Successful Developments: Yours & Mine

Friday, September 5, 2008

Joe Brantley - Sharing A Bright and Shining Spirit


If you haven't figured it out by now, I get along with most people. I like to share smiles and strike up conversations with most everyone.

That's why I enjoy going to the neighborhood coffee shop to eat and drink coffee while engaging in conversation with interesting people.

Although, I have to admit, I eat there way too often. (2-3 times a day including eating supper with Cheryl.) I figured it out the other day... I probably spend at least $6,000 a year eating there.

Anyway... over a year ago, an incident happened that warmed my heart immensely.

I was telling the regulars (that's what they called us) about me joining an eight-ball pool league at Legends. I told them that I like to shop on e-bay, and had won the bid on a couple of pool sticks.

One of the men spoke up and said "Man, you're wasting your money." I told him that I thought I got a good deal by buying two sticks for less than $20 and that included shipping and handling.

He then said "I got a stick you might like."

I didn't think much about it and the subject changed.

The next day, Cheryl and I sat down at the low counter. I noticed... the man I was talking with the day before... got up and went to his van.

When he came back in, he handed me a leather cue stick case and said "You can hold this for a while." and sat back down at his booth.

I asked him his name. (I'm bad about not calling people by their names and just start talking.) He said "Joe." I asked him his last name, and he said "You don't need to know that."

I tried to give him my cell phone number and he said he didn't need it. I told him he might want it back. He said "I won't."

I looked inside the leather case. It had two Meucci cue sticks inside it and some other accessories. I was overwhelmed. These were not cheap nor inexpensive sticks.

After that, we started talking more. I learned he used to play pool on a regular basis and that the best players in the U.S. are between Mobile and New Orleans.

Some of the regulars told me that Joe could beat anybody at eight-ball with a broom stick. And over the next few weeks, Joe mentioned some of the players he had shot against.

I asked Joe if he would play me so he could show me how to improve my game. He said that his eyes had gotten too bad to shoot anymore.

However, he did give me some advice and plenty of moral support. I always enjoyed his company.

The other night, Doug dropped by the house, and we got to talking about Joe. He said that he was in the restaurant about ten years ago and had forgotten his wallet. He told me that Joe asked the waitress to put Doug's meal on his tab.

Doug said that the next time he saw Joe, he tried to pay Joe back. Doug told me the only thing Joe said was "Put your money away. That wasn't a loan."

We were talking about Joe because, earlier that day, I received a call from Joe's family and friends to tell me Joe had passed away the night before.

About a week before, I found out that Joe was paralyzed from a stroke he had Saturday morning and that he was not found until Tuesday morning.

While Joe was laying there, without food or water, he had also had a heart attack and his blood sugar was at 600 when they found him. Not good for anyone, especially not for a sixty-seven year old man.

It was a miracle that he survived that long. He evidently had someone else to influence before his spirit could return to our Creator.

I visited Joe that night. Joe looked past me while I gave him words of encouragement in hopes he could hear me. I told him we were praying for his strength so he could overcome this challenge in his life.

On Thursday, I met some of his family. On that visit, Joe responded to me being there. A few days earlier, I wasn't sure.

There was a lady holding his hand that Thursday. When I came into the room, she asked me "what does Joe know you by?" I had to admit that I had no idea. I told her that it could be "Frank", "Mr. B", or "Mr. Bolton."

Like I said earlier, we just talk and usually don't mention names. We laughed about that, and she asked Joe to squeeze her hand to let her know he knew I was visiting.

He started squeezing her hand. Then we started talking about how much he had improved and how we were all praying for his strength.

Cheryl and I both visited him last Sunday and saw that Joe was breathing long and deep breaths. Resting very peacefully.

I got two calls Tuesday morning, both telling me that Joe had passed away.

Today, Joe's obituary was posted in the Mobile Press-Register.

Tomorrow my wife and I will be paying our respects at the Prayer Tabernacle Church.

Joe's spirit and memory will always be with me. I think of him when I drive past the restaurant and every time I use the cue sticks he gave me.

He will live in the words people say about him. His spirit will survive as long as people like me write about him and his thoughtfulness.

Joe is (and will always be) a bright and shining soul... someone I am proud to have known.

When I reach an age when I want to give up playing eight-ball, I will make sure I give those sticks to someone who enjoys the game as much as I enjoy it. Just like Joseph Brantley did.

Until next time...

Girard Frank Bolton, III.
The Developers Advocate

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