John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

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Suffering in the Prime of Life

Re: The late Elmer R. “Nicky” Treakle (1944-2013)

Years ago, I shared a typed letter received from a long-time friend of my bride, sweet Hazel. It was written on our seventh wedding anniversary, Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000, and mailed to us in Irvington. The writer then asked that we share his message. Read along, I’ll be back in a few minutes…

“When I lift up my eyes toward heaven I see my Lord with his arms opened wide. And he is beckoning for me to come inside.

When I look into his eyes all I can see is pure love, the kind that can only come from heaven above.

I can see myself worshiping him most holy and giving him kisses on each cheek, I can feel myself trembling and my knees beginning to grow weak.

But he reassures me and blesses me and sends me on into my new life, where I’ll know no more suffering, loneliness, or strife.

And I’ll enjoy my new body that will never grow old, suffer or break and merry times with all my new and real friends and sweethearts I will make.

I’ll eat and drink of every most wonderful thing and my heart will be so happy it just wants to sing.

And I pray my dear friend you will come to me in due season and for you to back off from me or go there would be no reason.

And the curse that is upon us in this world will be gone forever and we shall be free to do whatever is our endeavor.

So [to you] my friend, please don’t forget me you see, because you mean so much to me.

In this world, I am a prisoner of my mind: bent up crippled up old body, my wheelchair, my bed and this world. I die daily.

I stay sad in my heart even though I know I have our Lord and his love always. God gave Adam Eve when he saw that Adam was lonely. I stay lonely, sad, blue, depressed and miserable. It’s just a fact of life that someone with my problems can have. But, I know I won’t always be in this wheelchair. In heaven, I shall walk again yet, with our Lord’s blessing and I can barely wait the day I can share this with you!

With love and respect from your friend.” Elmer R. “Nicky” Treakle

The letter also contained this handwritten postscript: “I asked my mom if she felt the same way—she said ‘yes.’ Please share this!”

Now for the rest of the story. In the mid 1960s Nicky was a happy, energy-filled, graduating Lancaster High School senior. He was celebrating with his buddies down at the beach, Windmill Point. Showing off for his buddies, he ran down the dock and dived into the Rappahannock River. It was a low tide and upon impact with the bottom, Nicky’s neck was broken. The party was over.

It was an accident from which Nicky never recovered. For the next several years he was cared for at home by his mother Mae. After a while, she was no longer able to care for him and Nicky moved to the Lancashire. Later still he was moved to Virginia Beach, and several other locations.

Eventually his mom also needed living assistance and she moved into the same establishment. There they later resided in the same room where Nicky helped to care for his mom for a while.

It seems that there are two approaches to respond to this story. First, every year sit our graduating teens down and remind them that in all of life there are dangers. “Be careful” is a life-long warning that can do us or them no harm.

A number of generous folks from the lower Northern Neck, rallied by one lovely anonymous lady, helped Nicky get into a new electric wheelchair, late in his struggle.

Though now long removed from us, I pray Nicky is not forgotten, nor the generosity of his friends.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).” Nicky was our neighbor.

I am so very proud to live in a land where we honor scripture by loving our neighbors.


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