October 30, 2015

Tales From Old October…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:00 pm


October is the richest of the seasons: the fields are cut, the granaries are full,
the bins are loaded to the brim with fatness…the sun goes down in blood and
pollen across the bronzed and mown fields of old October.

—Thomas Wolfe

It always slides right in, that feeling in the fall. I’ve never written all that much about it. But when October comes, I always feel the shiver and chill of those frosty mornings again, back in my childhood. It was a time of harvest, then the plow. The shorn fields empty now, of their crops. And the darkness creeping in, earlier and earlier each night, as the sun sank low in the west. It was when we first did the evening chores by lantern light, in the comfortable odorous warmth of the barn. It always stirs the memories in me, old October does.

Here in Lancaster County, I am far from the fields of my childhood. Here, I watch the teams plugging along in the fields, from a distance. And the great old barns sag with the fruits of the harvest. Hay bales in the loft, the silo filled to the top. And in the outbuildings, great sheaves of tobacco hanging from the rafters. I was always taught that raising tobacco was evil. But I have grown to deeply respect what that crop means in the annals and traditions of Lancaster County.

And this October, I figured to write a blog about October. But when crunch time came last week, I sat and fidgeted. How do you write about a specific month, without getting all hifalutin’ and deliberately “literary?” Friday came, and I passed. No blog this week. And I sat down the other night, to try again. And I thought. Just tell the stories you remember, the stories that came down in October. So I wrote out the first thing that came, the thing closest to my mind, because it happened just a few days ago.

I saw the number on my cell phone when it rang, last Wednesday. I was busy at work, but I answered. It was Esther, the Amish lady I take a gallon of raw fresh Jersey milk to every two weeks. And she makes four quarts of pure natural unsweetened yogurt from that milk. She keeps two, and I take two. Somehow, the Saturday before, things got clogged up a bit. And now it was mid-week, and I still didn’t have my yogurt. Yes, Esther? I said. And she spoke, and I could hear something different in her voice. Something flat and serious and far and full of wonder and very calm.

“Well, your yogurt is ready,” she said. “I’m sorry it took so long, this week. You can stop by tonight and pick it up. I won’t be home, but you know where it is in the fridge.” There was a little pause, then. And she spoke again, about what she really wanted to tell me. I had no idea what that might be. “Yesterday, they had Big Church, over in our son Samuel’s district,” she said. Yeah, I said. I know it’s Big Church season, here in October. You gotta get that out of the way, before the weddings can start. “Yes,” she said. “And yesterday, over in Samuel’s district, they ordained a preacher.” And I knew instantly and instinctively what she was going to say next. And lo, she spoke the words.

“The lot hit Samuel,” she said.

And then I couldn’t help but groan, soft and long. Oh, my, I said. Oh, my. Oh, no. Oh, my. I know Esther and I know all her family. Her husband, David. I always stop by, every couple of weeks or so, just to catch up with whatever it is we have to talk about. And to pick up my yogurt, of course. I know their sons, too, and their daughter. I know them all. Samuel is the middle son. Around thirty years old, I’d guess. Quiet, lean of stature. Intense, intelligent. Well-read. When I see him, we always chat a bit about world affairs. And football. He knows I love football, so he always asks about how my Jets are doing.

And Esther told me a little bit about how it all came down, that Tuesday. If they need to ordain a preacher around here, they try to have the church service on a Monday or a Tuesday, or sometimes a Saturday. That’s so the other preachers from surrounding districts can come and witness and offer support. And that Tuesday morning, Esther told me, she went over to Samuel and Naomi’s house, to take care of the children, while they went off to Big Church. Nothing much was said about the upcoming ordination, I don’t think. You don’t talk much about such a thing beforehand. It’s just not done in the Amish world, any musings about maybe becoming a preacher. If the lot hits your son, there will be plenty of time to talk about it all later. And if it doesn’t, well, then there wasn’t much to talk about, anyway, one way or the other.

She stayed there with the children all day, Esther told me. And before Samuel and his wife came home, someone had stopped in to tell her. The lot had hit her son. And when they came home, Samuel and Naomi, she just broke down and wept. “He hugged me. Comforted me. I mean, he’s the one who was just ordained, and now he’s comforting his Mom,” she said. That’s exactly how it should be, I said. It’s a heavy thing, for any parent to absorb, that the lot for preacher hit their son.

