"Hold on to Your Fork"
(by Glen Wheeler)

1-31-2001 SOW Seeds Service of the Church Within - Story #121

Greetings my Dearest Sisters and Brothers, and welcome again to Church Within's Story of the Week ["SOW Seeds]
In the mid-1980's, Glen Wheeler, a retired minister from southern Ohio, wrote a touching story about his marriage and his wife's life-long battle with heart disease called "Hold On To Your Fork." The story was published nationally by Standard Publishing of Cincinnati, Ohio, and has appeared in newspaper columns and other collections of inspirational stories.

Here is the original "Hold on to Your Fork" by Glen Wheeler, of Worthington, Ohio, as published in the Summer/Autumn 2001 issue of Ohio's Heritage magazine (reprinted with permission):

This week's SOW Seeds Story #121 , contributed by: Peri

Story of the Week
"Hold on to Your Fork"
(by Glen Wheeler)

"Recall in your mind the most delicious meal you ever enjoyed. It could have been at home, at a restaurant, or at a family get-together. It could have been at a church meeting, a cookout, or on a special occasion. But let your mind go back to that memorable time. Do you remember when, as the meal came near an end, the host or hostess would urge you to have additional meat, more vegetables or salad? Your response was, "Thank you, but I am so full, I cannot eat another bite." This dialogue would be repeated two or three times until at last, the hostess would begin removing the dinner plates from the table. As each plate was removed, she would say, "Hold on to your fork." Why would she say that when you already stated there was no room for more food?

"Because she knew what was coming. In a few moments, the hostess returned with a generous helping of your favorite dessert. Immediately forgetting your previous comments, you picked up the fork.

"And this is the way life is.

"I still remember my 1943 graduation from Lincoln High School in Vincennes, Indiana. I thought I was the greatest. About the time the tassel was moved, the message "Hold on to your fork" was whispered. And sure enough, in the fall of 1943, I enrolled at Johnson Bible College, Knoxville, Tennessee. Oh, the many emotions I had! Four hundred miles away from home, among strangers, sharing a dorm room, learning new procedures - What an experience! But finally, I again walked across the platform, received my diploma, moved the tassel, and seemed to hear "Hold on to your fork."

"And so I did. On August 31, 1948, the strains of Lohengrin's wedding march filled the sanctuary of the First Christian Church in Vincennes, Indiana. I thrilled as I watched a beautiful bride walk toward me, escorted by her father. We took each other "for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish until death parts us." Was I ever happy I had held onto my fork!

"All that we ever dreamed about having was now ours. A ministry at First Christian Church in Harriman, Tennessee, our first car, our own home, our own bank account, our first mortgage and our first credit card. But that haunting refrain came once again. "Hold on to your fork." What could be better? In a few years, here came a little boy to bless our home, then a few years later, another one.

"After eight years in Harriman, we moved to West Frankfort, Illinois, where Evelyn suffered her first heart attack and we realized that she would not enjoy a normal life span.

"We faced many questions and uncertainties but the rewards of faith are many. When we moved to Ironton, Ohio, in 1961, we had no idea of the adventure before us, nor how many times we would assure each other that the best was yet to be.

"In 1963, local doctors referred Evelyn to the Cleveland Clinic where, after a series of tests and evaluations, they performed open-heart surgery and implanted a metal heart valve. She was one of the early pioneers in this type of heart surgery. A young lady from our church took Evelyn's care as her ministry and became a member of the family. Doctors advised us that Evelyn might live three to five years, so we tried to live each day to the fullest and to make as many priceless memories as possible. At Christmas, Evelyn gave me a watch chain with a miniature heart valve and a charm that read "Stick with me, the best is yet to be."

"Three years passed. Then five years. Then ten and twelve and fifteen - far longer than the doctors had anticipated. Our children married and three granddaughters blessed us. Evelyn's ministry literally reached hundreds who sought strength, advice, and comfort from one who had walked in their shoes for so many years. Her courage and infectious laughter were ever present and practiced, as was her deep, radiant and unwavering faith.

"Then, in 1977, the fork wavered. While attending the North American Christian Convention in Cincinnati, Evelyn suffered an embolism and, in just 48 hours, lost her eyesight. The following three years were a time of great adjustment.

"The Northeast Church of Christ in Columbus extended us an invitation in the fall of 1978. In December of 1980, doctors advised that they felt that the heart valve, which had done its job for more than seventeen years, should be replaced and that an artificial aorta valve needed to be implanted.

"On March 1, 1981, Evelyn entered the hospital for surgery to be performed the following day. Early in the morning of March 5, doctors brought the news we dreaded - "We're sorry, but we did all we could." - and the fork not only slipped, it broke. After so many years, it just wasn't possible that this beautiful one was gone. The arrangements were made and services were held at the Northeast Church of Christ in Columbus. We then held services of praise, victory, thanksgiving, and love at the beautiful Central Christian Church in Ironton, where she had ministered with me for more than fifteen years. It was a tribute to her life and influence.

"Then came the pilgrimage to peaceful Woodland Cemetery. After graveside services, I reluctantly got into the family car to leave. As we drove away, I did what I have seen hundreds of other family members do: I turned slightly for one final glimpse. My eyes were filled with tears and my heart nearly bursting, yet I seemed to hear a familiar feminine voice whisper "Glen, the best is yet to be - it really is. Hold on to your fork."

- Glen Wheeler is the chaplain for Worthington Christian Village, author of four books and a 2001 inductee to the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. Adapted for print from Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio. Published with permission.

The Prayer
Dear God,        
        When I forget that You are the most important part of my life, when I forget to share each moment of my life with You, nothing seems to satisfy... getting older seems only to reduce my chances of accomplishing something. But with You in my life, even in This world, The Best is Yet to Come, Day by Day.

You ALL are Within the Infinitely Loving Embrace of our Universal

The Creator's Eternal Love to all of You,
Pastor Daniel

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