Fondly Remembering Mr. A.J. Arthur

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubs(Note: As we were preparing to publish Mark’s blog, Mr. Arthur passed away. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. Here is the blog in its entirety.)

Unless a miracle takes place, I am about to lose a very good friend, Mr. A. J. Arthur.

To most of you that know Mr. Arthur, you remember him as the manager for a little over 50 years at Cooke’s Food Store in Cleveland, Tenn.

Some of you remember him, as a matter of fact….MANY of you remember him, from having his late wife, Ann Arthur, as your schoolteacher.

aj arthur, mark grissom, beaverdamusa.com

Mr. A.J. Arthur and me.

My journey with A. J. began a little over four years ago when I started attending First United Methodist Church.  I sat in the second from the last row with Mr. Jimmy Barger my very first Sunday.

I remember looking across the aisle at this very stately, handsome, well-dressed gentleman.  I could not place him, but his face looked very familiar to me.   (I find the older I get, I am not good at remembering names of individuals, but I seldom forget a face.)

After church that Sunday, Mr. Arthur came over and shook my hand and welcomed me to First United Methodist.  He knew exactly who I was from seeing me at the funeral home.  He told me what he had done for a living and I immediately remembered him.

He was the friendly face you saw when you went into Cooke’s Food Store to purchase your groceries.  Always friendly.  Always a big cut-up.  And always in a good mood.

Oh yes…one more thing….ALWAYS flirting with the pretty ladies!

Several Sundays went by and I continued to sit with Jimmy Barger and Don Wood at church.  And then one particular Sunday, A. J. decided that he and his friend, Bill Kibler would make the big move from their particular pew and walk across the aisle and sit with Jimmy, Don and myself.

That was when my journey with A. J. began!

As every Sunday passed, I got to know Mr. Arthur a little better.  I got to hear him tell stories of his days at Cooke’s Food Store.  I got to hear him tell of how many young men and women got their first job because of him.  Every time Robert Bradney came over to our pew to shake hands, as he walked away, A. J. looked at me and said, “I gave him his first job.”  And a big smile would light up his face.

I knew I was in the “The Club” when one Sunday, right after the closing hymn, A. J. and Bill Kibler invited me to go eat lunch with them.

WOW!  I had finally arrived!  I was a part of the A. J. and Bill “Men’s Club” and I was headed to Denny’s Restaurant!

I met the two of them for lunch and they kept me laughing the entire time.

I learned real quick that A. J. Arthur was “A Ladies Man!”

He flirted with every waitress in Denny’s that day.   It was pure joy to see these two elderly men have such a great time and they thought enough of me to allow me to be a part of their fun.

I had no choice that day of what I wanted to eat.  I was told that we would all three be having the “Seniors Breakfast Special”.  That consisted of two eggs, bacon or sausage and two pancakes.

Now, I am not supposed to eat the pancakes due to my diabetes, but you try telling that to these two, old stubborn men!  Nothing doing!!  I was going to eat those pancakes and they would make sure I had sugar free syrup to go on top!

Over the past couple years, A. J. Arthur and I have developed an incredible friendship.

We would talk on the phone two or three times a week.  We would go out to eat a couple times a month.  (Prime Rib at Outback was his favorite.)

We made a trip to Madisonville, Tennessee one day to a butcher’s shop to buy some fresh bacon, a whole country ham and one more thing.

A.J. wanted me to try something that I had never eaten in my entire life…. SOUSE MEAT!

First of all, the looks of souse meat are enough to make you want to throw up.  Sorry…it just does.

However,  Mr. Arthur told me I was going to try it and I knew better than to argue with him.  I would lose!

We stopped at a convenience store and picked up a couple packs of crackers.  We got back in the truck and opened up the pack of souse meat.

Mr. Arthur cut a small piece and put it on a cracker and handed it to me.  “Eat that”… he exclaimed!  So…I did.

I must admit it was not all that bad.

I asked A. J. what was in souse meat.

His answer that day was one that I shall never forget.

“Everything on a pig that they are not allowed to sell”!

Oh Great!  I immediately started thinking of how I would have food poisoning for the next three days from this piece of souse meat!

I did not get sick.  I ate more souse meat.  And A. J. Arthur and I had the time of our life that day.

I had the honor of giving him a ride to church on Sunday morning after his health failed enough to the point the doctors told him he should not drive.

I learned more about “life” in that 10-minute ride to church and the 10-minute ride back to his apartment at Garden Plaza than I could ever have imagined.

He has made it very clear to me exactly how he wants his funeral to go.  Who the preacher shall be…and whom he wants to sing.

He has told me more than once, “I do not want it to be sad, make sure they say something funny”.

Class, Funny, Christian, Polite, Kind, Loving, Peaceful, Dignified, Gentle, Warm, Giving, …and a servants heart.  Those are the words I would use to describe my friend, A. J. Arthur.

I go to visit A. J. a couple times a day at the nursing home.

I always rub the top of his head.  I always tell him I love him.

He always responds in a low, shallow voice…”I love you too, buddy”.

This morning, my friend looked up at me with his eyes half open and said….”Goodbye, Mark…I am ready to go”.

My New Years wish for those of you reading this blog…that you find your “A. J. Arthur” …and cherish every moment with them.

Dear Lord, give my friend A. J. comfort and peace, I pray.

I Always Loved Thanksgiving, Until…

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubsWell…Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on winning the World Series this year.

I was pulling for the Kansas City Royals, so I really couldn’t care less. But out of respect for my love and appreciation for the game of baseball, I will at least “tip my hat” to the team from California.

I hate California…always will!

