Bryson City Seasons — Distant Thunder

This blog is from the forty-fifth and final chapter from my best-selling book, Bryson City Seasons, which is the sequel to Bryson City TalesI hope that you’ll enjoy going back to Bryson City with me each week and that if you do, you’ll be sure to invite your friends and family to join us.

That night, after the Hartmans had turned in for the evening, I walked out back to sit on the bench behind our home.

A full moon lit up Deep Creek Valley all the way to the dis- tant ridge lines, over fifteen miles away, which separated North Carolina and Tennessee.

As I sat there, just reflecting and contemplating, my mind thought back over my time in Bryson City. Barb and I had arrived as strangers—more unwelcome and unwanted by many than we ever could have imagined. Yet this small town served as the form- ative setting for my first medical practice experiences.

My marriage was maturing here. I was deeply in love with the wonderful woman God had given to be my wife-for-life. Kate was growing and doing so much better with her cerebral palsy. For a child who had been predicted never to walk or talk, she was doing just fine with both, thank you. Her surgery had permanently changed her physically and me professionally. Scott, despite his strong-willed and independent nature, was developing into a fine young boy—one who was molding his environment and his parents by his energy, enthusiasm, and exuberance. Although the day I “lost” him was still an embarrassment, it sure did remind me of how incredibly important he was to me and his mom.

I had a wonderful family, and my memories of spending time with them along Deep Creek and during our mountain drives and hikes were especially vivid.

I had grown so very much, not only as a person, a husband, and a father but also as a physician. I had learned how bitterness, anger, and loneliness could kill—and had seen firsthand the healing salve of friendship and laughter. I smiled as I remembered Carl and his friends.

Katherine had gone out of her way to help us feel welcome— as had the rescue squad, the Park Service rangers, Pastor Hicks, and, especially, Doc John and Becky. John and Ella Jo Shell at the Hemlock Inn had become special friends, as had the Douthits and the Jenkinses.

I practiced medicine with my best friend—an incredibly skilled physician with our patients and my family. Thankfully, Mitch and Ray had given us a practice home in which to start—and then allowed our staff to train under the experienced eyes of their staff. Dr. Bacon’s vote had helped us survive an attempted coup, and my relationship with him was both warming and maturing. Mitch and Ray had become both professors and friends.

Peggy taught me about the importance of women attending women in labor and delivery—women who would two decades later be called “doulas.” I had also been taught much by the granny midwives, the Cherokee people, and my patients.

Most of the nurses at the hospital seemed to be comfortable with Rick and me—despite our many ways that were new to them—and Louise, in particular, had made me feel welcome. I had developed a fond affection for her.

I had seen my first patients with HIV/AIDS, toxic shock syndrome, and flesh-eating bacteria before those diseases were even described in the medical literature. I also had experienced the dramatic impact of sensitively, and with permission, integrating spirituality into my medical practice. It was exhilarating and inspiring to see some of my patients’ medical problems become the foundation and initiation of their own spiritual growth. And to be at the bedside of a patient who began a new life spiritually on the day he died physically had been a profound experience.

I sighed and then bowed my head to thank the Lord for my many blessings.

Most of all, I was thankful for a God who would call me into a personal relationship with himself—a Creator who desired to know me, One who deeply and unconditionally loved me. I simply could not imagine my life without his presence and peace. I was immeasurably thankful for his blessing, for my practice, and for my family.

As I looked up and across the silvery mountains, I felt the cool summer breeze blowing across my face. I knew I could be satisfied here in Bryson City—for many years to come. Barb and I desired a large family, and I knew this would be a great place to grow a practice and raise a family.

After what seemed to be an eternity of education—college, medical school, fellowship, and residency—not to mention the not-so-easy initiation into the private practice of medicine in a small, somewhat closed mountain town, it finally seemed to me that life had a rhythm and a meaning, a deeply satisfying and rewarding cadence.

Yet I sensed a deep, nagging disquiet. To have two couples suggest a move to Kissimmee in the same week seemed to me more than a coincidence. I had come to believe that apparent coincidences were only God’s way of staying anonymous. I wondered if a change in my plans for myself and my family’s life wasn’t looming.

