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All roads lead home to Greenville

Just under two years ago I wrote in the space about my need to leave Greenville. I was running from memories I couldn't cope with any longer and from personal demons that took every opportunity to drag me down. While I relished the idea of living in a city like Atlanta, I couldn't get rid of the nagging feeling that I had left so much undone here. Things that I wanted to see happen in this town and with this newspaper.

In the 23 months since I left, nine of those have been spent living on borrowed time. Last April, the first health issues began to come up and they all seemed to center around two things. I first thought it was simply my diabetes, but soon it became obvious my heart wasn't functioning properly. I trudged onward, thinking like everything else, that this too would pass.

Then in June, I found myself in the emergency room at Northside Hospital with an extremely high blood pressure and every symptom you can have with a heart attack. I realized how bad it was when I woke up at one point and a priest was standing in the trauma room with me. I thanked him for his attention but told him I wasn't planning on dying.

Since last October

I have had days where I was so weak I couldn't get out of bed. There have been days when I would sit and shiver from a low-grade fever. And twice my family and I

thought my time was now very limited.

In April, an echocardiogram didn't please my cardiologist. He basically told me to go home and get my affairs in order. He would try to fix a couple of problems, but his tone and look told me to expect the worse. I spent the next two weeks writing letters to my family, letters to

my friends, marking on notes on who would get what. I wrote out funeral plans. In a nutshell I made sure that if I did die, I would at least say goodbye.

The day before the procedure I found myself reading on my porch. I remember rising from my chair and I suddenly shook my fist at the sky. I yelled &#8220Why me?” Why was I now going through so much hell? Then I began to pray. I asked God to spare me. I prayed to be allowed to be with my family some more. I prayed that the friends I had pushed away during my illness I would get back. I prayed for the things I had not completed on my list. I'm here to tell you that the next day I learned a valuable lesson. God does answer prayers.

For months a multitude of prayers were given on my behalf. Many people I had never met, they just knew I needed prayer. My own church, New Ebenezer Baptist Church, led the charge. Because of these good people I believe I'm still here today.

In the course of the sickness, first I lost my ability to work. Then I had to leave my home in Atlanta. Medical bills began to stack up and that just added to my stress. However, the kindness of people I didn't know shone through the darkness. Then New Ebenezer supported me along when I needed medicine and such.

For all of that I'm eternally grateful.

So what do I bring this time as editor? Well I'm wiser I believe. I know that no matter who you are, where you live, how much money you have or don't have, who your friends are and everything that makes up a materialistic world doesn't matter. The most important things in my life are now quite simple. They are God, my family, my friends and my work.

I know now that I was truly on a broken road when I left Greenville in 2005 and the old Jay could appreciate that.

However, now I give thanks to God and I ask him daily to bless the broken road that led me home to Greenville.

I think the words of Michael Buble's &#8220Home” sums up the way I've felt for a long time now. They are:

&#8220And I feel just like I'm living someone else's life. It's like I just stepped outside, When everything was going right.”

I'm a lucky man. I have a wonderful family, a great job, improving health and a chance to finish the job. Some of the faces have changed since I left, but the general feeling of doing our best for our community still stands here.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Kevin Pearcey for a job well done. I won't say I will try to feel his shoes, but I will do my best to take this newspaper to the next level. He helped make it the best weekly newspaper in Alabama and that is a tough act to follow.

I welcome your feedback on the newspaper.

Jay Thomas is group managing editor of Greenville Newspapers LLC and can be reached at 334-382-3111, 136 or via email at jay.thomas@greenvilleadvocate.com.