March 8, 2019

Vagabond Traveler: Me and Sam…

Category: News — admin @ 5:35 pm

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The possession of all things, even the air we breathe, is held
from us, and the river of life and time flows through the grasp
of our hands, and, for all our hunger and desire, we hold nothing
except the trembling moments, one by one.

—Thomas Wolfe
___________________

The news came knocking hard, early that Monday morning. I first saw it on social media and gaped in disbelief. It spread across the land and settled in our minds and in our hearts like a black and pestilent cloud. One more loss of life, one more journey snuffed out long before it should have, by any measurement our finite human minds can comprehend. I pondered the heavy thing. The memories came washing through like a flood. And back I went, in my head, to a time and place that happened long ago.

Ellen and I separated for the first time, way back in 2004, I think it was. Might have been 2003-04. The exact dates escape me, which seems a little odd. When you’re in the moment, it’s the heaviest thing in the world, and you swear every second of it will be seared forever in your brain. Then the months go by, and the years roll into a decade and beyond. And it all kind of shrinks back, recedes into the fog, the intensity of it. And the years start mingling together, until you’re not sure exactly when what happened, happened. This is like that, kind of.

I remember many things from those days, if not the exact dates. We ended up going to counseling at Life Ministries, down in the south end, close to Conestoga. Somehow, a close friend got me connected to Sam Gingerich, there at Life. I had never, never been to a counselor before. That was for sissies, where I came from. But this was a new and frightful place that called for things that had never been done before, so I decided to get counseling for the first time in my life. Sam was always in high demand, so I had to have an inside track to even reach him. At that point, I didn’t know if getting to Sam was a blessing or a curse. It didn’t take long to figure out. It was a major blessing.

I walked in for my first appointment, a little nervous. Filled out the forms that Norma, the receptionist, gave me. Then I sat and waited on one of those nice spindled wooden chairs they have lined against the wall, there in the lobby. I could see up the long stairs to the second floor. And right at 8:30, a man stepped out and came zipping down. He wasn’t real tall, but fit, with an intelligent face. He got down to the bottom and walked toward me and looked at me through thick glasses and smiled.

“Ira?” His voice was kind and sincere. Well, here we go, I thought to myself. I smiled back and nodded, then stood and reached and met his extended hand. Yep. You must be Sam. We chatted for a moment, then he turned and led me up the stairs and to the right a few doors to his office. It was nicely set up with a desk, a couple of cushy, comfortable chairs, and a big bay window you could look out of, to see the earth and skies. I didn’t know it that first day, but I would be spending a good many hours sitting in that cushy chair there in the corner. Over a few different stretches of time.

Sam and I talked. He had a way about him that made me trust him. Slowly, of course. That first morning, we got to know each other a bit. It was kind of funny, later, looking back. He asked me about something, some details of why we were having marriage troubles. I don’t remember the specific question. I responded quite vigorously. I will never, never trust anyone like that again. Never, ever. Sam looked mildly grieved. He cautioned me, gently. “I don’t like to hear the word, never. It’s defensive. And it takes a lot of energy to always guard against not ever doing something again or allowing your heart to trust again.” I looked at Sam. Nodded. OK. I can see that.

And that was the first little lesson he taught me about how to deal with the things in your life you can’t control. Guard your heart. Let go of the burdens that aren’t yours. Walk. Heal. Learn to enjoy, to laugh again. Forgive. Trust. Love, even if you get burned again. Take the risks. Live. That was the bottom line. Sam showed me that I could live again. And slowly, ever so slowly, I started clawing my way back out the rabbit hole. I was drinking hard in those days, and Sam accepted that. I was stunned. He didn’t judge me. He simply walked beside me, like a mythical cloaked wise man, waving his staff. “Here. This is the way. I can point it out to you. But you have to walk it. I can’t do that for you. I can walk with you, for a ways, just to make sure we get you on the right road.” And a weary, wounded traveler walked through the door into a new place and looked around in wonder.

That’s how it went, with me and Sam. He was such a man as that.

I went to see Sam regularly, every other week or so. It was a new thing for me. His quiet, probing questions made me go to places I had never been. And when Ellen and I talked, she could soon tell that I had been counseling with someone real. She asked, and I told her. I’m seeing Sam Gingerich, down at Life. You need to meet him sometime. And she was intrigued by the changes she saw in me, intrigued enough that she came. She met Sam. And she started going regularly to see him, too. Sam worked hard, counseling us both. He talked to us like he meant exactly what he said. Sometimes individually. And sometimes together. We worked hard, too, on our way back to each other. And by some miracle, we were reconciled after about six months. On the first day of spring, in whatever year it was, we officially reestablished our own little household with all the hesitant hope and faith in the future that Sam the Counselor had quietly guided us to see and feel. I opened my heart to the new dawn that would come, and I know that Ellen did the same.

