My home started in Pewaukee as a child. It moved to Madison for college in 1996. And when Katie and I were married in November 2005, we established our new home together.
Along with that marriage came a second home for me at the Robertson’s in Cedarburg, where Katie was raised. While Katie and I were dating, I loved coming to this new, second home because I had my own room with my own bathroom. I guess it doesn’t take much to make a kid from Pewaukee feel pretty special. But it wasn’t the bed or the bathroom that made my experience special. It was the work that was put in before my arrival that made it memorable. And that was all done by Katie’s mom, Sue.
If you know the Robertson family, you know that home is very special. And even in the months of dating, I was adopted into their family very quickly and very deeply. Home is where family is. Home is special. Home is a gathering place established in love over years and years of good times, with some hard times mixed in. I could tell very quickly that the Robertson home had that history, that tradition, that lineage of love within those walls. And it was from within those walls that I looked out the window on a Sunday afternoon to see how that lineage of love was on display – not from the Robertsons, but because of the Robertsons.
Anyone reading these words knows that in the first two weeks of November our mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In those two weeks we learned that the cancer had already spread to the liver and that Sue was given a few months to live. Soon Katie and I found ourselves driving to Cedarburg because Mom was going to be admitted to the hospital. After two long days there she decided she wanted to go home and be on Hospice care. It was Sunday November 14th.
Mom was home.
We decided to put her in the guest room where I used to stay when Katie and I were dating. The room that welcomed me into the Robertson family was now Mom’s new home. Although it was tough for me to transition a room of such fond memories to the current situation of Mom’s health, I was greatly comforted by the fact that the family and the home were still the same. The walls of the Robertson home still felt as solid as my first night at the house. And it was from within those walls that I looked out the window to see strangers picking up sticks.
Autumn in Wisconsin brings leaves and sticks to the yard, especially Steve and Sue’s which is surrounded by mature trees and thick underbrush. We had just got Mom home and we were beginning to prepare for a long period of caring for her. When I looked out the window and saw a young boy and his sister picking up sticks in the yard, I saw into the future of the tough time ahead for this family and I saw into the past of the lineage of love that my mom had established.
The boy and the girl outside the window were with their dad. Sue had taught piano lessons for the family years ago. It was a cold, windy afternoon. The kids were in their winter coats and had gloves and winter hats on. But they were outside with their dad, determined to get every stick gathered despite the cold weather. Having nothing to offer our family in this tough time they offered all they had, their service.
It reminds me of my favorite Christmas song, Little Drummer Boy:
“I have no gifts to bring… shall I play for him… on my drum.”
The little drummer boy has no gift to bring to lay before the king. All he has is his instrument and the ability to play it. So he does, because he loves the king. These kids had nothing they could offer our mom. So they brought their drum to play, a garbage bag to be filled with sticks. Because they love our mom. The rest of our family was looking to the future and caring for mom. I was watching the past and how mom had worked in the lives of this family.
It’s one of my defining moments of the last three weeks. When mom needed help the most, this family loved Mom so much that they were compelled to offer anything to help. What a tribute to Mom.