Read Part 1 HERE
I realized that if indeed I had pneumonia, that it could explain the on-again off-again progress of my symptoms over the past year. I had always thought that pneumonia was caused by either bacteria or viral infections, but I learned that there are at least five other causes, and that one of the most common causes was from inhaling particulate matter. Even dust can cause the condition to occur. Working as I did with computers, I was constantly exposed to it.
I called Tommy and asked him if I could get some of that moonshine from him. He said I could have a quart if I would use it just the way he said. I agreed, and on the first day I was barely able to get out of the house I picked up a quart jar with an ‘A’ on its lid. The ‘A’ designated the highest grade, 180-proof, 90% pure alcohol.
That’s when I learned where the stuff came from. It was from the Piedmont Distillery, owned and operated by Junior Johnson under a license from the state, making him a legal manufacturer and distributor of the most illegal alcohol in North Carolina. Until then, I didn’t know anyone could do that. From what I understand, it was a hard fought battle to get that license. This particular jar was from his ‘private stock’, not for sale to the public.
I’m glad Junior Johnson didn’t give up making moonshine. I couldn’t even tell you what the numbers are on his race cars. I don’t know who his sponsors are. And that probably won’t change. Junior Johnson isn’t in my mind associated with racing. In my mind, he’s the guy with the cure for what ailed me.
Alcohol In – Lots Of Other… uhhh… Stuff Out
I started the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at about 8 o’clock by drinking a full six ounce dose of the moonshine. It was really hard to swallow, literally. I don’t drink, remember? Can’t stand the taste, can’t stand the feeling in my stomach. But convinced I was dying, I continued with about 2 ounces every two hours. After a few doses I felt just purely awful, but I persevered.
Following Tommy’s advice, I drank this way throughout that night and Thanksgiving day, and around 10pm was nearly done with the quart. That was the total dosage he had set for me, and that’s when I stopped. I wanted to be able to drive to my mom’s house for the big Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. Most of my family would be there and I had hopes of looking good and feeling better. They’d been really worried about me lately. I wanted them to see a future with me in it, not me in a box.
Thanksgiving, For Real
I won’t describe the nastiness that came out of me. Some of you would enjoy that narrative, but my mother probably wouldn’t and she still reads some of my words. Suffice it to say that I was both amazed and humbled.
Alcohol is one of the few things humans put into their bodies that cannot be metabolized in the stomach. Alcohol is different. It remains alcohol until it reaches the liver. From the stomach it enters the blood, goes immediately to the heart and lungs, then is sent to literally every cell in the body. What’s not turned to sugar in the liver is removed from the body through urine, sweat, breath, and feces.
But along with it comes many things one might never expect were in there. I will ignore the other ways it comes out and just say here that the blackness which came out of my lungs–clumps of it at times–was simply astounding. I almost said ‘breath-taking’, but after each spell of coughing this crap up, I could actually breathe BETTER.
It is strange to feel yourself healing, almost minute by minute. Within hours of waking on Friday, I knew I was on the right track. A certain fog that had descended on my mind months earlier began to lift. My vision actually cleared a little (I was nearly blind in one eye). The pain that had wrapped around my chest for months was gone. It had completely disappeared from one day to the next.
Dinner was scheduled for 5pm, and I showed up at my mom’s house around 1 o’clock. There was color on my face, the blackness receded to just under my eyes, and my eyes were clear and sure. I could stand straight and tall–geez, I could stand at all! I felt absolutely fantastic.
( Disclaimer: I need to note here in the strongest of terms that I am not telling you to drink alcohol to cure any illness. This story is an anecdote, and though what I describe here did take place, I was by no means cured of my underlying affliction. The cure came in the form of several years of medication to treat the fungus and then the necrotic pneumonia that over time destroyed about 80% of my lungs. If you are sick, see a doctor. )
They Forced Their Hope Upon Me
What still brings me to tears all these years later is the solemn truth that I had accepted my death as not just a certainty, but as an imminent fact. I don’t know if I ever actually gave up–I think I was on that precipice–but I do know that I had accepted it. I was trying to help others accept it, trying to make that inevitable day less painful to them.
But they would not accept it. My niece, my sons, my family and friends – they didn’t let me go. And go I would have, with a dignity and honor I had rehearsed all my life.
There is no way I can ever thank them enough for that. I hope they always know with certainty that they saved me from an end which I mistakenly thought my own. I hope they know how much that means to me. They forced their hope upon me, when I could find no hope at all. They gave me these last ten years, and they’ve been some of the best years of my life.
Death is not something to be feared. It is not some horrible destiny that awaits us like a ravenous beast, but is instead the natural completion of the time we have here. It’s the last New Thing any of us will experience while we live. In some ways on any day many of us look forward to it. Still, to die when there is reason and method to remain with the living would be a sad thing, indeed.
We’ll all take that journey some day–the fare is paid the day we’re born–but there’s no reason to use the ticket today.