September 1, 2021

WHERE DO DREAMS GO?

I always liked seeing this photo of my brother Glenn enjoying an outing with the family horse and buggy.  It looked like fun and that was something he didn’t seem to have very much of growing up.  He had no clear memories of his father Robert Hurst, who died of tuberculosis when he was three.  Although he was doted on by his mother Harriett, his Aunt Della, his grandmother and even a great-grandmother, he said they were overprotective.  He longed to have the kinds of adventures little boys enjoy, but they were too afraid he would “get hurt” or “ruin your clothes.”

He was an excellent student and dreamed that he would become a physician.  About twenty years after he graduated from McMinn County High School, I was a student there and had several teachers who would recall what a good student Glenn was. Miss Maude Smith, our Latin teacher, was one of them. He actually found a few of his Latin exams from her class that he showed me!  

In this high school graduation picture, I can imagine his dreams—including marrying his high school girlfriend Juanita, working his way through college and medical school, and working in a hospital far away from Athens.  World events changed those plans, and like so many young men of his generation, World War II stole his youth and many of his dreams.

After four years on the front lines as an Army medic in the Pacific, he came home very different from the boy who left. He was painfully thin, with gray hair. He had trouble sleeping and was very anxious. He smoked and drank too much. He couldn’t see how he could go back to the old life.  He decided he was too old to start college and then medical school—and didn’t think his nerves could take the stress.

He had fallen in love with a Japanese-American woman in Hawaii and planned to bring her to America after he saved some money.  At the last minute, her mother refused to let her leave and broke off any communication with her.  

He gradually moved on to Plan B for his life.  He married a quiet, sweet neighbor named Katie, worked several years at the local hospital, and then decided to become a mortician.  He had so much empathy and compassion for families and devoted himself to helping them through a painful time.

After six years of marriage, he and Katie had a baby daughter, Emily, whom he adored. He worked for funeral homes in Clinton (Kentucky), Henderson (Tennessee), and Gallatin (Tennessee)—and then came back to work for a hometown funeral home. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage shortly before his 40thbirthday, and was working for a Chattanooga funeral home at that time.

His all too short life was marked by loss and disappointments, but he loved and enjoyed people so much, and always went the second mile to help anyone he could. We all were blessed by his love and compassion.

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