I saw the opening on my calendar. A few days that I could escape the Arizona heat. And so I packed the car and drove to beautiful Cache Valley, Utah.
To visit this old cowboy.
The ranch was just as I remembered. Fields of alfalfa. Horse and cattle to manage. Fences to mend. The chores are endless and necessary. Strong hands work from dawn to dusk.
Strong hands belonging to this old cowboy.
He is proud of his little ranch. Thankful he can drive the tractor, feed the animals and fix that broken pipe. Recognizing the blessing of being able to work hard.
Those of us who are close to him see it too. We’ve seen his hands work hard to raise a family – earn a living – serve others. His working hands are noticed by others. And loved.
The blessing is noticed because there was a time when those hands lay quiet. Unable to care for his little ranch. A time over two years ago when a monster invaded this old cowboy.
A monster called shingles.
The monster attacked without warning. It laid tracks across the side of his face. But the worst was inside. Multiple lesions inside and on the eye. It was one of the worst cases the University of Utah Medical Center had ever seen. The discomfort was fierce and unrelenting. Nerves screaming at a horribly high level of pain. Days and nights lost their place. Time became a matter of just getting through the moment.
And it brought this tough old cowboy to his knees.
All those who had been served by his hands, now lined up to serve him with their own. Ranch chores were handled for months. Meals delivered to the house. Christmas lights hung. Hundreds of hands folded in prayer for this old cowboy.
I marvel at the patience and grace shown during this period. Never a negative word toward his wife who monitored medications and desperately tried to comfort. Never a raised fist to God. An example of enduring something unimaginable. And enduring it well.
How often do we waiver in our faith and lose our patience when faced with difficulties and trials? There are times when we or our loved ones encounter fear and doubt which shake our testimonies. Doubts which begin as small cracks and fester into larger, deeper crevasses.
Patience is continuing on even with those doubts. Patience is slowly and deliberately moving forward even with shaken beliefs in place, rather than tossing everything to the wind or giving up. Patience is recognizing and accepting that we don’t have all the knowledge or understanding, yet still choosing to live and learn the gospel one day at a time. Even when life is not fair. Patience is faith and hope in trusting His timing, not ours.
A lesson learned from watching this old cowboy.
Slowly a bit of relief. Able to care for the ranch again. Weeks turned into months. Now months into years. The nerves still scream. But this old cowboy’s belief that God is aware of the situation has never wavered.
This is what patience looks like.
When will this end? “It doesn’t matter I suppose,” he says. The anger at the situation is gone. His soul is healed as is everyone else’s who lives this experience with him. His emotions are tender and his heart open as he lives each day to the fullest. Hands once again serving others.
A life of patience. A life of grace.
And so my eyes take in the beauty of the ranch again on my recent visit. My heart is soft and filled with memories. Remembering where we have been and what we have learned.
Lessons learned from this old cowboy.
Who I call Dad.