“A Terrible Place for Terrible News”

 “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.”  2 Chronicles    NLT

“Grief is a tree that has tears for its fruit.”   Philemon

      There are three of us who work in “The Butcher Shop”. It is a refuge of sorts from the daily chaos and confusion that are part and parcel of operating an institutional foodservice facility. Although we are certainly an integral part in the maelstrom of meal preparation, our part in the process takes place in the relative peace and quiet of a 40 degree walk-in cooler that is roughly 8′ wide by 20′ long and contains a long stainless steel table, a sink, a slicer, and various racks on which to store product. When we report to work, the door is unlocked and re-locked after we enter. This is not a form of punishment or to make sure we don’t leave our posts. The lock is to safeguard the food we are working with….to make sure IT doesn’t wander off and become a part of the prison economy.

      Our business is meat, therefore, we are “The Butchers”, although “Meat Preparation Specialists” would be a more accurate title for us. Simply put, we take boxes of frozen meat and get it into and onto various pans and racks. The cooks then take it after it is prepped and work their own special brand of ‘magic’ on it (cough cough).

      As I said, there are three of us, and I have been there the longest. I am joined in that cold, damp, quiet place by two young men named Nate and Derek. Their two ages together fall one year short of equaling my own ‘ripe old age’ of 58. In age, they are both somewhere between my daughter and my son. I bear the brunt of many jokes about being the old man. I suppose I do look upon them both with a certain paternal attitude and I like them as individuals. I also feel pain for the circumstances that cause them to be in a place like this and I feel pain for the families they both have who support them and wait for the day when they return home.

      Derek and I not only work together, we share the same housing unit so we see more of each other. I have known him longer and have learned more about him and his family over the year and a half or so that he has been here. He also is second with seniority in “The Butcher Shop”. We work well together and I respect his abilities, his work ethic, his intelligence and his sense of humor even when I am on the receiving end of it. Derek is short, so I call him “Shorty”. He calls me old. We like each other.

      Derek is also a very talented learning artist and is constantly sharing with me things that he has drawn. He drew a beautiful cross for me that I taped on my coffee mug. His mom has sent him many books on drawing that he always shares with me, as well as other books on subjects that he enjoys. He is unique not only in his talents, but in the fact that his family lives very close to hear, which is a rarity. His mom pops in very frequently for visits. They are very close emotionally as well, and Derek has shared with me sheets of photos his mom has printed out for him and tells me all about the different members of his family. It is very obvious that Derek and his mom’s relationship goes beyond that of just a mother and son. She is his best friend.

      Or was. Derek’s mom passed away completely unexpectedly on Easter Sunday. She was only 52. Apparently she had a stroke, and then started hemorrhaging. Such terrible, terrible news to receive. And this….this is the most terrible place to receive news like that.

      May all of you join me in prayer for Derek, his little brother, and the rest of their family. I know this will be difficult for all of them, but especially so for someone in a place like this. There are many who receive news like that in here. Perhaps while you are at it, you can pray for them as well.

      At times like these it is hardest to trust in God and His reasons, but it is at times like this that it is the most important to do so. Derek will miss his mom, I am sure. So will I. He introduced me to her in a way, and I thought she was pretty special.

      God bless Derek, and all of you.

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