Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Power In the Blood-And In Those Who Deliver It

Christ In Winter: reflections on faith from a place of winter for years of winter…

Our grandson, Joseph Kennedy, was diagnosed with liver cancer at 15 months of age. Over the next year, he spent most of his time in Children’s Hospital at the University of Iowa or in the hospital in Mason City, IA, where we lived. He survived four surgeries and a ton of chemotherapy so toxic that he weighed two pounds less on his second birthday than on his first.

He is now almost twelve and is as whole a person as I know. Kathy Roberts, who was the director of a mental health center and so knows well the difference between persons who are whole and fragmented, says simply that he is “centered.” Perhaps he was whole and centered when he was one year old and that quality helped him to survive. Perhaps his wholeness and centeredness came out of his ordeal. Perhaps both are true.

Helen and I sometimes speculate about what Joe will do as a job when he grows up. Kids who have been through hospital experiences often gravitate to the medical field. Joe is attracted to the medical field, even as a fifth grader, but does not like the blood part of it. I understand.

I think that maybe he should be a state trooper. I’m not naïve about that job. Our para-son, Len Kirkpatrick, is an IL state trooper. [1] We know how dangerous that job is. We worry about him all the time. But…

Joe has a rare blood type, and he needed a lot of transfusions. Especially in Mason City, his type was often in short supply. The closest place to get it was Rochester, MN. It was always an emergency when he needed blood, so to get it into Joe’s veins as quickly as possible, a Minnesota state trooper would go to Mayo’s and pick it up, speed to the IA state line, where an Iowa state trooper would meet him and speed it on to Joe.

Joe is alive and whole because of his own centered being, because of his mother and father and sister and the rest of his family, because of doctors and nurses and technicians and pharmacists and dieticians and ward clerks and custodians and housekeepers in two hospitals, because of friends who raised money, because of people known and unknown who prayed for him, because of people who gave blood…and because of state troopers whose names we never knew, who went back to giving tickets and pulling people out of wrecks without knowing how much power there was in the blood they delivered.

I pray in thanks for all those people every day. And I hope that those troopers live to see old age, and that as they sit around the table at the old troopers home, wondering if their work was worthwhile, looking for final integrity for their lives, they will remember speeding blood to a little boy…

…and if some years from now you are stopped on the highway by a handsome young state trooper, just take your ticket and thank him. He might have just delivered some blood to save a child.


[1] The second question a state trooper asks a speeding motorist, after “Where’s the fire?” is “Do you know John Robert McFarland?” When Len stopped my pastoral colleague in the Central IL Conference, Burt McIntosh, and asked him that question, Burt said, “My first thought was, will it help me or hurt me if I admit I know him?”

{I also write the fictional “Periwinkle Chronicles” blog. One needs a rather strange sense of humor to enjoy it, but occasionally it is slightly funny. It is at}

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