We are quickly approaching the holiday where everyone sits around and eats way too much. Then we take a nap and watch a little television and…eat way too much, again!

We are about to celebrate the holiday better known as…”Thanksgiving”.

I have always loved Thanksgiving.

I can remember, growing up in Chicago, we would get out of school at noon on Wednesday. So we had Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off! It was GREAT!

My mother, God rest her soul, always cooked a HUGE meal for our family every Thanksgiving.

We had the whole works! Turkey, dressing…(the kind with chopped up hard boiled eggs in it)…sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, cranberry salad and the best homemade pumpkin pie you ever did eat!!  MMMM…MMMM!!!

I have always loved Thanksgiving!

We could sleep in on Thursday morning and wake up only to head downstairs and watch television. Cartoons or football seemed to be the “programming” for the day.

I don’t ever remember eating breakfast the morning of Thanksgiving.

By the time I got out of bed, it was not but a couple hours until the big meal of the day would be served.

One other thing stands out in my mind about the Thanksgiving meal. My dad was the ONLY one that could carve the Turkey.

There were many years we had other family members over for Thanksgiving.

There were many years we had members of the church congregation over for Thanksgiving.

But one thing stayed “constant” year, after year, after year at Thanksgiving. NOBODY else laid a hand on that big ole bird except my father!

If there were ever an award to be given out for who did the best job at carving the turkey on Thanksgiving, my father would have been the winner on multiple occasions!!

He knew just how to cut up that turkey so that every single piece of meat would be used up and there would be NO waste whatsoever.

Me personally…I always, and still do, prefer the white meat to the dark. Don’t ask me why. I have no real reason. It just “looks” better, I guess.

I have ALWAYS loved Thanksgiving!

Well…I have always loved Thanksgiving…until almost 4 years ago. After that, I really couldn’t care less if I ever celebrate another Thanksgiving the rest of my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the true meaning of the holiday itself. “Giving Thanks”. That is what it is all about anyhow. I have a lot to be thankful for. We all do.

For that part of the holiday, I am happy to see that day come around.

However, when it comes to sitting down and enjoying a meal of all the aforementioned foods that appear on the dining room table and the laughter and eating until you feel like you can explode…I have no desire to celebrate Thanksgiving ever again.

You see, Thanksgiving of 2010, I had the very last meal with my mom that I would ever have again.

Let me share with you my story.

My mom was a patient/resident at Signature Healthcare Center in Cleveland, TN. She could not leave the nursing home due to her condition of Alzheimer’s/Dementia.

It was Thanksgiving Day. My aunt Vie, mom’s sister, and my cousin Sheri were both in town. Sheri and Aunt Vie had fixed a huge Thanksgiving meal at my mom and dad’s house that morning. They were all going to eat around noon that day.

I had other plans than eating with them.

I wanted them to bring two plates of food to the nursing home that day so that my mother and I could have our Thanksgiving meal in her room.

My mom was having a really good day that particular Thanksgiving. She was feeling good and she was in really good spirits. I wanted to be with her. I wanted to share a “Thanksgiving Dinner” with my mom on that day.

We had an incredible time…just the two of us. Sheri and Aunt Vie brought over Turkey, dressing (again, the kind with hard boiled eggs chopped up inside), sweet potato casserole, rolls, green beans, deviled eggs like only my Aunt Vie can make and two different kinds of pie that day.

The meal was INCREDIBLE!! The company I had for lunch that day was even GREATER!!

I was sharing Thanksgiving with my mom…and it was AWESOME.

Then, the very next day, my mom took a turn for the worse.

She would go to bed on Thanksgiving night of 2010 and never get up again.

She would only tell us that she was not feeling well and she mostly slept a lot. She seemed very weak and would only continue to get weaker as the next several days and couple of weeks approached.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, my dad and I went to see the SEC Championship football game in Atlanta. The Auburn Tigers were playing that year. We both wanted to go see Cam Newton play a game during his final season, before he went pro.

We went by the nursing home that morning and my mom was totally not herself. I can fully remember leaving there that day telling my dad…something is wrong with mom. She is failing fast.

It was two weeks later, December 14, 2010 at 4:56 a.m. that my mom would take her final breath on earth and her first breath in Heaven.

Just two short weeks after having one of the best times with my mom, sharing Thanksgiving dinner together, she would depart this world…and join her family and friends that had gone on before her.

So you see, Thanksgiving just does not mean that much to me anymore. As a matter of fact, I try my best to “avoid” doing anything that day. I would rather stay at home, by myself, and just fix a hot dog or hamburger on the grill and watch a little football or a re-run of Imus in the Morning Show.

I can only imagine the feast that my mom has in Heaven this year on Thanksgiving.

I would imagine there would be the most incredible turkey dinner with all the fixins!

I just wonder one thing. The dressing with the Turkey… is it the kind with hard boiled eggs chopped up inside?? I sure hope so. My mom loved that kind.

If there is a kitchen in Heaven, my mom will be there Thanksgiving morning.

Just one thing. They need to find someone else to carve the Turkey. I am not letting my dad go for many, many years!!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!

Until next time…

Taco Truck: The Best Food on (or off) Wheels

Mark, along with his father, Tom Grissom, at “The Taco Truck"

Mark, along with his father, Tom Grissom, at “The Taco Truck”

As a fan of the underdog, I am pulling for the Royals in Game 7 of the World Series.

After the Baltimore Orioles were eliminated from the playoffs, I really could care less about the World Series.  I do not know a player on either team.  I have no interest in even watching a game.

However; I am NOT for the Giants!

