"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Monday, April 30, 2012

Apprehended Hope

This Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the Sunshine Mine Disaster in Kellogg, Idaho. On May 2, 1972, 91 miners lost their lives in one of the worst occupational disasters in our nation’s history.

There was nation wide news coverage at the time, but compared to today’s standards and means, we would now consider what was offered just minimal coverage.

On that spring day, so very long ago, an underground fire silently crept through the mine creating smoke, carbon monoxide and other life endangering gases that infiltrated the tunnels and shafts. One hundred seventy-eight miners arrived at work to begin their jobs in day to day fashion. Before the day was done, 91 would lose their life and only 85 would walk back into the diminished light of the spring day now greatly impacted by grief. Before the disaster was over several excruciating days would pass braced in the apprehended hope to which the families clung - that there would be others found and raised to safety. Only 2 additional miners would eventually be rescued from amidst the danger and damage. The final victim was brought top side on May 13th; 11 days after the fire began. This hard-rock mining disaster eventually brought much needed change to an extremely dangerous industry, but I imagine that fact is only a slight comfort to the families that were forever changed on this distressing day.  

You can read the incredible story in two books that were finally written and published: The Price of Silver by John Day and The Deep Dark by Gregg Olson.  I’m not sure why it took decades for someone to write an accounting of the disaster, but I’m glad the story was eventually written.  For the more accurate accounting I recommend The Price of Silver; a bit less dramatic, probably not as enticing, but more factual, just the same.

The Sunshine Mine is still to date the largest silver mine in the nation, running more than a mile deep with over 100 miles of tunnels. Knowing that fact, and recognizing that at the time safety measures were minimal, we gain great understanding and appreciation for the rescue efforts that were nothing short of valiant with the limited resources on hand at the time.

But the tight knit mining community vowed they would never forget - and forget they never have. On May 2nd they will once again honor the lives that died that day in a continually growing ceremony at the monument erected in the miners’ memory. A statue of a working minor was placed at the foot of Big Creek Canyon shortly after the disaster.  The 15 foot miner was purposefully located at this spot with his head lamp shining south in the direction of the Sunshine Mine as a physical reminder of the lives lost there on that dreadful day. At this year’s memorial, once again 91 chairs will hold mining hard-hats with head lamps that are never extinguished in the hearts of those that lost a loved one, 40 years ago.

I’m not sure I remember the moment I actually received the news of the Sunshine disaster.  The impact on my life was minimal compared to those that lost sons and husbands; brothers and fathers.  I lost a cousin – I will call him DD.  He had a beautiful wife and two precious baby daughters. He was 23 years old.  He also left behind a loving mom, and brothers and sisters who loved him deeply. They had already suffered great loss when their husband and father had been killed in a mining accident about 7 or 8 years previously. 

What I do remember of the time, was the deep hurt I witnessed in the immediate and extended family. On a personal level, I also remember the uncommon kindness of some that showed their concern for me.  I was in high school, soon to graduate.  I will never forget my Government teacher kindly pulling me aside to ask me about the accident.  He had incorrectly heard it was my brother who was lost.  He had taught my brother the year previous, and he had also coached him in sports. I could see the genuine look of concern and sorrow on his face. “No”, I told him, “it wasn’t C. It was our cousin.” And I saw relief cross his face, but it was personal relief tempered with all-reaching compassion for the others. Another classmate had lost a brother.  Every life is as important as another, but of course it hits harder when one knows them personally.

I remember another classmate bringing me a beautiful card of encouragement, though we didn’t know one another well.  It is these types of kindnesses that one remembers for a life time. I don’t believe we should ever underestimate the simple gestures that we often times feel are so inadequate at a time of someone’s great loss. One never knows how it will encourage, or how it will impact one later at the memory.

Of course my cousins, my aunt and grandparents were the ones of most concern to my family at the time.  As I said previously, my cousins had already lost their dad in another tragic mining accident.  I have never forgotten the day we arrived at their home the day of my uncle’s funeral and DD opened the door and warmly greeted us with a smile and light joking that only minimally masked his grief. I was a small child, but I knew he was happy to see us.  It impacted me for a life time. I learned there can be joy in sorrow from my older and wiser cousin. One would never have guessed just 8 years later he would also lose his life.

Certainly I remember the tears the day my uncle died: my dad’s tears, the tears of my cousins, my sisters, the tears of my brother. Each of their reactions is indelibly ingrained in my memory.  And I will never forget the tears that fell at the death of my cousin. One of my uncles was especially impacted due to the fact that he was also in the mine that day. Thankfully, he was one of the ones that made it out; but he lost a nephew who he looked at as a best friend, as well as many other friends and co-workers. I have memories forever ingrained in my memory of my family’s loss.  I also remember my grandma’s words of comfort when she learned DD had probably been alive for a time at the 5600 foot level of that mine. “DD would have called on Jesus”, she reassuringly told us, “and I know He was with him through that time.”

The reassuring comments, the smiles that power through the darkness, the tears that bubble up from the heart to fall down a face in an expression of love and release are the things that are never forgotten at such monumental times of grief.

All these years later, there are certain memories that are as clear as the day it occurred.  Some of my memories are of past Sunshine Memorials where a friend’s face remains in my minds eye as if I were once again looking into his face where his reoccurring pain is one more time revealed.

Naturally the days after were dark and seemingly without life, as this small community that had lost 91 men recovered and rebuilt their lives. The displacement that occurred might be difficult for an outsider to comprehend, but to those most affected by the tragedy, it was the natural process of maturing through grief. Can you imagine how 91 lost lives affected a community with a population of little over 4000? (Kellogg and surrounding towns) Today, Kellogg’s population is still down by 33% of the 1972 count.

On Wednesday, there will once again be tears; there will also be smiles that power through because of the calming salve of time; and there will be words of encouragement and words of pride for each of the lives lost.  There will be connections once again established because of the common bond that most all that attend have always shared.

They will speak of a history, they will speak of a heritage; and there will be a new generation that learns and honors with acquired understanding.  They were noble men of a noble profession which is not only a part of our state history, but is a very integral part of the lives of families that were forever impacted on that day. We live in death.  And hopefully we grow; we learn; we love and we share.  It is as it should be, and I am proud of a community that has vowed to never forget.

Click here for information of this year's memorial.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Down On Their Luck

I finished reading the article with tears in my eyes. I wiped them away with a quick brush of my hand.  I didn’t need to brush the tears away; I was alone on this early Sunday morning, so there was no one to see them anyway.  But that’s what you do with tears.  You wipe them away.

I hope you will click on the link above to read the story in our local paper. It’s a simple experience of a news reporter (David Cole) on his way home from a trip east.  He encountered a self-avowed “hobo” on the train ride back. And as the reporter informs us in his article, though the hobo wasn’t in a box-car as a true hobo would have been, the man certainly looked the part. He also had no money for food; this fact was obvious when during the trip, two meal times had come and passed and the old hobo ate nothing.

The reporter in true, Christian kindness – though I have no knowledge if Mr. Cole is a Christian or not – tapped the man on the shoulder and asked if he might buy him a meal.
Yes, that is what we should do as Christians – it’s also the American way – if we are able.  Obviously, in this day and age we have to take safety into consideration, but in this type of environment – when others are around – it is the perfect situation to help someone that is in obvious need of help.

Mr. Cole tells a heart-warming story, of his conversation, (and lack of it) with this man.  I don’t want to give the story away for those that want to read it, so that is as much as I will say about the article; but it brought some fond memories back to me this morning as I read.

My maternal grandparents lived near an important and busy rail-line when my mom was growing up.  This was during and after the Great Depression, and there were many times, when a “hobo” or “bum” would come knocking on my grandparents door asking for a meal.  When Grandpa wasn’t home, Grandma would never turn them away, but rather, she would make them chop wood in the wood-shed until Grandpa returned home for lunch and she could feed them in safety.  Yes, even back then they had to be cautious and wise. Furthermore, this action of asking them to work for the meal made the men feel better about “bumming” a meal.

“They’re not bums, Del.” Grandpa would say. “They’re just men down on their luck.”

That statement is engraved in my memory, and I can hear my grandpa’s tone, and see the sincere expression on his face as he would have stated it.

I loved hearing the stories about Grandma and Grandpa and all the help they gave to those less fortunate. It was their way of life, and they did it on so many levels - to caring for an elderly neighbor to going out in the middle of the night to repair someone's car.

I’m proud of the lesson-by-example my Grandpa and Grandma taught my mom.  I’m also thankful my folks passed that lesson on to me and my siblings. I don’t want to be the one that turns my back on someone in need, when I could have helped.  I don’t ever want to see my son laughing or making fun of someone hurting or “not quite normal”, when he could have been the one to offer a helping hand.

