When I was a kid, we considered ourselves lucky to get one soda a month. It was a treat, something you got at a party, not something to replace water, milk and every other fluid we ingested.
By the time my boys came along in the 1970s, soda had replaced coffee as a morning pick-me-up and children were drinking it with meals. I allowed my kids one two-liter bottle a week. They got it on Friday and when it was gone, that was it for the week.
My grandchildren drank it at will. Cases of it, until my son put a stop to high-calorie sodas a couple of years ago. They're still allowed diet sodas, which cause a whole other set of problems with their fake sweeteners.
A 2001 study showed that for each extra soda a child drinks a day, he or she will put on four extra pounds in a year. So, a kid who drinks five sodas a day -- and many do -- will add an extra 16 pounds in body weight in a year. My granddaughter quit drinking soda and lost 16 pounds in three months.
Soda in the United States is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, which is NOT metabolized the same way as cane sugar, despite what the corn industry says. It triggers insulin resistance, which is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. It also triggers increases in appetite, so people who drink a lot of soda are likely to eat more, fueling even more weight gain.
So now, Coca Cola has released an ad talking about how worried it is about the obesity epidemic. Forgive me, but it reminds me of apologies from the tobacco companies while they continued to advertise to teenagers.
On today's New York Times web site,  Mark Bittman blogs about Coke's new anti-obesity campaign and links to a marvelous You Tube video, "Real Bears," an animated feature showing the real consequences of consuming too many sugary soft drinks.
At the same time, emergency room doctors are reporting seeing double the number of people who have consumed energy drinks. Symptoms include insomnia, fast heartbeat, nervousness, anxiety, headaches and evens seizures.
Drinking three energy drinks is the same as 15 cups of coffee, and people tend to drink them the way they drink soda.
Of course, the soft-drink industry denies their products cause any harm, just like the tobacco industry did even after science proved them wrong. In a recent study, several emergency room doctors reported they had seen a clear uptick in the number of patients with irregular heartbeats, anxiety and heart attacks who said they had recently downed an energy drink.
A 2011 study in the medical journal Pediatrics, showed up to half of children consume energy drinks and because the drinks are classified as a "diet supplement," they are less regulated than soda, and they contain a lot more caffeine -- three times the amount as sodas.
In New York, legislators are looking into the labels on energy drinks, asking whether they reveal what's actually in the drinks and just how much caffeine is in them. Ingredients like black tea extract and guarana are listed, but not as the extra caffeine they add to the drink.
Like tobacco, energy drinks are marketed to young people, who are flocking to buy them. Many young adults mix the drinks with alcohol, which can cause dehydration and can mask the signs of intoxication.
As with everything, moderation is best, but we Americans don't seem to be too good at moderation, and soft-drink manufacturers don't want us to improve.
I am all for a tax on sugary soft drinks since they cause so many health problems when consumed in excess. At least then, some of the damage they cause could be paid for,

The Affordable Care Act requires businesses with more than 50 employees to offer affordable health coverage to them -- meaning no one should spend more than 9.5 percent of income on premiums. It also mandates that employee dependents should be able to buy coverage through the employer's plan.
The consequence of noncompliance is a fine.
But under a rule proposed by the Internal Revenue Service, spouses are not included as dependents, even if they are not employed. And there is no "affordability" mandate for children.
So, under this rule, large employers would have no incentive to offer any insurance to the spouses of their employees and they could require the employees to pay the full cost of insuring their children. Nor would employers who already offer insurance coverage to spouses have any any incentive to keep doing so.
So, insurance may not be more affordable for families after all if this rule stands (another reason we need a public option).
The current issue of The Annals of Internal Medicine paints a sorry picture of the ways families are trying to keep their heads above water under the increasing weight of medical expenses -- even though they had insurance or Medicare.
For the study, researchers interviewed 33 insured, chronically ill adults who were applying for financial assistance at a nonprofit foundation to help pay for their treatment costs. People were asked about illness-related financial challenges and their impact on housing, food, utilities, savings, borrowing and health expenses. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and coded for analysis.
Half of the nation's Medicare beneficiaries live on less than $22,000 a year, and 45 percent have three or more chronic conditions, according to data compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 
The doughnut hole in Medicaid prescription coverage is one of the largest causes of financial hardship for older adults. Some shell out more than $7,000 a year in prescription costs.