It didn’t last. I guess there was no way it could. There were too many wounds in both our pasts, I think. A few years later, everything blew up again. For good, this time. All that time and energy Sam had invested went whoosh, out the window, just like that. I wrote about all of it before, way back in the early years of this blog. I’ve mentioned Sam a good many times. But I never considered things from his perspective. I don’t know what he thought and how he felt, to see all his efforts washed away like so much mud and muck. He’d seen it all before, many times, I’m sure. Still. I’m sure, too, that he hurt with those who were hurting like we were.

I huddled, shell-shocked in the center of the storm. There was lots of noise coming from lots of places. Sam stood with me, did what he could to guide me through the turbulent terrain. That very first day, the day me and Ellen separated for the last time, Sam met me out by the reservoir lake not far from his office. It was March, a milder March than this one is. We walked out to the waters, on the dam. Stood there hunched against the winds. I don’t remember a lot of the words we spoke that day, or that many words were spoken at all. I just remember that Sam was there. As a friend. A friend I trusted completely.

I went to see him regularly in the following weeks and months. Time slid on into years, then. With Sam’s patient guidance and counsel, I learned not only to face my fears, but to walk right up and confront them. He led me up to some hard doors, and I walked through them. And I will say. Life calmed down a good deal, over time. That’s when I started writing for real. Sam was always supporting and encouraging. (The only negative I could ever pin on him was that he was an Ohio State fan. When we chatted about college football, his eyes gleamed and he turned all frenzied like those people do. I tried to extend grace for this particular flaw.) I went to see him regularly for a few years, gradually increasing the span of time between each visit. I was working for the day that I felt strong enough not to go see Sam at all. That day came. Sam blessed me and wished me well.

We lost touch when I stopped getting counseling. Still. I knew where he was when I needed him. I went back to chat a few times around the time my book was coming out in 2011. Just to make sure I kept my head straight. It was maintenance, mostly, and Sam blessed me again when we parted. And we didn’t see much of each other outside counseling. I just never was where he was, socially. But I always knew where he was when I needed him. A few years ago, I was mired in some serious emotional issues. I was stuck in unforgiveness and a load of hurt. And it wasn’t getting better on its own. Didn’t matter how much I told God I wanted to let it go. The thing drug on, like some millstone around my life. Until it finally hit me. Go see Sam. So, I did.

We shook hands like two battered old warriors who had seen a lot since we’d last seen each other. I came, I said, because you are safe. I sat there in the same corner spot I always had before. I think there was a brand-new cushy chair by then. We spent a good bit of time, that first session, just catching up. Then I settled in and went to see Sam once a month. After six months, I had worked free of the load that had been dragging me down. Sam walked along beside me, gently pointing out the way. I knew what had to be done, I just wasn’t sure how to do it. Or if there was the strength to. Sam thought there was. He was right. I let go of the unforgiveness and embraced healing. Got some of that noise cleared out of my head. I felt truly free for the first time in a long time.

Then I said good-bye to Sam. We hugged. I walked out. This was in late 2016. I haven’t seen him since. Well, up until last week, I hadn’t. And therein lies the thread that got me started in the first place. I just took the long way around, getting here, I guess. A lot of things go through your head when you see a good friend walking through a hard door.

Sam and his wife, Cathie, have a lovely family. He always spoke highly of his wife and children. He deeply values family. I guess that’s why he fought so hard, early on, for Ellen and me. He hated to see a family torn apart. In our case, at least there were no children to make our separation more complicated. Sam and Cathie had children, three sons and two daughters. I was around them all a time or two when the children were younger. I never got to know them well, but I knew who they were.

And there’s where the darkness came from, that Monday morning last week. The night before, Sam’s twenty-four-year-old son, Ian Michael Gingerich, was instantly killed in a traffic accident less than a mile from their home. The news was staggering, it took your breath away, the tragedy of it. I thought of Sam right away, and what the man was walking through, right that second. My heart was heavy for my friend. It’s a brutal thing, for parents to bury a son.

