Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year

I just figured out today that I was born in a leap year. It wasn’t much worth noting because I wasn’t born until June. It made a little more difference when my oldest child was born in a leap year. Her due date was six days after the 29th, but she decided to make her appearance five days before. Even there, it didn’t really affect anything.

The time it most closely affected my life was in the early days of this new century. On February 29, 2000, I was diagnosed with cancer. Even then I could see some comedy in it—I would have an anniversary to mark it only every four years. That’s the way it’s been, and that’s been fine with me.

How does one celebrate an anniversary like that? I suppose that depends on what has happened in the years between. In my case, I can only rejoice and praise God that I’ve had no more recurrence. I’m taking a number of medications (including for atrial fibrillation and Graves disease), but nothing related to cancer. I do some things right in my eating habits, and that’s good, but I could do a lot more. I’m making some fresh attempts this year.

If I were dealing with a return of the dread disease, I’m sure it would be different, but I’m not going to think about that. And that’s not head in the sand; it’s reality. When I was waiting for the final diagnosis (and on a few other occasions in my life), I said I was preparing myself for the worse. That wasn’t a lack of faith. I said, “If I get good news, I’ll know how to handle that without special preparation.”

I feel the same way about my current situation and blessing. Yes, I realize the analogy is the opposite, but I still believe the same. That’s because I have faith and confidence that if I should have to deal with it again, my Heavenly Father who saw me through it the first time would be right there with me again.

I did have a thought this new year that I’m quite sure I’ve never had before. Having passed the three-quarter century mark during the past year, it occurs to me to wonder …

When Leap Year rolls around again, will I still be here?

The next thought I had surprised me. You know, that really is possible and not that far a stretch in these days.

“My times are in Thy hands” is as true today as it was thousands of years ago when first spoken.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I got a special packet in the mail this week. My cousin Joy sent me a collection of postcards which I believe came through her mother. All were written by someone in our family to someone in the writer’s family. Most, but not all, recipients were also our family, such as when my grandmother or grandfather wrote to her parents or his mother—i.e., my great-grandparents. Dates on them ranged from 1907 to 1944 during the War. Almost all carried 1-cent stamps.

One was written to my great-great-grandmother in August 1909 just four months before she died. It’s from a nephew of hers who years later planted in me the first germ of love for genealogy. He has an interesting handwriting—surprisingly tiny for a man, and quite neat, but so far I haven’t been able to decipher all of it. He says he wants to see her “so bad”—I wonder if that happened before she died in December?

The front of that card is special because it is of the North Chester Church which was my grandfather’s first pastorate where he met and married my grandmother, and where generations of my ancestors attended, out there in the countryside northwest of Grand Rapids, Michigan. In the little bit I have dabbled in painting, I have done a small painting of it, steeple and all. In our recent trips up there, we’ve been sad to discover that the top part of the steeple is no longer. Our guess is that when it deteriorated too much, it was too expensive to rebuild as it had been, so they just finished it off with something simple.

One postcard is a cartoon sketch written to my other great-grandmother by her stepson. It’s postmarked 1908 and shows a guy in the bathroom with suspenders down, splashing water on his face from the commode while he complains, “Goll darn this old wash basin anyway. The water runs out before I can wash my face.” Methinks there’s a bit of a history lesson there somewhere.

My grandfather was a preacher who traveled a lot, and many of these postcards are a testament to that. One is a picture of the Old North Church in Boston. I’m impressed with how often in his travels he wrote to his in-laws and how he never failed to address them as “Dear Father and Mother.”

Two priceless postcards relate directly to me. One is of a broad street in Paris in late 1938. My parents and I (age two) spent seven months there while they studied French in order to continue their mission work in the French colony of French Equatorial Africa (as it was known before independence divided it into four separate countries). My mother wrote on the back that the penciled arrow at the far end of the street was the point from which my father had taken a picture of “our street.” She also wrote, “We go down the steps right across from there the other way to get our groceries—around the lower street.”

The one that touches my heart the most is dated Aug. 24, 1938. It predates the Paris street one perhaps by only a few weeks. It boasts of being an “actual photograph” of the ocean-going vessel, the S.S. New York. My grandmother writes to her parents:

“Dear Ones – We are here in N.Y. and this is the boat they sail on tonight. We have been all through [it]. It is hard to see them go, but God’s Grace is sufficient. We had a good trip here & and a fun time at our [mission] conference in Cory [PA]. We leave for home tonight. Love, Fern.”

“It is hard to see them go,” she said.

I’m so glad they didn’t know that, because of the War already brewing, they would not see us again for seven years.