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Thursday, January 07, 2021

I Been Workin’ on the Railroad … or … My Argument with the Shin-Hoe

 by Rex Eldon Nelson (from an article that appeared in “The Good Old Days”

In 1907, I worked as a bridge carpenter for the Utah Uinta Railroad. This was a narrow

gauge railroad that ran forty miles up into the Uinta Mountains to the mining town of Dragon. The

railroad hauled gilsinite from Dragon, down the mountain, to a loading platform for the Rio Grande

Railroad. The Rio Grande ran from Denver to Salt Lake City. 

The town of Dragon was home for the railroad workers, as well as the gilsinite miners. When I got word that I had the job in Utah, my wife Nettie and I were staying with her aunt in Grand Junction, Colorado. At the time, Nettie and I had one baby [William Earl Nelson] and another in the oven [Oliver Lescher Nelson]. We were both excited about the job, as I had had no work for a few months and we both disliked having to lean on relatives. The job started as soon as I could arrive, so we packed our things and bundled the baby, and were ready to leave in a few days. [RJE note: based on these clues, they most likely made the move in late 1909.]

We rode on the Rio Grande Railroad to the base of the Uinta Mountains. There we

transferred to the Uinta Railroad's only passenger car for the forty-mile trip up the mountain to

Dragon. That final leg of the trip seemed the longest to Nettie and me, as we were excited to get a

look at our new hometown.

Our home was a tent house. That was the only kind of house that Dragon had. The floor

and about the first four feet of the walls were wood planks. The tops of the walls and the roof were

canvas. Over the whole house was a fly, like an awning, that sheltered us from the worst of the


We had two rooms: a sleeping room and a living room. We had a big cook stove that

doubled as a heater. The town had a central well and each house a water barrel. Every night after

work, I hauled water from the well to our barrel so that Nettie would have plenty of water the next

day. That house certainly wasn't much, but Nettie had a way of making a house into a home. We

didn't have much then, but we were young and we were happy.

Dragon wasn't a very big place. Including both the railroad and mine workers and their

families, the population couldn't have numbered more than 200. The town, however, boasted a

beer parlor, a general store, and a hotel. The hotel was the biggest building in town; it was a two

story all-wood structure. The hotel had a restaurant and the office for the only doctor for miles

around. If Dragon hadn't had a doctor I wouldn't be telling this story today.

As a bridge carpenter for Uinta, I worked with the crew that constructed the railroad

bridges over gullies, rivers, and marshes. We also built the wooden bulkheads that held the earth

back when the track sliced through a hill.

One morning we, on the bridge crew, traveled about six miles out of Dragon to work on a

bulkhead. We went by hand cart on the railroad tracks. That day my job was to strip bark from the

logs with an adz. You don't see anyone using an adz anymore; power tools do the work instead.

An adz looks like a hoe with a long slender, sharp blade. It is a dangerous tool if handled

incorrectly. In fact, we called the adz, a shin-hoe, which seems a better name to me.

I straddled a log and got to work. I pulled the shin-hoe toward me, skinning off the bark of

the tree. I must have gotten careless, because suddenly the adz sheared off a knot hole and came

toward me out of control. The blade buried itself in the inside of my leg, close to the knee. When I

pulled out the blade, blood spurted from the gash in my leg.

One of the men working close to me saw that I was hurt pretty bad and he hollered for the

others. Someone tried to press the wound closed, but the bleeding wouldn't stop. Someone else

said that they had better get me to the doc . . . fast. They hoisted me up and carried me to the

hand cart. They didn't waste any time getting that cart started. I got dizzy and fainted and don't

remember much about the trip, but I was told later that the hand cart literally flew along those


I vaguely remember being carried into the doctor's office, but I passed out before he

stitched me up. I slept in that office all day. When I woke up, the doctor told me that a few more

minutes and I would had lost too much blood to recover. He said that I was lucky the men had

acted so fast. The doc added that it was a good thing, also, that I was so young and stubborn.