Plenty of older Americans are just not filling prescriptions they can't afford or they are skipping days or cutting pills in half.
One member of the Annals of Internal Medicine study just didn't take the anti-nausea medicine he was prescribed during chemotherapy because his insurance covered $900 of the $1,200 monthly cost and he didn't have the $300 to spare.
Families are putting medical costs onto credit cards  Several of the people in the study were already engaged in legal action because of medical debt. Remember, everyone in the study had some form of insurance.
The Affordable Care Act will help -- has helped already by mandating full coverage of immunizations, plus several screenings (for breast, cervical, colon and prostate cancers) and well-care visits. It also will close the Medicare "doughnut hole" by 2020.
But if you fall and break your leg and you have a $5,000 or $10,000 deductible, you'd better have that money set aside because you're going to owe it.
So, the question isn't whether we have coverage but whether that coverage is adequate. In too many cases, it is not.

Today, nearly half of all American adults live with one or more chronic illnesses, including type 2 diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, psychiatric illness and cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven in 10 deaths are caused by chronic illness, and chronic illness accounts for 75 percent of health care spending in the US.
That's a whole lot of money, and it makes our health care system more of a crisis care system when these illnesses are not managed.
It also makes for great profits for the industries that rely on crisis care dollars, especially the pharmaceutical industry.
In my son's case, each round of chemotherapy cost about $250,000. But the colonoscopy that would have caught the cancer early cost about $800 to provide (even though he was being charged $2,300 cash, which is why he never got it).
If diabetes is prevented, the drug industry can't charge thousands each year to the millions who have it for the drugs to control it. Dialysis brings profits to the businesses that make the dialysis machines and other equipment.
Why prevent something that brings a windfall?
Go ahead and call me cynical, but when a friend of mine said 20 years ago that she seriously believed there would be no cure for cancer until the profit motive for chemotherapy was removed, that's what I said about her and I think I have to take it back.
When I see cutbacks in wellness programs, insufficient regulation of the food industry, relaxed environmental regulations, health disparities among African-Americans and Latinos and the vilification of homeless people and others in need, it tells me we live in a society that puts profits ahead of the welfare of humans.
As we move ahead with health reform, it's important to note that we can fix this. The Declaration of Independence claims that we are created equal and endowed with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Yet every day, people are denied the very care they need to prevent and manage chronic illnesses. People with psychiatric illness are too often ignored until they lost their jobs and their homes. Unless managed, mental illness gets worse, as do most chronic illnesses. It costs more to treat, and too often people get no treatment until they land in jail or die. 
Crisis care is far more expensive than preventive care and it's just too easy in our current climate to blame the victim.
Yes, obesity is almost always preventable, but not when all our food is infused with high fructose corn syrup, which leaves the body more susceptible to insulin intolerance (leading to type 2 diabetes) and doesn't shut off the brain's efforts to tell us we're full. The United States is the only country that still uses high-fructose corn syrup in soda and a number of studies have shown how it increases one's propensity to weight gain.
We as citizens must demand better prevention efforts and better management of chronic illnesses. The Affordable Care Act is a good first step because it already has removed co-pays for necessary screenings and wellness visits for peop. 
But we need to keep moving forward. Everyone should have access to preventive care. We need to shift back to a health care model instead of a crisis care one.

Earlier this week, a group of Democrats in the US House of Representatives revived a good idea that was dropped from the Affordable Care Act in 2010.On Tuesday, 45 House Democrat,s led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Harry Waxman, D-Calif., revisited the idea of a public health insurance option when they introduced the Public Option Deficit Reduction Act.
The public option didn't gain enough support to be included in the Affordable Care Act because of an intense lobbying blitz by the insurance companies, which don't want to compete with a lower-cost, government-run insurance plan.
The option would, essentially, allow us to buy into Medicare, one of the most popular, efficient and successful health care systems in the world.
Medicare spends 97 percent of the money it takes in on direct services; insurance companies had to be forced to spend 80 to 85 percent. Medicare doesn't spend billions of dollars on marketing, bonuses, kickbacks and lobbyists, so it can concentrate on services.
Medicare isn't perfect, but I think it's a whole lot better than insurance companies. If you don't agree with me, you can stick with your for-profit insurance company. You might even get more bells and whistles from private plans -- a private hospital room, cable TV in the room, free wireless Internet ... But if you don't care about all that, you can opt into the government system, and you won't be left to die from lack of care like my son was -- like someone is every 12 minutes in this country.
