Friday, June 6, 2008

Bad News

I got a call from my step-mother’s cousin, Nelson, is sick. His daughter, Laura, called to break the news that his cancer is back. He had prostate cancer and has been clean for several years, but Laura said today that it was back. It has metastasized in his liver, he has a mass in his stomach, and there is a tumor (or a clot) in his main artery.

I just saw Nelson two weeks ago! We made a very spontaneous decision after Sunday lunch to go for a drive and ended up in Henrietta (116 miles). We stopped by his house to surprise him. His granddaughter, Brianne, was there...she was supposed to be cleaning his house, but she was outside with her horse. Nelson was inside taking a nap and Brianne said he wasn’t feeling well. I didn’t want to wake him, but Brianne insisted she’d be in big trouble if Nelson knew we’d been there and she did not wake him from his nap. Because the trip was so last minute I had not grabbed my keys to the gate of the farm, so I also needed his key to get into the pasture.

He looked tired, but as always, his spirits were up. He doesn’t have much by today’s standards, but he has a joy and sincerity that you feel just by spending time with him. He loves his laid back life, his horses, his little house and his two daughters and his grandchildren. Nelso, and his family, have had a huge influence on my life.

In 1959 everything in my life dad remarried and three months later my brother, sister and I went to live with him and my new "mother".

Over night we had adults in our life everyday...people who seemed to care about us...but I was suspicious. We'd been abandoned before! I was ever vigilant and always looking for signs that we'd be dumped again. I lived in fear that we'd be sent back to my mother...and once again I would be in charge of the three of us. But... I was wrong. Order came to our chaotic lives. We had food, we had consistency, and to top it off, we gained a whole new family.

The Steindam family was my step-mother's aunt, uncle and cousins. They lived on a farm, 100+ miles North of us and once school was out, church camp was over and the summer stretched before us, my brother and I would be sent to "Aunt Sadie's" to spend a couple of weeks.

Aunt Sadie never met a child she didn't love with her whole heart...and she lavished that love on my brother and I. We were sponges, soaking up every kind word and gesture. I think back on that time and know it was the only time, as a child, I truly felt safe. She didn't treat us like the "step-children" we were. She reinforced daily that we were loved and told us continually about the love of Jesus.

Each morning Aunt Sadie made us breakfast - fresh milk and eggs (I preferred yesterday's milk because it was cold!) In the evening's I rode behind Nelson on his horse to herd the milk cows home.
Nelson was 10 years older than me and my brother and I thought he could do anything! He was a "bigger than life" cowboy. He could ride, he could shoot...and he spent time with us. He took us with him when he left the farm. He talked to us like we mattered...and I think that meant more to us than anything. Aunt Sadie, Nelson and his sister JoAnn - they heard us. They listened. They cared...and for two love starved children it went a long way toward healing us and creating a trust in adults we didn't have before.

Nelson's farm is down the road from our "little farm house"...and it's where my children spent many magical hours. He is still a bigger than life cowboy to my children and they love him deeply. They knew Aunt Sadie...and knew the same love from her that I received as a child.

Aunt Sadie has been gone for several years...and now, Nelson is sick. My family is losing a great uncle, loving father, grandfather, brother and most importantly a friend. In my selfishness I want Nelson healed...but the Lord loves Nelson (more than all of us)...and He has his best interest at heart. SELAH

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