It was awhile before I was strong enough to return to my job. I still have that scar where,

over 70 years ago, I had that argument with the shin-hoe . . . .

Nettie and I stayed two years in Dragon, and when the railroad didn't need us anymore, we

moved with our two boys to Oregon.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Nana Elf … and Changing Cars

There’s always good news and bad news.

The best news is that I am the beneficiary of a new (to me) car. That is exciting.

More good news: I didn’t go into debt to get it, due to the generosity of our firstborn!

More good news: the sun is shining and the temp is hovering around 50 degrees.

More good news: I was flattered by some people with whom I was commiserating at the DMV.

So here goes the bad news:

The other day, when I would have liked to register the new cars and transfer license plates, the line at the DMV was excruciatingly long. So a day later I figured I’d try another facility. Yay! No line! Alas, that was because the facility was CLOSED due to COVID.

Since the sun promised to shine today, with mild temps, I decided to return to the original DMV and just stick it out. I can do this! 

In these times of virus protocols, the lines are definitely long because of “social distancing.” But I also remembered in previous dealings with the DMV that there are separate lines for licenses and for titles/registrations. I should have put this in the “good news” category, because I remembered to go to the front door to check out any line I should be aware of.

Lo and behold, there were indeed 3 lines. One for licenses (that is the line that stretched 3 blocks long), one for title/registration (that one had 5 people in it), and one specifically for “senior citizens” (with 3 people in line). 

Pride goes before a fall, so of course I valiantly gave up my right to stand in the senior citizen line and instead stood with the title/registration folks. You can guess that the senior citizen line was emptied quickly, as they got priority, whereas I stood in line for 50 minutes behind my line. I pity those folks in the licensing line!

My turn finally came to get in the door. This is where you meet the “triage” employee. Title to transfer? Check. Current registration? Check. Driver’s license? Check. “Do you have your check or money order for the tax?” What tax? Oh, you know, just for showing up. Nope. I don’t carry checks (don’t use them), and so I was summarily dismissed to go to the closest Post Office and buy a money order. Ugh!!!

A bit of side good news was that there was no line at the Post Office. Whew!

Back I go to the DMV, and this time I took advantage of the senior citizen line, you can bet on that!

Ten minutes later, I’m in the door again and given the go-ahead to take my number and wait to be called. 45 minutes later I’m at the window explaining my needs.

"Oh … you want to put your personalized plates on the new car? I see they are in your husband’s name as well. Here is a form he will have to sign before we can do anything." UGH!!!

By now I’ve wasted three hours of my day. But hey, it’s still sunny and early enough that I can drive the 30 minutes to get Mark to sign off on the plates and get back to the priority senior citizen line, right?

Whew, I’m back and in the door within 5 minutes, given a number, which is called within another 5. Great!

Until I reach the window. She looks over all the documentation. So far, so good. Yippee, I have the money order to pay for the tax. But what’s this? You mean the new car is a Tesla? Oh, that’s an EV. Yeah, we don’t allow personalized plates on an EV. You have to buy new plates. And by the way, they are a LOT more expensive than normal OR personalized plates. (Yeah, I get it. They have to gouge you somewhere since they aren’t going to get any gas tax off of me.)

So, you’re telling me that even though I renewed my NanaElf plates in July for a full year, that they are no longer good? *insert her shrug here* Not only that, but there was no reason for me to go have my husband sign off on my personalized plates? *insert second shrug and a mumbled sorry*

When she slid all the paperwork for me to fill in, sign, and date, she then said … that will be $401. Yipes, what??? Oh, you’re using a credit card for that? That will be another $9. I said … After $400, what’s another 9?

Lots of wasted time. Lots of wasted “donated” money to the state of Illinois. But I’m street legal.

And so sad that “Nana Elf” is no more. :-(

This cautionary tale is brought to you by a citizen of the state of ILL. Yes, I did that on purpose.

One more piece of good news…I did not run into any ill-mannered customers or employees. Major gratitude there.