The details came out, about Ian’s accident. A car came over the hill on his side on one of those narrow roads they have down there. I don’t know how fast either car was going. I just know that Ian didn’t have time to say good-bye to anyone. Not to his family, not to those closest to him, not to those he loved the most. He was gone before he could. Like I said, the tragedy of it just takes your breath away.

The viewing was on Thursday afternoon and evening, in two shifts, at the church Ian attended. Life Mennonite Fellowship, over close to Willow Street. I would go, I figured, to show my respect and offer condolences. There were a lot of people around Sam’s family, people much closer to them than I was. I didn’t want to intrude, but I wanted to show up. After work, I changed into a clean white shirt and a dress jacket. I got to the church early, because I don’t particularly care to sit around in such a place by myself. I was in the third or fourth row of people seated in the sanctuary. The air was quiet and somber. A screen up front flashed a rolling collage of Ian’s life from childhood, with many photos of him with his family and friends.

Soon the usher waved to my row. We got up and walked through a door in the back, into the large room where the family stood. The line snaked slowly, slowly, up to the coffin. Ian looked so young and natural. Like he was asleep, almost. I had not seen him since he was probably a young teenager. I lingered back, so as not to interfere with the couple ahead of me. And then I stepped up to Cathie, standing there, close to her son, where she could stroke his hair and face. She looked at me with tear-stained eyes, regal in her grief. I took her hand and spoke a few words. She recognized my voice and spoke my name. “Ira.” Yes, I said. We hugged. I murmured the only words that came to mind. I am so, so sorry.

I stepped to Sam, then. He took my hand. We embraced and the tears came unbidden. We wept openly. I told him. I am so sorry. I bring condolences and sympathies and prayers from all my extended Wagler family, the ones you knew. They all are mourning with you. And Ellen sends her love, too. I texted her, and she told me to tell you. We grieve with you in your loss.

He smiled his thanks. He remembers us all. We stood and talked for a moment. I don’t like to hold up the line at a viewing. It makes me crazy when people stand and talk and talk, oblivious to those stirring impatiently behind them. But a moment was fine. It makes no sense, I said. Still. The Lord is the Lord. That’s all I can think to say. Sam nodded. We embraced again, and the tears ran free. Thank you, I said. Thank you for all you’ve done for me over all those years. Down the line, then, to murmur brief condolences to each of Ian’s grieving siblings. They were all poised and gracious.

And I thought about it as I walked out to my Jeep. Sam Gingerich has poured his heart into the lives of hundreds, no, thousands of people over many years. For decades, he invested a lot of who he was into people like me, people he had no reason to really care for. Not to the extent that he would get involved in the messy details of the wreckage in our lives. Except that’s what the Lord called him to do.

We know who we are, the people who came knocking on Sam’s door. The wounded, the rejected, the unloved, the broken. And greatly healed, too, now, a good many of us. (As I’ve said more than a few times over the years, Sam is the reason I’m even half sane.) We remember how he cared for each one of us deeply. We know that he did his best to teach the healing truths he knew, to walk beside us on the right road. We remember how he spoke calmly and pointed to the light when darkness was closing in all around. That’s what a real counselor does.

And now he has lost a son. That’s a hard road. I hope all those people he cared for, I hope all those people care back for him.
*****************************************

Well. That was interesting, the last blog. I didn’t know what kind of response there would be. There are currently 74 comments, mostly with title suggestions. That’s the most comments, ever, on any one post on this blog. The second most comments happened when I asked for title suggestions for the first book, back in October, 2010. That post was child’s play, netting a measly 65 comments. I hope this bodes well for the future. Y’all rock, my readers, I gotta say. Thanks to every one who came up with a suggestion or ten. I loved it.

I wasn’t sure, how engaged people are. Fairly engaged, it turns out. I deleted a few redundant suggestions. And one comment from a flamer made me laugh out loud. Broken Roads; Unbroken BS. Except he didn’t say BS, he said the real word. Almost all memoir writing, well, almost all writing, can and will be classified as bullshit by some readers. You can’t please everybody, so you got to please yourself, as the song goes. That’s what I figure.

So, anyway. I chatted with Virginia, my editor, the other week. We needed to come up with the next step, the game plan. She was impressed with all the comments and all the suggestions. Right now, my own suggestion is leading by a nose. Broken Roads: Journeys with my Amish Father. Nothing is carved in stone, yet, but that’s how it seems to be shaking out. We’ll see.