And I realized I was hearing something rare and fine, right there in that moment. I was hearing the story of an Amish ordination from a mother’s perspective, something I had never really considered before. And Esther spoke bravely about her son. “He has a gentle spirit,” she told me. “And he wants to see the gospel preached. I think he will be alright.” And I encouraged her, as I could. Of course he will be alright.

But I couldn’t help but groan aloud again. Oh, my. Oh, my. This is such a life-changing thing. But I caught myself after a few groans. Samuel will rise up, and he will be fine, I told her. I know that. From her response, I knew she knew that, too. It’s a fine thing, and it’s a gentle thing, but it’s there, the heaviness and the subdued pride of it. I remember the feeling when my brother Joseph got ordained, back in 1978. We had a preacher in our family, now. And nothing could ever take that fact away. You have a preacher in the family now, I told Esther. That’s an honorable thing, and a somber thing. I had to get back to work, then. We said so long and hung up. But I held these things in my heart, and pondered them.

I’ve written about it a few times before, way back, in this blog. And it’s mentioned, too, in the book. It’s one of the most intense and draining things any Amish man will ever face, or ever endure. Or any Amish couple, or extended family. The making of a preacher. The selecting of God’s chosen one by lot. It strikes randomly, seems like, and it strikes like lightning. And it’s all so brutal and so intense.

There may be other groups out there that ordain a preacher just like the Amish do. Other plain groups, like the Beachys, ordain by lot. But it’s different. Those groups usually vote for who will be in the lot, say, at a Friday night church service. The names are called, of the chosen ones. But the actual ordination isn’t held until a few nights later, usually a Sunday night. And in the interim, the preachers talk in depth to all the men in the lot. One by one, personally. Does the brother feel he has a calling to preach? Will he accept the calling and the responsibility, if the lot hits him? And I’ve always thought. The Beachy guys have an out. All they have to do is say, no. There is no calling, inside, to preach. And just like that, they are excused from the lot. Home free. No book to pull. No terrifying little slip of paper to jump out at you.

Not so, the Amish. In an Amish ordination, it’s wham, bam. Your name gets called, and you struggle to your feet and slowly approach the table where the books are. You and four or five other intensely burdened men. Everyone looks on, all quiet, you can feel the oppressive pressure. And then you pull a book. Any book, it doesn’t have to be in any particular order. You sit there, frozen. And then the bishop comes along and takes your book. Unties the string. Opens it.

And if that little slip of paper is there, on page 770, you ain’t got no choice. You will be ordained. Right there, on the spot. It’s one of the most brutally intense experiences any Amish man (and his wife) will ever endure, to be in the lot. Whether or not the lot actually hits him.

And there have been tales and legends passed down, over the years. I remember a story from my childhood. There was an ordination, and the lot fell on a young man. He wasn’t all that bright, and he most certainly had no intention of allowing any bishop to ordain him. Before anyone could stop him, he bolted. Out the door, some say he jumped out a window. However he got out, he disappeared into the deepening shadows of late afternoon. “We will let him go,” the bishop intoned calmly. “He will come back.”

The young man hid out at home for a few weeks, if I remember right. And then, one Sunday, he showed up at church, a little sheepishly. All right, I’m here. Ordain me. The bishop did just that, and nothing more was ever told or heard, that the young man did not honorably fulfill his duties as a preacher.

And then I remember hearing this story preached, in Bloomfield. I even think it might have been told by my brother Joseph, in a sermon. Somewhere, a long time ago, there was an ordination in an Amish community far away. And the lot hit a young man. Maybe he was more like middle aged. I think he was ordained, there on the spot. But the man refused to preach. “I cannot preach,” he said. And over and over again. “I cannot preach.”

He remained obstinate, insisting he cannot preach. So the Lord took him at his word. And the time came that the man was struck dumb. He became mute. And he never could speak another word, and never did, all his life. That’s the story I heard told. And it all happened because he kept proclaiming he cannot preach.

And what if there is only one person in the lot? I had never heard of such a thing, but I guess it’s happened. Here in Lancaster County, back in the mid 1800s, there was an ordination where only one man got the allotted three votes needed to get stuck in the lot. The preachers and bishops conferred, and decided to go ahead and just ordain him. So they did that, and no ill ever came from any of it, that I heard told. And I don’t know if they just ordained him, or if they made him pull one book, so they could open it and find the little slip of paper on page 770. I wouldn’t be surprised at all, if it happened that way, with the book.