Friday, August 07, 2020

Food Talk

 I am battling (unsuccessfully) a sinus headache this morning. I thought my caffeine would squelch that thing, but no. It’s probably wise not to compose a blog while suffering an annoying pain, but here goes.

Almost a year ago, my primary physician told me that I was solidly in the Type 2 diabetic category, with an A1C of 7.4. Having lived with a Type 1 diabetic all my growing up years, and with a Type 2 diabetic for the last 20 or so (my husband), I desperately didn’t want to go on meds to control my rampant blood sugar.

Enter low carb eating … or keto. Actually, the two are a bit different. Keto is quite strict as to percentages of types of food one eats. Low carb is just being aware of carb values of foods and keeping consumption of carbs to a minimum. Some people track their carb intake.

I started battling what I thought was overweight early in my adult years. What I thought was “overweight” then is now my goal weight!!! And I have serious doubts that I’ll reach it.

When I decided to take weight loss seriously, I found a plan and cookbook that followed the “Exchange Program” suggested for diabetics. You got a certain number of colored dots, each representing a different food group, per day. You had to figure out what color dot your food was worth and go from there. It worked well.


Having reached my goal, I slowly started putting the weight back on. And that began my long ride with Weight Watchers. Tracking, avoiding, worrying, you know the drill. It was a roller coaster ride of losing, failing at maintaining, gaining, and starting all over again.

I was a stickler for tracking when that’s what it took. But I got sick of food having that much hold over my waking moments. 

You know what? Our bodies have needs. And God has provided a way to meet those needs. However, we always seem to go overboard into the “want” category, or worse yet, find ways to meet the needs that are not in God’s plan.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made, but that overdoing the food stuff brought me smack dab into Type 2 diabetic territory for many reasons. Eating too much. Eating too much sugar. My pancreas didn’t want to keep up.

So here I am, at the age of almost … oh well … 66, once again trying to get a handle on what my body needs versus what my appetite wants. I’m hoping I’ve hit a happy medium.

My goal is no longer a number on a scale. I do not track foods in any way. But I do make choices that I think my body can handle from a natural insulin perspective. 

I belong to several “keto” pages on Facebook. But truthfully, I don’t follow the keto diet. I’m removing the word “diet” from my vocabulary. But there are some excellent and creative recipes I can use to keep my carb count in a manageable range. 

My weight stalled several months ago. As I mentioned, I doubt that I will lose any more weight at all. However, my A1C is solidly in the normal range now. I think that qualifies as my happy medium.

So, back to the battle against this morning’s headache. It’s a small battle. The food battle will probably be top of mind until the day God calls me home!

Monday, March 16, 2020

From Both Sides Now

As with any event or life experience, there is more than one view to be had. Look at the Gospels and discover that four different perspectives of the same era have basic commonalities and yet personal slants.

Enter COVID-19. Oh my. What can be said that hasn’t already either raised a panic or an eyebrow of distrust?

If you are sitting in an apartment in Italy, you will have a very different view of this virus than if you are sipping coffee in an Idaho cabin.

Following are two very different (or maybe not) angles on the corona virus panic of 2020. One is from an avid political watchman. The other is from a medical professional in California. Both have drawn me up short. I need to be aware and possibly wary. But never weary in well-doing.

So … where do you land?

From an evangelical opinion writer:

March 15, 2020

  • Any real state of fear will bring panic, and once panic is the prevailing attitude of society at large, the herd seeks safety at all cost.  Seeking safety under these circumstances allows for tyranny by the ruling class, and when the restrictive consequences of that tyranny are in place, escape from mass servitude is almost impossible to achieve.  It must be understood that decisions made under stress due to fear end with a loss of freedom, and when freedom is compromised, what is left is slavery. 
  • We have been told that a pandemic is upon us, and that we must sacrifice for the good of all, and for the sake of the nation.  If the people at large accept this premise, individual sovereignty is not only compromised, but also permanently damaged.  When the masses as a group seek shelter from harm, and agree to temporarily relinquish some or all of their freedoms, oppression is the result. That is why panic is so perilous, and why hasty decisions should never be made during a real or supposed crisis. 
  • As I write this, it is obvious that none of these suggestions have been followed, and the herd has acquiesced to most all commands from on high in order to gain what will most likely turn out to be false hope at the expense of accepted domination. At this point, it is not too late to reverse part of the damage, but any continuation of mass subservience will only end in oppressive misery. 
  • There is no certainty that this new coronavirus called COVID-19 is any more dangerous than any other virus in the past, but the ruling class and their minions in the mainstream media and beyond, are screaming at the top of their lungs that this is the scourge of mankind, and that tens of millions of Americans will become infected, and that millions might die.  This is being promulgated by government at every level, by so-called national and world health organizations, and by a complicit media that seemingly does as it is told by those holding political power.  This is being done regardless of the fact that no one knows much about this so-called virus, knows little or nothing about its true origin, and knows little about its mutations.  Also, politicians, claimed authorities, and alleged experts are in the dark as to how particular cultures have been more susceptible than others, and are unwilling to discuss that the probable cause of this is due to a man-made strain created in a bio-weapons lab, even though a preponderance of evidence points in that direction.  All possibilities should be discussed. 
  • This government is now taking total control over our lives, and will take full advantage of this situation to bring draconian anti-liberty measures to all that live in this country.  This is an atrocity, and one that will change the face of this nation.  Current risk includes the implementing of medical martial law as well as the possibility of total martial law with any major resistance from those not willing to accept being in a captured society.  
  • Besides the sheer tyranny of these measures being planned and implemented as I write this, the certain economic devastation to come is unimaginable.  No one will be spared economic harm, and many will be completely destroyed by the government’s response to this manufactured panic.  In addition, when the virus scare is over, and it will be, the economic destruction will remain, and it could take years for any recovery to take place. 
  • Has all this panic been planned?  
  • What is next on the agenda due to this panic?  Will there be total lockdowns?  Will there be universal travel restrictions, even at the local level?  Will there be forced vaccinations?  Will there be mandatory testing and inspections?  Will there be food shortages?  Will this lead to concentration camps for dissenters?  Will the National Guard and military be patrolling the streets of your town? 
  • There are many unanswered questions, and much uncertainty about this virus, so what is the real danger?  
  • The real danger to America is the U.S. government and its dictatorial response to what appears to be an orchestrated hysteria. 
  • The solutions offered by this government, regardless of who is pulling the strings of these puppets, are far more dangerous than any manufactured pandemic.  Fear and panic allow for control, and those in power understand this truth, and use it to their advantage.  Panic is worthless, and can only lead to the acceptance of authoritative rule.  This is the real risk; this is the real danger.  If the people allow a takeover of their lives due to this panic, they will not only have lost their liberty and all they own, they will have also lost their sanity.
  • You have now been warned!

From a medical professional tasked with caring for the elderly in northern California:

  • I guess that is one paranoid way of looking at it and I admit I was one of these paranoid folks. I have changed my mind after reading what is occurring in other countries and is coming here. 
  • It is our elderly and chronically ill who are most at risk. My people. 
  • I am at risk because I take care of them and have them cough on me as I listen to their lungs. And I am in the “elderly” category with heart disease. 
  • Even with protective gear I am at risk because there is not enough protective gear everywhere . 
  • If those who are younger and healthier can keep this thing from spreading and stay home if possible to keep hospital beds available for those most in need it will possibly  make a world of difference. Because people panicked and hoarded hand sanitizer and masks now we don’t have enough. 
  • [The Chief In-House Physician] is truly worried and he is not by nature a worrier. He keeps in touch with colleagues overseas and knows people will die because we don’t have enough resources.
  • It is tragic that our representatives have so abused their power that in a genuine emergency our response is to rebel. That was my response. Not any more. 
  • If some can sacrifice their freedom so others might make it isn’t that our highest calling? 
  • Thanks for your prayers. I was making house calls today to a facility on lockdown. I have several patients awaiting test results. We need to get as many people as possible tested but the kits arent available yet. 
  • This is the most dangerous time in an epidemic because we don’t know who is infected.  
  • Do it for grandma. 
  • ❤️ 

Tuesday, March 03, 2020

Looking Him in the Face(book)

If my memory serves me, lunches on every Friday of my school career consisted of a non-meat option…presumably in deference to Catholics who had been admonished by the Pope not to eat meat on those days.