We settled on a date, too, Virginia and me. The deadline for the manuscript has been moved back a couple of times. We talked about it and agreed that the first draft would be due on May 1st. That’s less than two months away. When I look at it from here, it seems like a big field to cross, like the Amish preachers say. I’m not freaking out, though. I’m plugging away, editing, editing, writing, writing, and rewriting, rewriting. There are a lot of gaps to fill in. The book will be scheduled for release in the spring of 2020. It seems weird, writing that number. 2020.

I’m excited. Not a lot of people get the chance to be where I am. Still. In the next six weeks, I’m going to a few places in my mind that will be hard to navigate. Right back to the raw footage. That’s the only way to get it told right, is to walk back through some hard places and look real close at what happened. Don’t get too tangled up in the why of it. Just tell the story.

Life is a gift. All of it. Every moment of every hour of every day. Even the hard parts. Maybe especially the hard parts. The Lord is the Lord. And that’s about all I know to say.

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February 8, 2019

The Name of the Broken Road…

Category: News — admin @ 5:40 pm

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What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who
wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself
be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have
absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish.

—Thomas Wolfe
__________________

There have been a few things on my mind the last while. Things I’ve thought about often before, but just never got around to telling. Just as well, I think. In recent months, the tides of life came rolling in, smashing and waving and pitching all around. And I got sidetracked, what with Dad slipping downhill, then receding, receding until he was gone. It’s all so close in my head, what happened. The New Year comes. And with it, new life and new roads. And now, I’m looking around and thinking. Maybe some sort of force has been unleashed. I’ve been busy lately, doing what I had not done in quite a while. Writing. I’ve been busy writing. Every night.

That in itself is not particularly unusual, I don’t guess. There have been such times before. Just not lately. It’s been a few years since I settled in every night and either poked around and edited or just wrote a page or two of all new stuff. I had been wondering to myself. Is the time ever going to get here? Will the muse ever return? Will the voice ever speak, ever really flow again? And now, with the writing that comes every night, I am slowly, slowly carving out an answer to those questions. I’m walking. We’ll see how it turns out. And I think, too. Sometimes when the right time knocks on the door, it just looks a little different than you had figured it would. It’s all new territory. Take it for what it is instead of trying to make it what you want it to be. I try to do that as much as I can.

In the last blog, I talked a little bit about the Amish preachers of long ago. Generically speaking, of course. Any preacher or any bishop could do it. Stand to preach a sermon at the start of a real long service. And he’d hem and haw and clear his throat. “We have a big field to cross.” We? What do you mean, we? (Makes me think of that scene where the robber thug asks Dirty Harry. “We? What do you mean, we, sucka?” Clint Eastwood says, as he yanks out his massive cannon of a revolver. “Smith – and Wesson – and me.” Blam, blam.) What do you mean, we, preacher man? The field is only as big as you make it. That’s what we thought and would have said, had we dared. We didn’t dare, of course. Little Dirty Harrys we were not. We shivered and hunkered down, resigned to our fates. And then settled in for a long day. There was nothing anyone was going to do about it.

Ironically, or maybe not, that last blog was the longest in all my history of posting on this site. Ever. By far. Well, I tried to warn unsuspecting souls, with that preacher analogy. I thank every single reader who kept slogging through until the end. Now, I’ll make like no Amish preacher ever did, at least none that I remember. I stand and fold my hands across my chest. Look down on the ground. Clear my throat. Others could do this so much better. But I feel like I must say that today, we have a very small patch of ground to cross. It shouldn’t take one bit long. This may be the shortest blog, ever. We’ll be out of here early.

Moving on, then, over that small patch of ground. I haven’t mentioned the book much lately, except briefly in passing, here and there. I wrote about it when the contract came, what a tense time that was, not knowing what was going on for sure. This was roughly when I quit drinking, back in late 2017. More than a year ago. It was a big deal, to land a contract for a book with a big five publisher like Hachette. It seemed like a big deal to quit drinking, too.

I had a couple of real good chats with Virginia, the editor lady who’s making it all happen this time around. We talked about my story, and what I had in mind to write. And we got along real well. I went off and wrote several great long threads of different stories. And that’s about as far along as I got. I just stopped and looked at things for as long as I felt like looking. Always keeping an eye on, always writing out a few more pages, a few more scenes. But they always kind of flowed free on their own, the stories. I had to find a way to weave them together. To me, that right there is what makes it hard to write a book. Weaving it all together.

