folks I’ve worked with through the years have I been really fond of.

I do realize that’s not a healthy attitude to take and can lead to a lonely existence but I think somewhere in my psyche, that’s a fear I have and what led me down the path to Introvertedness, maybe.

I know I can still see her and all but it’s just different when they fly the coop.  I’ve seen Dave, what, two times since he left…a few emails….Old Co-Worker Patrick that I loved…do I evah hear from him?  Of course not…Even The Gentleman Formerly Known As My Boss (also a Dave)…has become a distant figure of my past.  My friend Brenda, that I used to work with….I haven’t seen her in ages and we live on the same side of town.

I do hear from my Shishter though.   I’ve seen her once in the last year but I hear from her nearly everyday.  That’s cause she’s my Shishter.

I’ll miss ol’ Cher’.  She’s wonderful to work next to.  Probably one of the most real people around.  Not a phony bone in her body.  Plus, she takes good pictures.

Prayers For Rick Burgess

I have been a huge fan of Rick and Bubba for years. I’ve “listened” as their families have grown kid by kid. I’ve laughed and related with them as they have shared their many parenting stories. I think that’s part of their appeal is their Regular Guy thing.

I used to email with both Rick and Bubba before they got to be so big. They seem like great guys. Both very devoted husbands and fathers…the Manchild really admires both of them.

I remember the morning that Rick announced they were expecting their 5th child. I am so heartbroken today to hear that that same baby, 2 year old Bronner Burgess, diedbronner-burgess-photo4.jpg after falling into the family’s swimming pool. I can’t imagine. Please pray for the Burgess’, Busseys and the whole Rick and Bubba Family.

The Fox affiliate in Birmingham has an interview with Bill “Bubba” Bussey here. 

God Bless Josh

When people wonder why I don’t drink, (except for that rare once a year something) I usually point to the fact that addiction runs rampant through all the branches of my family… so much so that people in my family could fill up the Betty Ford Center.  I don’t know what it is on both my mother and father’s side of the family, we have strong tendencies toward addictive behaviors.  I know it’s hard to imagine this perfect looking group of people here could ever have trouble with collie_clan_1991.jpgaddiction, but, several in this photo have.

Including the little boy in the middle, front with his hands in the air.  That’s Josh.  The youngest son of my cousin Vicki, who is the middle daughter of my dad’s sister Junie. (Confused yet?)  Josh was about 10 in this picture.  He was a cute little feller. 

There were four boys.  2 of his older brothers got football scholarships to places like Colorado and The University of Texas.  Josh didn’t play football like they did.  Josh was a very bright, sensitive, intuitive, creative kid.  His Aunt Judi just read me a poem over the phone he wrote when he was in 7th grade.  Unbelievable insight and depth Josh had to be 13. Josh also served our country in the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom.

When Josh and his brothers were growing up, their mom was so great about sending that Christmas card picture every year.  I mean, Vicki never missed a year sending that picture.  From the time they had their first son in about 1977 and for the few years following, there was a new baby every year.  She had her hands full with those Stairstep Boys.  Because Vicki was so diligent about sending that photo every year, we got to watch those kids grow up from a distance.  I always colvins.jpglooked forward to seeing how those boys had grown year after year.  I adopted the same Christmas picture tradition from Vicki so my far away kin could see my kids grow up.

My Cousin Judi, who is Vicki’s younger sister called me a little bit ago to tell me that Josh was found dead 10 days ago.  Because he had no ID on him, his parents weren’t notified until today that their baby boy was gone. 

I can’t imagine.  I just can’t imagine.  I’m so heartbroken for them…Josh’s mom and dad…for my Uncle Wesley, who just celebrated his 80th birthday and now has outlived one of his grandchildren…for his brothers, one of whom will be having very serious surgery tomorrow in Spain due to an injury he received playing pro football in Europe….his aunts, his cousins…all of his friends and loved ones who have watched his decline through the years and sadly, expected that this tragedy would eventually happen.  I’m especially sad for Josh.  This has been going on for a long time.  There were times I thought maybe he was going to make it and stay clean.  Although this was not really that unexpected, I”m sure all of them are going to eventually feel tremendous guilt, “Could we have done more?”, all of those things. 