I always pull for the underdog.  Does not matter what it is in life, I am always for the side that does not seem to have a chance!  The Giants have dominated baseball in the past few years.  I do NOT want to see them win this year too!

Prayers for the Royals would sure be appreciated!

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, I can remember looking forward to hearing the sound of the “Ice Cream Truck” as it was making its way into our neighborhood.

It did not matter if I was in the house watching television or in the backyard throwing the baseball up against the brick wall and catching it, (my dad hated when I did that), or riding my bicycle down the street…I knew that sound all too well!

I would find my mom, (God rest her soul), or dad real quick and get a dollar, (back then a dollar went a long way), and run out in front of the house and stand there and wait for the “Ice Cream Man”.

I had one favorite item off the “Ice Cream Truck”.  I bought it every single time he pulled up to meet me.  I never had to look at the menu on the side of the truck.  I always knew what I was getting from the “Ice Cream Man”, and it was not even ice cream!

I bought, what they called back then, a “Bomb Pop”.

It was a red, white and blue Popsicle in the shape of a bomb and, man oh man, was it ever good!!

Fast forward to the years 1983 and 1984.

I was enrolled in Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago.  The mortuary college was actually meeting at the time in an old elementary school building in Skokie, Illinois.  We were the only ones in the school.  There was no cafeteria or cafeteria workers.  I don’t even remember there being any vending machines on the premises.

Every day, at around 11:00 a.m. or so, a food truck pulled up in front of the school.

This food truck was not like the ones you see today.  The food trucks today are a whole lot fancier.  This was a simple truck with an aluminum body on it and it had two doors on each side in the back.  The driver would pull up to the school, get out of the truck and open up the swinging doors on each side.

He had a little bit of everything inside that food truck!  Fresh donuts and pastry items, hot coffee, cold canned sodas, cold sandwiches, chips, and candy bars.  You name it…it was either on the truck or he would bring it back with him the next day!

Again, the crazy person that I am, I had one favorite item on that truck.  As often as I can remember I would get the ham and cheese cold sandwich, a bag of chips and a cold drink.

If I were really hungry, I would grab a fresh donut for dessert.

It was not that the food was so great.  It was more the experience of getting your lunch from a “Food Truck”.

Fast forward to the present!

Several months ago, my pastor and his friend took me to a place where there was a whole new dining experience to be found.  Pastor Tim Bracken and Ramon Torres introduced me on that day to a place called “Taco El Cunao”, AKA, “THE TACO TRUCK”

It is located on the south end of Cleveland, close to Bradley High School.  It is an old white truck that has been converted into one of the most incredible eating establishments I have ever experienced.

I LOVE Mexican food!  I always have.  It has always been my favorite.

For 20 years, I kept Monterrey Mexican Restaurant in business.  I still go there quite often, but not as often as I use to after discovering a small piece of “Heaven” at a place called “The Taco Truck”!

They have the most authentic – or as the sign on the Taco Truck says…”AUTENTIC” – Mexican food anywhere around.  Everything from tacos, burritos, gorditas, tortas, and quesadillas.

You walk up to the little window and place your order.  Then you go sit under an “aluminum shed” type building that is open at both ends.  Your name or number is called and you go back to the window and pick up your food.

I have been there so many times, I am known to everyone that works at the taco truck as “Mr. Marcos”.

That makes me smile!

They make their very own hot sauce.  (Be sure and get the red bottle)

On average, I am probably at the taco truck between 2 and 10 times a week.   I am making my case, as I write this blog, for my very own parking space at the taco truck!   I think I deserve it!

I truly believe it is not just the food that draws me to the taco truck, but the experience of ordering my food from a rusted out old bus with Mexican food pictures plastered all over the side of it and hearing the ladies yell out…”HOLA MR. MARCOS”.

Whatever the case may be, there certainly seems to be a pattern in my life of having an affinity to trucks that have food.  Not quite sure how to explain that!

I do know this one thing to be true.  The next time I have a date, and if that date says…”Hey, lets go eat at the taco truck for dinner”…I will marry her.

Until next time… GO CUBS!!

PS… You better believe I have one favorite item at “The Taco Truck”.  Burrito Grande with steak, rice, lettuce, tomato, cheese and jalepeno.  Then I SMOTHER that sucker in the red hot sauce!

A First-hand Account of the Power of Prayer

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubsThe year was 1978.  It was the month of May.

I was in the 8th grade at Wilkins Junior High School in Bridgeview, Illinois.  It was time for my physical so that I could enroll in Argo High School as a freshman.

My mom, God rest her soul, took me to our family physician, Dr. John Dunlap.

I was 14 years old.  I was not afraid of much at that time, but I hated going to see the dentist or the doctor!

I still hate to go see the dentist, but with my great friend, Dr. Brian Beard and “sedation” dentistry…it’s not too bad!

I was your normal 14-year-old back then.  I loved playing baseball and played on the little league team.  I had big hopes of going into high school and playing baseball at Argo High.

I played trumpet in the band and they had a really great band at Argo that I wanted to play in as well.

You know…all the stuff a 14-year-old boy wants to do!

And then…the words from the doctor on that day in May of 1978.

He put the stethoscope to my chest and listened to my heart.  He put it back again…and again.  He just kept listening and having me breath in and breath out.  Then he looks up at my mom and says, “Something does not sound right.  I am afraid he needs to be admitted to the hospital for some tests and have a cardiologist take a look.”

I wish I could tell you my reaction that day.  But I honestly cannot remember.  The only thing I can remember is that I was scared to death!!

I was supposed to graduate from Junior High School the very next week.  I had big plans for that summer.  I was going to play baseball at Argo High and then college and then I was going to play for the Chicago Cubs!

