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Mysterious Ways: The Farmer and the Veteran

A cancer diagnosis led to an unlikely reunion.

Last summer tests showed that I had cancer. I would need to get proton therapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The diagnosis worried me, but I was even more upset about the timing. I’m a farmer. My treatments would take place in September and October—wheat-planting time. Who would sow the fields?

Scripture says there is a season for everything, a time for planting and a time for harvesting, but I couldn’t figure out how this fit into God’s plan.

My wife and my eldest son insisted that I not de­lay my treatments. They would take care of the farm. I went to Houston. But I was still worried.

The first person I met at the cancer center was Chuck, a farmer from Nebraska. We hit it off, and he invited me to dinner at a seafood restaurant in town with him and a friend.
Chuck’s friend was Don, a World War II vet. Don’s stories about the war fascinated me. I’d always admired “the greatest generation,” people like my father who fought in World War II to protect our freedom.

“It’s a good thing you two made friends,” Don said. “I spent a year in the hospital after I took shrapnel from a bouncing betty. I wouldn’t have gotten through it without Ernie, this other soldier who’d lost his leg. We helped each other get better.” Don turned wistful. “I’ve always wondered about him. He left the hospital first, and we never exchanged contacts. All I knew was he lived in Goltry, Oklahoma. I visited once, asked around. But he’d moved and no one knew where.”

“Goltry?” I said. “My sister-in-law works there. Maybe she can help.”

I called her up. “I’ll ask Verla, my assistant,” my sister-in-law said. “She’s eighty-one and has lived here all her life.”

Verla got on the phone. “Do I know him? I’m probably the only one still living around here that would…Ernie’s my cousin.”

Don and Ernie were reunited for the first time in 65 years. Maybe the joy I felt at the small part I’d played helped the proton therapy do its job, because my treatments were successful. And the wheat got planted, most of it anyway. All in God’s time.

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