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Bed & Breakfast and Country Retreat

Final Quest

When the phone rang I didn’t expect that by answering it, I would be involved in a final quest.  The call was from Pennsylvania.  The voice on the other end was  a young man.  He asked if we had a couple of rooms available in October.  He said he was planning a trip across the United States as a gift to his father, and I could hear the excitement in his voice. He went on to say that his father loved old barns, and that their trip was to be a quest.   They were mapping out a route that would lead them on their pursuit of old barns.    When they found our website and discovered that they could sleep in a 100 year old barn, they knew that Scotts Bluff Valley had to be one of their stops. 

    It was an October afternoon when Craig and Dave drove into the yard.  Craig was a quiet, shy, young man in his late 20s.  Dave was  robust, out going, jovial.  The two men, for being father and son, were distinctly different personalities, and yet it was easy to see that they shared a strong bond.

     They had traveled from Pennsylvania, just as they had planned, studying and photographing barns along the way.  Their excitement was contagious, as they showed us the pictures in their collection, and each picture had a story to go with it.  There were round stone barns, brick barns, barns with steeples and stained glass, historic barns, new barns.  An incredible collection! For all of the barns that they had seen, it was hard to believe that they were still passionate in their pursuit.  But passionate they were as they asked for a tour of the barn. They seemed to hang on our every word as we told them the history and stories of our barn, while Craig was busy taking pictures of every nook and cranny inside and out. They loved the hayloft where the rail and the big iron hay hook are still in place, and we stood and looked out at the vista of the bluffs.  When we had finished with our barn, they weren’t done yet, and so we made plans to load up in our truck and take a tour of  the old barns in this valley.  Traveling down county roads and back highways we saw a great collection of barns that stand as testaments to the strong farming tradition of Nebraska, and it was fun sharing them with our guests who truly appreciated them.

    When we returned late in the afternoon, Craig said that he was tired and headed up to his room to rest.  As we sat in the sun room with Dave, it was then that we came to understand that this father-son trip was not just a trip about barns.  It was a something much deeper.  Craig was terminally ill with leukemia.  This trip was a last gift to his father.  Dave explained to us that his son had been fighting leukemia since he was a young boy.  He had beaten death several times, something many of his friends, that he had made in his long stays at the hospital, had not been able to do.  With tears in his eyes, Dave told us how proud he was of his son.  He explained how brave Craig had been for the last 15 years fighting the disease, the pain, the losses, the anguish.  He had continued to live life as fully as he could.  He’d been an Eagle Scout, gone to college, gotten a job, was a great artist and musician.  But now he was living with numbered days.  Dave was sharing all of this with us as he wiped tears from his eyes and his voice was choked with emotion.

      He then got up and told us to wait one minute as he went to get something.  When he returned he was holding a book.  He said the book was a gift to us.  Dave had written the book several years ago when Craig was younger.  It had been written as a gift to his son who was having a hard time understanding and dealing with the death of one of his close friends, who also had leukemia.  The book that I was holding in my hands was a gift of love from a father to his son.  It held all of the love that this father had in him to help his son understand and deal with the mystery of death.  He had written a children’s story that had a very mature and difficult theme to it. Now several years later, the book that Dave had written to help his son understand death, was the same book that Dave would truly need to help himself understand what he knew was inevitable for him to deal with, the death of his son. 

   The next morning, after breakfast, we walked out onto the porch with Dave and Craig  as we said our good byes.  The morning was sunny and the two of them were laughing and looking forward to another day’s adventure.  As they drove out of the yard, I was overwhelmed by the strength of father and son.  They both knew what they were facing in the near future, but their quest for barns gave them the courage, and strength to face the final days that they would be able to share together.  The love that those two shared for each other was strong enough to help them find happiness and laughter each day, to give a reason for living, to make life an adventure, and to hold each other close in order to be strong.

    When I went upstairs to clean Craig’s room, there was a tightly folded piece of paper laying on the pillow.  With shaking fingers I picked it up, unfolded it carefully, and read the tiny printed lettering.  “I want to thank you for everything that you did to make our visit so special.  Always remember …everything you do on this fragile planet has value and meaning. Love Craig”

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