Insurance companies will fight this action because they don't want competition, and they will use whatever tactics they can, including the same tired lies they have used all along. They'll call it a government takeover and they'll bring back the whole "death panel" line. They'll offer huge contributions to politicians to keep them from voting in our interests.
Insurance companies are exempt from anti-trust laws, so they can act together to keep rates high, and they don't want us to have an alternative to their greedy ways. If they get some competition, they may be forced to act more humanely.
The thing about insurance companies is that US corporate law dictates that the interest of the shareholders must be their first priority; customers come second. So, if companies want to lower policy costs or take on risky customers, they could find themselves in violation of corporate law.
If we could get Congress to remove the insurance companies' exemption from anti-trust laws, they would have to compete with each other, so better rates and better service would be in the interests of the shareholders. Any competition would improve things, including the public option. As it is, we have nowhere to go if we're unhappy with the insurance companies. A public option would give us that, and at a much lower cost.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2010 that a version of the public option that negotiated rates with health care providers would save $25 billion over 10 years, while a version of the plan tied to Medicare rates could save $110 billion over a decade.
So will the people who say they want to reduce the deficit vote for the publ

A new study of mortality in 16 countries offers reasons why Americans are less healthy and die younger than people in other wealthy countries: We eat more poorly, get fatter and have less access to health care.
The 404-page report, done by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council also found that even though we are a so-called wealthy country, we have more people living in poverty.
In too many cases, out health care system contributes to that poverty.
We tallied up lower scores than these other nations on infant mortality, injury and homicide rates, teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted illnesses, HIV/AIDS, drug addiction, obesity and diabetes, heart disease, lung disease and disabilities.
So, what's the problem here?
Well, for one thing, out food supply is contaminated by chemicals and it's less nutritious than it could be because of our industrialized agriculture. 
Why is it that many glucose-intolerant people can eat wheat in Europe but not here? It's because they're not reacting to the glucose but to something else -- likely some chemical we're adding that Europeans are not.
 We add high fructose corn syrup to everything because it's cheaper than sugar, and our bodies do  know the difference, despite what the corn industry's ads say. High fructose corn syrup is metabolized differently, leaving our bodies unable to use insulin the way they should, leading to a higher likelihood of type 2 diabetes. Corn sugar also makes our bodies feel hungrier, leading to overeating and obesity. The "epidemic" of obesity and diabetes began in the 1970s, which is exactly when we started using so much high fructose corn syrup in our food.
Americans spend less on food as a portion of our income than any other wealthy nation, but we get what we pay for -- lousy nutrition. These contaminated, compromised foods are what's making us sick, but we continue to belly up to fast food counters and wolf down the crap they dish out. We continue to eat processed food because it's more "convenient."
The food industry is as powerful as Wall Street when it comes to fending off regulation, so we have to be smarter consumers. We have to buy locally from small farms whenever we can, organic, when we can't get local. Know our farmers. Most places have tailgate markets and farmer's markets now. There's really no reason to eat antibiotic- and hormone-laden meats. Yes, local, humanely raised meat is more expensive, but what is your health worth? Eat less meat.
Our food system is leaving us open to so many illnesses and millions of us are lacking full access to health care. We get  sick and fat and we either don't have insurance or our deductibles and co-pays are so high we can't get the care we need for our high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, so our condition gets worse until we have a heart attack or stroke, go into renal failure or lose a limb. Then we go deep into debt from the cost of crisis care. In right-to-work states, people lose their jobs because of illness, leaving them sick, in debt and uninsured.
Our poverty levels are only partly caused by health care costs, although that is a contributing factor. The real problem is that we are paid less than we were a generation or two ago. There has been a steady erosion of workers' wages and rights since 1980 as the power of unions has eroded. We work harder, make less and are less secure in our jobs than any time since the 1930s.  As poorer people, we are less able to afford decent nutrition and we have less access to quality health care. We live in less safe neighborhoods and we are exposed to more dangerous pathogens because of the lack of food regulation.
Our children are at higher risk of STDs and teen pregnancy because rather than teach them about safe sex, we pretend they won't become sexually active until their wedding nights and they wind up pregnant or worse. We pretend that talking to them will make them want to experiment so they begin to experiment anyway with little or no education.