I was going to play in the marching band and in the jazz band.  I was going to be a great trumpet player just like Phil Driscoll, my idol trumpet player growing up as a kid.

And now this man standing in front of me with thick glasses on and a stethoscope hanging around his neck just told my mother that I was going in the hospital because my heart did not sound right??

I remember a lot of crying…from my mom and me both.

I remember a lot of praying…from all of my family and my church family at Bridgeview Church of God.

I remember being admitted the next day to Victory Memorial Hospital in Waukegan, Illinois.

I was 14 years old…and I had been diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever and having a heart murmur and a major valve that was leaking.

My life, as I knew it back then, was over.

No more baseball.  No more playing my trumpet in church.  No more going to the park with all my friends from Wilkins.  No more church activities.  Just plain…NO MORE!

I spent one week in the hospital.  They had me hooked up to heart monitors and IV fluids and every thing possible.  They came in one day and gave me a shot.  It was the biggest needle I had ever seen.  I cried before it even went in my leg.   It was an extra strength penicillin shot.  I screamed bloody murder.

Fortunately, I ended up being allergic to the penicillin and they could not give me any more of those shots.  For that, to this day, I say a big “PRAISE GOD”!

I was in the hospital on the Friday that I was supposed to graduate from Wilkins Junior High School.  I did not get to go to my graduation.

What was even worse from me was, my dad was praying the invocation at my graduation and I could not go and hear him.

I remember that Friday night in the hospital, he came in the door of my room and had my diploma in his hand.  He brought it over to my bed and gave me a big hug and congratulated me on graduating from Junior High.

(Sorry…I am crying a little bit right now.)  It was one of the scariest times in my entire life.  I did not know what my future was going to be.  I thought I was dying.  I thought my life was over.

But to have my dad come in that Friday night and present me with my diploma from Wilkins Junior High School…was the best thing that could have happened right then.

They released me from the hospital that Sunday.

My orders were to go home, get in bed, and stay there for the entire summer.

Back then, they ordered complete bed rest for anyone with rheumatic fever and a heart murmur.  I am not sure what they do today for those types of patients.  I have not heard of anyone with rheumatic fever in a long time.

I stayed in bed the entire summer of 1978.

I had to take four pills every four hours around the clock.  My dad would set his alarm clock for 2:00 a.m. and again at 6:00 a.m. and get up and bring me my pills to my bedroom.

My mom would fix my food and bring it to my bedroom and I would eat in bed.

I could only get up to use the bathroom that was right across the hall from my bedroom and then straight back to bed.

I missed baseball.  I missed playing my trumpet.  I missed going to church.  I missed…I missed…I missed.

I had a whole lot of people praying for me that summer.  My father was a Church of God pastor and he had friends all over the country in the ministry that would have their churches unite in prayer that God would heal me of this disease.

I had to make trips about once or twice a month to the cardiologist in Chicago for constant testing and to see if there was any improvement.

I would go and get all kinds of tests done; only to be sent back home and have to go straight back to bed.

My life was over, as far as I was concerned.

Then one day a gentleman came to my house to see me and to pray for me.  He was a close friend of my fathers.  He was a Church of God State Overseer at the time.  He had been in a Church Camp meeting somewhere and he had heard about a 14-year-old boy in Chicago that had Rheumatic Fever and a leaky valve and heart murmur.

He made a trip all the way to my house on the south side of Chicago because he wanted to pray for me.

You see, this man that had come all the way to see me and pray for me had the same thing happen to him when he was 14 years old and God healed him.  He wanted to come and meet me and pray for me to be healed.

That summer, I had no telling how many people come to my house and pray for me.  And I thank God to this day for every single one of them.  I really do.

But on this particular day, standing in the church parsonage in my bedroom in Bridgeview, Illinois, Rev. Ray Sanders prayed a prayer over me like nobody had ever prayed before.

He laid hands on me and my parents were standing beside him and they all three prayed Heaven down that day in my room.  Rev. Sanders was there on a “mission from God” and I mean that in the most sacred and reverent sense of the term.

A few days after he left, I had to go back to University of Chicago Hospital for more of those dreaded tests.

My father took me in the doctor’s office and, once again, they hooked me to every tube possible.  They doctor prodded and poked around on me for what seemed like eternity.  That cold stethoscope against my naked chest never did not feel good at all…but it was all part of the test.

Then…the nurse took me in a small room with my dad and we sat there and waited for the doctor to come back in.  It was all pretty routine.  He would always come back in the room and say there was no improvement and I needed to go back home to bed and he would “up” the dosage of my medicine.

But not today!

The door swung open to his office.  He came in and sat down in front of my dad and me.  He looked over his charts and what he said next will be forever imbedded in my mind, my heart and my spirit.

The words of the cardiologist, and my dad is my witness… “I am not going to say that you did not have rheumatic fever with the signs of a leaky valve and a murmur…but after all the tests we have run today, we cannot find anything wrong with you”.

(Excuse me for pausing here a second to cry again and give God a lot of Glory!)

They sent me home to live a normal life.  No more bed.  No more pills.  No more getting up at 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. to swallow a bunch of medicine.  No more missing church.  No more missing band practice or hanging out with all my friends.  NO MORE!!

God healed me of all my heart troubles and I was once again a healthy young man!!  For that I say a great big…THANK YOU JESUS!!!

There are a few people in my life that I will never forget from the summer of “78”.

Most certainly, my loving and incredible parents that took care of me that entire summer.  I love you dad, and if you can hear me in Heaven…I love you too, Mom!!

I will never forget our family physician, Dr. John Dunlap.

