Your Flowers: A Lifetime of Gratitude

I’ve heard it said, “People enter your life for a reason, season or lifetime.” Unfortunately and perhaps fortunately, we don’t know which category those relationships fall in at the time. This morning my mind took me on a trip down memory lane, where I vividly remembered many of the people who played a significant role in my life’s journey. 

It’s typical that when people pass, we recognize them for the good they’ve done, but in this moment, I’d like to recognize the people along my journey while they are still here and I have the breath to say it. I’m forever grateful that you found it in your heart to look out for me. Here’s to you!

Rodney Lipsey

When I was 16 and again when I was 18, I found myself needing to remove myself from a cult. Both times, it was a scary and unnerving experience. I was fortunate to have my brother, Rodney Lipsey, help me transition from each occurrence.

The first time it was from a pay phone at a convenience store in Emelle, Alabama where I’d walked several miles to ask him to come pick me up. He lived in Meridian, Mississippi at the time, but didn’t hesitate to come to my aid. The second time was unannounced from the Greyhound bus station in Meridian, Mississippi. If you hadn’t been there to help me with the transition, I’m not certain what I would have done.

He’s also the guy who taught me plumbing and construction. Although my career is far removed from that sort of work, it still comes in handy sometimes. Thank you for being there!

Grady Jennings

When I was 19, I was a lost young adult. I had nothing going for myself and quite easily could have found myself homeless were it not for Grady Jennings. He was always a dear friend of my mothers, but to this day I don’t know why he decided to take me into his home. I lived with him for a year.

It wasn’t just for me that he did this. There were several others of us who’d left the cult and Grady took in and he treated us all well. I even found out he’d helped many others transition long after I was gone. He’s one of the world’s true unsung heroes.

He provided me and others with food and shelter. This was the case until I went off to college. He still checked in on me now and again to make sure that I was ok. He never asked for anything in return. He never acted as though I owed her for his generosity I was fortunate to have someone care for me as if he was my brother. Your contribution to my life will never be forgotten. I appreciate you! 

Reverting back to the age of 16-18, living in Colorado, it was Carlton Page who looked out for me. My confidence in myself was at zero. It was clear that Carlton cared about my well being. He tried to teach me how to play basketball, which I never really became good at, probably due to my late age of learning to play and lack of confidence. 

Carlton Page

Although he was very good at the game and I had no game or skill, he took me with him regardless. He was also first to take up teaching me how to drive, which again was something that I struggled with as I’d never been behind the wheel of anything growing up and my lack of confidence certainly didn’t help. I’m sure there were many moments he was afraid for his life.

Also, sorry for ruining your clothing. You would often let me borrow your nice clothes; some you even gave to me. Being poor, I’d never had nice things and didn’t know how to take care of them. I’m sure you weren’t happy with some of the outcomes, yet you never changed. You just kept on giving. For that, you’ll always be remembered. Thank you!

At the age of 20 I lived on College campus in Meridian, Mississippi. There I tried to fit in the best I could, but my upbringing made it difficult. I often stood out like a sore thumb. I was immersed in a culture that I didn’t understand and couldn’t really relate to, yet I tried. 

Whilst I can’t recall exactly how it happened, I ended up calling Sam Vasquez, who had been a member of the church that I’d attended in Colorado. He invited me to visit him and his family, so I did. I stayed with them for about a month, until I was due for Air Force basic training. It was a brief, but memorable experience.

We kept in touch throughout my basic training and tech school. When I was done with training, he invited me to live with his family, so I requested transfer from the Mississippi Air National Guard to the Colorado Air National Guard and I was off. 

Sam and Marlene Vasquez had taken me into their home and I was 20 years old, although in my mind it hadn’t fully registered. They treated me as if I was their son. It was with them that I had my first experience of opening gifts on Christmas morning. It was like a moment of magic that I still remember vividly.

Sam taught me how to be a man and take care of responsibilities. He co-signed for the first vehicle I’d ever had financed. Before my 22nd birthday, I had my own place and well on my way. It wasn’t until sometime later that I realized and fully appreciated the contribution they’d made in my life. Thank you for taking a chance on me. Thank you for being there! I appreciate you both!

For 47 years, I’ve had my family, but I’ve only truly been able to experience my family for about 27 of those years, due to cult affiliation, but that’s another story for another day. The 27 years of experiencing my family has been nothing short of amazing. I wish that everyone could have such an experience.

Lipsey Family

Like many families, we’ve had some sibling squabbles, but when it comes to it, my family has each other’s back! When someone’s against the wall, there are 12 of us, and we come in like a calvary. You’re never alone in your journey, unless you want to be! I’m thankful for my siblings and their selfless contributions to each other. 

Teresa Lipsey

I was 28 years old when I met you, Teresa Lipsey. I’d honestly admit that I don’t know what you saw in me. You were cool, with a spunky/funky attitude and I was a tan pants, blue shirt with a button down collar wearing nerd. I was super anal retentive and you were more of an artist. I was symmetrical and you were asymmetrical. Maybe it was physical attraction to each other that helped us initially. Regardless of what it was in the beginning, we’ve been married for over 18 years and together for more than 19. 

Our journey together has been filled with adventure. We are still dreamers, with a common goal of building together, a goal which has brought us many challenges. Neither one of us came from money, but we were and always have been willing to sacrifice what is for what could be! 

We’ve had great successes and monumental failures. We’ve lived in a 5,000 square foot home and experienced regular inflows of money. We’ve also lived in a one bedroom apartment that we could hardly afford. Through it all, you’ve stood by my side. I once even told you that I thought your life might be better off without me in it. Yet, you still chose me. I’m thankful for you. I’m thankful for your sacrifice. I’m thankful that you choose to share your life’s journey with me. 

Last, but certainly not least is my mom, Bertha Lipsey, who’s been here for me my entire life. It’s difficult to know where to start, because your love is timeless. How can someone who’s had so little, give so much? Not just for me, but to all of my siblings. 


Your contribution to us has made the world a better place. I’ve seen how many of your children have positively affected the lives of others. It’s all been made possible because of your sacrifice. 

Whenever I’m down and wanting to give up, I remember your strength. I think to myself, if my mom could get through what she’s gone through and keep pushing forward carrying the weight that she’s carried, then I must have some of that in me also. I find my way back to my feet and keep pushing. 

You’re an amazing woman. You are an amazing mother. I don’t know if I was chosen to be your son, but I’m sure thankful for the honor. I’m thankful for you!

I’m often admired for my giving spirit and desire to uplift others. I largely believe that attitude stemmed from the people mentioned in this writing. You taught me how to love, how to be there and how to care.

A religious person might read this and think, “Why didn’t he mention God?” In my thinking, which I’ll admit might be in error, I think that we’re all part of that which we call God. Because of that, I recognize the god in the people who played a part in my life and in that way, I thank God. I’m thankful for each of you. My life’s journey would not be what it is had it not been for your contribution. I’m forever grateful. These are your flowers. May your lives be filled with many blessings. I love and appreciate you all!