I remember many years ago, while making a road trip alone, I had the radio on listening to a sermon by a pastor on one of the Christian radio stations.  He was talking about the Scripture passage that speaks of “entertaining angels unaware” – Hebrews 13: 2
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
Now, I am not going to get into the discussion of whether this is something that still happens today. I believe the Scripture teaches that some have entertained angels. Abraham and Gideon are two examples.  I will just briefly say, I don’t believe this passage is so much about teaching us that we could miss an opportunity to serve angels, as it is an encouragement to love others and offer hospitality to those in need when we are able.

With that said though, I’m sure the pastor gave a good teaching on this subject; I really don’t remember it.  What I do remember is a soft voice in my heart that said, “Yes, this is all so true – some have entertained angels unaware; but more importantly, what if it wasn’t an angel?”

I never forgot it.  I took it as a lesson for my life. Angels are a whole other realm, but what’s more important than that? A human being is more important! What if we are turning away a person in need? What if we are turning away the lost, when we have a chance to minister?  What if we are turning away a brother or sister in Christ in trouble? What if we have a chance to wipe away tears and we don’t?  What if he or she isn’t an angel?  Then we have missed the chance to do what that passage of Scripture is really teaching us, and my Grandpa taught as well – a chance to help those “down on their luck”.

By the way, my mom told me recently that the “hobos” that had visited her childhood home put a mark on the fence to let other hobos know - this house would help…

I want a mark.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Spare Moment

Hey, folks!  If you have a spare moment today, wander over to Watch From My Wall to read the recent post there.  It is a non-political, non-controversial, message....at least for today. I think you will be encouraged by the sentiment in this particular post. It's all about spare moments turning to success.
“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
― Edmund Burke

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Time of Singing

For, lo, the winter is past, and the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing is come.                                                                                                   Song of Solomon 2: 11-12
We had the first day of spring a couple weeks ago, but I only felt its arrival today.

I spent the morning in sunshine on my folks' couch, listening to my mom’s laughter as she read me the funnies from the morning paper.  My dad sat next to me and we made eye contact with raised eyebrows as we tried to understand her humor.

“I’ve never been a funnies person”, I said. "I never understand them." At that, I made my mom laugh harder.  My dad joined her.

I sat just a bit longer, enjoying my morning coffee and savoring the tender moment…in the sun; in the home of my youth.

I received a text from my son, there was a song in his heart and he wanted to share it:
And it's a great day to be alive, I know the sun's still shining when I close my eyes. There's some hard times in the neighborhood, but why can't every day be just this good". :)
Cowboy's Fountain
Ahhh, big fat sigh!  Life is ok.  A time of singing has come for him, as well.

A bit later, I asked Matt if he wanted to take a run to Sandpoint with me. The sunshine today was glorious, spending as much time as possible in it after all the rain, a necessity.  I had seen something at a store there on my last visit.  Today, I decided I must have it.  And a drive in the sun would feel good.

My cowboy's fountain! I absolutely love it!  Listening to the fountains at my folks’ neighbors convinced me it was ok for this little splurge.  After all I don’t splurge a lot.

While there, I also picked up all my garden seeds…YES!  They had Walla Walla and Boston Pickling!  Every thing I need! I can't wait to plant; but "I'm gonna wait 'til the snow is off that old mountain."
A phone call for Matt came during the drive home...company announced their plans.  He would have someone to ride with today, and he would give a lesson on the new mare to a buddy's siblings. So perfect - Julie brought smiles to every face. 

Skeeter Bug
Skeeter, you knucklehead; you are not for the beginner…But oh, how I love you!!

The afternoon also brought a surprise visit from someone we love. He assured us of his love for us, and as always, he reminded us of His love - Our friend's visit brought a beautiful Easter blessing, but a bit of sadness, too.  How I love this family!  I sensed just a bit of knowing, I recognized maybe just a tinge of sadness from him, too. It is life; I am thankful for their friendship.                                     

Later as things settled down, I walked around my yard, soaking in the warmth of the afternoon. Checking my flower beds, brought a reminder. I planted bulbs last fall!!  I had completely forgotten and I had been too busy to notice. Neither did I remember what I had planted. But for the moment, I'm kind of glad I didn't remember about the new bulbs until now. Remembering them - the pleasant surprise - seemed appropriate for today.  I will soon have a multitude of surprises this spring, and lots of joyful splashes of color to remind me of life’s cycles; as well as all of life’s little offerings. 

A time of singing has come...and just in time.

Happy Resurrection Day!

"Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here: for he is risen, as he said...."
Matthew 28: 6

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!