Overall, we're a mess and the causes are easy to identify but difficult to fix with our current political polarization and the control huge corporations have over our government. 
We have to make the changes we can and lobby for changes at a higher level. We need real regulation of our food supply and real access to health care.

In 2009, the National Alliance on Mental Illness gave the United States a D in its overall efforts to provide care to people with mental illnesses. Things haven't improved much since then.
Suicide deaths in the military exceed combat deaths, but states continue to cut mental health services. More than half of the people in our jails have mental health issues. And although people with mental illnesses are not likely to harm others, if you give someone who can't reason ready access to guns, he or she is more likely to commit mayhem.
Still, "reform" efforts across the nation have eliminated hospital beds for people in crisis, Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low that most service providers can't afford to take on too many patients.
Starting in 2001, North Carolina began to "reform" its system "to offer consumers more choice." I cringe whenever I hear that phrase because it means privatization, and mental health care should never be left solely to the private sector.
People with severe and persistent mental illnesses need a lot of care, and they're not easy patients. If their illness is not well controlled, they might not even show up for appointments; they might stop taking their medications, in which case the illness will get worse.
Our system in North Carolina imploded. People were dying on the streets -- literally. And the state General Assembly is still looking to make more cuts. 
The system is changing from a fee-for-service to block grants, which will total less than what was being spent. The money just isn't adequate, as our local management agency here in Asheville learned from experience.
So now, instead of reviewing cases every year, it is done every three months, which means four times the paperwork and four times the likelihood that a person's care will be reduced or terminated. Fewer care providers are willing to do this increased and unpaid work.
Instead of being an hour, sessions are now 45 minutes. You can still bill for an hour, but you will be reimbursed for only 45 minutes of your time.
More people are falling through the cracks and then turning up in jail or dead.
When NAMI revisited its national report card in 2011, the advocacy nonprofit found more cutbacks in states' systems.
The Affordable Care Act contains some strong advocacy for people with mental illnesses, including a mandate that insurance companies cover psychiatric care at the same level they do every other specialty. You can't charge a $50 copay for an endocrinologist and $75 for a psychiatrist. You can't allow 52 visits to a gastroenterologist but only 12 to a psychiatrist.
That's great for people who have insurance, but people with severe and persistent mental illness aren't likely to be able to hold down a job, and our health insurance in this country is tied to employment. Even after the Affordable Care Act takes full effect in 2014, most of us still will get our health insurance through our employers.
So, people with mental illnesses are left to fend for themselves. Some will have access to disability, but if they have been able to work for any length of time, they will only be eligible for SSD, which means they might lose Medicaid and not have access to Medicare for two years.
Some have sporadic employment and so will not be eligible for Medicaid, especially in states that refuse to expand Medicaid.
None of this makes any sense to me. It's so much more cost effective -- not to mention humane -- to treat this chronic illness properly.
But there still are people who believe we can all control our own brain chemistry and that someone with a mental illness is somehow morally deficient.
Many evangelical Christians believe people can and should pray the illness away, even though they would never say the same thing about asthma.
We as a society are punishing people for an illness over which they have no control, and it's costing us billions in lost productivity, in criminal justice dollars and

According to an article in Sunday's New York Times, health insurance companies are raising their rates by double digits again, despite the promise of some 30 million new customers in the coming year.
It's not big businesses that are getting hit with these 20-percent increases, but individual customers and small businesses; big companies are seeing rate increases of about 4 or 5 percent.
In California, where the request by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield to raise rates by 39 percent in 2010 helped put the Affordable Care Act over the top, companies once again are seeking rate increases of up to 26 percent.
Not all states are subject to the whims of Big Insurance, though. New York, for example, has a commission that must approve rate hikes, and insurance companies must prove they need the revenue to get the raise. So far, 37 states allow regulators to reject or reduce increases of 10 percent or more.
Under the Affordable Care Act, regulators are required to review any request for a rate increase of 10 percent or more; the requests are posted on the federal Web site,healthcare.gov, along with regulators’ evaluations.
Historically, Big Insurance has gotten its way almost every time it has wanted something. Its lobbyists were able to gut the plan for a public option in the Affordable Care Act, which would have made the industry face some competition.
