My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.1
It was Saturday, August 9, 2014. What started as a warm, typical summer Saturday swiftly turned into a day I would never forget! Up until then, I had not personally experienced a traumatic event in my family circle. This day would not only drastically challenge my faith but also change my perspective on family, friends, and life forever…
Returning from town, I began to work on the mountain of laundry piled next to the washing machine, a never-ending project for a family of seven. I made lunch in between loads. Since Nate had some free time after we ate, I asked, “Hey, Nate, why don’t you grab your theology book so you can work on school?”
Unfortunately, Nate had not completed all of his work for the previous school year. Although he only had a few lessons to finish, it was not easy for him to find motivation during the summer months. “Ah . . . fine!” he reluctantly obliged. After grabbing his book, he joined me on the screened-in back porch so that we could enjoy the warm day.
As we started our discussion after sitting down in a couple chairs, it was not long before Nate’s head started to bob forward and then jerk back. He apologized for his sudden case of narcolepsy, resituated himself in his seat, and attempted to listen again. Nate was like his dad in that whenever they sat still for too long, they would fall asleep. While I continued with the lesson, Nate dozed off again. This time I became frustrated. I debated whether or not I should actually get mad about the situation, when the words Let him sleep; he is going to need it descended onto my heart. So I surrendered my frustrations and quietly watched him rest. This time his head fell limply to his right shoulder.
Rearing Nathan was a little more challenging than raising his sister! He had colic at a very early age and was a handful for a few months. Unlike his sister, he did not have a good sleep schedule and tended to be a night owl. He soon grew out of that stage and was running around before we knew it. Boy did that kid like to run. It was at this time that I used to rub his feet and wonder what the good Lord had in store for him. With all his energy, I use to dream that maybe he would be a professional football player or an Olympic runner someday.
One summer just before Nathan turned two, we went camping at a state park up north with my parents. Because he would randomly disappear, we spent the whole weekend trying to keep track of Nathan. I laughed when my mom started saying, “Where’s Waldo?” Waldo was a cartoon character in a series of search-and-find books that were quite popular with young kids at the time. The Where’s Waldo series kept Dani occupied for hours whenever we travelled.
After about fifteen minutes, Nate lifted his head, realizing that he had been sleeping soundly this time. The seventeen-year-old sheepishly looked at me and said, “Sorry mom!” Glancing at the clock on his phone he added,
“Oh! I gotta go.”
I lowered my head and quietly replied, “I know.”
I got up from my chair and walked back into the laundry room, which was by the back door. Nate stepped into the garage to gather his riding gear, leaving the back door open.
“Hey Mom,” Nate hollered after a few minutes, “Have you seen my riding vest?”
“No, I have not. Where did you have it last?” I asked, while
I reached in the washing machine to move the wet clothes into the dryer.
“It must be at the bottom of my bag,” Nate said.
“Nate,” I stated firmly, “you cannot ride tonight if you cannot find it.”
“Yeah, yeah! I know! Don’t worry. I won’t ride without a vest,” Nate promised as he entered the laundry room and closed the door behind him.
Once he located his cowboy boots, Nate sat on a bench across from the washing machine. He still seemed tired as he slipped his feet into the boots. Afterward, he stood up. With his five-foot-ten stature, he stood almost as tall as his dad. He walked over, gave me a hug, and said, “I’ll see ya soon. You’re coming . . . right?”
His blue eyes twinkled in a teasing manner as I hesitated, looked up at him, shook my head, and said, “Nate, don’t go! Don’t ride today,” I pleaded seriously. “You are too tired.”
Not once had I ever said these words to him before. Even though I did not like him riding, I always felt that I had to bite my tongue. I was afraid that if I discouraged it, he would want to ride even more.
Nate put his cowboy hat on, hiding his thick, dark, wavy hair. He sighed and slowly responded to my plea. “I know. I kind of don’t even want to ride tonight, but . . . ” he paused, becoming more enthusiastic, “there are a lot of people coming to see me. I have to go!” With his charming grin, he gave me another quick hug and said, “I love ya.”
Resigning myself to the fact that I could not change Nate’s mind, I returned the hug and told him, “I love you, too.” Then he hustled out the door toward the red minivan sitting in our driveway. Zack Donavan, a good friend, had volunteered to drive to the rodeo. Nate’s brothers, Nick and Mathew, were tagging close behind. For the first time, they had convinced their big brother to let them go with him. I stood on the garage steps watching as the group piled into the van and drove away…
- Sirach 2:1 New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE)