Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by Rev. John Farmer

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Graduation to Life

Words of advice at graduation are so full of hope, future, at this time of year. What if we paused to consider physical failure was at least a sad option? Amidst all the hype of the season we should try and penetrate the shells of our grads.

Therefore, I am sharing a typed letter we received from a longtime friend of my bride. It was written on our wedding anniversary, Easter Sunday, April 23, 2000, and mailed to us in Irvington.

Now that we have celebrated our 20th anniversary I need to review this poignant saga. The late writer, Hazel’s former neighbor and classmate, asked that we share his message. I will again and again…

Each grad needs to look gingerly over their class of peers and determine that whatever path life takes, to have some stewardship over their class far off into the future.

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 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.”

      [Signed] Elmer R. (Nicky) Treakle

The letter also contained this handwritten postscript: “I asked 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 had taken a hiatus from school and returned to graduate. He was celebrating with his buddies down at Windmill Point. Showing off, 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. Over the following years he was cared for at home by his mother Mae. After a while she was no longer able to care for him herself and the Lancashire became home.

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

The following years spiraled downward as he struggled with frustration and anger. Nicky resided at several area nursing home facilities. After his passing, he was buried in the White Stone United Methodist Church cemetery next to his mom Mae Verlander Treakle Hinson (1914-2000). His dad was also buried there years prior, over in another section of that same cemetery.

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

 “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 (1944-2013) remained our neighbor. We prayed with him and for him.

I am proud of his class. Several of Nicky’s classmates maintained to the end—and it was not easy. His frustrations caused some folks to shy away. Hoorah for the grads to life who never abandoned their brother. May it ever be so, class, class-after-class.