Just sad….unbelievably tragic and sad.


A Satisfied Mind

“I can’t imagine a world without Porter Wagoner.” 

 Mr. Smiff said that about three times during the time before and after the funeral service for the legendary Wagonmaster today.  I got to thinking that that was true for him, me and so many others of our generation.  For so many of us, Porter was the first face we can recollect of seeing country music on tv as small children.  Porter’s tv show started the same year Mr. Smiff was born.  He remembers black and white Porter while some of my earliest memories of Porter were bright and sparkly. Vince Gill shared the same sentiment before he, Patty Loveless and Ricky Skaggs did their now classic Go Rest High.  (That song has become “The Funeral Song” for country music people.  I’ve heard Vince sing that thing at probably 10-12 funerals)

Then, Mr. S. spoke of all the years he’s been playing on the Grand Ole Opry…since 1978, he has been playing there with different people. Porter was always there.   I remember through those same years, as a kid drinking Opry Juice that Miss Rosa would put in the blue and white Opryland cups and running around backstage, which I like to refer to as Disco Porter, when he and some of the Opry Band members got perms.  Heh.  Even Mr. S. had one. (Remind me to scan that picture and put here. It’s classic hilarity.) He also spoke of being introduced by him on the Opry stage many times with the Grascals and even being scolded by him for going too long.

After Roy Acuff died in 1992, Porter stepped in as the Grand Poobah of the Opry. That’s my title…he was kinda the Big Daddy of the Opry.  He had his own dressing room and sorta held court. I guess I always thought Porter would be around a lot longer.  It is hard to imagine the Grand Ole Opry and the world without Porter.

I will never go into Hot Nails in Hendersonville again without the picture in my mind of going in there 2 years ago on the morning of the IBMA Awards.  Nobody else was in there except me and I noticed this man in the pedicure chair.  He had on a baseball hat, flannel shirt, jeans rolled up to his knees.  My first thought was “There’s a farmer getting a pedicure.”  That was no farmer, but, instead the Thin Man From West Plains.

My memories of being in the same place Porter Wagoner was are so many. I’ve seen happy Porter, cantankerous Porter, Charming Porter, Elder Statesman Porter, Porter with the All Girl Band and of course Disco Porter …Underneath the rhinestones  was indeed a fairly complex 6fcd7bdf-80f3-4a0f-b9d8-8c29b3ddba9c.jpgindividual.  He was married to the same woman for something like 40 years, however, they were separated for something like 20 years before they finally divorced in the 80’s.  He had many relationships with women of various ages.  I think his first wife was older than he and he romanced much younger women in later years.

I’ve heard of various “disagreements” he had with various people.  Funny how lots of those people who disagreed with Porter were there today at the Opry House to pay their respects.  It was an impressive crowd.  I’m not good at guessing crowd numbers. 

The music was fantastic. Marty Stuart, Ricky, Sharon, Cheryl, Buck, Vince, Patty, etc.  They all did a great job, but, I was most touched by Danny Davis, who has been a member of Porter’s band for 19 years, as he sang, at the request of the family, Rank Stranger. That was not easy for him to do, but, he did it beautifully. A great tribute to his bossman.

The other song that moved me tremendously was Duane Allen of the Oak Ridge Boys, sang a song written by Porter (I remember a recording of Dolly doing that song years ago in the 70’s). Duane told of how Porter gave that to him on a tape one time and said that that song summed up how he felt about God and his life. Duane was sans Oak Ridge Boys (although Richard Sterban was there) and had his family sing with him and I tell you what….he tore it up.  Duane can sing with the best of them, make no mistake.  It was very sweet.

