Feature image above: Sunken Gardens, San Antonio, TX
Page Edited: July 2, 2018
June 27, 2018
Greetings, Dear Family and Friends!
As you know, we did not get a Christmas Letter sent last year, and it is time to both explain and rectify that missing piece of favorite parts of the celebration. We will attempt to fill in the gaps!
We started our 2017 with the usual January trip to Florida. That included our traditional fun of seeing friends and family, parks and bicycle rides. Other travels were sandwiched between major health events, especially concerning Brian.
In March, as he says, he gave up his gall bladder for Lent! We were thankful for a good doctor who quickly and efficiently took care of the stones that had been found in tests. From that point, it got more serious as Brian began to push for other tests that late conventions have said were not so necessary, due to false positives. But he pointed out that his father had had prostate cancer in his mid-sixties, and the precaution paid off as the progression of tests led to a biopsy at the end of May. The results showed intermediate-level cancer. Surgery was scheduled for September, and we made our arrangements for summer travels to be completed in time for whatever confinement lay ahead.
A marvelous, 8,000-mile trip began late in July and focused on a family reunion with Brian’s two brothers, to be timed with watching the full solar Eclipse near Madras, Oregon. Though the nearby Cascade Mountains were ablaze (forest fires) during the event on August 21, we were in a perfect setting to view the eclipse. Smoke was everywhere, but lower than the position of the sun at the critical moments. We were in great company: our scientist-brother Bryce and several members of his family, together with a select number of other scientists with special lenses and cameras. The results of the day were priceless!
That glorious week was tucked into other memory-making excursions through several National Parks in Utah and Wyoming, Crater Lake in Oregon, Mt. St. Helens, Washington, and many, many scenic routes along the way. We added in some discoveries of new places, a museum along Highway 80 in Nebraska, and a Danish windmill followed by the Amana Colonies in Iowa.
All of these thrilling places brought us close enough going and coming to visit some special friends and family members: Dick Deever (Wheeling, WV), whom we visit as often as possible since the loss of his second wife in July of 2016; Joe & Ginger Huddle near Denver, CO; Larry and Marva McCracken in Wenatchee, WA (and Tom & Verna Black who live near them); brother Ron and Bonnie Johnson in Yelm, WA (all three brothers together for this occasion); and sister Sharon & Tim Mitchell in Lithopolis, Ohio. There were many others we would love to have also visited, were time not running short. But as one can see, we certainly got a lot of miles into that trip!
In the background, we each had some health concerns that were trying to become more pronounced. With all the riding, even though care was taken to walk as often as possible and drink lots of fluids, we had to call for medications for a flaring UTI with Carol. Brian, who has had some drop foot issues affecting walking and balance, had to use extreme caution along some trails. These two issues were to create havoc for each of us later on, as you shall read later.
Other events of 2017 included celebrating grandson Ben’s graduation from high school (now finished with his freshman year at University of Southern Maine in Portland), graduation events for grand-niece Julie Scarbury and grand-nephew Samuel Borton, a birthday celebration for Carol in Augusta and Gardiner with Kevin’s family, and a get-together among cousins in Ephrata, PA. (Bryce & Phyllis joined us at Bruce & Joan Boydell’s and were blessed with the addition of niece Deb DiDomenico; we all went to see Jesus at the Sight and Sound Theatre in Lancaster.) We celebrated three very special couples’ weddings in 2017: Sarah (DiDomenico) and Steve Ogburn; Louis and Amy Colon, and Liasor and Christine Dima. Thanksgiving was held in North MA, Bryce & Phyllis’ home; we were joined by son Kevin & Veronica, grandsons Ben and Cam, and niece Amy & Abe and their kids Gracie and Andres for a rousing time together.
