Adele tipped the scales at less than 70 lbs soaking wet when I answered her first phone call on Nov. 23, 2007. Adele’s nutritionist in New York referred her to us as she struggled mightily to find adequate nutrition for her degrading body. That dank November day, Adele and I enjoyed a long, first conversation about life, her circumstances, and what would suit her needs best. We discussed several ideas of how to get her body the nutrition it so desperately needed and ultimately decided to make her a special patty made from our tender bison steak pieces, making it easy to chew while getting rich flavor and whole-muscle nutrition. We had a plan. We shipped Adele’s first box overnight because time was not on her side. Adele received her bison “ribeye burgers” (as she always called them), cooked and ate one almost immediately. Sweet Adele was a frail lady that lacked in physical strength but not strength of humility and gratitude. Overjoyed, she picked up the phone and was gushing with gratitude when I answered. The clean, nutritionally-dense fuel for her body gave her new hope and energized her feeble bones once again.
Over the next 11 years, Adele continued to restock with more of her beloved, custom made, “ribeye burgers”. About a year and a half ago, the phone rang and it was Adele, it was about that time again. However, she barely had enough energy to carry a conversation. She had become too weak to cook and had all but quit eating. Her diet was very restrictive and she was literally starving to death. Though I knew it posed a great liability risk, I couldn’t live to sit idle so I decided to take home the Bison Steak Patties we'd made to cook them for her that night. I gladly pan fried them, sealed them in ziplock baggies, and shipped them off on ice to her the next day. Over the years, as a token of gratitude, I would occasionally receive an unexpected package in the mail with a thoughtful, handwritten note of heart-felt appreciation from Adele. My labor of love was beginning to bless me more than it was her, I thought.
Rather than another restock order, I just received the sorrowful news that sweet Adele has passed on to be with the Lord. Now, typing with my heart in my throat, looking through blurred, watery eyes, I can’t help but feel a bittersweet sensation. Adele is no longer suffering and I've been blessed by the opportunity to have known her and serve her in such a small way but she will be missed. Adele’s green tea hand cream sits here next to my computer and each time I dish out a small dollop to sooth the cracks in my hands, I'll be reminded of Sweet Adele.
Thank you, Adele, for loving much and modeling such grace and gratitude in the midst of your most difficult season of life. Though, I never got to meet you face to face, through our long conversations, I know I will someday in heaven in your new body.
You don’t know how much you’ve enriched my life.
Nourished and Grateful,
When I heard the news of Adele's passing, I was impacted in a strange way. I felt this story was powerful as I feel it challenges our natural human tendencies in so many ways so I asked Mom if we could write it down to share with you all. (Mom doesn't typically document these stories because it's just what she does, nothing special.)
I was well aware of the story of Adele, in fact, I often answered her phone calls and packed up her orders to ship over the years. The lengths Mom went to ensure Adele, this person she'd never know, would live as vibrantly as possible, is remarkable. Over the years, Mom's humble, servant heart has permeated our culture and impacted how we view every customer relationship... as an opportunity.
Though, admittedly, I would often question Mom in doing what she often does for people. My logical reaction was often, “This doesn't look very good on a spreadsheet.” Mom would often even work out an interest-free payment plan so Adele could afford another $100 restock order. The amount of time and energy spent for one customer wasn't scalable or a “wise (dollars and cents) use of time”. Though, as it turned out toward the end, Mom’s deep compassion rejuvenated Adele and added a quality year and a half onto her life.
What I've learned over the years of watching Mom love, serve, pray for and interact with customers is that people don't belong in a spreadsheet, they belong in a relationship. Mom eagerly leaps for the phone when it rings because she knows there's always someone on the other end she can help, and one can’t help but also want to model that kind of servant-hearted enthusiasm. Adele was also so grateful, even though, by most standards, she didn't have many reasons to be. Regardless, she would scrape up the energy to pen out a letter, find a small, kind, thoughtful gift to send with and put it in the mail.
Over the course of that first year, Adele put on over 20 lbs, found a true friend, and began the journey of enjoying life again over the next 11 years. And, ironically, Adele's Bison Steak Patties are now one of our most popular products. Adele had good taste and Mom desires to do anything for anyone.
Be vulnerable and willing to serve, always.
It is a wonderful way to live.
Live well this week,
Sean and the Northstar Tribe