And as last year unfolded with Dad, a simple truth sank in. There would never be closure to any book before I had gone and buried my father. With my family, I mean, of course. I don’t know if Virginia instinctively realized this and backed off and left me alone, or what. There wasn’t a lot of communication between us for months at a time. The first deadline came and went with nary a peep from anyone. And I may have felt a premonition last summer when I drove up to visit Dad that this was probably it. Whatever words you have to speak to him, get them said. This is your last chance.

It would be the last time I saw him when he was lucid and coherent. He could still communicate. He ate at the table with some of his children who had been shunned for decades. All that fire died, in the end. He was delighted when any of his children from anywhere came around to see him. “Ira is coming to see me,” he’d say for days when they told him I was coming. I was always grateful that we reached such a place, even so dreadfully late along the way. But still. I’ve thought it many times, too. It could always have been like that. Except it couldn’t, I guess, because it wasn’t. Now I’m going in circles. Back to my visit last summer. We had a few nice chats, me and Dad. He welcomed me when I got there. We shook hands when I left. Said good-bye. Those would be our last words to each other on this earth.

I had a lot of time to think on the way up and the way back, on that trip. Had time to mull over things, to get a framework in my mind. And I went back to writing when I got home. Described those moments I was in, on that trip to see my father. I knew as the writing came. This was the winding down part of the stories of our lives with each other, mine and Dad’s. I wrote a lot of it as it happened. I remember a lot more.

And then he passed on when he did, just a few weeks ago, seems like. And I thought about it, as the last blog was coming out. This blog may be the framework of my book. Start out on the journey up to see my dying father. Go off on all the bunny trails you want, get the story of your own journey woven in there. Get back on the road now and then. And back and forth and back and forth like that. I don’t know if that’s how the book will end up structurally or not. They might want to go conventional. That’s the narrative I’m using, to get it written. So maybe I’d rather go that way. It would be a lot harder, though, to make it work if you bounce around so much. I don’t know. I guess we’ll figure it out when we get there.

So right now, I am writing. A lot of loose and far flung threads. I remember what the Tyndale people told me, way back when we were laying the groundwork for my first book. “What you leave out is just as important as what you write.” To me, it boils down to keep the story alive and don’t go down too many bunny trails that aren’t important. I’m looking at it all, trying to get a good grasp of the right course to take. What to leave in. What to leave out. Isn’t there a Bob Seger song with lyrics that go something like that? Seems to me there is.

It’s been interesting. I’ve stayed relaxed, mostly. I have been planting seeds on my blog for years. Seeds for the next book, when the stories came poking out. Now, I will go back and pull up some of those narratives. Adapt, edit, and rewrite. Fill in the gaps. And weave it all together. I got it in my head. If my fingers can write what I see in my mind, I’ll be fine. That’s where I am. Standing here, looking over there to where I want to be.

Virginia asked me very kindly, not long ago. She was fairly insistent. She needs a title for the book. We’ve had a working title, now we need the real one. So she can start working on the marketing. We’ve thrown a few suggestions back and forth. I’ll lay it out. Looking back, it simply cannot be denied. So much of my life has been walking on broken roads. I want those words in the title. Broken Roads: Journeys with my Amish Father, or some such thing. There’s one I really like that won’t quite cut it, I don’t think. Amish Black: Broken Roads. That would be the title. Weave that old Jeep right in there. Virginia is very open to the Broken Roads part. I need the next phrase, with the word Amish in it somewhere. Here’s what it might look like.

Amish Black: Broken Roads (This is the one I like.)

This is probably what it will have to be:

Broken Roads: ____________ OR ____________: Broken Roads

Help me out. Post me your suggestions, right down there in the comments. Someone, somewhere, can surely come up with the right combination of words. If you are the first to come up with a title we use, I will pay with signed books, and proper public credit. Help me out.

I think I mentioned it before, at least fleetingly. Last summer, some nice people in a book club invited me to talk at Winterthur, the DuPont estate in Wilmington, Delaware. It was one afternoon during the week. They had asked months in advance, so it was easy to plan ahead and make it work. Around noon that day, I drove over to the home of my friend, Dale Simpkins. Dale was the one who got me into the book club. I parked at his house and rode over to the Winterthur estate with him. I had never been on the place before, never had heard of it, to be honest. It’s vast and breathtaking all around. Both the grounds and the buildings. The book club people had commandeered a nice upstairs room with real old furniture, where we sat around on high-backed chairs in a large circle. Probably about thirty people, or so.