Additionally, the only time I ever heard of Lent was from either Catholic friends or friends of friends. Giving up something for 40 days, from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Usually, it was meat or chocolate that made the top of the denial list.

I did not grow up in the tradition that included meatless Fridays, Ash Wednesday, or observance of Lent. Oddly enough, I have some Protestant friends who just recently decided that this practice might be meaningful to them.

“Religion” is a practice. Generally speaking, it is a practice that wants to attain something. Theologians have discussed the difference between “religion” and “Christianity” for quite some time. Law versus grace, and all the nuances of personal accountability.

This year, the definition of “Lent” became something I needed to ponder. Not in an effort to attain something, but in order to more fully appreciate the sins for which Jesus already died and resurrected … giving me eternal life as a believer. I knew I needed to repent of behaviors that took away the time and attention rightly belonging to my Savior.

Ouch! This hurts. The biggest addiction stealing my time is none other than Facebook.

Every day … multiple times most days … I access social media in fear of missing out (the dreaded FOMO disease). I get my news there. I share news there. I like to think that sometimes I even share soul-searching and encouraging messages. But how ironic is it that the very medium I say I’ll use to spread the Gospel is the medium that steals my time away from the same.

Since Ash Wednesday (an arbitrary date for me) I’ve had more time to read Scripture. More time to pray. More time to stir my mind. More time to rest. It may take the entire 40 days before I can genuinely say that my fingers don’t automatically head for the FB app icon.

I still struggle with the FOMO disease. But because I am so grateful for what Jesus did for me (as remembered particularly on Resurrection Sunday), it is time to look more fully in His face than into Facebook.

And that’s the truth.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

One Year…and Counting

I don’t know how I feel about the term “cancer survivor.” I feel like I dodged a bullet somehow.

Yes, I HAD breast cancer. It was removed during mastectomy surgery one year ago this morning. Clear margins. No lymph involvement (that they could discern). I did not need chemotherapy, nor did I require radiation. I am so grateful. Those women (and a few men) who have had the entire package of treatment … now, I might call them survivors. That is tough stuff.

The entire process did teach me something about prayer and faith and my relationship with God. When taking a spiritual gifts assessment, my “faith” score is abysmal. But I dare say it went up a few notches since my breast cancer diagnosis.

I counted on the prayers of believers—especially those who have been through this before me. They know the emotional roller coaster. They know the potential risks and outcomes. And they “lowered me through the roof” or “dragged me to the Throne Room.” When going in to surgery, I had an uncanny peace that wasn’t the result of drugs but of the prayers of His warriors.

I thank my daughter for being with me through it all, always giving me a good laugh, and making me a fight song list … it alternately had me dancing and crying.

I thank my sister, who took time and expense to be here from California. She encouraged me and did the things for me I wasn’t allowed to do after surgery.

I thank those “Pink Sisters” who paved the rocky road before I got to it: Wendy Carmichael and Janine Schaap. And all those other women who seemed to come out of the woodwork, who’d gone through the same. It is truly a sisterhood.

I thank my husband, who was stronger than I could be, and who loved me (loves me) through the process and disfigurement.

I thank my medical team. They’ve seen it all and yet made me feel like I was the only person they had to care for!

I thank my God and Savior, the Healer. Songs like “Wave Walker” and “Overcomer” and those too numerous to mention, reminded me of His steadfast love for me no matter what the outcome.

So, this is the first anniversary out of cancer.

Father, what do You want me to do with the next year?

Monday, July 15, 2019


From Take Care of My Child…for a While by Joyce Sawyer

Later we learned the autopsy showed the cancer had involved the breathing control center. It was a quiet, peaceful way to die. I was so afraid he would choke to death or feel strangled as he had felt so many times before, and had been so frightened.

