Sam and I arrived at church just as the service was starting and went right to “our” chairs. It was good to be back—we are at the lake most weekends in the summer and miss our church family. I took a quick look around and enjoyed seeing all of the familiar faces.
Across the room, I spotted Esther Stenberg, Carol Sands mother, but wondered who that was with her. I’ve known Carol’s parents, now retired and living in Northern Minnesota, for years and the man seated next to Esther was not Pastor Jerry. Pastor Jerry has a full head of dark gray wavy hair. This man was completely bald.
It took about three more surreptitious looks for me to come to the realization that the man seated next to Esther was indeed Pastor Jerry. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was cancer and chemo—but it was odd that I hadn’t heard about it.
As the close of the service, I made my way over to greet them. Esther gave me a hug and I couldn’t help but remark about Pastor Jerry’s new “do.” At age 85, he is truly a handsome man—with or without hair. Inside I was dreading hearing the reason for his hair loss but asked about it anyway.
Esther explained that Jerry’s hair suddenly began to fall out and he was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own hair follicles.
“We are so fortunate because sometimes this disease can be more serious if the body starts attacking internal organs. Other than the hair loss there have been no other problems,” Esther said.
Lines formed in Jerry’s forehead as his facial expression and voice took on a serious tone, “Oh, but there have been complications.” I turned towards him and focused my attention as he continued, “We’ve been married for more than 60 years and for all that time Esther has kissed me on my lips. Now she keeps kissing me on my head.”
Her eyes twinkled and Esther laughed, “I can’t help it. He’s sitting there at the table when I walk by, I just have to kiss his head.”
That brief moment offered me an intimate and profound glimpse of a couple still madly in love with each other. I could not have felt more strengthened and encouraged if I had read every self-help book and attended a dozen relationship seminars.
Love and laughter—a life-changing message.