One autumn evening

There’s something about a sunset.  I’ve heard there’s also something about a sunrise, too, but I’m far more likely to experience sunsets than sunrises.

Every 24 hours the sun signs off for the day.  Some days it’s just a quick goodnight with no kiss of beauty.  Other times God paints a sunset so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes. That’s a fact.  Sometimes a sunset can take me away to one particular evening in 1970.  Kind of odd that one particular sunset has been etched permanently in my memory.  But it is.

My dad was still working for the Ottawa County Maintenance department, but he’d been moved from driving the large yellow Caterpillar road maintainer to the sign department. One of the tasks involved in this job was lighting warning flares every evening in road construction zones.  This was in the day before orange cones with reflective markings.   The flares were metal flat-bottomed spheres filled with oil with a wick extending from a hole in the top.  He would replenish them with oil and light them so that they burned all night to warn drivers of road dangers.  

On this particular fall evening Dad was getting ready to go out on flare duty and he asked me to go with him.  He hadn’t been feeling all that well, and he asked me to drive the county pickup truck for him.  I had my restricted license that let me drive with an adult in the vehicle and boy did I love to drive, so of course I was ecstatic that he asked me.  And I readily said yes.   

We left our home in Minneapolis and headed east on 10th street toward Wells.  It was just a beautiful fall evening and the rolling hills were so pretty.  We drove on through Wells to the curve in the road that leads to Oak Hill.   The flares were just beyond that curve and I helped him get them set up and lit for the night.

As we got back in the truck to head home, he said “It’s such a nice evening, why don’t we just drive through Vine Creek on the way home”.   Always eager to exercise my driving skills, I of course agreed.  We made our way over to Vine Creek which by 1970 was a ghost town.   His childhood started in Vine Creek, and he pointed out where the landmarks of the town used to be.  By this time except for one small church and one home, there were only a few foundations here and there and a cemetery.  He had stories to share, and I listened.  I was 15, he was 62.  15 year old me didn’t always listen. Peaceful moments like this were rare.  And priceless.  

Eventually we drove on and as we rounded a corner to head west,  the sun was setting with trees silhouetted against a stunning display of colors.  The hills were covered with large hay stacks and a windmill was visible in the midst of them.  I stopped the truck and said, “That is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”  Dad agreed.  We sat there for a while and watched the sun drop over the horizon then we headed home.  

My father continued to not feel all that well and a few weeks after this evening drive he came home from seeing the doctor and told us he had bad news.  He had been diagnosed with leukemia.  As it turned out, it was the first day of his last two years of life.  Oh what those two years would involve.  I’m so very very glad I said yes to his request to go with him that one evening in the fall of 1970. 

Of course, this all happened in the days before taking a picture was as easy as pulling out your cell phone and snapping as many images as you’d like.  But a vivid image is there in my memory. Pretty sure it will always be there, no matter how many other memories escape me. Pretty sure the memory will always make a tear slide down my cheek.  

When I see a sunset even all these years later, it never fails to take me back to that one evening.  I thank God for that sunset.  I believe He was in our presence that evening, and He knew Dad and I needed that time together.  God could see the storm of life ahead of us,   And when I see beautiful sunsets now, it serves to remind me He’s always present.  Always present to bring peace in the storm.   

Beautiful sunset many many years later while camping.
God speaks without saying a word. 

“The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.”  Psalms 19:1‭-‬3 

4 thoughts on “One autumn evening

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