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God bless the Johnson clan

Just a few more days and it will all be over.

As I pen this column late Wednesday afternoon, my mind wanders to the end of 2004. A much-anticipated end for this writer.

The year 2004 has not been kind to either of my families – both at home and here at work.

On the home front, 2004 saw the passing of both my parents – Ray and Blanche Bryant – the death of my sister-in-law’s father – Roger Martin of Milwaukee – and the end of life way too soon for the husband – Gary Warren – of my cousin and lifelong best friend, Debby.

The year wasn’t all that pleasant here among my co-workers at the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. Staff Writer Stephanie Duffey’s father passed away; newsroom &uot;jack-of-all-trades&uot; Cheryl &uot;Cuz&uot; Manley lost her husband and a brother; and head pressman Calvin Askew mourned the loss of his sister and his mother.

Bye-bye 2004…don’t let the door bump you in the butt on the way out!

Hello 2005…I hope you are not a close and personal friend of your predecessor.

Despite the pain and grief of 2004, there’s no way I can let the year come to a close without offering a huge helping of gratitude to a special group of people.

The Johnson clan of the Ashley’s Grove/Pinetops community in Northampton County is family. My late grandmother, Thelma Joyner, came into this world as a Johnson. Her brother, Luther Johnson, was the father to a very special group of children – Glenn (better known as &uot;Stumpy&uot;), Geneva, Georgia, &uot;Shortie&uot;, Mildred, Pearl and Mary.

Those children and my mother and her sister, Dare, grew-up together. A small stream separated the farms on which they were raised. On a quiet day, they could hear each other if either hollered across the woods.

The Johnson girls and Stumpy along with my mom and my aunt were more like an extended family of brothers and sisters. They treated each other that way, then and now.

When my father began showing signs of Parkinson’s Disease a couple of years ago, the Johnson clan was there to offer assistance in any way they could. Let me put it another way; the Johnson clan joined together to provide a warm and caring &uot;safety net&uot; for members of my immediate family.

Dealing with a grown man unable to take care of himself (eating, bathing, dressing and otherwise) is no easy chore. Due to a wicked bed sore on his back, Pop was under doctor’s orders to be turned every three hours – day and night. That meant sleep came in eyedropper increments.

But no one ever complained. The Johnsons – along with weekend duty turned in by myself, my brother and sister – made sure Pop’s final moments here on this Earth would be as comfortable as possible. They took turns staying with mom during the weeknights, and weekdays as needed.

Not only were his needs addressed, but so were Mom’s. Those Johnson girls cooked, cleaned, washed clothes, performed yard work….whatever it took to make things flow as smoothly as possible. Their spouses – along with Stumpy’s wife, Margaret – were also a big help.

The majority of the Johnson clan was there when Pop drew his final breath on the afternoon of June 21. Personally, I had no problem with that because, after all, they are family.

In the days between Pop’s death and the funeral, the Johnson clan proved as the rock that my family leaned upon. Again, they were there, doing all the things behind the scenes that often go unnoticed. For that, they have my everlasting love.

But the Johnsons were far from done.

One month after Pop passed away, Mom became ill. Two months later, she underwent major surgery at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville. She never came home; succumbing to cancer on Oct. 11.

Again, the Johnsons were the rock. They took turns traveling to Greenville during that month-long process. They were there on weekdays and on weekends, joining my family as we spent what would later prove as the final days on Earth for Blanche Bryant. Mary, along with Mom’s sister, Dare, was there when the Lord called Mom home.

And, once again, the Johnsons were there for us during our grieving process. They provided a shoulder to cry on and were quick to share a laugh when trading humorous moments concerning the life of Mom.

There’s not enough money in the world to repay the Johnson clan for what they did for my family. I know why they did it. I know why they made such sacrifices from their own family. They did it for one simple four-letter word – love.

I love you, one and all, and I know that Cindy and Tommy share that feeling. Here’s hoping that 2005 will prove as a special year for you. It has to be better than 2004.