Russ Wise, of LaPlace, got this story from Stephanie Harris, fiancée of his wife Connie’s brother.

“They’re both flight nurses on medivac helicopters in the hills and valleys of the coal country along the Kentucky-West Virginia line,” says Russ.

Stephanie says in 1994, when she was a new EMT, she got what she figured would be a boring assignment — to transport a 96-year-old man from a hospice back to his home:

“A transport? I just went to school to learn to run emergencies, save lives! I’m no taxi!

“At the hospice is a frail little old man with wispy silver hair. He is awake but his breathing is labored. The family is there, and his daughter shows me a picture of the man in full military dress — young, handsome, Purple Heart. A true hero.

“The nurse quietly tells me he is going home to die, to be among family and his belongings to ease his passing.

“He slept during the flight, but awakened, fully alert, about 30 minutes from his home. He reached over and grasped my hand, and asked me in a raspy voice to pray with him.

“I wasn’t taught this in school. No one said we had to pray. I clasped his hand tightly, bowed my head, and stumbled through a prayer.

“I felt his hand slacken and his breathing stuttered. Tears formed in my eyes as I realized he was dying.

“As he breathed his last, I was inexplicably changed. I discovered that human connection, comfort and compassion are the things that matter. Holding a hand. Drying a tear.

“He taught me the most important lesson of my life. Sometimes you just need to lay the stethoscope down and offer a smile, hold a hand.”

Happy returns

“Your readers complaining about junk mail can turn that into a positive experience,” says Bo Bienvenu, of Prairieville.

“Almost all junk mail contains a stamped return envelope. I enjoy switching the contents from various companies and mailing most of the junk back to someone else.

“It is especially challenging to figure out which stuff would be most offensive to which company.

“We retirees have to stay busy and exercise our minds.”

Bad timing

Sue Sperry, of Metairie, adds to our collection of inappropriate solicitations:

“Just after my mother passed away, a letter came to her house from the hospital where she died from a heart attack.

“It was a survey that asked how her hospital stay was, and would she choose Independence Regional again.

“My sister and I responded to the survey (sarcastically) and had a good laugh over it. It was the first time we laughed after Mom’s passing!”

Mower the merrier

“While rushing to beat the rain, I got to thinking about lawn mowers,” says Harry Clark, of Lafayette.

“I remember the late ’40s, when the first rotary lawn mower showed up in my small northern Indiana town.

“Prior to its arrival, all the mowers were reel type. Some had a gas engine mounted on the top; a rich folks’ luxury. The only ones I had personal experience with were the push type.

“Almost everyone in town had to go check out the newfangled rotary. The old folks were all sure it would damage your grass, and the finished product was not nearly so nice as a reel-type cut.

“The younger wits made a lot of jokes about wearing brown shoes when you mowed if you had dogs.”

Nice People Dept.

Dale Ulkins says he and wife Kathy were on Greenwell Springs Road when they decided to stop at Plant World Nursery and Hardware:

“It was a breath of fresh air (except for the smell of the baby chicks and ducks) for us. In addition to the nursery, we were surprised to find a very large old-timey type hardware store.

“That little business, and the wonderfully friendly and accommodating family who owns it, epitomizes all that is right with Baton Rouge.

“After browsing their inventory while listening to anecdotes of their many years in business, I was genuinely sad to leave.

“I just wanted to thank them for making two strangers feel like a part of their family.”

Inquiring Minds Dept.

Jim Lewis asks, “What is the difference between ‘partly cloudy’ and ‘partly sunny?’”

I guess you’d have to be a meteorologist to answer that one, Jim...

The mayor says...

Dan Burkhalter, the Carencro Curmudgeon, has discovered that Charlie Carmichael, the mayor of Linwood subdivision in Opelousas, is also a philosopher and collector of pithy sayings. For instance:

“When people see a litter box, they say, ‘Do you have a cat?’ Just once I’d like to say, ‘No, it’s for company.’”

“The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight — because by then your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.

“Birds of a feather flock together — and then poop on your car.”

Contact Smiley

Write Smiley at http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/12319979-123/strain-smith-exchange-shots-inhttp://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/sttammany/12416800-172/operator-of-shuttered-tammany-work-releasehttp://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:-lw1LBy3ZpoJ:theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/7039330-123/st-tammany-deputy-who-claimed+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=usmailto:Smiley%40theadvocate.com?subject=http://theadvocate.com/news/neworleans/neworleansnews/12319979-123/strain-smith-exchange-shots-inhttp://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/news/sttammany/12416800-172/operator-of-shuttered-tammany-work-release">Smiley@theadvocate.com. He can also be reached by fax at (225) 388-0351 or mail at P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821.