Ricky’s vital organs and cancerous parts were given for research, in hopes some other child would be helped by what was found. We learned another child was in the hospital with that same kind of cancer and was indeed benefiting from the added knowledge.

[Rhonda here. If you have been touched by my mother’s story, perhaps you’d like to consider giving a donation to the American Cancer Society or make sure you are listed among those who are Organ Donors. But the most important consideration is … do you know for certain where you will be after you draw your last breath? How about those in your family? Do you know you will see them in heaven? Jesus is the ONLY Way, Truth, and Life. Trust Him alone to secure your eternity.]

Chapter 21: Never Die in July

From Take Care of My Child…for a While by Joyce Sawyer

…Then on July 11, at about four Sunday afternoon, Dale came in to the living room and said Ricky’s eyes were rolling back and he was having convulsions.

Dale was really shaken; it was terrible to watch and we knew death was close now. We planned to have Ricky die at home, but we realized we couldn’t handle this. He needed relief from pain and he couldn’t keep the pills down. He no longer had control of his bodily functions. He needed the help of a doctor and the hospital.

Our doctor at McClellan [Air Force Base in northern Sacramento] had moved on Friday, so I called the doctors at Stanford Children’s. Dr. Wilbur was away at a convention and Dr. Long was on vacation. I felt like all our medical supports were gone. Dr. Serota was in Philadelphia and his replacement had not yet arrived at Travis [Air Force Base in Fairfield, California].

I called Mather Emergency, an Air Force hospital east of Sacramento. They said they would try to reach a doctor there to admit Ricky, but to bring him over as soon as possible.

Next, I tried to get an ambulance. Our emergency room said they only had one ambulance available and it couldn’t leave the base. I said, “What do you mean? My child is dying and you can’t send an ambulance?”

“No.” They had no authority to leave, just in case there was an accident on the base. They had three ambulances, but only one was operable.

I called the head of the McClellan clinic. He was out of town. I called his assistant. He would be back after six o’clock.

Now Ricky was screaming with pain in between convulsions every few minutes. We just couldn’t keep the pain pills down him. I was becoming frantic. I called our emergency room again and said I would call the base commander. He had said that if there was ever anything he could do, just call. The sergeant said there was no need to do that. There would be an ambulance at our house in fifteen minutes.

Dale rode in the ambulance with Ricky this time and the girls and I followed in the car. Ricky had several convulsions on the way. Dale was wringing wet when they got to the hospital—a twenty minute ride.

Ricky was taken immediately to intensive care. An IV was started and the doctor arrived to prescribe Phenobarbital to control the convulsions. The doctors hadn’t warned me about those. They came as a surprise. The cancer was in the brain stem. I should have known it would travel up, as well as down, the cord.

I said I would spend the night next to Ricky’s bed. The corpsman brought a noisy plastic recliner that only had one position. The nurse brought a blanket. Ricky was restless and cried “Mama” off and on. I would jump up and rub his head or hold his hand or massage his legs and feet. It was a long night.

By morning he was stabilized. He was moved to a private room just outside ICU. Dale came over and I went home to rest and pick up a futon to stay the night in his room. We were told this was not allowed in the hospital, but under the circumstances it would be alright.

We took turns sitting by his bed for the next four days, watching the pain return and more medication needed. Now he was paralyzed from the neck down. We had to move his arms and legs. Sometimes it was impossible to make him comfortable.

He would say, “Move my legs like an Indian. Put them on the ceiling; put them in a circle.” Just when I would crawl into bed, he would cry to have his legs rearranged.

He was barely sipping juices and chocolate milk. I wondered how long he could last this way. His mind seemed to be clear. He asked what time it was and which day it was. He asked me to hold his hand or rub his head, and would call me to make sure I was close by.

When the tray came up on Thursday noon, I asked him what he would like: juice, jello, or chocolate milk. He said, “One at a time,” and he took some chocolate milk and went to sleep. Those were the last words he said.