But my friend, Amos, the horse dentist, tells me of another time when there was only one man in the lot. He’d heard the story told, or maybe he’d read it in a book somewhere. It happened in the Honey Brook area, in the mid 1800s. It must have been a pretty small group, there in the district, to be ordaining a preacher. Because only one man got the three votes needed to get in. The preachers and bishops conferred, and this time, they decided to step off the reservation a bit, all on their own. They decided to include another man, a man who had garnered only two votes. You needed three to get in. And that day, the Amish bishop went against all that was ever taught or respected in the annals of that culture. He inserted himself over God. The two men were named, called up. The legitimate candidate, and the one who had only two votes.

And, of course, we all know what happened next. The lot hit the guy with only two votes. And all would have been fine, except somehow, one of the preachers talked, down the road. The preacher told of what had happened that day, and how the lot had hit a man who shouldn’t even have been in it. And of course, too. The poor guy who had been ordained heard the story. He did not take it well. He refused the calling of being a preacher, since he had been ordained illegitimately. Just flat out refused to preach, or walk with that preachers upstairs to the Obrote. He insisted on sitting with the regular folks, not up front with the preachers.

And in time, the pain festered so deep inside his tortured soul that it actually affected his health. He became quite bitter. Not that I blame him. Who wouldn’t? He certainly never was an effective preacher. Who could be, in a system such as that, when he knew his ordination was a fraud?

And it all got pretty contentious and heated, I guess, at least according to what Amos the horse dentist told me. The man was shunned for not being willing to “obey the will of the Lord.” What will? He asked. You stuck me in that lot when you had no business to. I’m not a preacher, and never was. And in time, he left the Amish. He never returned, either to preach or anything else.

And here, the telling of the story gets very strange. The stores the Amish tell, after a death. I’ve heard the whispers of such things, all my life, from stories of people who left the Amish and went off and lived a sinful and worldly life.

Here’s where it gets all Amish, the telling of it. When the man died, years later, they placed him in a coffin in his home. And the people came to see him, to pay their last respects, such as they were. And then darkness fell. And still people came to see the body. And strangely, throughout that evening and all through that night, the lights would not stay lit, anywhere in the house. No matter how many times they were re-lighted.

After ordinations, a much more joyful season comes rolling into Lancaster County. Weddings. They start right after Big Church, in mid October. Every Tuesday and Thursday, all through November and the first half of December. The buggies clog the early morning roads. A whole lot of people gathering at a whole lot of places for a whole lot of celebrations. And thus the next generation of Lancaster County Amish is assured.

And every fall, I kind of keep an eye out, for my builders at work. I ask them. How many weddings are you going to, this year? And yeah, it’s because I want to know, and I want to make conversation. But mostly, it’s because I’m hoping that somewhere, somehow, I can snag me some Roasht. I usually manage to beg some from someone, somewhere. This year, in mid November, the daughter of one of my best friends is getting married. I figure to attend the evening services. And I figure to raid the large tub of Roasht in the cooler. We’ll see how it goes.

A small bunny trail, right here at the end. Thomas Wolfe’s “October passage” is among the most famous of all seasonal descriptions in all of American literature. And it’s what triggered this blog. I make no secret of it. The man is my hero, when it comes to what real writing is. Just recently, though, I read a short, vitriolic screed where a real obscure critic just went off on a tirade. I mean, the man went ballistic. And he savagely excoriated Wolfe for even daring to have written one sentence. Wolfe was a drunk, and he couldn’t go home again, and he wrote the worst prose ever published, according to his primary biographer, a shiftless shyster who apparently won a Pulitzer Prize somewhere along the way for something he wrote.

That’s what the obscure critic huffed and raged. Well, now. I’ve never heard of the shyster biographer before. Never heard his name, and I’m sure not telling it here. I’ve sure heard Thomas Wolfe’s name, though. Bottom line is this. The books of the shiftless shyster never sold. Wolfe’s books did, and still do.

Show me any writer of Wolfe’s generation who didn’t drink, and I’ll show you a boatload of forgotten prose that no one buys or reads. Back to the obscure critic. His problem is, he has labored tirelessly for decades under the odd delusion that somehow his writings will be indispensable to all the world a hundred years down the road. Thing is, his books don’t sell now. They never have sold, other than a few hundred copies he managed to shake off on his “Remnant.” I don’t know why he would imagine that anyone will remember his name a hundred years from now, or why that seems so important to him. Because that’s a long time, for history to remember anyone’s name.

Wolfe is gonna make that cut, though. He died in 1938, at the painfully tragic young age of thirty-seven, eighteen days before his thirty-eighth birthday (who knows, what all the man could have produced, had he been given even ten more years?). People will still be reading his stuff in 2038. And beyond. It doesn’t matter how many small, savage critics go after him, when they’re really going after someone else.

Thomas Wolfe didn’t consider himself to be indispensable to any single thing. Or any cause. No real writer does, because you can’t speak to a reader’s heart from a heart filled with such hubris. His Magnum Opus was published posthumously, from his notes. You Can’t Go Home Again. I don’t think he cared that much whether or not he ever got published again. He just lived and wrote. And, yeah, he drank, I’m sure. I mean. Duh. How prissy are we going to get, here?

And if people read my book or any of my other stuff after I’m gone, well, I’d sure like that. I’d like that a lot. It won’t make much difference, though, in the end. Eventually, pretty much every word anyone writes will turn to dust and ashes. And it doesn’t matter how desperately we want to be remembered, for all that wisdom we spouted. The bottom line is this. All we ever were or ever wrote will be as forgotten as if we had never passed through this broken world. There will be no memory of who we were, or what we said.

All else is vanity, and idol worship.

October 9, 2015

The Inquisitor…

Category: News — Ira @ 6:04 pm


He understood that men were forever strangers
to one another, that no one ever comes to really
know another, that, imprisoned in the dark womb
of our mother, we come to life, without having
seen her face…

—Thomas Wolfe

The day was rolling right along, like any other day last week. And the phone rang again. Around midmorning, I think it was. Rosita answered, then beeped me. “An Amish guy asked for you.” Which is not unusual at all. I deal with lots of Amish builders, so an Amish guy asks for me a few times every day. I took the call. Hello, this is Ira. “Ira?” the man asked. A high, kind of squeaky voice. Definitely sounded Amish. Yes, I said. Yes, that’s me. “It’s good to speak with you,” he said in PA Dutch. “I’ve been wanting to chat with you for a while.” And he settled in to tell me how he knew who I was.

He was from down south, from the Peach Bottom area, he told me. Oh, my, I thought. A South-Ender. What in the world is he calling me for? I mean, those people are pretty much hard-core Amish. I don’t have a whole lot of connections down there, in the south end. I wasn’t sure about it all, but I thought to myself. This cannot possibly be a good thing. Still. I smiled as I spoke to the man, on the phone. What can I do for you?

And he told me. He had found my book at a yard sale a few months back. Oh, my, I thought again. My book at a yard sale? What’s the world coming to, that my book is at a yard sale? And local, yet? Good grief. He probably got it for a quarter. My book, speaking blood to blood, and heart to heart. It’s been four years. I guess it’s natural, that it shows up at local yard sales. It kind of freaks me out, though.

And the man rambled on, still in flawless blue-blood PA Dutch. He had read the book. Yes? I asked. And what did you think of it? Next thing you know, he’s gonna ask me if I’m in the ban, if I’m excommunicated. That’s always one of the first questions the South-Enders ask. They want to make sure I’m not a heathen. But surprisingly enough, he didn’t go there. He didn’t ask that. He hedged a little. “Well, I read it all the way through, that’s for sure,” he said. “And I have a few questions for you. Would you come around to see me some evening, so we can talk?”

And now it was my turn to hedge. He was from the south end. They’re real conservative, down there. More hard core. And way more strict. I mean, you’re talking about Lancaster County blue-bloods, the way all the blue-bloods used to be, way back. That’s what the south end is. I groaned a little bit inside, thinking of it. This is all I need, some Inquisitor from the south end, harassing me about my book. I’ve never made a habit of wandering into the lion’s den the south end can be. It’s just better, not to tempt things. Not to venture in to places where you know they’re waiting to trap you, places where the conversation can only spiral down.

I mean, I’ve fought all those battles before, over the years. Tried to defend, tried to explain, tried to excuse. It does no good, any such talk. It never did any good. It just made your interrogators feel all the more smug, seeing you squirm. And I remember, back in the 1990s, when I went back home to visit over Christmas. I was done, making excuses. Done defending my choices. And I told my brothers, Stephen and Titus. I’m not Plain anymore at all. I reject all forms of Plainness. Sure, if you want to live that way, I’m fine with it. I’m fine with how you live. That’s your choice. But I am completely English. And I lingered over those words, and savored them, as they came out. I am completely, completely English. And no one was ever gonna see me all squeamish about it. I don’t care if you judge me, or reject me, even. I am who I am.