As I looked across Deep Creek Valley, I could see dark clouds and lightning on the horizon. Then the distant sound of thunder echoed across the valley. I didn’t realize that the storm gathering on the horizon was symbolic of one on the horizon of the Larimores’ life. I had no idea that within a month I would receive some terrible news—news that would shatter me, my family, and my future.

But for the moment, I decided I was finally at home—at least as at home as I could be on this planet. By the end of my quiet time, I had pushed Kissimmee out of my mind and was sensing a deep tranquility and harmony—despite the unforeseen storms that were coming.

I was convinced that although I did not and could not know what the future was to hold, I could be and was utterly certain of the One who did hold it—and me—in his hands. For now, that was all I needed to know. It was enough.

As I stood to go inside, a loud clap of thunder boomed across Bryson City. I looked over my shoulder.

A storm was moving toward me faster than I could have imagined.



  1. Dead Man Standing (Part 1) (Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. Eyes Wide Open (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. Auspicious Accidents (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. Answered Prayers (Part 1), (Part 2), (Part 3), (Part 4)
  5. Rotary Luncheon
  6. Death by Emotion (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  7. The Invitation (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Barbecue and Bacon (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. A Touchy Subject
  10. Family Time (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. Chicken Pops(Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Swain County Football (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Hospital Politics (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. The Bobcat Attacks (Part 1)(Part 2)
  15. Dungeons and Apples
  16. A Tale of Two Surgeons (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  17. Tanned Feets (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  18. Wise Counsel (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. An Anniversary to Remember (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Mrs. Black Fox (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. The Littlest Cherokee (Part 1)(Part 2)
  22. Christmas Firsts (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. The Silver Torpedo
  24. Another New Year’s Catch
  25. Turned Tables
  26. Doctor Dad (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  27. The Phone Tap (Part 1), (Part 2)
  28. Labor Pains (Part 1), (Part 2)
  29. Staph and Staff (Part 1), (Part 2)
  30. The Ribbon Cutting
  31. Mountain Breakfast
  32. Walkingstick (Part 1), (Part 2)
  33. One Big Fish
  34. Memorial Day (Part 1); (Part 2)
  35. The Parade of the Century (Part 1)
  36. Lost Boy (Part 1); (Part 2)
  37. Facing the Music
  38. Flesh-Eating Bacteria (Part 1); (Part 2)
  39. The Best Medicine
  40. The Blessing
  41. The Runaways
  42. Great Scott
  43. Miss Flame (Part 1), (Part 2)
  44. The Summons (Part 1), (Part 2)
  45. Distant Thunder


  1. The Murder (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  2. The Arrival (Part 1)(Part 2)
  3. The Hemlock Inn (Part 1)(Part 2)
  4. The Grand Tour (Part 1)(Part 2)
  5. The Interview (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  6. Settling In (Part 1)(Part 2)
  7. First-Day Jitters (Part 1)(Part 2)
  8. Emergency (Part 1)(Part 2)
  9. The Delivery (Part 1)(Part 2)
  10. The “Expert” (Part 1)(Part 2)
  11. The Trial (Part 1)(Part 2)
  12. Shiitake Sam (Part 1)(Part 2)
  13. Wet Behind the Ears (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  14. Lessons in Daily Practice (Part 1) — Anal Angina(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)
  15. White Lies
  16. The Epiphany (Part 1)(Part 2)
  17. Becoming Part of the Team (Part 1)(Part 2)
  18. Monuments (Part 1)(Part 2)
  19. My First Home Victory (Part 1)(Part 2)
  20. Fisher of Men (Part 1)(Part 2)
  21. Fly-Fishing (Part 1); (Part 2)
  22. Something Fishy (Part 1)(Part 2)
  23. A Good Day at the Office
  24. An Evening to Remember
  25. Another New Doc Comes to Town
  26. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Part 1)(Part 2)
  27. A Surprising Gift
  28. The New Year (Part 1)(Part 2)
  29. The Home Birth (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  30. The Showdown (Part1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  31. The Initiation (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)
  32. Home at Last (Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)  

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2019. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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