Now, the industry has a monopoly with nowhere near enough regulation, and we the consumers have nowhere to turn if we're treated unfairly, overcharged, denied coverage.
Yes, the Affordable Care Act provides for appeals, but the states will set the specific rules for those appeals. In the law passed by the NC House in 2011, the consumer protections were minimal at best and the insurance company protections were strong as steel. Fortunately, that law never made it through the state Senate and North Carolina will partner with the federal government in its insurance marketplace.
The proposed NC law for its marketplace also allowed oversight of the Benefits Exchange by insurance companies and health care business associations, making the chances for successful challenges even tougher. It seems no one understands the meaning -- or the danger -- of conflict of interest anymore.
So, perhaps it's time to change tactics -- maybe we should start making a lot of noise about getting a public option added to the Affordable Care Act so we can have a real choice.
Let me buy into Medicare.
Let me escape the greedy grasp of the insurance companies.

Dear Gov. McCrory,
I didn't vote for you, partly because I didn't believe you were a moderate Republican. You can prove me wrong.
Soon now, you will announce whether North Carolina will expand Medicaid to about a half-million people in the state. The action won't cost the state a dime in the first three years, and then we'll pay just 10 percent of the cost each year after that.
I urge you to stand up to people who for ideological reasons alone would allow 500,000 people to be denied basic health care.
People who make less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level can't afford even the most basic care, so they don't get checkups and they can't manage chronic illnesses. 
So, let's look at the logic here. If we deny them care, we will pay a whole lot more down the road as people show up in the emergency room in renal failure or with a massive stroke or heart attack, or with cancer that has progressed beyond the point of any hope for a cure.
People who don't have access to care are much sicker by the time anything is done for them, and by then it may be too late to save their lives.
That's what happened to my son, Governor. He couldn't get insurance because a birth defect was a pre-existing condition, and without it, he couldn't get the screening tests he needed. He got sick and he got sicker and was finally admitted to the hospital weighing just 110 pounds (he was 6 feet tall). He was so sick it took them five days to stabilize him, and his cancer was stage 3. He had to leave his wife to get Medicaid, and his chemo cost about $600,000. That's just the chemo, not the two surgeries, the radiation, the other medications and the loss of his tax revenues. So, by cheaping out on his care, we probably spent more than $1 million.
My son would be an attorney now, making decent money and paying his fair share in taxes.
Multiply that by 500,000 people, and I'm just talking about the financial cost. 
How about the emotional cost? How about the cost to our souls as human beings?
Have you ever lost a child, especially one who shouldn't have died? I wished my own heart would stop when his did, and many days I still do.
You have the chance to save thousands of lives of people in this state. I know your buddy, Art Pope, is advising  you to let those poor people fend for themselves, but I hold out hope that you have more character and compassion than that.
Make no mistake about it, Governor, we are talking about letting people die just to make a political point.
If that isn't evil, what is?

The years seem to go by faster and faster. How can it be 2013 already when I just got  used to writing 2012 on my checks?
I think I have passed the age when I make resolutions based on a calendar date, but I can't help but reflect on the year just ended and wonder how I can make the coming year better.
I have spent a lot of time answering questions about the new health care law, dispelling myths and helping people understand what new rights they have already. I was more involved in political campaigns that ever before because of the importance of health care policy. I found myself educating candidates about the potential of the Affordable Care Act.
I spent the first half of the year with fingers crossed about how the Supreme Court would handle the case and was pleasantly surprised with the result, and most of the second half worrying about whether the Affordable Care Act would be repealed.
Still, the states are left to decide whether they will expand Medicaid and offer access to care for everyone whose income is less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Even though it won't cost states a dime for the first three years, and then just 10 percent of the total cost , several states have said already they won't expand Medicaid. The hopeful thing for me is that only six states opted into Medicaid when it became law in 1865.
It seems wherever I go, the talk turns to health care, as it has since Mike died. It will be five years April 1 and some family members and friends are still waiting for me to get back to "normal." 
But losing a child changes you. The old normal is gone and it doesn't matter how many years pass, it isn't coming back.
So, this new year brings some changes -- the health benefits exchanges have to be ready for people to enroll beginning in October. Before then, "navigators" who will help people choose the right plan for them, will have to be trained and certified. 
I will stay committed to working toward access to health care for every American.
