Well I got two good hours of packing in tonight. The last 20 minutes or so led me down Memory Lane. It was nice.
Tonight’s task was to start through all the 3-ring binders I’ve collected through the years, and toss what I don’t believe I’ll need in Gering. What I end up wishing I’d kept gets a smile and an “oh-well” when the day comes.
I found the binder of the first major Christmas work I compiled, interestingly for the very church we’re returning to. We presented it in 1982. That year we had a three part Christmas festival. Each of three half-hour segment was presented during the morning worship service the first three Sundays in December. Then we came back and presented all three segments in a 90-minute evening performance, our Christmas Festival. Sweet memories. I can’t believe I still have it.
I found some touching patriotic compilations I’ve put together, including the “We Remember” we did with choir and orchestra, media, color guard and military veterans on September 11th, one year after 9-11.
I came across dad’s annual/journal from 1970. I enjoyed reading bits and pieces of that year, including the notation that I broke my arm on December 29th, 1970, about 4:30 in the afternoon. Dad and Mom paid $85.00 for the doctor to X-ray, set, and cast my arm. That break was preceded by a sprained wrist a few months before, and those two, combined with a move to Colorado turned me in the direction of music, and eventually worship.
I stopped, though, when I saw Dad’s pocket-sized DayTimer booklets from 2002, the year brain cancer took him to Glory. Did I dare? Yes, I wanted to know. Knowing Dad kept careful records, I went to June 2002, the month before he was diagnosed with a stage-four glioblastoma. Was there anything here that would clue me in to the fact that he was in pain? I saw his notes from my family’s visit for Father’s day that year. I noticed he was taking Aspirin, and two other medicines faithfully, three times a day. May’s planner revealed that he started taking these dosages (or at least recording them) consistently in May. I wonder if he sensed something and thought it best to write things down? Several days after my family and I returned to Wisconsin, his notes show a marked increase in the pain medicine he was taking. Still over the counter, but quite a bit more than before. His penmanship took a turn for the worse. Interesting. Near the end of June a single line, all by itself, “Call the doctor”. One entry gave first evidence that the tumor was affecting his ability to choose his words – instead of “aspirin” in the short list of medicines, dad had written “jello”. Clearly legible, but the wrong word. Aphasia was one of Dad’s major presenting symptoms.
For several days early in July it appears Dad tried to keep making notes, but his handwriting was sliding downhill fast and some of the notes aren’t clear. There are distinct line-outs, though, of things that had been on his calendar but were no longer. I remember as though it was last week – Dad was diagnosed in early July. By the eighth of July he had decided not to pursue treatment, just as his father had decided 22 years earlier. By July 15th all the daily notes had stopped. He was no longer able to, and there really was no need, Dad was on his way Home. Just a few days later Dad stepped from this life into the next, welcomed by his Savior and Lord.
Memories are the things you stumble on when you’re trying to pack up and move to a new place to start a new work. But they’re also poignant reminders of who we are and how we’ve become who we are over the years. I’m thankful tonight. Not that I got so much sorted, though I did, I’m thankful again —still— for the parents I have. They taught me who God is. Introduced me to Him. Raised me to respect and honor Him. They knew how to laugh. (Mom brought me to full laughter with an Email just this week!) They encouraged my dreams. Believed in me. Disciplined with firm but loving hands and in soft tones. Followed through as best they could. Prayed for me.
Thirty one years ago Dad and Mom played a significant role in what would prove to be one of my defining moments. They stopped in at “Charlie and Martha’s” to visit on their way through town. “So what is your Phil doing these days?” (Both the Bonds and the Ransoms have Phils and we’re about the same age.) A conversation led to a phone call, led to a vote, and seven years of fruitful ministry in Gering, Nebraska. It’s almost surreal that I’m packing now to return there. Pastor Bonds and I are looking forward to coffee and remembering soon as we get there. Which means I’d better pack some more tomorrow night.