Doug is sixty-seven years old and was admitted to hospice for congestive heart failure. He’s an interesting fellow; probably because he’s interested. He’s interested in world events; he keeps up on the news and is politically opinionated. He asks probing challenging questions. Last week we talked about the conflict in the Middle East and Doug asked if I thought it was a sign of the “end times”. He even asked me if I was afraid to die. I thought I was supposed to ask that question. He initiated a discussion about the Holy Trinity. He questioned how the Father, Son and Holy Ghost could be one in the same. He asked why the Catholic Church always ends their prayers with, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”, while protestant churches typically don’t. He said, “You should write a column about that. It would cause people to think.” I told Doug, “I’m sorry but if I write a story about you it isn’t going to be anything that profound. I’d have to write about the green cats.”
Before getting to the green cats, I have to share an anecdote that dispels a common misconception; that enrollment in hospice means nothing but serious discussions about death and dying. Our hospice team knows that Doug has a crush on Dolly Parton. He jokingly asked if I could get Dolly Parton to visit him. I told him I’d see what I could do. The following week, Doug’s nurse, Cindy, showed up in a Dolly Parton costume. Doug loved it! Boy I wish I’d been there with my camera. I’ll never be able to look at Cindy the same again.
Now for the green cats, in Doug’s words: “We were just kids, around five or six. I don’t know where we got the idea. I think we were just tired of playing cowboys and Indians, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. So my friend Jerry and I decided to capture all the cats in the neighborhood. We caught every cat we could find. It didn’t make any difference whether the cat belonged to the chief of police or was a stray. We had about three burlap sacks full of cats. We took the cats to my friend’s garage and we painted all the cats green with a paint brush and we turned them loose on New Boston. We had a lot of people mad at us. They wanted to hang two little boys. The police tracked green paw prints back to the garage and came to both of our houses. I guess they decided they needed to teach us a lesson. When they asked me why I did it I told them, ‘He talked me into it.’ My friend Jerry told them the same thing; that way we shared the blame equally. And my mom, she taught me a lesson. I got a switch, a big switch. But I hated the grounding even more. Now you know what kind of a fellow you are dealing with.”
On a spiritual level, we aren’t much different than those two little boys are we? We think we can hide, that there are secret places. But God knows better, “Am I a God who is near…And not a God far off? Can a man hide himself in hiding places, so I do not see him…Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” (Jeremiah 23:23-24). Seeing that our actions will eventually leave a trail leading back to us, wouldn’t it be wise to live in the light of eternity?
“…be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23)
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