We are approaching the ten year year anniversary of one of the saddest days of my life. At 10 PM on July 31, 2007, I received a phone call from a young lady named Laura. She had recently begun working in Mom and Dad's home outside St. Louis as a health care provider. Dad had resisted getting help as he tried to deal with our mother, who had Alzheimer's, by himself. He had neglected his own health and the onset of a back infection made the decision for us. I had talked to him several hours before on our nightly call. Dad told me he had cooked Eggplant Parmesan, one of his favorites, for supper that night. Sometimes he put mom on just so she could hear my voice but I'm not sure if he did that evening. I was preparing the devotional I would give at 8 AM as we began teacher inservice the next morning when the phone rang. Laura had been going down to her room for the night when she very faintly heard a voice calling, "Hello? Hello?" By the grace of God she heard Dad- he had suffered a stroke and if she had not checked, he might have died. Laura called 911 and then she called me. It was my job to call my siblings and come to grips that our lives were never going to be the same.
The next eight and a half months are a blur to me. We tried to keep a family member in St. Louis all the time which was not always possible but we were incredibly blessed by our folks' church family who helped us navigate the murky waters we had enterred. Dad shuttled back and forth between St. Luke's Hospital and several rehab nursing homes. We celebrated Thanksgiving in one of those facilities as we made plans for the next phases of our parents' lives. Right before Christmas, Dad got to go home and we spent it together. It was subdued but he promised the next Christmas would be a glorious one. We were able to bring Mom home for Christmas dinner on what was their 58th wedding anniversary. They never saw each other again and it broke Dad's heart. He went back into the hospital in mid-February and never left. Roger Wayne Hawley went home to be with the Lord in the wee hours of April 15, 2008. He was seventy-nine years old.
When Dad first came home from St. Luke's at Christmas, one thing he wanted us to take care of was to return his billfold and put some cash in it. It wasn't that he was going anywhere to spend it but he needed to feel like he was still a man and men need their billfold with some spending money inside. I never forgot that lesson. Dignity takes many forms and many of them disappear with the onset of serious health issues. A wallet is a simple thing which I had never really considered before. It holds a man's ID, usually his driver's license, as well as credit card/insurance information. These are things men need and Dad felt he had been robbed of those essentials to prove he still had worth. He didn't have to prove it to us or to his friends or the world but he had to have the assurance for himself. If people lose their dignity, they have lost the basis for who they are or at least for they believe themselves to be. Our dad was about the most secure person you'll ever meet- he was a righteous and Godly man- but he still walked through that valley of doubt. Imagine those who have never had the good things in life. Jesus did. His message, while never excluding anyone, reverberated with those whose whole lives mirrored the last two hundred fifty days Dad walked this earth, in a walker. Those who were crippled physically/emotionally/socially/financially/spiritually were drawn to the Savior. Some came for healing or for food or teaching or maybe just for some kindness. The Gospels often used the term lost instead of sinners to describe those adrift in this world. I like the terminology. Lost things, like billfolds, can be often restored to the rightful owner. And sometimes, so can the dignity of one of those fellow human beings whose paths we cross and whose souls have value.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Most men, no matter how well or badly dressed, carry overstuffed, beat up wallets that should have been replaced years ago. Why is that? Every time I see a guy take out a wallet anywhere, it looks like a piece of old melted chocolate cake-with strings."
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