A Flower Blooms

“Puya Raimondii” is the botanical name of a flowering plant that has the look of a cactus.  Also called “Queen of the Andes”, it can create over 30,000 flowers when in full bloom.  What makes the plant so unusual is that it only blooms once every one hundred years.  Many flower enthusiasts would say seeing the blooms of this rare plant would be the pinnacle of their flower  experiences. Obviously, very few can make that claim.

This past week my son and daughter-in-law experienced their own version of the flowering “Queen of the Andes” when Lincoln James McFarland was born into this world and for a brief moment in time the blooms of his fragile beauty left those in his presence speechless. God had chosen to allow this child of His creation to be the rarest and briefest of blooms on earth.  We marveled at his perfect form, his gentle movements and mourned when the bloom of his life, like the softly falling petal of a rose, fell into the arms of his heavenly Father.

I don’t know why God would create a flower whose blooms most will never see and I don’t know why a precious life, born into a loving and Godly home, would be sent away so soon.  Justin and Lori only caught a glimpse of Lincoln’s beauty.  They expressed their love in a single moment in time that passed through their lives much like a soft wind moves a limb on a tree. There was much more love and life ready to share.  As it turned out, Lincoln James McFarland was not ready for this world but, his heavenly Father was ready for him. 

Somewhere a flower with a million blooms is waiting to be seen, touched and held for eternity.

We love you, Lincoln!
Your grandparents, Lisa and Steve

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Burying the Wrong Cat

Lisa works with really nice people. Over the past year and a half, living most of that time here in Ohio, her and I have made southeast Ohio our home and these people our family.  We have been blessed.

Fay is one of our favorites. The energy she brings to her job at Southeast Medical is infectious and stories of her exploits have entertained Lisa and I for hours.  Sometimes her energy forces a wrong word or phrase from her mouth and leaves everyone confused and amused.  She told Lisa the other day a story about how she almost moved to “Pepsi-Cola, Florida”.  I asked if “Pepsi-Cola” was anywhere near “Coca-Cola Beach”.  We adore Fay.

Of all the stories Fay has shared with us, none have been funnier than the time her and husband, Jim, buried their dead cat.  One day, while driving near their home in Zanesville, Fay noticed a dead cat on the road. She immediately recognized it as one of hers (she claims to take care of at least a half dozen). Using an empty copy paper box she had in her car, she managed to sweep the stiff feline from the road and carry it back to her house for proper burial.

Now, copy paper boxes are rather large when trying to bury them as cat caskets and she described in detail that beads of sweat soon began forming on her husband’s forehead as he dug this rather large and deep final resting place.  Finally, Jim had a large enough grave dug for both cat and box and the poor cat was laid to rest.

Sometime later that evening, Fay heard Jim calling her name and stating that the dead cat had just walked into their yard.  Either the thing had managed to claw through the box and three feet of dirt or they had buried the wrong cat.

They had buried the wrong cat.

I thought about Jim and his beads of sweat. Here he was trying to console poor Fay by digging this enormous hole in the ground for a dead cat that was not even theirs.

The truth is – I have done the same thing. No – I have never buried the wrong cat, but, I have focused my energy and attention on things that really don’t matter. How many times have beads of sweat popped up on my forehead as I toil and worry and fuss about things that, in the end, worked themselves out on their own. The cat they believed had died that fiery death on the highway, was probably watching them from the shade of a bush as they dug its grave.  In the end, all the cats I worry about in my life are alive and well after all.  And no amount of sweat and blisters will change that.

I do want to leave you with this advice. Before you go burying that dead cat, make sure it is the right one.

Playing Catch

Hey Dad?  Want to have a catch?”
Ray Consella to his father in “Field of Dreams”

Lisa and I drove to Zanesville, Ohio this past Saturday. I have said before that Zanesville is to Cambridge as Mt. Pilot was to Mayberry – a little bigger, a few more places to waste time and spend money but, more importantly, a place to go that makes us feel we actually went somewhere.  If some of our nosey camp neighbors ask what we did yesterday, we can say we went to Zanesville. For some reason that tends to satisfy their desire to know our boredom was different than theirs. 

Anyway, we have at least two options in driving to Zanesville. We can take interstate 70 west and be there in about twenty minutes. Or, we can drive what they call “The National Road” or highway “40”. The two lane drive down 40 takes closer to thirty minutes but does provide a little more scenery.  We almost always take the two lane. 

Driving into Zanesville from that direction, we pass through a very impoverished area of town that has row after row of dilapidated houses and apartments.  Much of what we see in Zanesville is pride worthy with soaring ancient church sanctuaries mixed with new commercial and residential developments. Like every city in America, Zanesville must deal with impoverished areas and, unfortunately, this poor part of town is the first thing we encounter upon entering the city. Often we see children playing in the trashed yards of these places and feel sad for anyone living in that neighborhood.  To imagine living in such conditions makes me feel extremely fortunate for Lisa, myself and our family. We may not have the biggest or most expensive home, but, we should fall to our knees in thanks every time we walk through the door.  May I never forget how fortunate we have been in our lives.

On our drive into Zanesville this past Saturday something surprising took place.  The same run-down houses, trashed front yards and junked cars still littered that same neighborhood. But, out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimmer of hope – something that made me smile.  A father and son playing catch with a football.  Perhaps I am jumping to wrong conclusions, but, my hunch is that little boy could not care less what his house looked like or how poor his living conditions may seem. In his little world, one that included a father taking time to throw a football with him, he might as well be the Prince of Siam. 

I remember throwing a football with my son when he was little.  We would go out into the street in front of our house and spiral passes back and forth until my arm was too sore to continue. Our daughter, Heather, would occasionally stop doing her gymnastic routine in our front yard long enough to join us. She loved watching football and could throw a ball with above average velocity.  But catching was another matter. She would bat her eyes and slap the ball from her face and after taking one too many in the chops, would soon return to her back flips.  Throwing the football was really a father-son thing at our house.

In all of my experiences as a father, I cannot think of a more personal time spent with Justin.  It was those moments that I could encourage his abilities in an immediate and gratifying way.  Was it important that he could throw a football?  Not really. He never played in college or professionally and throwing a football has zero to do with his life now as a husband and soon to be father.  But, my telling him in those moments he did something good and expressing how pleased I was with him, meant more to him later in his life.  I know this to be true because once, a long time ago, my father threw a football with me and told me how good I was.  That feeling of accomplishment never went away and I never felt as connected to my dad as in those moments.  It is why I cried like a baby at the end of “Field of Dreams”.  Now you know.

I wish the leaders of Zanesville could do something about that poor neighborhood.  Maybe plans are in the works to build new, affordable housing.  That would be great.  But, I know what would be even greater – seeing father’s in that place throwing footballs with their sons.

Now that would change everything.