“The waiting is the hardest part. Every day you see one more card. You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, The waiting is the hardest part”
Thomas Petty & his Heartbreaking band of soul brother minstrels
I tried to capture Kevin’s heart in this video so the reader could experience what a precious man he is.
The clock ticks slowly when in prison. The clock seems to tick even slower while waiting on God to divinely intercede for a friend or family member.
Aside from fervent prayer, this seemed like a good time to get my blog on.
Rising from a 14 hour sleep, physically & emotionally drained, the clock indeed is ticking slowly @ 1:53am, July 31, 2013, in the year of our Lord. Some have said fear is the opposite of faith. I’m not sure there’s any specific Scriptural basis for that statement. While Kevin waits for a life-changing operation in Beaumont Hospital’s ICU, this is one guy waiting with bated breath. C’mon gang! Let’s keep it real. Anyone blessed to have been drawn into Kevin’s love orbit must be experiencing some modicum of fear & trepidation right now. It seems fairly inhuman to think one could be a spiritual paragon of strength, immune from the adversity of a loved one battling for their life. I’m not really in the mood for some hyper-faith, charismaniac to tell me anything different right now. If that’s your opinion, please keep it to yourself and get in touch with your detached soul.
The kid is a real fighter with more balls, class & Irish chutzpah than most men will ever know. He’s loved by many because (in part) he lives a life free from guile with an infectious smile. No matter the situation, Kevin has never been known to whine like a little bitch.
Born the sixth of seven Hurley kids, life has not been easy for Kev. At three years old, he was struck and nearly killed by a car in front of the Hurley Compound at 29404 Mark Blvd. in Madison Heights Michigan. Tonight, vivid memories of squealing rubber, followed by a few seconds of uncertainty, flood the synaptic gaps in what is left of a brain. Dad instinctively rushed out to his young son prostrated motionless on the pavement. More than a few teeth were knocked out from the impact of metal on flesh as Kevin was slammed to the street. With every protective & paternalistic molecule rising up, Dad reflexively knelt down to grab Kevin in a bear-like hug while screaming; “My baby! Oh God! My baby!” Fortunately, another neighborhood father (maybe it was Mr. Moy) stopped Dad and told him not to move Kevin because of the further harm it might cause. Howard restrained Dad and said; “See Tom? He’s starting to cry. Wait for the ambulance.”
Though touch & go at first, Kevin did recover. However, it wasn’t an easy process. He had to wear a brace for a long time, kids in school called him “Gimp” How uncool is that? Not exactly an esteem builder. Nonetheless, Kev never lost his smile. A beautiful smile that would grow to enchant a bevy of babes over a lifetime of mix-tapes to woo them, was a source of brotherly jealousy…in a good way.
The girls just love Kevin
As a young guy with more than his fair share of maniacal big brothers, Kevin’s energy and approach to life has always been infectious. He’s never been one to enable the “Debbie Downers” of the world. There’s no room for that in his world. He loves to dance, so either get with the program, or get off the dance floor.
Like many of you reading this and other members of our family, Kev has had his share of battles. Never one to quit or punk-out, he’s clawed and scratched his way to personal freedom while treating every day as a miraculous gift.
He remains The Favorite Uncle to a plethora of nieces & nephews.
Anyone blessed to have crossed paths with Kevin became better people for it. His ability to connect on a soul level is the stuff of legends…right up there with brother Joe. No, I’m not putting my brothers on any kind of pedestal. With a core of Christ, that kind of love effluent is a natural expression of grace.
On that note, please believe with the Hurley Family for his full and complete recovery. Our God is an awesome God who reigns high and above any illness or disease. Father is all about solution & resolution, as opposed to living in the problem. Yeah…I’m down with the 11th Step. It suggests we pray for the knowledge of God’s will in matters like this and His power to carry it out with enough grace to accept whatever goes down.
