CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©
In the process of down-sizing to fit into a condo, I am throwing away hundreds of cards and letters, almost three file drawers worth. They came from former students and colleagues in campus ministry, from fellow clergy around the world, from other writers, from former parishioners, from friends in all walks of life.
I read each one, think about that writer and the circumstances that prompted the letter, and then drop it into the recycling bin. There is no point in saving these anymore. My wife or daughters will have to sort through everything that is left when I die. These cards and letters will not mean anything to them. They don’t know who wrote them, or what prompted them to say what they did. One gift I can give them is to put my friends into the recycling.
The largest number of cards and letters is from fellow cancer folks. Because of my book, and speaking at so many cancer survivor gatherings, I met many, many fellow cancer survivors. There is an instant bond. Often it carries over to keeping in touch. So I have had many survivor correspondence friends. I can remember only a few of them. I had extensive correspondence with some, but now cannot remember them at all.
Maybe that’s just old age forgetfulness, but it doesn’t seem to extend to high school. I am hanging on to more mementoes from my high school days than from my cancer days. I remember every one of those high school friends.
At first that surprised me. Cancer has been the defining thread of my life, not only my own cancer, but that of my wife, my brother, a sister, a daughter, our grandson, my parents. Cancer has been a significant part of my life for 25 years. High school took only four. The people from my cancer days, though, were not those who defined me, who helped me learn in the first place who I am.
It was those years of high school, and the people in them, many with whom I am still in touch, who helped me become me, the guy who was able to deal with cancer, the guy who was able to help others as they walked the cancer journey.
Jim Shaw called last week. I hear from Jim once a year, a card at Christmas. I haven’t talked to him in person in five years. Nonetheless, I recognized his voice immediately. We were not close in high school, didn’t run around together, but we share those years. He was the one who said to me, in the summer after I had dropped out of high school to work in a factory, “On your day off, let’s go up to IU and see if they’ll let us in.” That was the hinge moment of my life.
When Jim learned we are moving, he called to offer to bring his truck and help. I so much appreciate all the folks I have met on the cancer journey. They, however, aren’t going to help me move.
John Robert McFarland
The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]
You can read more about the last 25 years in NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE, available just about anywhere on the web.
I tweet as yooper1721.