We were pleased to house a young lady from our City church for eight weeks from October 22-December 23, while her husband completed an Uduk Hope, Inc., research trip in Ethiopia. We checked off our to-do list an update in our master bedroom with removal of border trim and fresh, cheery lemon/gold color, plus handmade curtains and bed accessories. Brian preached several times to help cover a pastoral change at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in nearby Bergen, the last time in costume in the character of Joseph the Carpenter. I have joined him as he is called upon to participate in the pastoral care visitation ministry of our North Chili church, Pearce Memorial.
We also have continued our ministries through Rochester Connection. We have led a class of seven South Sudanese ladies from the Uduk people-group along the Blue Nile. They have been in the U.S. since around 2000, and want to learn more. The class began in May of 2017 and continues to work toward the goal of better reading, writing and speaking skills in English. We taught another 12-week Faith and Finances Workshop at the Open Door Mission in Rochester. We also took on a special student who began our last Faith and Finances workshop through Heart and Soul Church, and are helping her learn how to budget and live on her own after the loss of her spouse in July of 2016. Carol has finished editing for one client and taken on a new one in their work on doctoral dissertations.
As 2018 burst into the calendar, our activities were tempered to recoveries from surgery and illness but we still managed to enjoy significant events, such as a shorter trip to Washington, DC to spend a full day at the National Museum of African American History. We still made our usual trip to Florida, only in March this year. While there we spent time again with Carol’s sister and brother-in-law, had a delightful visit and meal with Carol’s nephew (Jim) and family, and lunch with Brian’s niece Rebecca. We turned around and went back to Florida to help celebrate the “retirement”—really transition of ministry—of Brian’s running partner over the past 35 years, Daryl Smith. We learned of the passing of Carol’s Aunt Kathryn and had a lengthy chat with her closest family member who was with her when she passed. Brian covered the pulpit for our pastor of the Heart and Soul Church in the City, once more. One big change for us has been to move from two cars to one as we signed our 2007 van over to a dear Sudanese friend who needed it to get to work. A definite highlight for this season has been the visit of dear friends from Miami U days over 50 years ago, Gary and Jeanne Luhr of Louisville, KY!
As for our “quieter” lives at home: We have been so grateful for these rich experiences as we also face our mortality and learn new levels of trust and dependence. The health issues that kept to the background reared up, beginning with Carol’s symptoms as we recovered from Brian’s prostatectomy September 14, 2017. Carol became seriously ill as we departed from our fun Thanksgiving weekend, sleeping all the trip back to Churchville and experiencing a very high fever next morning. She turned out to have a superbug in the form of another UTI. Three doctors and a cystoscopy later, she is now on probiotics and cranberry tablets and her urologist is pleased with her progress.
Meanwhile, as Brian showed no further signs of cancer following his prostate and needed no further treatment, he pursued the solution to his worsening mystery of drop foot, despite carefully following instructions of his sports doctors. Our family doctor finally referred him to a neurologist, who immediately sent him for MRIs up his spine and brain. These were very revealing! The cause was a meningioma (slow-growing tumor in the lining of his brain) that was pressing against the left side of the brain, inhibiting signals to his right side of the body, especially the foot and leg but also beginning to affect the hand. It was not going to improve without surgery. As we write, he is recovering from the successful surgery on June 14. The visiting nurses and therapists test him and are astounded by his rapid progress; he can now execute maneuvers not possible for the past six years. That makes a total of three surgeries for a man who never even had his tonsils out, or any other kind of surgery in his previous 72 years. The hardest part of recovery is now holding himself back so that his brain can adjust to the absence of the lemon-size growth that inhibited him.
In all of these things, we have been witnessing God’s provision and faithfulness after years of ministry and questionable income. We have had much time to reflect in deep gratitude. We sincerely repeat a favorite ritual used at our City church under Pastor Louis Colon: “God is good. All the time!”
Now you know the “rest of our story” of what we’ve been up to during these 18-months of somewhat silence. In two months, Lord willing, we will celebrate our 50thWedding Anniversary. Wow!
Brian & Carol
Below is a photo journal of 2017 and the first part of 2018.
Family and Friends Visited
Rochester Connection Ministry Events