I had first met Steve Street many years ago when he would sporadically attend our Celebration service with his good friends the Nelsons. Steve was a well-respected professor at Winona State University where he taught Special Education to up-and-coming teachers. He was passionate about Special Education, teaching, and sharing his knowledge with others. Whenever he was in town he came to our church. Steve was quite tall, so whenever I saw his face sitting in the crowd, I smiled. He was the kind of guy, who would normally hang around afterward and wait for me with a firm compliment or affirmation of my speaking. I always felt appreciated and blessed in his presence. Once Steve retired from teaching, he became an active and permanent presence at First Lutheran and especially in our men’s group functions.
A few years back Steve took the big risk and signed on for our Pacem in Terris silent prayer retreat. On this trip were just four of us men, so we had lots of time for sharing and getting acquainted on the four-hour drive to Pacem. Steve like so many others before him was a little nervous about the retreat and being alone with only his thoughts for 48 hours. Towards the end of our drive, Steve took the even bigger risk of sharing some of the trauma from his time served in the army in Vietnam. He was a captain and had made a difficult decision that had led to him being injured and a couple of his men being killed. That day had haunted him ever since. It ruined a marriage and stole any sense of peace and contentment. It left him with a thousand sleepless nights and the heavy baggage of guilt and shame that nothing could erase.
On our return trip from Pacem, Steve shared with us the beauty of his time spent alone with God in his small hermitage. He was thrilled with his experience, and we could physically see and sense a greater sense of peace in Steve’s demeanor. God had used Steve’s “yes” to time spent alone at Pacem, to heal, to unburden and release him from some of the heavyweight that he had carried for so long.
Steve had a Jesus heart… he loved and was drawn to the lowly, the down-trodden, the overlooked, and the lonely. This showed in his passion for Special Education; both the educators he worked with and the special education students. Steve had long ago been adopted in by the Nelson family and Steve spent time weekly with their son Taylor who is a special needs young man. Steve had become Taylor’s best friend and adopted uncle and they went everywhere together. Steve loved just because. Not on merit, not achievement, not on reciprocal love. He just loved. And Taylor was most likely the biggest recipient of Steve’s Christ-like, unconditional love.
I am saddened deeply, that someone like Steve could just slowly fade away with nary a moment's recognition. A man who had sacrificed for his country. A man who has had to live with the scars and wounds and guilt and shame for doing what his country had asked of him. A man who had given so much to the world, who had loved without reserve and especially loved those whom the world overlooks. To be truthful, part of my anger and frustration is towards God who allows the ravages of Alzheimer’s to take the world's best and brightest and their final departure is nothing more than the long slow fade into oblivion.
This time of Covid has been so brutal on many who have had loved ones locked in long-term care facilities or lost a loved one to death. Grieving, funerals, and services of remembrance have been put on hold. Closure is a rare commodity now.
Well, Steve Street, you may have taken the slow fade, but you are not forgotten. We will honor you and the heroic life you lived shortly. Maybe this poor and short devo can help others who knew you or have lost a loved one of their own in this strange and difficult season. Thank you, Steve, for who you were to us all. For the way you loved others. Thanks for serving our country in that messed-up war. Thanks for loving those that we all overlook. Thanks for your strong and real faith.
Pacem In Terris is Latin for “Peace on Earth.” Steve, I know you never really experienced that peace here on earth. But… I am completely confident that you have found true peace with your Savior in heaven. Thank you, my friend.