Ruth enrolled in hospice services when she was ninety years old. She and her late husband, Loren, were raised in Wellston, Ohio but lived most of their adult lives in Wheelersburg.
I remember Loren as a “really nice man”, a “businessman”, who came to my grandparent’s house to collect the monthly insurance premiums. I was only around seven or eight years old at the time, but I distinctly remember my grandparents talking about “what a nice guy” Loren was; how he cared about kids, about his involvement in scouting and the Explorers program. They evidently respected Loren so much my mother named me after him. But I never saw or heard much about Loren after those early childhood days; not until I met Loren, Ruth and their daughter, Becky, at our hospice center open house some forty-six years later. What an unexpected honor and delight to finally meet and talk with the man I was named after. Little did I know that ten years later I would become Ruth’s Hospice Social Worker.
During my initial Social Work visit Ruth reminisced: “Loren and I attended the same school, but we didn’t know each other; because Loren was four years older. When he graduated he enlisted in the Navy for four years during WWII. When he came back we attended the same church and went to activities like cookouts and hiking. Loren drove a yellow convertible and had his pilot’s license. He would tip his wings when he flew over my house. On one of our dates he took me to a movie in Parkersburg and he dropped me off and said, ‘I’ll be right back’. I knew where he was going. He went to break up with another girl he was dating and came back to be with me. And he flew me to Cincinnati to buy my wedding suit.”
Ruth and Loren’s courtship reminds me of the classic Eroll Flynn and Olivia de Havilland movies (1930’s – 1950’s). Eroll Flynn was the debonair swashbuckler and Olivia de Havilland his leading lady. Ruth was clearly Loren’s leading lady. Becky testified, “Mom shared with me that they often fell asleep holding hands. And since dad’s passing three years ago, mom won’t go to sleep unless dad’s robe is laying over her.”
Ruth shared about recently attending the funeral of a sister-in-law in Wellston. Little did Ruth know that she would be approached by an old high school classmate’s nephew. His aunt lived in Florida and had dispatched him to ‘ask around’ to see if Ruth was at the funeral, and if so, to get Ruth’s telephone number for her. Ruth stated, “He found me, and my old classmate and I have been talking on the telephone ever since.”
Ruth’s reconnection with her old classmate launched us into a discussion about how little we really know about what’s around the next bend, or what God may have in store for us. We talked about how, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9) Little did I know, that I would meet Ruth, Loren and Becky, at the open house that day; or that Becky would end up calling me several times to help find private duty caregivers for Loren; or that I would facilitate Loren’s admission to hospice, or that I would now be privileged to be Ruth’s hospice Social Worker. Then Ruth smiled and concluded, “Life is a wonder!”
Life is a “wonder” isn’t it! And seeing how little we really know (See Ecclesiastes 11:5-6), I ask you, “How should we live and approach each new day?” Over the past several months, for some unexplained reason, I’ve been waking up wondering, “God, I wonder what you have in store for me today. I wonder who you will bring my way…” Words can’t capture the sense of adventure and anticipation it’s ignited in me. Instead of being preconceived and attacking the day, I approach the day with my eyes wide-open. I look for and expect God to show up, in one form or another, at any moment. And I find myself feeling strangely more present and alive.
Jaq, a beloved and departed hospice volunteer, once left a yellow “Post-It-note’ on my desk with the following quote handwritten on it: “I used to continually complain about the interruptions in my life until I realized that the interruptions are my life.” When I approach the day with a sense of wonder I find that I don’t complain as much about the interruptions in my life either. I hope and pray that I don’t lose this newfound sense of wonder; and I hope you don’t either.
“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder, you get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger. May you never take one single breath for granted, God forbid love ever leave you empty handed. I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean, whenever one door closes I hope one more opens…I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance, you never settle for the path of least resistance…give the heavens above more than just a passing glance, and when you get the choice to set it out or dance, I hope you dance.” (“I hope you dance” by Lee Ann Womack)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525