Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pictured is “Doc” Stevens, who for the past 16 years has been the living icon representing all the best qualities of all that Warner Camp represented. An MSU grad and avid Spartan fan, Doc left a 30-year career of working with Kellogg Community College. He was a living legend in Battle Creek area sporting events as KCC athletic trainer, one time Athletic Director, et al.

Behind Doc you see Warner Lodge, probably the first major renovation involving the Selents' in the 70s (more about that in another blog). Doc became a key figure in the lives of Grace and Leslie Ratzlaff. Grace probably came closer to filling that empty place left by the death of Doc’s mother than any other; she was his close friend, confidant, role model and longtime mentor.

Les, was what he was, one of the hardest working men you could find anywhere between “Heart” (the survival training camp in Florida) and Warner Camp in Michigan--a SD farm boy--a Churchman steeped in book lore.

In the following paragraphs, we conclude Grace's recollections of how she and Les made their plans and God directed their steps, several years of which Doc was an intimate part.

“It took two weeks to get the tests done, and the biopsy, but we still had not received the doctor’s report as to exactly what was wrong. He didn’t realize how sick he was and neither did we, but he still did not want to go home.

“Ray and I finally convinced him that we needed to get him to his doctor. We arrived home on Sunday afternoon. I had talked with Leslie’s sons and told them they needed to come see their Dad. We still had not received the report from the doctor; all we knew there were some cancer cells.

“We knew he had that cancer mass in his one kidney, but were told that was not growing. Paul [son] came on Tuesday and we had an appointment with Leslie’s cancer doctor on Wednesday. Paul went with us and that was when we got the results of the biopsy. Doctor said no more tests or appointments and he would schedule hospice to come in. We were shocked! He said they did not know where the cancer was coming from (not the kidney--different kind of cancer), but it did not matter as it was all across his chest and abdomen and his neck--no wonder he was so nauseated and no appetite.

“On our way home from the doctor we stopped at Denny’s and met Dale and Marcie [other son] for lunch. Leslie ate a couple spoonfuls of soup. We did not know what the prognosis was, doctor just said it was really hard to tell. So we just assumed he still had at least several months. Paul went home on Thursday. On Friday, hospice came in and the coordinator/nurse got all the preliminary work done--equipment, nurses, etc. round the clock.

“Saturday, Leslie was in terrible pain. I called hospice and in a short time the hospice nurse came and prepared him for bed (hospital bed), gave him morphine, and made him comfortable. In the meantime, the head nurse had called my son, Ray and told him not to go anywhere, that I would need him. She told him Leslie had only 36-48 hours, but did not tell me when I asked her.

“Leslie was not communicating on Sunday. However, my grandson and his family came over from Winter Haven about 18 miles from here and Lauren (6) and Kolson (4) stood by Leslie’s bed and sang “Jesus loves Me” for him. He smiled and mouthed “thank you.” Dale and Marcie and their girls came, but stayed just a little while. Leslie did not say anything more after that.

“On Monday, Sept. 6, I went in to see him and spoke to him. He did not say anything, but I think he heard me as his eyelids moved a little, so I think he heard me tell him I loved him. About an hour later, at 7:15, he went to be in the arms of Jesus. It was such a shock that he went so fast. What a Divine Appointment that we came home instead of going to VA, and that Ray came to help me drive.

We had traveled 9600 this summer. God is so good. I am so glad I listened to that still small voice that cautioned me about going to VA, even against Leslie’s wishes. He was “still determined that we not go home. Praise the Lord” we did, but little did any of us know how seriously ill he was. Leslie didn’t even know--he was sure he would get better.

“God is so good. Leslie is not suffering anymore, but I miss him (Grace, 2010).”

From Warner’s World,
we do not grieve as those without hope, nor are we knee-deep in mere sentiment. We rejoice and stand deeply in awe of what God does in people’s lives, ever mindful of His gracious and beneficent love.

I look back across the span of two totally different church families and saw how they served the church so differently in their individual ministries in varied places--later linked by a second marriage for each of them.

I bow my heart before God and thank him for His Angel Messengers that he allowed to touch me and my spouse, as well as a whole host of others … I am

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