We had a fine old time. It’s fun to go to talk about the book when the people have read it and are actually interested. This group had and was. I think we went a little long. I always offer to sign any copies of the book that anyone has with them. That takes a while, to chat with each person who wants to. Then, as we were wrapping up, a nice older gentleman came up to me. “Will you come and preach at my church?” he asked. I laughed. And almost, I said no. But I stopped myself. I’m not a preacher, I told the nice man. But I will come and speak at your church, if you ask me. A few weeks later, here came the email with the official invitation. Come and speak about your book. We planned it for January 13th, a few weeks ago. There was a snow storm that weekend, so my talk got canceled. It was rescheduled for the last Sunday of last month. And that morning came, too, right along.

I’ve done dozens and dozens of book talks over the years. So, if you ask me to come and speak, I’ll of course smile and say yes. And I’ll start thinking about what to say about the morning the talk is scheduled. I have a very basic, rough outline. It was written in the broadest of strokes, so there are always a hundred bunny trails to meander down, if I want to. That morning, I got up and dressed up in coat and tie. White shirt. Black pants. It was cold enough. I huddled in my trench coat until Amish Black got warmed up on the road. It was about an hour over there from my home. I left plenty early. Drove along into the clear morning winter sun. I located the Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church with no trouble. The church (not the building) has been in existence since 1730. They have a list of all the ministers who served the church since then. Pretty old stuff, for this country. Not many churches have been in existence on roughly the same spot since 1730.

That’s where I was going to speak, at such a place as that. And on a Sunday morning, yet. There would be no other speaker. I had the sermon time. That all played around in my head a little bit, as the days passed and the time approached. These are learned people you’re going to talk to.

I didn’t fret all that much, as church started. The place seemed decently packed. There were a few hymns and children’s class and then a scripture reading. Somewhere along about here, I got introduced. I walked up to the lectern. Spoke into the mic. I had been told. Speak for twenty minutes, then take a few questions. I stood there and talked about my journey as written in the book. And maybe a little beyond that. There was a bit of gospel sprinkled in, too. It wasn’t a sermon. Just a talk. And I didn’t speak for twenty minutes, I spoke way longer than that. Thirty-six minutes, someone muttered to me later when I asked. Umm. I thought to myself. I went and did what I have always so despised when preachers did it over the years. Preached too long. It’s like I always said in my grumbling. When a preacher does that, goes overlong, it’s because he thinks his time is worth more than everyone else’s combined. It’s rude and inconsiderate. I was pretty hard, in that line of thinking. And here I had gone and violated my own strident rule for others.

Ira preaching

I was shocked and a little horrified when that sank in. But then I thought. You know what? Everyone gets one mistake. One free shot. You don’t really know quite what’s going on, the first time. But you better not ever do such a thing again. That’s how I worked it out in my head. I have purposed in my heart to never go overlong again in any public speech anywhere.

Anyway, I enjoyed talking to those people in that church that morning. There was cake after the service, and I sat at a table and sipped black coffee. Some nice lady came over and pushed an enormous slice of cake on me. To take home, she insisted. People came and asked the questions they would have asked, had there been time up in the main service. I thanked the pastor, too, at some point. I told him. The pulpit is valuable real estate, I realize. I appreciate the opportunity to speak at this church. I’m honored to be in such a historical place.

I was honored. It was fun. I’d do it all over again.

I’ve mentioned it before, a few times. Not often. But a few times. My oldest brother, Joseph (the Amish preacher), has been battling multiple myeloma for a long time. It’s a cancerous blood disease. Most people who get it last around five years or less. Joseph has hung on strong for ten.

He has reached the end of the road with standard treatments. The drugs don’t work anymore. Joseph was excited last year to get accepted into an experimental treatment program in Columbus, Ohio. It’s untested. It may work. Or not. But it’s the only hope he has to stay alive. He checked in last month, soon after Dad’s funeral. It was a minor miracle that he could make the trek up to Aylmer to bury our father.

He started the experimental treatment program several weeks ago. He is very ill. His sons and daughters took turns to go and stay with their Dad and Mom, there at the hospital in Columbus. That takes a lot of energy and a lot of effort. You get weary. It’s exhausting.

Family is family, and blood is blood. You go when you’re needed, you help out when you can. This blog is posted from the road. Because this morning, I took off on a little trip to go see Joseph and spend a few days with him.

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