By Becky Cook
Once again, it’s time to downsize, to sort and purge boxes of keepsakes, documents, and pictures. A letter, dated January 29, 1997, came to the fore. It was written by me to our third son, an African-American, who became like a son to us when he was a student at Berea College in Kentucky, a school founded on and dedicated to principles of racial integration along with academic excellence. We want to believe that the racial divide in our world has faded. But it seems to have only taken on new dimensions. I’m compelled to think that in 2015, as a people, we STILL need to work hard to promote the things that unite us, not what makes us different. Permit me to share a bit of this story using pieces of the above mentioned letter.
Throughout the years of our connection with Vance, he and his biological family are like part of our family. Our relationship developed when he was a student athlete at Berea College and we were closely linked with the support system provided for the basketball players. After graduating from Berea in 1983, Vance began a long career with The Kroger Co. beginning as Human Resources Coordinator in the Louisville Distribution Center. He became a trustee of the college and has served in that capacity for a number of years. He often makes the 2-½ hour trip from his home in Louisville to his alma mater to attend board meetings and other events. In January, 1997, Vance made an early drive to Berea to speak to a college class, followed by a large meal and visiting with some faculty members. Before leaving town he stopped at the preschool where I taught to chat and exchange hugs with me, his “other mom”. As one might guess he was fatigued, but also relaxed and renewed, as he started his drive home. On the way, however, Vance fell asleep at the wheel. His car ran off the road and into a ravine. He had a brush with death. As soon as he got through the post-accident ordeal and arrived safely home, he phoned to share the fresh news with us. I was grateful he had stopped by my work earlier in the day. Even more, I was touched and moved that he wanted me and John to know immediately of the news about his personal traumatic event.
January 29, 1997
In this moment of shock and wonder I am at a loss for words. And yet, I am so touched by the events of the last 24 hours that I feel compelled to write you.
It’s certain that God is in control and that the unfolding of His work in our lives is nothing short of miraculous. But, He did not give us an unlimited amount of time. When I think of the horror that could have happened to you on the road, I realize Who‘s in control and I‘m so grateful He faithfully carried you through.
I won’t dwell on all that makes us different, because it is in the spirit of family we share what matters most. It transcends blood ties in a unique way. I feel I could talk with you about anything….and have! It’s been a joy to watch you mature and develop personally and professionally. I’m pleased that David and Steve have you as their big brother. How fortunate for Alivia and Percy to have you and Vivian for parents. Their lives are rich and full and fun because of you both. Your commitment and dedication to Berea now extends to almost disastrous lengths. I suspect you will maintain that devotion all your life. . . . . . . . . .
It’s really unnecessary to demonstrate how Vance remains part of our family for life! There are more stories than there is time to tell. To this day, he touches base using texts, emails, and phone calls. During the half time of one home basketball game (also Valentine’s Day) Vance presented me with a bouquet of flowers in front of a whole gymnasium full of people. He and his bride, Vivian, chose our church as the site for their wedding. John and I are “Grandma Becky” and “Grandpa John” to their beautiful children Alivia and Percy. And our grandchildren are linked with them like cousins. We try to participate in milestone events of each other’s lives. When our granddaughter Sarah arrived at Western Kentucky University to complete her college degree, she became linked with her “cousin“ Percy Blade who was also a student there. They became fast friends and spent many hours of their free time “hanging out together.” Sarah loved/loves to cook and Percy has a hollow leg. He often ended up at her place to sample her newest culinary creations. We all laughed when she told us there wasn’t a pot big enough to make the volume of spaghetti needed to fill Percy’s hollow leg. . . or even his tummy!
Our move to North Carolina in 2000 severely hampered our chance to have family gatherings with ANY of our children and grandchildren. But we make every effort to get together when we can, in joy or sorrow. For all that makes us different, our union in God’s love is all that matters. And in this hour of our nation and world, we pray we can find ways to pull together.