Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Successful surgery

My friend, John Nesheim, underwent surgery Monday to amputate both feet after he suffered severe frostbite from being stranded at the bottom of a ravine in Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul last week. The surgery was a success, although John has experienced a significant amount of pain.

I talked to him yesterday morning, the day after surgery and he was doing better than the previous afternoon, when he was in a lot of pain. They got it under control with medication and he seemed to be in pretty good spirits.

One thing that really impressed me was the group of students from the University of Minnesota that sat at his bedside in two-hour shifts all night Monday to be with him and pray for him as he recovered from the surgery. They all belong to a Christian community called People of Praise, which John and I also belong to. John was very blessed by the students' presence.

What a great Christian witness! I'm sure at least some of them had never met John before. I believe acts like this greatly please God. I'm so glad John is getting such great support. I pray he can continue to get it as he begins the long road to recovery and the use of the artificial feet he will get soon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A visit with John

Last night, I got a chance to visit my friend John Nesheim, who fell into a ravine last Monday and was stranded for two days before being rescued and brought to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. He was in good spirits and I was so glad to have a chance to see him in person.

He is now bracing for the next step in his recovery -- and it's a big one. He said doctors are planning to amputate both of his feet today. The frostbite was so severe that the doctors said they couldn't save his feet. John said he is at peace with it and feels fortunate to be alive.

A friend of his who's a doctor calls it a miracle that John survived. I believe it. In fact, John told me he thought he wasn't going to make it. I'm so happy God spared him and brought him out of the woods alive. I'm sure it must have been agonizing for his wife, Maureen, and daughter, Renee, those two days wondering where he was and waiting to hear from him.

The road ahead is going to be challenging for the Nesheim family. The good news is John and Maureen's faith is strong and they have lots of family members and friends waiting to help, including me.

One of the key people for John will be his brother-in-law, Al Nicklaus, and his wife, Anne. John and Al have been best friends for years and each was best man at the other's wedding. John married Al's sister, Maureen. Al and Anne were at the hospital last night, too, and it was touching to witness their love and care for John. I know they will be there for John and Maureen and I hope I can be of assistance, too. John has done so much for me and has been a great friend for more than two decades.

When my first wife, Jennifer, died of cancer in May of 1995, three of my four brothers decided to take me on a fly-in fishing trip to Canada to get away from it all for a few days. We invited John along and he quickly agreed. On that trip and ever since, John feels more like a brother to me. Last night, we got a chance to laugh about that trip and about how smelly and grubby five guys can get out in the woods for three days. It would sure be great to go on a trip like that again.

Before John's accident, I had told him that my wife, Julie, and I would like to have him, Maureen and Renee over for a wild game dinner. John and Maureen didn't get a deer on their hunt this year, so we wanted to offer them a venison dinner. Our favorite recipe is venison meat pie, using a recipe we got from Anne Nicklaus. I'd sure like to make that for John and Maureen sometime. For now, I'll keep their family in my prayers and encourage others to do the same.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A tragic fall

I got a surprising call from my brother, Paul, last night. A good friend of ours, John Nesheim, was in the hospital after falling into a ravine while on a hike and being stranded there for two days. He suffered severe frostbite and may lose both of his feet. The story of his tragic accident appeared in today's Pioneer Press.

The doctors say it doesn't look good for his feet, but John is just glad to be alive. He went out for a short hike at Battle Creek Regional Park in St. Paul late in the afternoon on Monday and wasn't rescued until Wednesday morning. He had badly sprained his ankle and couldn't climb back out and his cell phone didn't work down in the ravine. He eventually scooted his way to a better position and a call finally went through on his phone, which he answered. He told the caller where he was and help arrived shortly thereafter.

I've known John for more than 25 years and consider him one of my best friends. He sells used cars and I have bought at least a half dozen from him over the last 10 years. He has worked hard since getting into the business and he really knows his cars. But, I appreciate his friendship even more than his knowledge of automobiles.

Although the doctors have said his feet will need to be amputated next week, I'm praying for a miracle. I have seen and heard about God working in powerful ways and I am holding out hope for a miracle. I ask anyone reading this to please pray for John and his wife, Maureen, and their seventh-grade daughter, Renee. May God restore his feet and give him a full and speedy recovery.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Delightful dinners

Twice in the last week, I had the chance to cook dinners for landowners who have allowed myself and my family to hunt on their land. Last Thursday, my brother, Paul, and I took a crockpot full of wild rice casserole, plus homemade bread and apple crisp to the home of a landowner in Cannon Falls, where we have successfully hunted wild turkeys. Then, we went to Prescott, Wis. on Saturday with venison meat pie for a landowner, his wife and one of their sons and his roommate.

