March 2010 Linn County Leader Column – “Time Passages”

March 31, 2010

A year has passed since two very dear people in my life departed this world; these two people who helped to shape my life in different ways, yet who both had the same goal: to show me how to grow as a person and as a father.

These two people were Donald Palmer, a saint of God who followed Jesus with unswerving abandon and made his family and friends a priority…and my mom, JoAnn Davis, who loved unconditionally and taught her sons, family, co-workers, and those around her what loyalty and love meant in life.

Two completely unique people, with a great gift for touching lives. I thank God for the wonderful opportunity to share part of my pilgrimage with them, and I can only hope and pray that I am able to impart nuggets of wisdom to others as these two did for me.

As I look back, I can remember the stories that Donald told: hair-raising tales from World War II and his time spent dodging bullets and lying in muddy foxholes; hilarious accounts of cutting timber by moonlight long after the sun had set for the evening; heart-wrenching tragedies of the loss of two of his sons at an early age. As I stared into his eyes as he spoke of each of these events, I could see the myriad of emotions, from fear to joy to anguish; yet, behind it all I could see the strength of Christ emanating from his very soul. He leaned on the Lord during these difficult times, and he was comforted.

And during Donald’s last days, while he lay in a hospital bed, he was the one doing the comforting for others; greeting them with a smile even as the cancer wracked his body with unspeakable pain. For, you see, he was grateful for the chance to say “thanks” to those who had made an influence in his life as well. A trooper, and a friend, to the very end.

My mom was another one of those people who had a lasting impact on those she met; the love that she had knew no bounds. Whether through her wonderful cooking, her unselfish giving, or the other countless ways that she made you feel welcome, Mom taught me how to be confident even in the most difficult of circumstances. No matter what happened in life, a person could rest assured that Mom would be there for them. It didn’t matter if you were even related—she was just that kind of person.

Yet, when she gave, she never wanted anything in return. It was about serving others as you would want to be served; a timeless message that has largely been forgotten in the selfish society that we live in today.

The final days of Mom’s life were spent at Pershing Hospital in Brookfield; very difficult times for her family and her co-workers as we watched this dear woman’s life slip away. Many, many people came by her room to whisper their last goodbyes and also say thanks to their friend.

And, sadly, just a few days after Donald Palmer passed away, Mom also succumbed to cancer.

Passages of time happen unbidden in our lives; and now, a year later, we are in the midst of Holy Week; a time for reflection and prayer as we look towards the Cross…and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, from this compelling story another ending emerges, unlike our earthly existence; the news that Christ arose from the dead, and conquered sin and death. We now have the promise of eternal life through His sacrifice, and the promise of a home in Heaven.

So, even though I am saddened this week as I remember my friend Donald, and my mom JoAnn, I can also be happy because of Jesus. Because He lives, I can indeed face tomorrow. The grief that I have is but fleeting; joy will truly come in the morning.

And, because of that promise, I am forever grateful.

Richard is a monthly columnist for the Linn County Leader, and a local United Methodist pastor. He can be reached at or via his online blog at