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Cover 25


CURRENT ISSUE: april-may 2009


EveryOne:Reaching Farther Together







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Eric K. Thomsen

superman has cancer



Eric Thomsen is the managing editor of ONE Magazine. Send comments and observations about ONE to


Superman has cancer.

Not the muscle-bound hero in blue tights made famous in comic books—the real superman. Although born in the same decade, he bears little resemblance to the Man of Steel. He can’t fly, has never leaped a tall building, and doesn’t like to talk on the phone, much less change his clothes in a public phone booth (not that you can find one these days). Yet his feats are just as amazing in their own way.

The real superman taught me to read (at age two), to hit a baseball into the outfield, to climb trees with sturdy branches, and the proper way to flip a lure into the dark, swirling eddies along the edges of a riverbank. He walked with me along craggy mountain paths in Upper Yellowstone and pulled me choking and spluttering from the crashing waves of the icy Pacific.

He taught me to make a fire beside the rushing Rogue River rapids and read an old western aloud as we sat together on a ridge overlooking the Wind River Mountains in southern Wyoming. He demanded that I respect women and showed me how to live within my means, even when it wasn’t easy.

He forged my character through a thousand boyhood adventures, and it wasn’t until I became a father myself that I realized how hard Dad worked to teach me the lessons of life and love.

However, it was the lessons he didn’t teach me that affected me most deeply—the early mornings when he sat bleary-eyed at the kitchen table poring over the worn pages of the Book I came to know as the source of his power; the hundreds of letters he penned to a young inmate struggling down the long path to recovery; his patience with struggling and sometimes apathetic congregations; his stubborn refusal to believe that anyone was beyond help. He lived these unforgettable lessons in front of me, simply because they were the right thing to do.

Now the real superman has cancer—the kind treated with something far more powerful than kryptonite. I was hiking along a deserted riverbank in Minnesota when mom called with the news. For a long, heart-rending moment, the world stood still. No sidekick likes to confront the inescapable mortality of his greatest hero. With dread in my voice, I asked, “How is he taking it?”

I could almost hear Mom shake her head. “He’s outside working in the garden.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. Faced with cancer—an uncertain future—my dad has retained his faith, his smile, his hope in things eternal.

It may be superman’s greatest accomplishment.



©2009 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists