On February 2, 2014 I received a Facebook message at 6:24 pm, just as I finished dinner. This message moved me more than any I've received over the years. It was a note from Ashley Shepherd from Minooka, IL:
"Machinery Pete, I wanted to share this special picture with you (see below). This is my husband Bryan Shepherd on his dad's newly restored Oliver Super 99. Bryan is 29 years old and currently undergoing chemotherapy in has battle to fight Acute Myeloid Leukemia at the University of Chicago Medicine. He was diagnosed December 6th (2013). We missed our holidays at home due to a month long stay in the hospital."
"We are also expecting our first child April 26th. This tractor (dad's restored Oliver Super 99) means a lot to him and wanted to pass a picture along to you."
"We have used the theme "Restoration Bryan" for our upcoming fundraiser that will be held. It fits him perfectly."
Two weeks later I was speaking in Louisville at the 2014 National Farm Machinery Show. To a room full of folks I showed a picture on the big screen of Bryan Shepherd on his dad's restored Oliver Super 99. I relayed the Shepherd's story and how Bryan's young wife Ashley had reached out. I tried to mention the Shepherd's had their first child on the way, due in April. I choked up...had to wait a moment. Thoughts of our own two daughters made it hard to talk. I asked the audience, if they were of the mind, to say a prayer for the Shepherd family.
In March of 2014 Bryan landed in ICU due to complications from his treatment. He was put into a medically induced coma and had five organs fail. But project "Restoration Bryan" took hold. On April 20, 2014 Bryan and Ashley welcomed son Lane Charles Shepherd to the world. On his first birthday Ashley sent me this pic:
Lane's great, great grandfather was a Farmall man. More on this in a bit.
Ashley sent me another Facebook message tonight with the happy news they've welcomed a second son, little Reed, to their family this year. A few pics:
"Life is full of miracles," said Ashley. "Our family is truly blessed."
This has been a tough week in the news. The bombing in Manchester, England...all those young lives, their parents waiting to pick them up. Destruction driven by a kind of hate that is hard to fathom.
So forgive me for tearing up at the sight of the pics Ashley sent of their growing young family in Minooka, IL. You're right Ashley...life is indeed full of miracles. Continued prayers to the Shepherd family for Bryan's on-going recovery and restoration. One last pic of the Shepherd men to leave you with...on Bryan's great grandfather's Farmall H:
Every day is a gift and a blessing.