I will never forget the incredible folks at Bridgeview Church of God for all the prayers and for all the meals and for all the support you gave my family.

And to Rev. Ray Sanders…I love you very, very much my friend!!  I will never, ever forget you and your visit to my house that day in the summer of 1978.

So if you are wondering if I believe in miracles from God… well, you need not wonder any longer!

Just wanted to share my personal story with you!

PS…..

In case you were wondering, now that I am 50 years old, how my heart is doing today?

I went to the doctor about 3 months ago and had a EKG run.

The nurse came back in the room and said…. “Looks perfect…get your shirt back on and go home!”

Until next time…

Honoring the Passing of Paul McConnell

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubsWell, it is time for some playoff baseball! Unfortunately, like usual, my Cubbies are not going to be playing in October. So be it! I don’t feel too bad; my friends who are Braves fans have absolutely nothing to brag about this year either!

I read a story on Facebook that Theo Epstein, General Manager of the Cubs, said he is expecting the Cubs to be the National League East Champions next year.

Ya, right Theo! And I expect to win the lottery and retire in Bermuda.

Oh well, I have stuck with them [the Cubs] for 50 years now; I guess I will hang around for at least another 50.

I am pulling for the Orioles to win it all this year! Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. I just like them.

The Tennessee Vols play the Florida Gators this Saturday. I don’t wish anything bad on the Gators. But I hope they all get some sort of stomach virus and have the running squirts during the game.

Is that too harsh? If so, I am not apologizing! GO BIG ORANGE!!

Things have been pretty busy this past week at the funeral home.

In case some of you may not know, I have been in the funeral business for the past 30 years. I am a licensed funeral director and embalmer in the State of Tennessee.

I find myself having a more difficult time, the older I get, conducting funeral services.

Most of the funeral services we have now, I know the individual that passed away on a personal level. It makes it really hard to be strong and not show your emotions when you were friends with the person lying in the casket.

Such was the case the past Monday.

My friend, Paul McConnell passed away last Saturday.

Paul was the co-owner of McConnell-Gates Exxon for many, many years. He retired in 1991.

The service station was located right next to Grissom Funeral Home.

When I purchased the funeral home in 1988 from Gene Allen, after I paid the Bank of Cleveland the down payment and paid for the remodeling, I did not have much money left.

I went next door to McConnell-Gates Exxon service station and asked Miles Gates if I could set up a charge account. He told me that he would have to check with his partner, Paul, and he would let me know.

A few days later, I went back to fill up one of the funeral home vehicles and Miles told me that Paul said it would be okay.

Every time I went to fill up the cars, or get the oil changed, Paul McConnell always greeted me with a great big smile and asked how everything was going.

He was a hard worker. Never did I see Paul sitting down. He was constantly working the “full service” pumps or servicing a car or filling up tires or cleaning a windshield.

He was a very hard worker.

Not only was Paul a hard worker, but he was also a great man.

I never heard Paul use a cuss word. I never heard Paul tell a dirty joke. I never saw, or heard, Paul do anything that would not have been pleasing to the Lord.

He was just that kind of person.

He was a great businessman and a great Christian gentleman.

He was also an incredible husband, father and grandfather. He loved his family very much. I can remember Paul telling many stories of his grandkids or talking about his loving wife.

Paul retired in 1991, and I did not get to see him too much after that.

Once in a while I would go over to fill up my hearse or limo and Paul would be there visiting Miles. He always took time to talk to me and ask me the question…”How is everything going?”

I have worked hard for the past 30 years. The funeral home business is seven days a week/ 24 hours a day. It is a very rewarding career, but you do not get much time off. I have put in a lot of hours and missed a lot of weekends and holidays.

I consider myself to be a hard worker… but nothing like Paul McConnell.

I have been a Christian since I was 10 years old. I got saved at a Church of God Youth Camp in Southern Illinois. I have tried my best to serve the Lord and live right. I have failed God on a daily basis. But by HIS grace, I hope to make it to Heaven one day.

I have tried to be a good Christian… but nothing like Paul McConnell.

Monday, September 29, 2014, at 4:00 p.m., we had a funeral service at North Cleveland Baptist Church for one of the finest, hardworking, true Christian and loving family man that I will ever meet in this life.

Paul McConnell was a simple man. He planned his funeral out a long time ago. He told his family exactly the way he wanted it to be, and they honored his wishes.

It was a simple, but very nice, casket. The casket had no fancy flowers on top, but an American Flag to represent Paul’s service to his country. There was no fancy video playing on the big screen at the church. There was no dove release at the cemetery.

Just a simple, but very dignified funeral, for a simple and dignified gentleman.

Rest In Peace, Paul McConnell. You made an impact on my life and I will never, ever forget you.

Until next time…

A Lesson at Crossing the Road for Lee Students

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubsMy pulse is 210. My blood pressure is most likely 240/205. My face is blood red. If I had any hair at all…right now I would pull every bit of it out of my head!!!

No, it has nothing to do with the Cubs finishing in last place for the season.

No, it has nothing to do with the fact I am still paying alimony.

No, it has nothing to do with the fact that the old lady from WOOP radio keeps leaving me vulgar messages on my cell phone.

It is none of the above.

The reason I am having all these issues going on at one time, is because I just drove “smack dab” through the middle of Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., at most likely the worst time of the day.

First of all, let me say that I am a big fan of Dr. Paul Conn, President of the university.

Secondly, let me say that I attended Lee College in 1982 prior to enrolling in Mortuary College back in my hometown of Chicago, Illinois.

Thirdly, let me say that I appreciate the progress over the years that Lee has experienced and I wish them all the best in the future.

