Mysterious Ways: A Precious Moment Preserved

A widow is comforted by a reminder of her departed husband.

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Marie Olson's late husband, Butch, with a grandchild

Our church’s annual campout at Fisherman’s Bend, on the Santiam River in Oregon, was a cherished family tradition. My husband, Butch, and I had first taken our son, John, and daughters, Christy and Jan, there 20 years ago, and we’d returned every summer since.

We loved our time in nature, hiking and fishing, settling in around a campfire to roast marshmallows and share in fellowship, especially as our family grew to include the kids’ spouses and six of our 15 grandchildren.


This summer, though, Christy and Jan had to convince me to come. Five months earlier, we’d lost Butch to cancer. It just didn’t feel much like a family tradition without him.

In fact, nothing felt right without him, as if that love and contentment I’d known every day of our marriage had somehow died with him.

My son-in-law Isaac folded out our tent trailer and I felt sadness swell inside me. Butch was famous for his wheeling and dealing, and last year, he’d gotten us that trailer for a song. “This will be so great for the campout!” he’d said.

That last trip, Butch and I snuck away for a day to Mill City. We did a little shopping, poked through yard sales and met up with some friends for lunch, then headed back to the campground as darkness fell.

Sitting by the campfire, I watched Butch cradle our newborn granddaughter, Tatiana, in his arms. A picture-perfect moment.

Lord, will I ever feel that contentment again? That love? Please show me how to go on without Butch.

I unloaded my things from my car as the men set up our outdoor kitchen. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Christy bend over to pick up something off the ground. “Did anyone drop this?” she asked, holding up what appeared to be a postcard.

Jan took a look. She swore she hadn’t brought whatever it was. Then Christy called, “Mom, you’ve got to see this.”

I put down my things and walked over. What was the big deal?

Christy handed it to me. It wasn’t a postcard. It was a photograph.

Butch, holding a grandchild in his loving arms. Taken in this exact spot on our last camping trip.

Put there, somehow, as an answer to prayer—a reminder that love never dies.

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