I’m quite certain the love of God trumps any human weakness or propensity to invoke our will when it comes to someone we love.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. Please forgive this brother where words have failed. At only 913 words, an effort is being made by economizing the King’s language to say more with less. More than a few of you just shouted “Hallelujah!”
To all his friends & road dawgs…thanks so much for being in Kevin’s life as you continue to intercede and stand in the gap for his restoration to health. May our prayers for Kev be that he continues on a path of grace to comfort others with the comfort he’s received.
May God bless your hearts.
Kevin received a liver transplant on August 7, 2013
By the grace of God, He’s expected to make a full recovery
With swirling cold winds of an autumn night blowing leaves from the trees, failing to impact the warmth in my soul one enjoys in the afterglow of genuine fellowship, a satiated sense of accomplishment engendered gratitude. Leaving the Monday Night Alcoholics for Christ meeting in Ferndale Michigan one year ago...that had been a good one. Any meeting where men and women are honest and transparent constitutes lining up with the intended spirit Bill Wilson and Dr.
With swirling cold winds of an autumn night blowing leaves from the trees, failing to impact the warmth in my soul one enjoys in the afterglow of genuine fellowship, a satiated sense of accomplishment engendered gratitude. Leaving the Monday Night Alcoholics for Christ meeting in Ferndale Michigan one year ago…that had been a good one. Any meeting where men and women are honest and transparent constitutes lining up with the intended spirit Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had in mind when giving birth to The Fellowship. The literature, coffee, key-tags, cookies, steps, principles and music are all important parts of the engine. God provides the gas to make it run and arrive at the intended destination.
Bill taught me that.
So…the only thing missing from that particular meeting one year ago tonight, was Bill Keaton, my sponsor of 32 years. Having just moved out of the Bloomfield Hills shithole masquerading as some form of “assisted living” quarters he’d been sent to, the Keaton Girls worked very hard to find a better place for their poppa. Successful in their mission, Bill was the very first resident in a brand new facility, north of Clarkston. The staff there lavished Billy with a tsunami of attention. He lapped it up like a big kitty at the water bowl…while connecting with each employee in his inimitable way. They adored the guy, catering to his every whim…especially multiple glasses of orange juice and specific instructions on how to make his hot chocolate. “Make sure it’s in a good mug with a saucer and napkin…whipped cream on top and then drip some Hershey’s Syrup over it as the last touch of flourish bahrutha. Praise God!’”
Warm thoughts of that ilk filled my head while warming the car up in the circular drive outside the AC Meeting. Warm is good. Another kind of warmth ensued as I lit up an anointed Marlboro that my fellow disciples approve of. Inhaling deeply for a rush of nicotine, the phone suddenly rang, rousing me to attention. Bill’s oldest daughter was on the other end. She was crying and clearly despondent as she told me Bill had just died.
The kind of; “This is bullshit God! You just opened the doors to a new place….shit, he’s only been there a few days…he was happy…eating well…smiling…at peace with a ton of joy…what the hell are you doing Dad?” …denial slammed my heart as I struggled for composure in the car. Karen asked if I could shoot north on I-75 to hook up with her sister Pam for support and whatever needed to be done. Looking back, breaking every speed limit known to man seems kinda’ silly…but that’s just what I did. Arriving at the facility, memories of my friend swirled around like the flow of the Manistee River. Seeing him lying lifeless in his room seemed surrealistic. He had such a great sense of humor, an infectious laugh, and a lust for life.
The director of the facility met me just prior to entering his room. Called in from home, she had obviously started in a bottle of wine to wind down her evening. I didn’t care. At that point in time, nothing else mattered. Bill had gone home, but the reality of that fact had not yet registered. As we talked in Billy’s room where the EMS Crew was busy doing what they do, one of his nurses came in to give a tear-soaked hug. Blurting out how she had found Bill un-responsive…
“I did everything possible to revive him Mr. Hurley!”