HOWEVER…

I am just wondering, during freshman orientation, is there any possible way to teach the incoming students from all over the country to…PLEASE DON’T CROSS THE ROAD WHEN CARS ARE COMING!!!

Let me explain something right here.

There are speed bumps…no, excuse me…there are small “Speed Mountains” installed in the roadway every 25 to 30 feet…NO JOKE!! And these “Speed Mountains” are most likely 3 feet tall.

Now, I don’t care about the “Speed Mountains”. I truly do not. I own a Toyota FJ Cruiser Four Wheel Drive and I can shift that puppy into 4×4 and lock in the rear wheels and climb any speed bump that Tri-Conn Construction can erect!! So the “Speed Mountains”, at least for me, are not that big of a deal.

BUT…

Would someone please explain to me, if you are at least 18 years of age and you are attending a major university, you should know not to cross the road if a CAR IS COMING YOUR WAY!!!

For many, many years, there has only been one place at Lee where the men from the male dormitory would cross the road at Ocoee Street and Medlin Residence Hall. That was bad enough. I know of several incidents where students have almost been hit from walking out in the path of oncoming traffic at that same intersection.

BUT NOW…

There are at least 425 “Speed Mountains” erected on the main roads passing through the middle of the campus and at every single one of them, students cross and expect the cars to stop.

Why do they not just close off the streets completely at the university??

Why do they take the chance of a student getting hit by a car??

This is something that is making me ask the question…”WHY”?

I will repeat my earlier statement so that everyone is clear.

I have all the appreciation and respect in the world for Dr. Paul Conn. I love Lee University and what it means to our community. I have many friends that are faculty members at that University. HOWEVER, is there not a solution to this problem??

Or, maybe there IS no problem, and it really is the fact that my Chicago Cubs suck and I am just mad they have had another horrible season.

You be the judge!

Until next time.

Do you agree? Disagree? Comment now.

Get Involved with My Alzheimer’s Marathon

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubsFirst of all, let me say great big CONGRATULATIONS to my Cubbies!

They have been winning a lot of games lately, and they have the best record of wins in the National League for the month of August 2014!

They even swept the series with the first place Milwaukee Brewers last week.

Now, as soon as I say all of that, watch and see if they don’t start losing every game.

That is the way it happens. That is why they are the Cubs!

My best friend in Chicago, Bill Matyskela, is a die-hard White Sox fan. I love Bill for every other reason other than baseball. We do NOT agree on baseball at all.

However, Bill’s dad, Mr. Matyskela as I like to call him, is just like me…a life-long fan of the Chicago Cubs!

I have always liked the way Mr. Matyskela said it. To quote him, “The problem with the Cubs is…they are the Cubs.”

From his mouth to God’s ears! He is so right.

Enough about my team.

I have something very special coming up tomorrow that I would be remiss if I did not share in this week’s blog.

This is the second year in a row I have done this and I could not be more proud.

I host a morning radio show three times a week out of WOOP Radio Station in Cleveland, Tennessee. The call numbers are 99.9 on your FM dial.

(Of course we are such a low-wattage station that you have to actually be inside the parking lot of the radio station to receive the channel on your car tuner.)  Bad joke there…but almost correct.

The other option is to go to the World Wide Web and locate our station live streaming at www.woopfm.com.

This Thursday morning, beginning at 6:00 a.m., Eastern, I will be hosting for 27 hours straight on the radio the “Patty Grissom Memorial Alzheimer’s WOOP-A-THON.”

Last year we went 26 and half hours and raised a little over $15,000.

This year I am going to break the “on-air” time record by 30 minutes and I also hope to break the level of giving record as well.

This 27 hour marathon was named in memory of my mom, Patty Grissom, who passed away from Alzheimer’s/Dementia on December 14, 2010 at 4:56 a.m.

Yes, I know the exact time. I was standing at the foot of her bed and watched her take her last breath on this earth and her first breath in Heaven.

I, like many other folks, had no clue about Alzheimer’s or the affects it had on individuals until my mother was diagnosed.

It is a horrible, cruel disease and I am doing my part to help the Alzheimer’s Association and Doctors find a cure.

I am not the only one that will be staying up for 27 hours straight.

This year I have two great friends who will be joining me for the all day and all night into the next morning marathon.

Cindy Lowery is Vice-President of the Southeast Tennessee Alzheimer’s Association. Cindy was with me last year for the entire 26 and half hours of the marathon and has agreed to sign on once again for this year’s marathon.

A “newbie” to the Patty Grissom Memorial Alzheimer’s Marathon is my friend, Brian Graves.

Brian is a reporter for the Cleveland Daily Banner and is one of the most intelligent individuals I know. He is a great reporter and he has an incredible sense of humor. I am proud to call him my friend and I am really proud that he has volunteered to be on the air for 27 hours straight with Cindy and myself.

My usual Thursday-Friday co-hosts deserve a lot of credit as well. Jackie Rumble, aka “Mama Hazy” and Dr. Jay McCluskey, aka “Dr. Jay McCluskey”, will be putting in a lot of time on the show as well.

Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. we will be having a “Flash Mob Choir” of the Red Back Hymnal. We will be joining together in a large choir, filling the studio, and singing all the old hymns from the infamous Red Back Hymnal.

Followed by the Collins Brothers Band performing live on the main stage at the Village Green at 8:00 p.m.

Now, here is how you can get involved.

Please call the WOOP Radio Station on Thursday or Friday at 423-614-5553 and make your pledge. Or, if you live near in or near Cleveland, please come by the WOOP Studios and drop off your pledge in person.