We walked behind Dan Miller and he sat across from us.   Dan shares some nice thoughts about Porter here.  I will confess right here, if I would’ve gurmed anybody there today (Garth, Dolly, George, Martina, any of them) I’d have gurmed Dan Miller. I’ve had a crush on him since I was a little tyke. 

I wasn’t sure if Dolly would be there or not because I know she has a strong disdain for funerals and does not go to many. She sat on the front row with Don Warden, who is her manager and who played steel for the Wagonmasters for many a year. She led the Opry members in I Saw The Light at the end and threw in some of her classic humor (no doubt to keep from crying) to give us all some relief.

Mr. S. leaned over during the Opry Choir and said “Is that George?” All I saw was the top of his hair.  You can’t miss the top of George Jones’ hair.  It’s perfectly coiffed. He looked really good.

When the service was over, I ran into Norma Jean as in “Pretty Miss”, who preceded Dolly as the “Girl Singer” (that’s what they called them in those days) in Porter’s band.  I haven’t seen her in a long time and she’s still as pretty as ever.

The Carol Lee Singers sang a number and I could not help but remember Doyle Wilburn’s funeral 25 years ago this last month.  I remember as vividly as it were yesterday, Carol Lee, Norah Lee, Dennis and Herman singing so beautifully at that service and thinking of how many more funerals there have been since.  Dennis, Norah Lee and Carol Lee look EXACTLY the same today as they did then.   You start naming people and so many of them are gone….Ernest, Bill, All of the Carter Girls, Cash, Skeeter, Teddy, Dottie, Tammy…  Some of them long gone.  I forget my dad has been dead for almost 16 years. That generation is slowly fading out.

Dr. Jerry Sutton, who is under tremendous stress and pressure from his congregation as we speak, did a lovely job.  I hate going to stuff like that where you know the preacher didn’t know the deceased.  This was not the case here.

Another cool aspect to the whole event was that it was open to the public and the public did come.  Porter was such a hands on kinda guy with the fans, it would’ve not been 11-01-07_1230.jpgappropriate to not open it up like that.

When I think of what I loved to hear Porter sing best? You’re gonna laugh….

“He’s big around the middle and he’s broad across the rump,

Running 90 miles an hour taking 30 feet to jump

Ain’t never been caught he ain’t never been treed

Some folks say he looks a lot like me”

Thanks, Porter.

When There Are No Words

All the craziness of the last week, I haven’t blogged about a horribly sad thing that happened Thursday.  This came in the middle of all the pre-exam/pre-IBMA awards stuff.  I came back Thursday afternoon from the hair place and the Manchild told me his friend Jacob from church had committed suicide that day. 

  Meds, nerves, whatever, I totally broke down at hearing this.  I never met Jacob but I know the Manchild played pool with him a lot on Wednesday nights.  It’s hard to quite wrap your head around a 15 year old boy taking his own life.  I have no idea what led him to that point or anything like that.  Nothing to say about it other than my heart just aches for his parents and family.

A big part of me aches for the Manchild, too.  He kept saying last night “It really hasn’t affected me, I mean, I’m not crying or anything.”  I didn’t tell him that yes, it DOES affect him, probably in such a deep way he can’t really express it.  I didn’t tell him it probably feels unreal to him and there will come a point, either when he attends the visitation tonight or the funeral tomorrow that it will indeed affect him.  He’s enough like his father that you don’t see tears from him often, but, there again, he’s enough like his father for me to know that he will, if he’s not already, weep on the  inside.

Dear Son, please allow yourself to feel and express your sadness.  Not just this, but, other sad things you will face.  It doesn’t make you strong to keep a straight face.  I am convinced  it’s the opposite.  Strength is letting yourself feel and confront the sadness of the situation. Tears are cleansing and I believe God gives them to us to clean out wounds so we can heal.

I’ve given the Suicide Lecture to both kids over the weekend.  Holy Tara rolled her eyes and said “Oh gosh, you’ve already given this lecture.”  I bet Jacob’s parents had too.   I think that’s one lecture you can’t give enough. 

God bless the Riker Family.