Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

Our grandson, Joe, turned seventeen in January. There was a time we just hoped for two.

That was when he was in the University of Iowa hospital, being treated for liver cancer.

He spent most of a year in hospital. When he was able to come home to Mason City, IA, in between treatments, to his father and sister, he often spiked a fever and had to be in the Mason City hospital until he returned to Iowa City. Regardless of where he was, his mother was always with him. His father had to stay home to work, and his sister was only four, so she spent a lot of days and nights with us. Whenever possible, I spent days in the U of Iowa hospital with Katie and Joe, some nights in the hospital and some in the Ronald McDonald house.

I did not go to the Ron House until late in the day, though. One night I took a break from the children’s cancer ward and went up to the top floor, where the library and coffee shop were, hoping there might be some coffee still available. There wasn’t. The coffee shop was closed. The place was deserted. Except not quite…

I heard cussing from a distance. I went to investigate. I followed the sound to the men’s room. I assumed it was a janitor, disgruntled because of… well, for obvious reasons. But it was not. It was a patient. A man, probably in his early 60s. He had only one leg. The other had just been amputated. He had gotten out of his wheelchair and onto the toilet but now could not get back into the wheelchair. For him, it was like being on a desert island, alone.

I got him back into his chair, not without some difficulty and some laughter and some more cussing, took the handles of the chair and asked him for his room number.

“Oh, I don’t want to go back there. Wheel me out to the walkway between the hospital and parking garage so I can smoke.”

“But what if you get stuck out there?” I asked.

“It’s better than being stuck on a toilet, and besides, you came along, didn’t you?”

Apparently someone else came along. The next morning, when I went to the parking garage, he was not in sight. That was almost sixteen years ago.

Joe does not remember his year in the hospital, not in conscious memory, but even then, and more so now, he’s the type who will come along and help when someone is stuck. I hope the stuckee is on the walkway, though, instead of on the toilet.


I tweet as yooper1721.

My book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, which contains Joe’s story, as well as mine and Joe’s grandmother and aunt, is published in two editions by AndrewsMcMeel, in audio by HarperAudio, and in Czech and Japanese translations. It’s incredibly inexpensive at many sites on the web.

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