One of my most enjoyable tasks as assistant editor of The Message is meeting new people throughout the Diocese of Evansville. Each week brings with it the opportunity to sit and listen as people tell their stories. Young or old, it never fails to amaze me how quickly two strangers can find common ground and become friends.
After each interview, inevitably I face a predicament: how do I discern what material to include within the few hundred words allocated to the space assigned? The dilemma is real, as I want each reader to know what I know about the subject. But unavoidably, some of the stories that stick with me the most will wind up on the editing floor.
This past week I had the opportunity to sit and speak with Ted Arview, who was preparing to join his fellow veterans on the Honor Flight from Evansville to Washington D.C. Over the course of an hour, he told me of his life from the age of 17 to now, working and building a family he is ferociously proud of, including his wife, Shirley, his son, Bob, and daughters Roxann Richardson, Becky Clayton and Renee Werner. His love for his children and grandchildren is apparent.
“They’re just precious,” he said time and time again.
He recalled a dream he had just had the night before. He was being bullied by several high schoolers when his son-in-law, Don Werner, swept in to protect him. He surmised that the dream represented his faith in Don and that his son-in-law would take good care of him on the upcoming journey. “He’s a very, very good man, and I’m very pleased that Renee married him.”
Arview, in the course of giving an autobiography of his time spent in Southern Illinois, spoke of his great love of working with his hands. A wood crafter by hobby, Arview has created many pieces of furniture, not the least of which includes rocking horses for each of his grandchildren. Arview opened a storefront after retiring from teaching where he refinished, sold and designed guitars.
He recalled proudly how many guitars he had donated to raise money for cancer. His daughter, Renee, Administrative Assistant to the Diocesan Administrator for the Diocese of Evansville, smiled proudly and further explained their family’s connection to the cause.
Arview’s daughter, Roxann, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma more than 20 years ago. A few years later, his wife, Sue, was diagnosed with the same form of cancer. He watched both of these beloved women battle cancer and win their fights, but they were painful battles to witness.
His staff of workers at his store joined in to help to raise funds for cancer research. Arview grinned when told me the name they had given to their group: “Ted’s Angels.”
As I listened to his story, a smile grew on my face. I couldn’t help but connect the title to one of my own. You see, three of us in the communications office had our own self-appointed title when Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was serving as the fifth bishop of Evansville. We called ourselves “Charlie’s Angels.” (That had to be adjusted to “Charlie’s Archangels” after a certain announcement in July.)
Towards the end of our time together, Arview gave me a glimpse of how strong his faith in God has been over good times and bad. He recalled a time when he was in great pain, and he prayed for God to take him to heaven. He prayed day after day, but the pain continued. “I said,‘God, if you’re not going to take me, at least take this pain away.’ and I woke up, and he did. The pain was gone. I knew it wasn’t my time. God answers prayers.”
I could go on and on with more interesting tales from our meeting, but again, I must decide what to share and what to edit out. Each week it’s a battle, but ultimately I get to a point of contentment and know it’s a sign to stop.
Ultimately, I am just winging it. That’s what angels do.