I would love the opportunity to chat with you live on the air. And please mention you heard about the marathon from the blog on BeaverDamnUSA.com!

You can listen in Cleveland or surrounding area on 99.9FM or from anywhere in the world on www.woopfm.com live streaming.

In memory of the most incredible mom in the whole world, dedicated this year to Don Kaylor and the hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives to this cruel disease.

I love you, mom! Always and Forever!

Yours truly,

Your “little boy”, Mark

Encore Presentation: Impulsiveness and the Trouble it Causes

Loving the Cubs... and other problems I have Mark Grissom beaverdamusa.comNote: Mark is in Tibet this week touring a Yak farm he is considering buying. In his absence, we are re-running one of his more popular blogs, which originally published on April 23, 2014.

Let me make one thing clear as I begin writing this particular blog. I do not feel good at all! I woke up yesterday morning and my nose was stopped up and my throat was sore and my body ached. I still feel sick. I refuse to go to the doctor. So I guess I will just have to tough this out and let it run its course.

Your sympathy is deeply appreciated. And now…on to the blog.

I am a person of impulse.

I am the one at the grocery store that buys things he never went in there for to start with. I walk down the aisle and see things that look good and I grab one or two and throw them in my basket. I would be better off making a list of items I need before I go.

I go and buy a new vehicle on my first trip to the car dealership, instead of taking my time and looking around at all my options and getting the best deal I can.

I went to Scott’s Furniture Store last week to get a television stand for my new townhouse. By the time I left, I had purchased a TV stand, a leather recliner, a desk and an area rug. All in the matter of 15 to 20 minutes.

I make quick decisions and then sometimes regret them later.

This is why I have no business using computer email, texting or Facebooking.  I need time to think over things and study them out before my fingers or my mouth kick into gear and I type or say something I should not have.

You often hear the phrase…”Once something has been sent in black and white, there is no taking it back.”  I would do very well to have that tattooed on my arm!

Several years ago, I served on the Bradley County School Board. I had problems with certain school board members. (A couple of which I still do.)  I sent out an email at the time concerning the Director of Schools and letting him leave the system sooner than he requested.

To send that email was single handedly the worst decision of my life. (Okay…maybe the second worst decision of my life.)

I did not take the time to study what the consequences of that email would be to myself and to my business. It ended up being a disaster.

There were certain idiotic school board members, even after I stood up and gave a public apology in a special called board meeting, which used that one email I sent to try and destroy my business, my family and my character. They did their very best to hurt me and try and force my resignation from the school board.

Due to the fact that right always wins, I did not resign the school board and I learned that I have a whole lot of friends and supporters in Bradley County.

I received more phone calls, emails and personal visits from hundreds of people in our community that wanted to say they supported me and stood behind me.

I made a bad error in judgment when I sent that email. I admitted that in the special called board meeting. I apologized. Everyone forgave me that evening. Everyone except a few school board members that took the side of dirty politics.

Their day will come. Karma is a real… well, you know!

I am human. I make mistakes on a daily basis. I screw up every day of my life. We all do. Some of us more than others. Thank God for His Grace!

My quick impulse tends to get me in trouble sometimes. If you ever listen to my radio show on WOOP FM you will know that things come out of my mouth before they have a chance to be processed through my brain.

Maybe that is what makes my radio show so interesting.

I think it is time that I not be so impulsive. Slow down and smell the roses. Take time in my decision making process. Quit sending texts when I am mad about things. Make a grocery list out before I head off to Bi-Lo. And look around for the best deal on a new truck instead of buying the first one I see.

Ya… I have a few things to work on. So let’s get started!

Until next time… GO CUBS!!

Who I Want for My Pallbearers

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubs“Gentlemen, please step up to the casket…take a firm hold on the handle…and all lift together.  Watch your step and just follow the minister to the gravesite.”

If I had a dollar for every time I had said that phrase in my 30 plus year career in the funeral business…I would have several thousand dollars. Those are the words, (just about the same every single funeral), that I tell the pallbearers who are providing the honors of carrying the deceased for the very last time.

The word “pallbearer” is used to describe one of several participants who help carry the casket of a deceased person from the place of the funeral to the mausoleum or graveside. Pallbearer comes from the days when, in the early church, the casket always had a covering over it called a pall.

Thus, individuals were used to “bear” the coffin the “pall” covered. A pall is still used today in the Roman Catholic Church, the Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church and most of the time in the United Methodist Church.

Most individuals do not know the significance of the pall.

I learned what it was years ago.

I absolutely love the idea of the casket pall.

A pall is almost like a very large blanket made of the finest material and usually has a cross-embroidered on the top.  It is made large enough to cover the entire casket.

The purpose of the pall is…no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have or do not have, no matter how expensive or inexpensive your casket is…we are ALL on the same level when we enter the house of the Lord.

Absolutely incredible.

Before I get too emotional…back to the pallbearers.

Most families use six men to carry the casket of their loved one to their final resting place.

Most of the time those men are six of the closest friends of the deceased.

That has always amazed me. The deceased and the casket together weigh a whole lot. Most of the time, the total weight will be in excess of 350 to 400 pounds.

Most of the time, the gravesite is up a steep hill and it is truly a struggle for those six men to carry the casket to the final resting place.

I have often wondered, and said to many pallbearers over the years, why is it that the family would not pick six of the deceased’s “worst enemies” and make them carry that casket?

But I get it. I understand.

When my mom, God rest her soul, passed away December of 2010, my dad and I already had the pallbearers picked out: her grandson, her nephews and one close friend in ministry for many, many years.

The family asks me a lot of times, “can we use our own family members to be pallbearers?”

