Mar 22, 2010

Dateline: Goodland, Kansas (February 15, 2006)

Small town news papers offer quite a bit to the reader. For instance, did you know that Esther P. celebrated her 90th birthday this past weekend? The notice, found on page 2A, asked well-wishers to send cards in honor of the big day. Big news from Goodland. Bigger news for Esther!

What I did not learn from the Goodland StarNews is the number of cards Esther received. So I gave her a call. We had a nice chat.

Esther points out that her memory isn't quite as sharp as when she celebrated her 70th birthday. She mentioned that her health isn't quite as solid as during her 80th birthday. But she is still going strong. After 90 years in the same small town, she still enjoys the simple things of life. For instance, she still looks forward to time spent with her daughter and her large brood of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As a matter of fact, when I was speaking with Esther tonight, her daughter was in the process of delivering supper. I could smell it from my own living room. There is nothing like country cookin'.

I pointed out that the paper listed she and Helen D., both of Goodland, were celebrating their 90th birthday on the same weekend. Esther admitted that she knows Helen and has even "run into her some over the years but we aren't what you'd call good friends."

Back to the card shower...Esther reports she received 50-60 cards for her big day. She said she was looking at "a whole pile of them" in her living room. There was a ring of pride and exhaustion in her voice. That's alot of cards.

I wondered out loud if Esther noticed any changes in her home town of Goodland over the past nine decades. She stopped to think for a minute and then pointed out that "Goodland has changed some. It might be a little bigger." I can understand her perspective, given that she moved from the family farm to the big city.

Esther was born on February 11, 1916, on the family farm in Ruralton, Kansas, about 10 miles west of Goodland. She left the farm for a short time to attend college but returned home when she married. Esther didn't want to talk much about her husband of 25 years but I got the feeling that her memory was being taxed. I thanked her for the time and hoped she had another happy year. She thanked me for her call and left the phone to eat her supper. Chicken and biscuits, I think.

Happy Birthday, Esther. And many, many more.

Mar 21, 2010


Beverly and Richard loved one another dearly.  It was a love that had grown over the years.  It was a love that had seen the couple through many difficult days.  But no one would have suspected the depth of commitment that would see them through the most difficult time of all.

Diagnosed with cancer, Richard had tried aggressive treatment but the disease was too powerful.  As his health declined and the realization that the cancer had advanced too far, Hospice was called to the home.  Richard was made comfortable with a bed, medication, and regular visits from his family.  The remaining time was precious to Bev and Dick who took full advantage of the waning days.

At one point, Dick declined rapidly and the family knew that he might not survive the night. He rallied slightly but slipped into a deep coma and no longer responded to Bev or the children.  For several days the family sat at his bedside, talking quietly to him and holding his hand but he remained unresponsive to their touch or words.

Several days later the family came together for another purpose.  It was their mother's birthday and they gathered to honor her special day.  Despite the sorrow of their father's disease, they believed it was important to celebrate the day of Bev's birth.  Steaks were grilled, a salad was tossed and and potatoes were baked.  The table was set and they were putting the finishing touches on the meal.  Bev sat at the beside of her unconscious husband, listening to the laughter and clatter coming from the kitchen, giving thanks for her children who had come and for the man who had made this family possible.

As she prepared to join her children, Bev realized that Dick would not be joining them at the table for the first time in their married life.  She took his hand, leaned close, and spoke softly to her love, "Dick, I'm going to go into eat with the kids and celebrate my birthday.  But before I go, I want you to know that this could be your birthday, too.  You don't have to stay here any more."

Moments later, Bev called to her children.  Before they could walk thirty feet from the kitchen to the bedside, their father had breathed his last.  In the quiet peace of this secluded home nestled along the sandy Mississinewa River bank, Dick left this party and went home to be with his Lord. 

It was quite a birthday celebration.