When I Get Where I’m Going…

December 30, 1995, a day that would forever change my life and how I look at the rest of the world.

At approximately 10 pm PST on that cool and foggy evening, in the center of the San Joaquin Valley in the small town of Madera, California, the sands of time stood still.

However, this story really started after the Christmas dinner at my sister’s house on December 25, 1995.  It was after dinner that my sister was taking her son back to his place, she asked my Mom and Dad to ride in the car with her on this short journey.  As they passed the Madera hospital my Dad started to complain about his chest hurting and he was sweating profusely.  They immediately turned the car around and admitted Dad to the hospital.

Meanwhile I was in my house in Evergreen, Colorado not knowing these happenings.  At about 4am on December 26th, I received a phone call from my brother stating that Dad had a heart attack, but he failed to stress the severity!  I immediately decided to get a suitcase packed and get on a plane to Fresno, California.  I had this uneasy feeling in my heart!

When I arrived at the Fresno airport, my nephew picked me up and rushed me to the Madera hospital where the family was by my Dad’s bed.  Unbeknownst to me, Dad had been in coma since the wee hours of the morning!  When I walked up to Dad’s bed, my brother whispered in my Dad’s ear, “Leon’s here”.  With that announcement, Dad woke up from his coma!

Dad was lucid and was full of questions, which we answered truthfully.  He was now aware of the severity of his heart attack.   But by late afternoon he lapsed back into a coma and was later put on a respirator.

That was the last time that I got to talk to him.  For four days I watched Dad labor with the respirator in his breathing.  His toughness showed through, he wanted to live, he was a fighter!

On the fifth day the doctor advised us that the respirator was not helping him any more and that when the respirator would be removed, Dad would pass away very quickly.

Well, we were hesitant to take Dad off the respirator.  When we did take him off, he still was struggling to live!  So we brought in a “boombox” and played some of our old time favorite “gospel music” for him to listen to.  It worked he still was alive!  However about 10pm we had ran out of music to play and his breathing had become more laborious.

As my brother Jerry and I were at his bedside, the end for my Dad, Archie Wilson Hammack came!  It was about 10pm December 30, 1995.

I had never witnessed a person’s dying breath, but that night I witnessed my Father’s dying breath!   That event, on that cool foggy evening of December 30,1995, will forever remain a vivid memory with me until I take my very last breath!

So when I get where I’m going, I am going to give my Dad a great big hug and tell him how much I have missed him since he left us!

Click on the Brad Paisley video below, “When I Get Where I Am Going’


I’ll Be Home For Christmas…….

Today is December 25, 2009 and I sitting on reserve in the United Airlines operations below the 80’s concourse at LAX.  As is the case in most of my 29 years as an airline pilot, I am not with my family on this most special of holidays.  Fortunately, I will most likely get to Yuma by approximately 4pm today.  So there is a chance of a Christmas dinner in my future!

This holiday, in particular, sparks a dichotomy of feelings within my soul.  Because of my job, I have probably spent far less than half of my 29 years in this business at home for Christmas.  I have missed many things with my two sons growing up then, and now I have missed things with my two grandchildren.

Throughout all of my adult life there has been this particular song that comes to my mind each and every Christmas, as I am out flying people to their family’s holiday gatherings.  The song has been around for many, many years.  It has always brought back pleasant memories from my youth gathering around the family Christmas dinner table.  Even tough the early Christmas gifts and dinners were very spartan, Mom and Dad always somehow made it special!  Thanks Mom and Dad!

So I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams!

PS  Pop, I will see you in my dreams, I miss you!



December 8, 1980

On this evening in 1980 I was with a few of my fellow coworkers in a bar in Manhattan when New York City and the world came to a standstill!  The TV stations in New York City broke into their regularly scheduled telecast to announce that on December 8, 1980 at 10:50pm John Lennon had just been shot and killed!!

The person who had professed,”Give peace a chance”, had lost his life at the hands of a deranged young man, Mark David Chapman.  John Lennon was gunned down at the entrance to his apartment on the upper West Side of NYC, The Dakota, with his wife Yoko Ono watching helplessly.

It does not seem like 29 years since that night in NYC when the world momentarily stopped!

Rest in peace, John Winston Lennon.

Take a moment and just “Imagine”!


Bobby Bowden and FSU Football

Bobby Bowden will end his 34-year run at Florida State after Seminoles' bowl game.

It was announced last week that the legendary Florida State University football coach, Bobby Bowden, would retire at the end of this football season.  That will bring to an end the 34 year career of one of the most successful  college football coaches in US history!  This retirement was bittersweet, it ended a year earlier that Bowden would have preferred and with his football program no longer one of the nation’s elite.

Coach Bowden, 80 years old, hoped to coach through the end of the 2010 season before giving way to his offensive coordinator, Jimbo Fisher.  But the 6-6 record extended a streak of mediocre seasons and led to a sagging home attendance and a growing sentiment among FSU supporters that it was time to change.

The Seminoles football coach spent 34 years as their head coach, working under one year contract extensions.  That contract paid the coach $2.3 million for this year alone.  The coach met with FSU President T. K. Wetherell and the Athletics Director Randy Spetman and was told that he could return next year to the university in some other capacity, but that he would be relieved of his coaching duties after the FSU bowl game.  In essence, the coach was put out to pasture!

It was a very sad final chapter for an iconic figure who has won 388 college football games, second only to the other legendary college coach, Joe Paterno of Penn State with 393 victories.

Bowden said several times that he wanted to coach one more year, but he sensed what was coming this week.  In typical Bobby Bowden fashion he released a press statement that said, “Nothing lasts forever, does it?  But I’ve had some wonderful years here a Florida State, you know it?  Hadn’t done as good lately as I wished I could have, but I’ve had wonderful years, no regrets.”

Bowden began his 44 year coaching career in 1959 at his alma mater, tiny Howard College (now Stamford), in Birmingham, Alabama.  There he went 31-6 in four years.  Next stop for Bowden was West Virgina where he spent six years as their head coach going 42-26 with two bowl appearances.

But Bobby Bowden made his mark on college football as the coach of Florida State University Seminoles!  Before Bowden, FSU was 4-29  under two coaches in the previous three seasons!  The Seminoles were an orphan in their own state, overshadowed by Florida and Miami!

Here are some of my favorite “Bowdenisms”!

On coming to FSU: “When I was at Alabama, all I heard was “Beat Auburn”.  When I was at West Virgina, all I heard was, “Beat Pittsburgh”.  When I got to FSU, their bumper stickers read, “Beat Anybody”!

On why he didn’t want to play teams coached his sons: “I knew their mother; she’d give them my plays’!

On faith: “You want to know what a real test of faith is? That’s when you go to church and reach down into your pocket, and all you have is $20 bill!”

On happiness: “Happiness is not money, and it’s not fame, and it’s not power.  Happiness is a good wife, a good family, and good health”.


On Retirement: “I guess I’ll retire some day, if I live that long”!

Well Coach, you have been unfairly and unceremoniously been put out to pasture like a used up old dog!

My question to you:

Is this any way to treat an icon and the person who turned around completely the way the  rest of college football looks and treats your university?  The single person who gave credibility to Florida State University ?  The person so closely aligned to the university itself?  Is this treatment fair?

What is your take?