The chaplain had been in the day before and asked if I was ready to let Ricky go. He said maybe Ricky was holding on because I couldn’t release him. I thought about that and I prayed, “I love little Ricky, but he is in so much pain and so uncomfortable. I know he will be better off with You. I’ll let him go; You can take him.”

After lunch, I sat next to the bed reading a book. The aide came in and said it was time to turn Ricky again. She felt him and said, “I think he has stopped breathing.” She went for the nurse and I held his fingers in mine. They were still warm but his face was white and his lips were turning blue.

I said, “Goodbye, Ricky. I love you. You can live with God now and run and play baseball and football. We will see you pretty soon.”

The nurse came in and listened to his chest and said she would notify the doctor. She filled plastic gloves with ice and put them on his eyes. We had arranged to donate his eyes to the eye bank. They came within the hour and thanked us for his eyes. There had been an emergency and a little child was waiting for them. Sometime I would like to meet the child who is seeing because of Ricky’s eyes.

Dale came over and I told him Ricky was alright now, and he said, “I know, but I’m not.” We called Dan and my parents and the other relatives.

The memorial service would be Sunday evening. We decided to show three slides of Ricky; one when he was little, one when he was three, and one of his last Christmas. We also put a table in front of the chapel with his favorite toys and his baseball trophies on it. Ricky’s whole team came to the service in their Cardinal uniforms. We found a tape to play “It’s a Small World,” since Ricky enjoyed that so much at Disneyland.

I had told the airman at the chapel to pick out a bulletin cover to use. When I saw the picture on the cover at the service, I was amazed—it was my dream! A boy running through a field of tall grass. I had dreamed that while we were visiting Disneyland. One night I saw Ricky running away from me, through a field of tall grass, and his dog was running toward him. He stopped to pick him up and, laughing, ran on.

I didn’t know what it meant. He was to have had the operation to fuse the vertebrae in his neck. Maybe it meant he would be running without the brace and be well and healthy. Only I had the feeling that God was telling me something, getting me ready. When I saw that bulletin cover—I knew this was the meaning of my dream.

The poem on the following page was read at the memorial service, and expresses some of our feelings:


“I’ll lend you for a little time a child of Mine,” He said,
“For you to love while he lives, and mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,

But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for Me?
He’ll bring you his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.

I cannot promise he will stay, since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught them there I want this child to learn.
I’ve looked this wide world over in my search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life’s land, I have selected you.
Now will you give him all your love, nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call to give him back again?”

I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done,
For all the joy the child shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay;
But should the Lord call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.”

~[although Mom attributed this to “author unknown,” I just discovered that it was written by Edgar Albert Guest in 1930, the year Mom was born.]

Epilogue to follow

Chapter 20: The Last Days at Home

From Take Care of My Child…for a While by Joyce Sawyer

More and more it hurt for Ricky to be moved, so he spent more and more time in bed and less in the living room.

I called Dan to see if he would like to spend some time with Ricky. He came and slept on the floor in Ricky’s room. He played games and talked and rubbed Ricky’s head, which seems to ease some pain.

One afternoon Ricky was on the futon in the living room and he started to scream that he was being choked and he couldn’t get his breath. The doctor just lived one block over and was home at the time. He came right over. He increased the pain medication.

After that, Ricky got quiet. But in a little while he was crying again. I asked him what was the matter. “I’m not going to make it, am I?” I told him we had done everything we could; the doctors had done everything they could, and there just wasn’t any way to kill the cancer. But he would go and live with God and be strong and healthy again, and be able to play baseball and football.

He said, “I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave you.”

We both cried.

As the pain increased and the paralysis progressed, Ricky came to the place where he was ready to die. I told him I would hold his hand and then Jesus would hold his hand. It would be that easy.

Now he needed pain pills every two hours day and night. I set the alarm. I barely went to sleep and it was time to get up again. He would call “Mama!” and sometimes it would only be an hour.

It is terrible to watch your child die.

Chapter 21 to follow