Somehow, this South-End guy stirred up all those latent memories in me, just from his short phone call. And I steeled myself against him. I just don’t need that baggage. And I’ll never travel with such baggage again, if I can help it. I will not do it. I will not defend the choices I made, way back, to any Amish man hunting me down. This guy was knocking on doors I had not opened in a long, long time. He was real tricky, I thought. He wanted me to come down to where he was, to talk about my book, and what I had written. I recoiled, ever so slightly, on the phone, as all these thoughts and memories flashed back through my mind. But I talked back at him, real polite like. And all in PA Dutch.

Ah, I don’t know, I told him. What kinds of questions do you have in mind? He seemed a little evasive. “Oh, just some questions, some thoughts and such,” he said, still talking PA Dutch. It had been a while since I’d held an extended conversation with any Amish person in PA Dutch. I didn’t struggle to keep up, though. Not much. I grappled a little, to grasp his words, what he was saying, sometimes. But mostly, I ran right along with him. And I told him. Nah, I don’t think I’ll make it down there. It’s pretty far. You know where I work. You are welcome to stop in sometime and ask me any questions you have a mind to.

He seemed a little disappointed, but he took it OK. “Ah, well,” he said. “I would have liked to visit with you in person. You are welcome to stop by anytime.” I hear that, I said. And you’re welcome to stop by here, too, whenever you’re in the area. We could do lunch, if you stopped by. A vague silence beamed back at me. And then we said so long and hung up.

And I mulled it over, some, the rest of the day. Thought about the guy. He had not sounded all that hostile, really. Maybe he wouldn’t have chewed me out. And I thought, too. If my book moved him enough to where he actually reached out to me like he did, maybe he was looking for a way out. I doubted that, but still. You never know. Seemed to me if that were actually the case, the man could have at least briefly mentioned as much. And I thought, nah. Follow your instincts on these things. You’ve been around plenty of Amish people who did not appreciate your book. And chances are this guy from the south end was one of those people. No sense, tempting things, by walkinging into places you shouldn’t.

I didn’t have to wonder long about it all, though. Because the very next day, the next afternoon, the phone rang again. And Rosita beeped me again. “It’s that same Amish guy, from down south,” she told me. Well, I thought. This is interesting. I’ll feel it out a little more thoroughly today, to see where the guy’s coming from. And I spoke. This is Ira.

It was the same guy, all right. Speaking in PA Dutch again. He’d been thinking, he told me. Since I wouldn’t come down to his place, he figured he’d just call me with a few questions. Sure, I said. Go right ahead. What do you want to ask me?

The thing is, I got no fight inside me, when it comes to religious confrontation. Not about things like this. I am where I am. I want to be left alone. I want to walk in peace. So it was a bit of a step out for me, to tell the guy to ask me what he wants. I’m here. I’m open. Give me your question.

And I could feel him squirming a little, over the phone. He hemmed and hawed and cleared his throat. This is a real production, I thought to myself. Then he asked the question that had pressed him to call me twice in two days. The question that burdened his heart.

“Do you still feel the same as you did at the end of the book, or are there some things that would change if you wrote it today?”

That was the question he asked. The question he wanted me to talk about, face to face, down there in the south end. And I felt the vibes. This man is not attacking you. He honestly wants to know. He’s called you twice, now. That takes more than a little nerve, to be that persistent. So at least treat him respectfully.

I chuckled. No, I said. I would not change any of the story, if I wrote it again today. “You wouldn’t?” he asked. No, I said again. It’s just my story. I don’t know why I would want to change anything. I mean, I wrote what happened. Why would my writing of it change, today? Oooh. He hadn’t quite thought of that, he admitted. We settled in, then, and just talked. Or visited, as my father would say. We just visited.

How old are you? I asked him. He told me and it’s just a few years younger than me. Children? I asked. Are any of them married? His oldest daughter is married, yes, he told me.

We talked then, about the Amish in general, and I didn’t feel hostility from him at all. Just curiosity, and general interest. He said “Unsere Leit” a lot. Our people. Our people are this and our people do that. It seemed like he included me in the phrase.

