Time is but a vapor — make the most of it

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Updated Feb 16, 2021

On June 19, when my last story here was published, I spoke of the lonely road, and the importance for us to find things to do in our downtime. While I touched upon home time, I did not spend a great deal of time talking about making the most of it. What none of you know is that I submitted that piece a week prior to its publish date. When it hit the wire, it was one day after my best friend and wife went home to the Lord.

The author of this story, Clifford Petersen, with his wife Nancy Petersen, in happy times during a trip together in the truck to the Washington coast.The author of this story, Clifford Petersen, with his wife Nancy Petersen, in happy times during a trip together in the truck to the Washington coast.

I have spent the better part of 23 years driving truck, 17 of those over the road. Before that, I drove in the heavy highway construction industry, spending three or four months at a time away from home. That, coupled with trucking as an owner-operator, contributed to the destruction of my first marriage. That is when I put all that I had left in storage, climbed into my truck and stayed there for nine years. While the truck was my home, fundamentally I was homeless in that all I had was a storage unit and a P.O. Box, no real place to call home.

During those years, loneliness was a constant battle and at times a real threat. I say that because it was in those years that I fought the darkest evil and most imposing thoughts, which I had never known existed. The scriptures teach us that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NKJV).

I certainly felt like I was in a fight I could not win alone, and while the darkness threatened to overpower me, it actually drove me into the arms of Jesus and to my church home and family. It was in this family I found life again. I had not realized that my time in isolation had led me to the edge — that I had effectively stopped living, only existing.

It was at this church on June 25, 2009, that I met my best friend, Nancy. A year later on June 25, 2010, we began dating. I proposed to her at the church where we met on June 25, 2011, and was blessed to marry in that same spot on June 25, 2012.

We had a rocky start, each of us bringing our own baggage from past hurts. It didn’t help that I was then a full-time on-campus student, and full-time employee, and we never seemed to have enough money. Still, through it all, we had two things that held us together: Our deep faith in God, and our belief that we choose to love.

For all our ups and downs, it was making the choice daily to love one another no matter what that saw us through. My return to the road after graduating put a strain on the relationship at times, but still our friendship and choice remained. While my wife had struggled with continuous pain, the result of a 2013 car accident with a big truck, we always made the most of our time together. Because of her pain she did not go out much when I was gone, and relied upon me to help her run errands when I was home, so she would not have to.

Through my psychology training, part of which is participating in counseling, and her taking my advice for personal counseling, we each began to grow and put our hurts behind us, making us stronger together and in our faith. I cherish the time we had together, and though I wish she was still here with me I am thankful she has gone home to the Lord and is no longer in pain.

We laid my wife to rest on June 25, 2020, at the church where our story started, on what would have been our eighth anniversary, surrounded by family both blood and church, with the pastor who married us helping us say goodbye and grieve our loss.

When I got the news she had passed, I was in Pennsylvania, and my company (Christenson Transportation) went above and beyond to get me back to Missouri the next day. So for the last two weeks I have been putting our affairs in order, getting my house ready for my extended absences, and packing away our memories — it’s a task I wish on no one. It’s been an extended lesson in just how much she did for us, running our home and taking care of business, while I concentrated on the business of trucking. I am ashamed to say I took her for granted.

So, to all my fellow drivers, remember it is very easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day trucking life and fail to show our gratitude to those that matter. Life is but a vapor — we are only here for a little while, and then we are not. Take full advantage of the time you have at home with those you love. Never fail to express that love, for it is a choice we make, and one that never fails when we make it.

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