Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, July 13, 2017


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from the Heart of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

I wrote this eight years ago, for my book BLOOM BEFORE YOU’RE PLANTED, which never got completed, but it’s all still accurate today, except that I’m no longer 72 and no longer doing physical therapy for my rotator cuff surgery…


When our grandson, Joseph, was fifteen months old, he was diagnosed with hypatoblastoma, liver cancer. He spent the next year in the hospital, undergoing three minor surgeries and one major one, and many months of nauseating and debilitating chemotherapy. He weighed two pounds less on his second birthday than he did on his first. He spent most of the year just being sick, totally nauseated and fatigued.

Once in a while, though, there was “a patch of blue,” when the nausea would hide behind the clouds, and the fatigue would dip below the horizon. That was when Joe would soar. He seemed to know that the break in the gray was there only for a moment. He grasped at any bit of knowledge that floated by on the breeze. He knew he had to take advantage of that patch of blue, because the gray fog would come again.

He did it so well. Before he was two, he could name thirteen colors, including obscure shades like copper and azure. The nurses were so proud and amazed that whenever a visitor came onto the pediatric cancer floor, they picked him up in their arms and carried him around, pointing at various objects, asking him the color, to show off his knowledge.

My physical therapists don’t pick me up or take me around to show me off. They seem to assume that my extensive repertoire of hilarious stories is somewhere between expectable and expendable. However, at seventy-two I am like Joe at two in at least one way: I know I must take advantage of any short period when I have the energy to do something, because I know that window of opportunity will close quickly, come crashing down with a bang.

I’m pretty sharp in the morning, after I’ve had my oatmeal and coffee and glanced over the sports pages and held a magnifying glass to the small print in the comics. I have energy to mix up aloe Vera gel in cranberry juice and swallow unknown numbers of pills and take the first of my three twenty-two minute walks to keep my blood sugar up and my cholesterol down. [Or maybe it’s the other way around.]

Then I throw into the garbage about seventy slices of spam from my email in-basket and Google something I really need to know, like from whence comes the line, “and the pig got up and slowly walked away.” I get cleaned up and dressed, no quick item anymore if I have to put on both socks. I go to physical therapy or a doctor or dentist or pick up a prescription.

After that it’s time for mid-morning coffee and half of a low-fat muffin. [Blood sugar again] I make a phone call or two. I do the second of my walks. After that it’s time for lunch, which leads to falling asleep in my recliner… and then it’s time to go to bed.

I have no idea what happens between lunch and bedtime. I have vague recollections of washing dishes and watching TV, but those may just be nightmare leftovers.

The day is very short, at least that part of the day when I have the energy and ambition to get something done. Like little Joseph, I know that if that window is open even a little, I need to jump through it. I know it will be a while before it is open again.

John Robert McFarland

I tweet as yooper1721.

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