Disease can be one of God’s most powerful refining tools.
Some of my favorite stories about Uncle Stewart involve Mount Timpanogos. The first happened many years before I was born. His little brother Eric was invited to hike Timpanogos with a friend of his, and Stewart prepared him a lunch to eat on the hike. The family Eric hiked with had all sorts of good food to eat at lunch, and trail mix to eat along the way, but when Eric opened his lunch bag he found only one sandwich. It was a slab of raw turnip between two slices of homemade whole wheat bread. Last year in a family discussion about this story Stewart explained, “Maybe some turnip seemed like a good idea to make up for the dryness of bread! Of course, a person could just drink some water for that. I do like turnips, in moderation.” Eric observed that the real lesson of the story was that “an older brother was thoughtful enough to do that kindness – even if the cuisine was unique to him.”
When I was eight years old I hiked to the summit of Timpanogos for the first time with my dad and siblings. On our way down from the summit we slid down the glacier, and as we approached Emerald Lake we saw a lanky figure hiking toward us. As we got closer we were surprised to find that it was Uncle Stewart. He was wearing an old pair of jeans, an old long-sleeved dress shirt, and his signature hat. He was also holding an old bleach bottle, which was his water bottle. I remember that he let me drink out of his bottle, and the water smelled and tasted like bleach.
When I was 18 years old I took a trip with Uncle Stewart to Mexico to collect plant samples for his botany research. On that trip he bought a loaf of whole wheat bread and a bottle of Catalina dressing at a grocery store, and ate Catalina dressing sandwiches for most of his meals. Ten years later he was still using that same old bleach bottle to carry his water.
I have been asked to say a few words today about Stewart’s experience with the disease which took his life. My goal is to help us understand something about what he suffered, so that we can appreciate how much our thoughts and prayers and service meant to him. Continue reading