Windshield Wipers

When my husband and I moved to the Seattle area two and a half years ago, we had both just graduated from BYU. He was on his was to a PhD at the UW. I didn’t have a job, his job didn’t start for six months, and we were living in his parents’ basement until we found a place.

Our windshield wipers had already been baked by an early Utah summer, but it was still pouring rain in Washington. Still, with no immediate promise of income, I was willing to put up with a few streaks on the windshield rather than buy new wiper blades.

But after my husband and I returned from a walk one day, my father-in-law, Jim, mentioned in passing, “I put a new pair of windshield wipers on your car for you.”

Alone, it’s a small, sweet example of the way he lived his life, noticing needs around him and quietly filling them. But you have to understand that Jim was suffering from severe back pain, so bad that he hadn’t been able to lie down for months. He had tumors the size of golf balls spreading through his body. He was in and out of chemotherapy, and suffering from neuropathy from previous bouts of chemo. And through all this, he was still working so hard to keep up with his job as a sports photographer for the Seattle Times.

And he had gone out, bought windshield wipers, and installed them for us while we were out walking.

We had six more months with him before the cancer treatments became too much. That was two years ago today.

Those windshield wipers are starting to leave streaks behind, and with holiday travels ahead of us, it’s probably time to replace them again. But I count it a blessing that this gloomy Washington weather gives me frequent opportunities to use those wipers and give quiet thanks in my heart for the selfless man who changed our wiper blades.


  1. That’s a beautiful story. I’ve treated so many people with similar problems, and I admire his strength and sweet spirit while he was suffering. it’s wonderful people like him that make the world shine with beauty when we’re surrounded by sorrow. Thank you for sharing.

  2. He sounded like a wonderful man. He left you a memory of selflessness, that has obviously stayed with you. I was with my grandfather during his last days of cancer and I often reflect on that time we were fortunate enough to have together.

  3. Emily, what a quietly beautiful tribute — much like the life of your father-in-law, I’d imagine. You captured in your post the essence of Jim, and what he meant to your family. Would that we all could be that caring and selfless! He sounds like a treasure, and I am thankful you had him in your lives, though of course saddened to hear of his passing. May you find comfort on this difficult anniversary.

    Also — I didn’t realize that you lived in Seattle! So do I. I have spent most of my adult life either in Boston or Seattle, and so I’d like to say a belated welcome to Washington. 🙂

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