“Well it’s a good thing you weren’t successful”
“Because Bill was more than ready to go home. Had you been successful in reviving him, I assure you that he would not be a happy camper. You did OK. In his short time here, Bill made an impact and you fine folks took real good care of my friend and I thank you for that.”
Through a tear-streaked countenance, she seemed to get it.
The rest of the night (for that matter…the majority of this year) was a roller-coaster ride of emotional ups and downs. God was/is big enough to handle my petulant rant of spiritual immaturity. Back at the crib, I spent some time looking through old emails and pictures. I found one that embodies the kind of relationship we had and how we communicated. Responding to news of an impending move from Holland to Oakland County, Bill wrote this back in 2007;
Good Morning Brother!
What an exciting (and scary) time this has got to be for you. It’s almost like being pushed out of the nest. But one thing we know is that Father loves you with an everlasting love and He didn’t bring you out this far to let you go back again. Read the RED BOOK this morning if you haven’t already, It sure is a word for today . Everybody down in this neck of the woods will be praying for you and your family that this will be a time of continued healing, not only for you, but for the whole Hurley tribe.
Let me know when you get a phone because writing is your thing, but as you know it’s not mine. I love you brother, you are in my heart!
GOD BLESS YOUR HEART
Gosh…I miss him so. To not get an email or pick up the phone sucks. I’d give anything to be interrupted right now at 2:06AM with a call from Billy because he couldn’t get his remote control to work. O’ Lord, forgive the times when patience was stretched thin. Thank you for the moment shared…captured in this picture. This was the last photo of us. One of the nurses shot it at just the right time. Bill had asked me to break out the Taylor and sing a few tunes. We had segued into a Keith Green song’ “O’ Lord Your Beautiful” when this was snapped.
God bless your hearts. Be kind and gentle with each other. Our time here together is but a nanosecond in eternity.
The ensuing year since Bill died has been the best and worst of times.
Sometimes I feel like a rudderless ship without my brother and it hurts like a mofo.
This pic pretty much captures everything about brother Kev at the top of his game.
at the end of this day
established a pact
made for all nations
changed the fact
how grace and salvation
made possible with pain
the Lamb’s shed blood
poured and rained
down that hill of mud
gave all He had
on Golgotha’s hill
the place of the skull
that we could soar
empty lives made full
cries & roar
just a few years back
locked in a cage
choking on rage
today a visit
a bro in a hospital bed
neither one dead
playing guitar for the King
at the Vineyard tonight
thank you Jesus
for dying on that rock
opening the lock
silencing our wail
renting the veil
all doubt diminished
gasping…”it is finished”
t. hurley 2013
t. hurley 2013
a warm greeting…our first meeting
the pearl bore witness…a man polished & stoned
sautéed & seasoned…no longer free
bereft of all reason…locked on tier three
in the jackson cage
flopping like a fish…on a dry river bank
a desperate wish…earl took pity
a place so oppressive…mayor of jack-town city
unlikely neighbors…earl “the pearl” cross
dug this sailor…the cross a rock-boss
no, more like a tailor…sewing up failures
in a small, safe ‘hood…where no one dared
to cross Cross…or mess with hurls
earl looked out…when good lookin’ was needed
down twenty-five to life…after reluctantly pleading
called out for his wife…coming home early
it was way too much…drove pearl squirrely
some punk biblically knowing…everything showing
the bride of his youth…in their wedding bed
earl whipped out a heater….shot him in his ass
he didn’t beat her…gave her a pass
rage exploding…wrong or right
snuffed out a life…leaving behind
two wounded sons…and a horny wife
the hurls could relate
we had that in common…surviving as clowns
for a life mostly down…devoid of dignity
no freedom or semblance…of any respect
a fight for survival…he knew the drill
taught by earl with style…put the “ch” in chill
i was pearl’s nigga’…his words not mines
so try to relax…with your PC crimes
that never can see…past the nose of your face