Both meals were a success and it felt great to be able to give something back to landowners who have been so generous to us. In the first instance, the landowner's wife was out of town and he had to cook for himself for two weeks. He seemed to appreciate having someone else do the cooking on one of those days. In the second instance, we just wanted to prepare some venison that came from the deer my son, Andy, had shot on this landowner's land. The landowner, now in his 70s, hunted many years ago and it has been a while since he has enjoyed a venison meal.

In both cases, we experienced good fellowship, plus we were able to take some time for prayer. I think prayer makes a difference and I'm hoping that the prayers we offered provided some benefit for these generous landowners.

I am growing stronger in my belief that we, as hunters, need to look for, and take advantage of, opportunities to give something back to landowners who let us come out and hunt. Not only is it the Christian thing to do, it's something that can help ensure that we'll continue to have places to hunt. I have witnessed and heard about many instances of bad behavior by hunters and I think we're in danger of having landowners decide to stop giving permission to hunt on their land. In some cases, I can't blame them.

That issue aside, I'm just thrilled to have been able to bestow a small blessing on some very good people.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

By the light of the moon

I wasn't exactly bursting with excitement at the prospect of removing snow from my sidewalk and driveway last night after the daytime snowstorm. It was dark, cold and windy and I much preferred to sit in our back room and get a fire going in our fireplace.

But, I dragged myself out to the garage and pulled out the snowblower. Thankfully, it started and I was soon sending streams of freshly-fallen snow into the stiff, arctic winds.

Surprisingly, the hour I spent outside in the cold proved both peaceful and enjoyable. As I headed down the sidewalk tottering behind my blower, I happened to look up and notice a full moon -- or close to it -- just above the trees.

It was a crisp, beautiful scene. There's something about a clear winter sky on a subzero night that I find very attractive. It made me want to stop, look and pray. The day had been unusually stressful for me and I couldn't help but think God created this opportunity so that I could find a brief moment of peace.

I felt gratitude and took my time finishing the job so that I could enjoy this lunar display. It's one of the beauties of winter that I suspect a lot of folks overlook. As much as many people dislike cold and snow, God is in the midst of them both continuing to display his creative works. May I always have eyes to see his awesome wonders!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Goodbye, Emilie

The joy of Christmas was dimmed a bit by the death of my former coworker at The Catholic Spirit, Emilie Lemmons. She lost her battle with cancer Dec. 23, and I attended her funeral at the Basilica of St. Mary Dec. 29.

On that occasion, I was reminded that Emilie had a love for photography, especially outdoor photography. It was an interest we both shared. For her, it started during the latter part of her employment here at the Spirit, where she worked until the birth of her son Daniel, now 2.

I remember her quizzing me on several occasions about cameras, lenses and techniques. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to display my knowledge of photography on her wedding day, as I gladly accepted her request to shoot her wedding. It turned out to be a beautiful May day and we got the chance to shoot some outdoor pictures outside St. Luke (now called St. Thomas More) and on Summit Avenue.

We were able to incorporate some beautiful lilac bushes in the photos. The flowers were past bloom, but there were plenty of beautiful green leaves to incorporate into the pictures. I remember how joyful Emilie was at being able to experience such a beautiful spring day. God certainly blessed her and her new husband, Stephen, with some of the finest weather Minnesota has to offer.

That contrasted sharply to the bitter cold that blasted our state the day of her funeral. It made this sad occasion seem even grimmer. I'm so glad I have some positive images of Emilie to hang onto. In fact, I was flattered to learn that one of the pictures I shot at her wedding was on display in the church during the visitation that preceded the funeral liturgy. It was a shot of her with her sisters. I remember that we took deliberate care to take this photo. It was important to Emilie and, I suspect, it is important to her family now.

Getting through the funeral was tough for me. As many people know, I lost my first wife, Jennifer, to cancer in 1995, leaving me a single father with two young sons, Joe and Andy, who were 3 and 2 at the time. Emilie's husband is in a similar position. Stephen has two boys, Benjamin, who is 9 months, and Daniel. I was able to greet Steve before the funeral and I sincerely hope I can support him in the days and months ahead.

As tragic as this event is, there is hope for Steve and the boys. That is what I learned when Jennifer died and what I hope to share with Steve. Hopefully, as time goes on, he will be able to enjoy the opportunities to look at pictures of his wife, and also look at pictures taken by her.