And then he asked. “Do you know what I found really sad in your book?” No, what? I asked. “The fact that you were in your mid-twenties before you ever felt you could talk to God,” he said. “It seems like we could do better, our people, so our young people don’t ever get as lost as that.” Yeah, I said. It was a pretty brutal road. But I don’t hold anything against anybody, from here, from where I am today. It’s just what happened. It’s just my story.

And we chatted, then, about other things. He told me a bit about himself. He’s been knocked around a good deal, in life. He told me a little bit about his children. And then he paused, all of a sudden. When he spoke, there was a catch in his voice. And he just kind of slid it in, sideways.

“Last year my youngest boy got killed in an accident. He was eight.” He spoke the words softly. I recoiled instantly, in empathy and sorrow.

Ah, man, I am so sorry, I said. How did it happen? And he told me. It happened out in the fields. (No actual details, for the man’s protection) I’m so sorry, I said again. No parents should ever have to bury their eight-year-old son. I don’t care what the circumstances are. I’m so sorry you lost your young son. It had to be hard. It still has to be hard.

“Yes,” he said. “It was. And it is.” And we kind of wound things down, then. I needed to get back to work, I told him gently. He invited me to stop by, again. Some evening, just to talk. I heard him way more clearly than I did the first time. But still. I hedged. You know where I work, I told him. Stop by sometime when you’re around and we’ll go for lunch. He allowed that such a thing might be possible. He told me. He had my office number. He wanted to give me his phone shack number. Down south, I think they still have phone shacks. He gave me the number. And I wrote it down.

“Call sometime,” he said, almost wistfully. You never know, I said. I might.

And that was about all there was to say.

It’s been a while. So a little update, here, on my sister Maggie. I wrote back in early June of how she was diagnosed with stage four cancer throughout her body. Well, in her colon, liver, and lungs, anyway. The family gathered around her, went down to her home in South Carolina to see her. Eventually, I think, we all got there to see our sister.

And things just kind of drifted along. Maggie was on some kind of natural regimen. And she seemed to be doing fairly well. Some pain, of course, from all those lumps, from all that cancer spread throughout her body. And the blood clots, too. There was an exceptionally large clot in her right thigh. She faithfully soaked it multiple times a day with some sort of treatment mixed in hot water. She stayed pretty weak and could not get her blood counts up to normal levels, or gain weight. But despite all that, she was still up and about and staying real busy.

And life just went on. Dorothy, her oldest daughter, stayed for about a month or so, to take care of her Mom. And then she took her children and returned home to Kalona, Iowa. And Maggie kept on taking her natural stuff, all while getting her blood checked weekly. And the test results were always steady. No one quite knew what all that meant. But it was good news, it was life, we figured, if she was holding steady. And the days drifted into weeks, then months.

Eventually, the family decided it would be good for Maggie to go back to a doctor for a second opinion, and take the follow up tests required, to see exactly where the cancer was. This happened a few months ago.

When the results for the MRI came back, the doctor said the cancer was pretty much isolated to the large tumor in her colon. They planned to remove the surrounding lymph nodes and her appendix. And yes, there were a lot of cysts that they needed to check out, as the first tests had revealed. But if the cancer was actually isolated, there was a real simple procedure to go in and get it. By incision. They wouldn’t even have to cut her open, or anything. We were all pretty shocked. And we all rejoiced.

The Lord still works in mysterious ways, I guess. Last week Maggie went in for her surgery. All went exactly as the doctor had told the family. He went in and removed the cancerous lump from Maggie’s colon, along with the lymph nodes, and the appendix. And then they checked out all those lymph nodes, and her liver. There was a decent chance some of them would be cancerous. And the results came back, a few days later. The lymph nodes were clear, and the liver is clear. All the blood tests were improving. The doctor felt like he had removed all the cancer. But he can’t pronounce her cancer-free until follow-up check-ups are completed. It truly was an astounding thing to see, to experience as an extended family.

Maggie was released from the hospital just a few days ago. And she returned to her home. She’s in a good bit of pain, still, but that’s to be expected, I guess. She rejoices that one of her heart’s greatest desires may now well be fulfilled. She so longed to see her grandchildren grow. To enjoy them in their childhoods, and to see them grow into adulthood.

So that’s how things stand today. I thank all of my readers who took a few minutes here and there over the last few months to pray for Maggie. Thank you. We rejoice in life and light, when we expected to be weeping in the darkness. That much is true, and Maggie’s journey is a miracle to us all.

As she walks into the future, I’m sure Maggie would appreciate any prayers any of y’all would care to present to the Lord on her behalf.