Not About the Ducks

OR Team,

I returned from my home state of Arkansas last Friday. While I was in the Natural State, some things happened regarding my daddy’s health.

Pop is 83 and has been battling leukemia for several months. While I was in the area, he had an appointment with his oncologist that did not go the way we had hoped. Dad’s doctor told him things were not looking great and if the current treatment did not work within the next few months, he would suggest stopping the chemo and let things run their course. There is still hope, but from a human perspective, not much.

The reason I was in Arkansas was for an annual duck hunt I do with my two oldest friends, Trey and Michael. We have known each other since childhood, and we meet each year at Mike’s duck lodge on the Cache River Bayou where we tromp over fields and hide in woods we’ve hunted for over 40 years.

When the news of dad’s oncology appointment reached me, I drove to my parent’s house in Brinkley to spend some time with them. Before I left, I asked Dad if he would like for me to bring him lunch the next day from his favorite BBQ joint and, if so, would he like to see Trey and Michael. He said yes to both. So, the next morning we cut our hunt way short, stopped at Craig’s BBQ in DeVall’s Bluff to pick up everything my dad likes and drove to our hometown.

Dad has very little strength. He rarely raises his head to engage with anyone because it takes too much effort. But this gathering revived his spirits. We sat around a table that has hosted countless family meals, told old stories, and laughed. It was a gift to see my dad talking and smiling with two men he has known since they were little boys.

As we drove back to the duck lodge, I told Trey and Michael that I felt that was Dad’s goodbye to them. It made me think of Paul’s words in I Thes. 4:13-14, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (ESV) I love the way The Message puts the last verse, “Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.”

When Kimberly picked me up at the RDU airport, I told her that the reason for this trip was not to hunt ducks with old friends; it was to celebrate a life well-lived with two men who have known and loved my family for decades. Trey, Michael, and I are followers of Christ so we can (and did) rejoice in the middle of grief, and that is a divine gift.

For God and Country

Joel McDaniel