or a condescending finger…that has no place
devoid of grace…in the jackson cage
under his wing…with much love & respect
ain’t no thang…but a chicken wang
black & white no barrier…what a team we made
we banged hard…confounding the guards
earl would smile and say
”fuck those bitches today”
riffing off…my twelve steppin’ ways
earl got high…it made no sense
iron sharpening iron…cutting down a fence
that otherwise kept…two men from knowing
how precious it is…when brethren dwell together
meetings a source of force…earl had no time for
as a matter of course…would gladly trade
a carton of squares….for a tab of morphine
offering pills of nirvana
In the jackson cage
laughing so hard…gosh was he funny
earl schemed hard….playing a card
a 40 gallon rubber can…gettin’ over on the man
cooking in his cell…belching putrid smells
defiant when busted…sent to the hole
for a 90 day season…released but not trusted
for very good reason
did it again…second time’s a charm
mason jars filled with scars
souls laid bare…8 ounce drinks
for a pack of squares…to stop the thinks
and ease the pain…that living brings
while grace was present…for hurls to refrain
saving the brain…it sure was tempting
every cell screaming…for chemical salvation
saturday night dreamin’…cell-block one north
on gallery three…in the jackson cage
earl ran numbers…the hurls would type
way before learning…rejecting all hype
big-time burning…by a major ticket
had to quit it
resignation tendered…for services rendered
pearl just smiled…in a place so vile
invoking yellow bile…toxic shame and remorse
stacked in piles…against cold tiles
where all we could do…at the end of a day
finding solace in the word…on knees we prayed
tough guys calling…that’s how we rolled
God funneled grace…to the face of our souls
on cold cement bawling…we cried for a touch
from the king of kings…in that jackson cage
heard earl scream once…a letter from home
hit like a punch…a black face drenched
tears of remorse…for sons never seen
dad’s tortured soul…contenders now pretenders
on the brink of abyss…smelling like piss
“this ain’t no way to live! your boys need you! get out and stay out!”
more to give…word on that one
took up earl…a cage is no fun
a promise kept…fifteen years
then sobriety lost priority
tsunamis of addiction…building off coast
smashing the shores…the weight of sin
on those who love most…did it again
during the hit…of a second bit
earl wouldn’t be pleased…thought of him often
he once was my POTUS…found out through OTIS
life came to an end…in the jackson cage
a crushed heart in pieces…hep c releases
to life eternal…no burning infernal
he was my brother…with more faith, balls & class
than most guys I’ve known…in any church service or mass
a visual remains…a big drum of spud
like a bear with her cubs…protecting the suds
from scandalous buds…gurgling crud
to break chains and annihilate brains
with societal misdeeds…in spite of the losses
earl lived by a creed…old-school to most
with a faith so deep…it could keep
spirits revived…souls psychedelisized
pearl oft would say…as a greeting of sorts
”Youse a crazy muthafucka hurls”
well, for my two cents…earl was a saint
most wouldn’t dissent…meeting this guy
the epitome’ of sorry…on a god awful safari
earl’s pot calling
this white boy black
once prostrated on altars
of smack, jack & crack
stopped from free-falling
sprung from unholy hells
it hardly seems true
these skies of blue
but I’ll take it
over being locked up
in rooms with chipped paint
staying busy with brooms
we made it through
human auctions of flesh
redeemed from death
turning back no option
by God’s love & grace
takes every breath
to avoid anything like
the jackson cage
rip my brother
As hard as Apple i-everythings want us to believe otherwise, there’s no digital substitute for the charge that came from passing a note.
On that score, society is bored and desperate for a counterfeit.
Old school flirting & texting had a much higher heat index.
I’ll never forget Sr. Josephine busting me in 8th grade passing a rather randy for-the-time note to a girl. She’d (not Sr. Josephine) been in the cross-hairs of my virgin, libidinous, adolescent love-radar all year. So nervous as to actually do anything about it, she lived only in the guilty-pleasure recesses of an altar boy brain formed in molds of shame and guilt.
After a recess game of dodge-ball on a warm spring day in 1968, I finally took a shot.