The answer is simple…yes!

Pallbearers, over the years, have consisted of children of the deceased, brothers, cousins, fishing buddies, motorcycle brothers, work associates and fellow classmates.

There have been times that women are used to serve as pallbearers. Not many.

Please don’t get mad at me, ladies…but you are just not as strong as the male population. If we use one or two females for pallbearers, we generally ask them to be in the middle section of the casket.

(Note to editor:  You WILL get emails about the previous comment.)

Whenever we have the funeral of a little baby, a small “infant casket” is used that can be carried by one individual. When we arrive at the cemetery, I approach the father of the infant and ask them would they like to carry their child to the gravesite.

The answer, for over 30 years, has always been…Yes.

I can assure you, when those in attendance look and see the dad carrying their small baby to the grave all by himself, there is not a dry eye in the crowd.

Including…me.

Here are some thoughts you should remember if you are ever asked to serve as a pallbearer of a close friend or loved one.

Arrive at least 30 minutes early to the funeral home or church.

Ask the funeral director where you should put your car in the processional line-up.

You will be given instructions by the funeral director or his/her assistant as to where you will be seated and when you will be needed for the service.

It is always nice when the pallbearers stand together by the casket at the gravesite.

After the service at the cemetery is over, please follow the minister and greet the family one last time.

Remember, you are among an elite group of six individuals that have been chosen by the family to carry their loved one for the very last time. I have given it much thought as to whom I would use to serve as my pallbearers when the Lord calls me home.

The answer is very simple.

Six men from the Bank of Cleveland.

They carried me all my life.

They should carry me in death.

Until next time…Go Cubs!

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Sorry, Mr. Mickelson, I’m Probably the Reason You Lost

beaverdamusa.com, mark grissom, chicago cubsOther than a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field, The Master’s Golf Tournament or the College Football National Championship game…the PGA Championship is the only other sporting event that makes me watch 5 hours of continuous television for a sports event.

This past weekend, the PGA Championship was played in Louisville, Kentucky.

I was pulling for Phil Mickelson…. all the way!

Therein lies the problem.

You see, I am a “die-hard” fan of the Chicago Cubs.  I have been a fan nearly all my life.

Since I was five years old, I have pulled for the very worst team in Major League Baseball every single year.

That is my lot in life.  When I pull for a certain team or individual…they usually end up on the losing side.  Let’s just say it is the “curse of the Cubs fan”.

All my life I can remember cheering on a certain horse at the Kentucky Derby.

The horse I picked…lost.

I can remember hoping a certain tennis player would win Wimbledon.

The player I picked…lost.

I can also remember making a trip to Memphis, Tennessee with Richard Roberts at the Cleveland Daily Banner about 8 or 9 years ago to pull for the Walker Valley Lady Mustangs Girls Softball Team in the State Finals.

They lost.

I gave everything I had in cheering on the United States Soccer Team to win the World Cup this year in Brazil.

Well…you know what happened.

It is the “curse of the Cubs fan”.

It does not seem to matter the sport, event or political race.  If I pull for them…they are sure to lose.

This past weekend, I was Phil Mickelson’s biggest fan in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Well…at least one of his biggest fans.

On Sunday, I was sitting in front of my television right at 2:00 p.m., sharp!  Jim Nance was on CBS and I was ready for some golf!

I had someone covering the funeral home in case of a death call.  (I guess I would have left in case of emergency).

However, things managed to stay quiet long enough at work for me to watch the entire telecast of the final day at the PGA Championship.

After the weather delay, Mickelson teed off!

Here we go!!

He played absolutely incredible Sunday.  Birdie, par, birdie, birdie, par, birdie…well, you get it.

I was yelling at the television…”C’MON PHIL!!!”

Then, a bogey.  CRAP!

All of a sudden this final day in Louisville took a really bad turn.

It was not only the fact he made a bogey toward the end of the 18 hole tournament.

No…something far worse for Phil.

I somehow checked my Facebook page about the same time as the bogey; only to find out that another “die-hard” Cubs fan I know was pulling for Phil as well.

My friend, former “Chicagoan,” and fellow Cubs fan…Mr. Mark Smith of Cleveland.

NO!

It is the “CURSE OF THE CUBS FAN” times 2 on Phil now!

Fate would have it that Rory McIlroy would take back the lead and end up winning the PGA Championship that day.

What was I thinking?  What was Mark Smith thinking?  If only we had both pulled for Rory or Bubba or Kenny Perry!  Then Phil might have had a chance!

This “curse of the Cubs fan,” that I believe truly exists, has made me re-think everything I choose to do in life from now on.

I will pull for the opposite team.  I will cheer on the player I want to lose.  I will pick a horse to win, knowing all along I hope that sucker comes in last place.

I am “doomed” the rest of my life to pick the complete opposite of the one I really want.

This issue has caused me to lose a lot of sleep at night.

Being a single guy, and I go out to eat and there are two women there sitting together, do I pick the one that I hope says no?

This could get very complicated real quick!

There is only one time in my fifty years on this earth when the “curse of the Cubs fan” did NOT control the destiny and outcome of a certain event.

For the last 9 months or longer, I have pulled for and cheered on a lady who I love dearly to win in a political race.  I go to church with her and her husband and their family.  I wanted her to win worse than anything in this world.

Last Thursday night, Dianna Ball Calfee was victorious in her campaign for Bradley County School Board.

Congratulations, Dianna!

The “curse of the Cubs fan” was put to rest for that one evening. Victory was ours.  And justice prevailed!

As for Phil Mickelson this past Sunday, all I can say is…I am very sorry.

Until next time…Go Cubs!

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