As I reflect on this last week the image of a wilted rose continues to run through my mind. At one point this rose was growing on the branches of a rose-bush. Then someone picked the rose and this rose was given to someone as a gesture of love. Inevitably as that rose sits in a vase on the table it begins to wilt. The rose is still beautiful and represents something special, but it’s losing its luster and is beginning to die.
The world celebrated mother’s day this last Sunday. Prior to being here, in such an international environment, I had no idea that the entire world, or at least the troop contributing nations here in Afghanistan, celebrate mother’s day. I really did have a sad day. It’s funny how most mother’s days you just want to be by yourself and do something for you. Well this one all I wanted was to be with my babies; after all they are the ones who made me a mother. I ended up going for a long run, like every Sunday and then went into work. However, I did spend the afternoon using the money you all so generously donated and purchased the gear the Afghan running girls so desperately need.
As a tribute to the handful of mother’s here, the dining facility served a special dinner and gave us all roses. I proudly displayed my roses in a plastic water bottle at my desk, but by the following morning they were already wilted. These roses represented a special moment of remembrance of mother’s day, but they quickly earned their spot in the trash can. Although even as I threw them away I could see their beauty.
My heart is heavy this week. My family had to say good-bye to a very close family friend. There are those friends who you forget are friends and forever believe them to be family. The entire Nackers family are those kind of friends. Greg Nackers was fighting ALS, a disease of which there is no cure. He fought bravely and passed away with his family in dignity. My dad and Greg were high school friends, but their friendship reached beyond high school and spanned a lifetime. In their younger years, my dad and his high school friends were known for their long bike rides together. A century ride was just another Saturday morning for them.
As a child, each summer we would go camping with the Nackers. Both families would pack up and drive north. Greg, Judy, and their two boys Steven and Chris, who were close in age to my sister and me, would spend the week enjoying the outdoors and the company of friends we call family. As we kids grew and left home, my dad and Greg continued their annual camping trips. They added another high school friend Gary and my dad’s brother, Uncle Dean. The four of them continued these camping trips even after Greg was diagnosed with ALS. The picture below shows the four of them on their last visit together.
I will always remember Greg with love. Unfortunately ALS turned him into the rose that had been picked. He lived a life loving and caring for those around him, but the time came for him to wilt. His beauty always shown through and it showed right up to his very last breath. He never became the ALS, he fought with pride until the last moment and showed his family and friends his true beauty until the very end. I know God lifted you up, removed your pain, and you are now riding your bike through heaven keeping us safe while we wait to join you!
The same day that Greg took his last breath Timyra celebrated her First Communion. I love the contrast of these two moments. Timyra was taking the Body of Christ and strengthening herself in her Catholic Faith while a dear friend was joining Christ in Heaven. Timyra’s rose strengthened its self. This reminds me of the day Timothy was born. The day he was born was the same day we buried my Grandma Rueden. A newborn baby entered the world the day my Grandmother entered the earth for eternity.
My family and close friends helped to make Timyra’s First Communion special and the blessed event it should be. TJ and my mom took her to all her preparation classes and helped her prepare spiritually. My sister was so generous in doing both the girl’s hair. They looked amazing. I have to mention that 26 years ago my mom made my First Communion dress. Timyra, with a few alterations, wore the same dress. I know I wasn’t there, but with all the support she received, my prayers were enough. Timyra’s rose is full.
As I look around Afghanistan, I can’t help but see it as a wilted rose. There is so much good amongst all the bad. The good people of Afghanistan are losing because of the bad. There is beauty here, but its life is being sucked away and the roses are wilted. I hope someday Afghanistan will find the water it needs to stop wilting and stand on its own.