When Blue Breaks Through
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 by Frank Shortt
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Being raised in a coal mining community in Buchanan County, Virginia in the 1940's and 50's, it was very hard for me to see a road ahead. All our fathers and brothers worked in the deep, dark mine whether in a drift or shaft mine. Either way, the adit entrance looked mighty pleasing to whoever did a day's slaving shoveling coal.

Any boy, during that period, got experience working around the mines. Whether picking up lumps shook off as the mining cars came out of the mine, filling dummy bags used in shooting the coal, or sawing timbers for bolting up the headers to hold the top of, the interested boy go plenty of experience.

History tells us that Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskeegee Institute in Alabama, first worked, as a small boy, in a West Virginia coal mine picking up the lumps shaken off by bumps in the rails. He rose above his status by hard work and determination. His 'blue breaking through' was when he graduated university and began to teach the emancipated slaves of the deep south in the United States.

After a harsh winter, anywhere in the world, spending dark and lonely days in whatever shelter was provided, the first warm rays of spring are a welcoming sight to the beholder. Survival requires many different phases, shoveling snow, embanking creeks with sandbags, insulating a shelter from the storm, and just surviving in general is very hard. When the blue appears through the storm clouds a person experiencing such becomes elated beyond measure.

A friend of mine has fought cancer for several years. Some days his pain is immeasurable! Sleepless nights are endless. Only his faith in God has sustained him thus far. Treatment for cancer is worse pain than the cancer, as he tells me. As the chemicals surge through one's body, the thought becomes, "Is it worth it?" Then is when the yearning for 'blue breaking through' becomes more prevalent.

The United States Air Force became my 'blue breaking through' helping me decide what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to breathe coal dust the rest of my life, or take my chances with whatever Uncle Sam had to offer? I am glad I chose the latter. In the service I became a Special Vehicle Repairman, a Radiac Detector, and even ran the base Quartermaster Station before being discharged. All these jobs taught me better ways of doing things that I would not have learned shoveling coal. Of course, some folks have to shovel coal to make a living as no other opportunities arise. Sometimes our choices are what determines our 'blue breaking through'.

A heart attack about 12 years ago changed my whole life. While in the emergency room at Kaiser Hospital, I was being treated by a young Vietnamese nurse, who did everything she could to give me ease to the terrible pain and burning in my chest. I had not had the attack yet while she treated me. Just as I suffered the 'big one', a young Cardiologist of Chinese descent came into the room. My daughter and best friend, Guido Droira, watched as the needle began to drop. Finally, the needle settled completely to the bottom. The young Cardiologist took a vial of Nitro Glycerine, shooting it directly into my large artery, then began the process of bringing a dead man back to life. When I awoke all I could hear was "Frank, come back to us, Frank, come back to us, Frank, don't leave us!" The Cardiologist was over my body pleading for my return as though I was her own father. She was the Godsend that caused the 'blue to break through' in that particular incident. A stint was placed in my main heart artery, which by the way was plugged completely, and after that happened, I was able to breathe properly again. My diet was changed, my life sustaining exercises were changed, and I began and ended each day thanking the One who had given me a new lease on life!

It is my hope that someone may read this who may be experiencing a dark trial and that it will give that person means to carry on. We are not aware of what someone's bright spot may be, so if we continue to shed brightness wherever we go. It could mean the 'blue breaking through' for someone.