I might lose a few pounds, keep the house tidier, ride my bike more ... but the most important thing in my mind is social justice for people in need -- a living wage for people who work full-time, safe and affordable housing, safe and nutritious food, and of course, access to quality health care for everyone. I don't think any number of years passing will change that.
And of course, here's wishing a happy and healthy New Year to

These aren't the names of children; they are the names of people our society didn't care enough about to save.
Some struggled with mental health issues or addiction, others lost jobs or became ill and then lost their homes.
These 20 names don't mean much to most people. Only about 100 people attended a memorial service for them this morning.
Whatever you might think, these lives were as precious as yours or mine in the eyes of God, and except for better luck than they had, you or I might have been in their shoes. This year there were 20 names of people who were homeless who died; there were more who were not named.
On this, the shortest day of the year, people gathered in the chapel of First Baptist Church here in Asheville, as we do every year, to honor the lives lost from among our homeless.
I used to cover this service when I was a reporter and I continue to attend each year as a health care advocate and as a person who believes everyone deserves a safe place to sleep at night.
I go because four years ago, when we learned Mike was dying and raced to be with him in Raleigh, another man I never met was dying.
Tommy McMahon had gone to the emergency room the night before with a respiratory infection. He had been there before; the staff knew him. The doctors there gave him antibiotics and an inhaler and discharged him.
But Tommy knew he was too sick to go back out into the cold and wind and he refused to leave. Someone called the police and Tommy was offered the chance to go to jail for the night. He was arrested.
Sometime during the night, Tommy died, and an editor called me in Raleigh to ask who a reporter might interview for a story. As I gave the names and telephone numbers of a few people, I knew my precious son would die surrounded by love, and he did just six weeks later.
Tommy, on the other hand, died alone in a jail cell.
This season always brings Tommy to mind as much as it does a baby born in a stable and placed in a manger. I wonder if anyone loved Tommy, whether he had family and if they had given up on him. That happens a lot with homeless people -- they burn through all their family members before they're turned out onto the street. Did he have a mental illness that should have been treated? Was he addicted to drugs or alcohol and not able to get the help he needed to sober up? Did he become homeless because of an illness or a lost job? 
I wonder whether anyone grieved him as I do my son and I grieve for him just in case. I pray for his soul to be at peace. I do that for each of the homeless people who die every year, but especially for Tommy McMahan because he is forever connected to my son in my heart.
Tommy's death made me understand that we are all connected, that we are responsible for each other. I got to say goodbye to my son; Tommy's mother didn't. Both men died because of injustice. They died because no one who could save them cared enough to do so.
This year, as the names of the dead were read, a little about each one of them was shared -- at least something about the people that someone knew and could speak about.
  • Fred Blevins, who perfected the sport-coat-over-a-bare-chest look.
  • Paula Jean Gump Chrishawn, a mother of five whose battles with mental illness and addiction caused her to lose all of them because she couldn't care for them. She loved the color purple, and she finally won her battles. She was one week away from moving into her own apartment when she died in September.
  • Douglas Dillingham
  • Dennis Gillette, an outgoing "gentle giant."
  • Floyd Hill, an accomplished storyteller with a deep mountain drawl and a veteran.
  • David Isles, a veteran who smiled often.
  • Herman Lee, a veteran known as "Buffalo."
  • Andrew Marsh, called Sammy, was known for his generosity.
  • Dan Mason, who fancied himself a bodybuilder, even as he became increasingly weakened by illness.
  • Joseph Metcalf, a soft-spoken native of West Asheville.
  • Kenneth Myrick
  • Rebecca Plemmons, a mother who was just rekindling her relationship with her daughter.
  • David Pounders, a kind man who divided his time between his beloved mountains and the coast of Florida.
  • Donna Ray, a woman of kind and gentle spirit.
  • Jeff Reynolds, a young man still struggling to navigate the world.
  • Delois K. Smith, a kind and gentle soul with a great sense of humor.
  • Jackie Todd Stipes, a former carnival worker who bragged that he often let the rides go longer than they were supposed to because he enjoyed the looks on the children's faces.
  • Grace Teague, who adored cats.
  • Luzella Whittemore, who was firercely independent.
  • Ivie Ward Yearns, called by his middle name, was a large man and quiet.
If you have time for a prayer today, please include these 20 souls and the people who loved them.