Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter—

Grandson Joe moves to college today. The same college where he was treated for liver cancer, starting when he was 15 months old. He had so much chemo that he weighed 2 lbs less on his 2nd birthday than he did on his first. In a way, it didn’t matter, because there was a good chance he would be dead by the age of two anyway. They said that if he lived, he would lose his hearing, be unable to jump, have kidney dysfunction, and other unfortunate effects.

Instead, he plays tenor sax and mandolin, he was a tennis letterman, and the nephrologist yesterday said his kidney function is only 3 points [on a scale of 100] below what is expected at his age. He’s an amazing guy.

I know it’s a bit unorthodox, but in Joe’s honor, I’d like to have root beer floats served at the party following my funeral.

This will happen, of course, only if Helen dies first. The one major problem in our marriage has concerned root beer. One of us loves it; the other loathes it. She tolerates it not because I love it but because Joe loves it.

But when I die, I want people to have a good time, to be happy, and it is from my grandson, Joe, when he was about five years old, that I learned the secret of happiness.

His sister, three and ½ years older, experienced a distressing incident. I can’t remember what bothered her so much, but it was enough to throw her for a real loop, complete with sobs of agony.

Their mother found Joe, standing on a chair in front of the refrigerator, with the freezer door open, digging with difficulty into a container of hard ice cream.

“What are you doing, Joe?” she asked.

“I’m fixing Biddey a root beer float,” he said. “You can’t be unhappy if you have a root beer float.”

That’s the attitude that kept him going in his second year of life, and has kept him going ever since. He’s an amazing guy.

John Robert McFarland

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