3 pointsI cannot even begin to say “thank you” enough for all the kindness in the many caring words in cards and in person, the shared tears, meals, memories and laughter, and thoughts and prayers family and friends have showered upon me and my family in the loss of our Ed – husband, Pop, Gramps, brother, cousin, uncle, and friend. Thank you to everyone who came to the calling hours and memorial service yesterday, you deeply touched our hearts - including the surprise to see my niece and her family who traveled from Tennessee, and our friends, our late Jenn’s dear in-laws, who drove down from Maine – we shall never forget their kindness in being here with us. Thanks to my daughter for finding the direct contact person at the newspaper headquarters who so kindly amended Ed’s online obituaries to include our Jenn’s name as having predeceased him, because… in all the upheaval, I forgot to include my own daughter. All the offers of help in so many ways are greatly appreciated. I’m still looking around to find Ed, wondering why he’s not holding onto my arm, but I’ll be ok and know Ed is rejoicing in heaven’s glory with perfect vision! Each one of us encounters failures and losses in life. Each one of us encounters disabilities in ourselves or those around us. But it’s what we do with, and how we react to, all that comes our way that makes a difference... in our lives and in the lives of others. We can carry on with selfish pride in what we can do, we can roll over in defeat at failure... or we can face the challenge in humility, asking God to guide us along a broken and difficult path. For 27 years (from 1982 to 2009), we burned wood to heat our house. When my husband, Ed, farmed with his dad, he cut his own firewood with a chainsaw despite very limited vision. Came the day, though, that Ed lost the balance of his limited vision and was completely blind. He could no longer use a chainsaw after just a few years, later had to stop using an axe to split wood, and it remained to be seen how he would handle the other obstacles that faced him after becoming totally blind. Initially, he went through a difficult transition and grieving process, common to all with any serious loss. None of us knew how best to handle the change. It was a learn-as-you-go process until we found professional guidance specifically for the blind at A.V.R.E. in Binghamton, NY and The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, MA. And then, his old self rose up to meet the challenges, determined to do whatever he could to face whatever came his way… with a catch. As he stacked firewood one day without any remaining fragments of light and color to guide him, the rows kept collapsing. He simply could not get the pieces of wood to fit together well enough to stay in neat upright rows. In utter frustration, he sat down and put his head in his hands, feeling like an utter failure. All of his life he’d had to struggle with limited vision, being classified legally blind from infancy on. He struggled in the classroom, not being able to see the board, often refusing to ask for help. He wanted to be just like everyone else. Most of us can tackle any activity, job or hobby with ease. But Ed was denied what he longed to do… he couldn’t play football or basketball with his 6’7” height. He could swim like a pro, but wasn’t allowed on the team for fear he’d hurt himself or others if he strayed from his lane. Instead, the coach made him manager of their state division championship team from Warwick, NY. But, at other times, peers mocked and belittled him. Why couldn’t he be accepted just for who he was? Why did everything have to be so hard? Why couldn’t life be easier and simpler… like it was for everyone else? It wasn’t fair, he thought. Yet, he had accomplished so much with so little for so many years! He could milk the cows, climb the silos, drive tractor and do all the field work except plant corn, and that was only because he couldn’t see where the last row left off. With his limitations, he knew to be extra cautious and it always paid off. But, now it seemed that even this last bit of enjoyment in stacking firewood was being taken from him, too. Except, while sitting there, with the wood he’d stacked falling down, he decided to pray and ask God for help in this seemingly simple, but now very challenging task. He prayed that God would guide each piece of wood he picked up so it would fit and the rows wouldn’t fall down… so that he could stack the wood himself without having to ask yet again for more help. As he stood up and once again picked up the firewood, he soon realized that every piece he stacked fit… well, actually, fit perfectly! When he was done, his rows stood straight and tall without collapsing! And then he began hearing comments from neighbors who marveled at how great his stacked firewood looked. By a man who couldn’t see, no less! As Ed told anyone who commented, “It wasn’t me; it was God.” It was only after he prayed each time before he picked up the first piece of wood that he was able to manage this seemingly impossible task. But, if he forgot and just delved right in to stacking, the wood invariably collapsed… until he sat down and had a little talk with God. My poem below is reminiscent of a story floating around the internet of violinist Itzhak Perlman performing with a broken violin string. Though that feat was unable to be confirmed by reliable sources, the concept is worthy of illustrating our brokenness in disability. Another young man, Niccolo` Paganini, was an Italian child prodigy who played mandolin and violin from ages 5 and 7 respectively. Supposedly, he once played with three broken strings, refusing to allow the handicap to end his serenade. Paganini excelled in part because of Marfan’s Syndrome which gave him his height and extra long fingers, a genetic syndrome also found in both of our families. The elasticity of joints and tissues allowed Paganini the flexibility to bend and extend his fingers beyond the norm as he used the disability to his benefit. Like Ed and others with disabilities, we can either resent our situation or we can have a little talk with God, asking Him to guide us through whatever we face. The Broken String Linda A. Roorda Four strings create beautiful music Perfection in pitch, magnificent tone All they expect, not asking for more Performing with pride just as it should be. Pulling the bow across the taut strings Gently at first, then faster I stroke The symphonic sound brings tears to their eyes This is my gift to their list’ning ears. Closing my eyes to the beauty of sound Caressing the strings, deep feelings evoked From graceful and light to dramatic and rich Till one string popped, now what shall I do? Adversity gives a chance to prove worth As now I’ve lost a string that flails free. In silence all eyes are riveted on me; Would I be angry or would I accede? Silently I prayed, God give me the strength I’ve been disabled, humbled before all. Help me I pray to carry on well Let them now see You working through me. Adjusting my bow and fingers for sound Quickly I learned to amend my strokes, As to my ears a beautiful tune Emanates yet while focused on God. When the finale at last had arrived With a soft sigh I played my last note, And as it faded they rose to their feet With wild applause from their hearts to mine. Perhaps it was all intended to reach This attitude of pride within myself. A lesson was learned in how to react, Adversity’s gift to sink or to soar. For without You what does my life mean? What value is placed on my outward skills? Do You not, Lord, see deep in my heart Where my soul reflects my pride or Your grace? My attitude then a choice I must make Embrace gratitude or sink in despair. For I cannot change what happens to me Instead, I’ll play while focused on You. Humility grows by resigning pride As a broken string reflects trials of life. Others I’ll serve as You did for me For in You is found the selfless way of life. ~~ 05/31/14 ~ An abridged version of the following reflection was published in “Breaking Barriers” in March 2016, a publication of the Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America Disability Concerns Ministries.