Still learning about predicate adjectives modifying the noun subject, so please bear with me.
Where was I? O’ yeah…girls.
Catholic grrls have their own style and method. She (who shall remain unnamed) blushed and smiled demurely when handing her the note. Unceremonially busted by the evil nun in a quest to connect was no cause to abort the mission at hand. Chivalrous points were scored by not outing her as the recipient. Today, chivalry is not dead…only smothered by the oppressive Antichrist of political correctness.
It was well worth falling on the sword. Two months later, the maiden of my affections reciprocated. She stalked me in the hallway with brown squares to line up on. With perfect timing, she pounced like a female leopard, and pushed me into the open locker in the hallway. Being pinned in the locker for a kiss on the last day of school made it worth the first felonious charge of being busted for passing a desperate note of longing.
Her furtive kiss shocked my young eighth-grade sense of propriety inflicted by frustrated nuns. Holy Guacamole Batman. That kiss provided a serious charge shooting from the soles of my feet through the top of an Irish melon that’s never forgotten it.
Her sweet, not-so-innocent kiss fired every brain synapse in a fractal cacophony of impact. As she withdrew from the strike and smiled, I could only slump in that locker and drool. With knees of jello later bent in a prayer of gratitude, it was a holy event.
She went on to Bishop Foley while I went on to moral bankruptcy and debauchery in the public system of More Fun. Truth be told, those Foley Girls could party like rock stars.
But I digress…again
Today, the PC Police might call that 45-year-old memory a source of trauma. Imagine being harassed, bullied & man-handled into a dark locker for a kiss.
The horror, the horror…not. It was righteous, real and fun. Can’t do that with a smart phone.
Seeing her happily married at the last Bishop Foley reunion, nothing needed to be said. For a millisecond with eyes locked, we smiled and connected. She may have even blushed.
Either that, or Hurley is just getting delusional in his old age.
The art of kissing ought not ever diminish, fade or become boring. I was forty years old before learning how a well placed kiss and lip-lock of connection beats getting laid any day of the week.
The wisdom of that concept gets better with age.
The options some fall for aren’t worth even considering.
Porn sucks. Being a promiscuous idiot is even worse.
Flirting is fun. If it leads to a kiss or brush of the tongue, that’s cool too.
Now either go rip-off your partner or take a cold shower.
The Greek word for Grace is “charis” and is used about 150 times in the New Testament of the Bible. The word refers to favor that God gives freely without expecting something in return. God provides his grace to us not because of anything we have done to earn it and not because of anything God desires to get from us. In fact, grace is dispensed in spite of the low-life scumbags we can be. God’s grace is free of charge…but it ain’t cheap.
The apostle Paul referred to the gospel of grace as a “mystery.” The inability to wrap our puny minds around something as awesome as grace doesn’t negate its profound reality. Like Paul, I sure don’t get it, but recognize grace when it presents itself.
Here’s an example.
An old friend called me fourteen months ago. Knowing I was struggling to get back on my feet after a sabbatical with the Michigan Department of Corrections, he wanted to help. He also sensed some kind of value in my writing and encouraged it. Without having to ask, this brother provided a flight to Florida to gift me with a 1997 Honda Accord and drive it back. He paid for everything, even the gas for the return trip. No strings attached. The only caveat was a commitment he wanted to pursue writing.
That’s a pretty good deal. We’re not talking the prison kind of Ramen Noodle grace. This was Radical Grace.
The Honda has faithfully served this Irishman. I knew when receiving the car that it wasn’t just about my needs. Bill Keaton who was a brother, mentor and sponsor, spent the last year of his life rollin’ all over southeast Michigan in the Accord. It was an honor and privilege to be his chauffeur. Now at 234,894 miles, my brother Joe would have quipped, “Hey! It’s just breaking in.” Alas, the reality is El’ Hondel started running a little rough.
Hoping to get by with a tune-up and the elimination of a “small leak” coming from “somewhere” (my words), I took the trusty Accord to a shop in Berkeley, Michigan my sister had recommended. The mechanic tried to break the news gently. Discerning he was a pro, Nick called me into the service bay to watch as he performed electronic diagnostic testing. Codes began flashing and numbers started jumping like my poor car was on meth. It wasn’t good. Then hoisting the car up on the lift, he grabbed a flashlight and invited me to join in for a further inspection.
The “small leaks” turned out to be rivers of un-living waters. An Unholy Mix of coolant, oil, power steering fluid and sludge coated the under-carriage of the motor compartment. At this point, I wasn’t exactly over-flowing with the joy of Jesus. The $1,100.00 estimate for a new distributor, crankshaft sensor, timing belt, water pump, axle boot, head gasket and a few other items did nothing to warm this soul on a cold Michigan morning.
After meditating on the situation, it became clear that getting a comparable runner for the cost of repairs would have been an exercise in futility. I told Nick to pull the trigger. Living in the “D”, you gots to have wheels.
That’s not the real point of this blog. We all go through this stuff. It’s called life on life’s terms. No biggie. In twelve step programs we call these “gold-plated problems” because we could be dead. Amen?
The higher struggle was this.
How could I afford the repairs, rent, bills and tithe at the same time? Having my butt planted at the Renaissance Vineyard Church in Ferndale, Michigan since being released from the Jackson Cage has been an awesome experience. They opened their doors and hearts to provide this prodigal with a place of restoration. Now slammed with a demonic bill, what was a disciple to do? Because my faith & trust are still in the developmental stages, a short period of vacillation ensued. After ten minutes of worthless bartering, the next right thing became clear as crystal . Tithing when everything is going great with money in the bank is one thing. To stop when things get tight is kinda’ lame. In spite of the present financial crisis, I’d feel like a punk for folding under pressure. We’re not called to give a tenth so we can barter with God or get something in return It’s not about that. Father wants to know if we’re gonna’ be faithful stewards of the stuff He’s provided. As I hit the “enter” button to tithe through PayPal, a sense of obedient joy supplanted anxious thoughts of the present moment. In fact, I started chuckling at the thought of how easily I can resort to being a dick. Then I started laughing at the thought of Jesus laughing with me. It made no sense, but it was sovereign and cool.
Within 24 hours, provision for paying for the car repair came from a couple moved by grace.
Tickets for a Chris Tomlin concert this month that came right after, serve as icing on the cake. Please hear my heart on this kids. I’m no spiritual giant. In fact, I really didn’t want to bake that cake. God knows the desires of our heart and will move heaven & earth to drive home lessons we resist.
None of this is written as any kind of boast. There have been countless financial crisis’ where I blew off tithing in lieu of trying to figure things out on my own. I’m ashamed to admit being such a petty jerk. At the end of the month, it never worked. Not once did I get ahead of the game by being a putz. When withholding from Father, I’m basically telling God with my actions;
“I don’t trust you.”
My sense is God doesn’t give one hoot about our money. He’s not bankrupt. He wants our abandoned trust. He knows how selfish I can be and only uses bucks to further His Kingdom. The choice is clear. Either we can remain bankrupt souls, enslaved to a world economy going south, or we can strap on a pair and trust God. Dad never gives up on His kids.
Just For Today, I thank God for his patient chastening, His long-suffering love & radical grace.
Mad props to Mat for the ride. Know that I’m writing up a storm my brother.
A very special thanks to Jeff & Karen. You guys are the bomb.
The Tomlin gig in Toledo is gonna’ be dope.
Check this out.
Written back in 2005 to an old friend I'd re-connected with online in the Synanon Yahoo Group. Not much polish on this one...just a few updates.
Warning: It's a tad crude and not recommended reading for the faint-at-heart.
Bernie Kolb and I got to know each other over the course of a few years as we'd commiserate online about our respective battles with opiates spanning several decades and the victory from active addiction.