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Happy Birthday, Ashley Morgan Calhoun - 68 years old today, July 1, 2011.

He came as a gift sixty-eight years ago today, July 1.  His mother knew he was special from the start, and his father suspected all along.  His dad sometimes made life difficult for Ashley, but there was never a doubt that he was loved.  His brothers learned of his sweet spirit – eventually, but they had lives of their own to take care of, and many times wished he would quit being a “tag-along.”

He was mischievous and precocious.  He wanted to be seen and heard.  His mom came into a room one day to discover that little Ashley – all of two years old – had pulled all the books within his reach down from the shelves.  She dubbed him – with a smile – that day as an “aggravation,” which Ashley quickly learned as an “aggabation!” I think he rather enjoyed that appellation.

Sometimes it takes a lifetime for the essential truth of a person to be known and appreciated.  Ashley’s parents and his two brothers would all come to know that they all were blessed the day he was born; as his life has unfolded, almost everyone who knew or knows him – “a Christian gentleman” – has come to understand how their life is better today because they met Ashley Morgan Calhoun on their own journeys through life. Some are with him still, some have taken their own paths; he is remembered and loved. In some cases, he is also (by a very few) reviled.  But Ashley has never been a push-over, nor willing to relax his own principles for the sake of some sort of bland compromise.  He is gentle, but very strong – not only as a son, a brother, a husband, a father and now a grandfather – but as a minister and pastor as well.  Perhaps I am prejudiced, but I believe no finer human walks the face of this earth.

Ashley is a 7th generation pastor.  He is perhaps the end of this familial line, but not of the line of dedicated people, young and old, who have chosen to follow in his footsteps.  He was  born into the “itinerant life” of a pastor’s family, and later he decided to study to become a pastor himself.  For well over forty years he held that role, and now as a “retired” man he is still involved in the mission of the people he calls the church, and enjoying the different perspective to be had from in front of the pulpit, rather than behind it.

He invited me under the umbrella of his own blessings and his own strong belief and faith, and allowed me to be me and spread my wings and fly in the directions that Spirit has taken me.  Because together we decided to trust the leading of the Wind of the Spirit, we have discovered that Spirit has led us along similar paths – sometimes intersecting, sometimes running parallel, but always within reach of one another.

In addition to his many scholarly gifts, Ashley learned to sing, to dance, to create.  He grew into a lovely and loving man. He devoted his life to the Lord he loves. He has shared that life with me for over 35 years.  Together with God, we brought forth two sons, and called to us another to join our family.

He has never indoctrinated anyone, least of all his family.  Ashley has always chosen to parent by example, not by lecture (although I’m quite certain that at times the boys thought otherwise; they will also firmly attest to the fact that he never said anything that was not backed up by his personal actions.  He has always walked and talked his convictions, his love.) Our sons are each forging their own path.  Being a P.K. is not always easy, but they will tell you that the opportunities to grow outside the colloquialism of a “one-town,” “one-house” lifestyle has prepared them for just about anything that can come your way.  They learned to stay close, they learned to make friends quickly and easily, and they learned to move on.

I’ve never been able to out-give Ashley in the love department.  He is the great blessing of my life.  I would not be alive if it were not for his unflagging support, through all the ups and downs, peaks and valleys.  We have always shouted from the peaks, and laughed in the valleys.  We are two voices singing together:  “And when we sing together now, another Voice enters in and sings along –   shattering our doubts and fears, empowering the love we feel, becoming a part of the song!”

So, Happy Birthday, my darling Ashley!  I’m counting on many, many more birthdays to celebrate with you. The thought of an eternity with you – that would be exactly enough. . .