David was a self employed business man; a logger and sawmill owner. He was in his mid-fifties when he was admitted to Hospice with terminal cancer. I expected David to be rugged, strong, reserved and self-reliant, the Clint Eastwood type. Boy was I wrong, as I frequently am when I form preconceived ideas about people, mere figments of my imagination.
When I knocked on the door for my first visit David invited me in, shook my hand and introduced his self. David was about five feet eight inches tall, medium built, muscular, and was dressed in dark blue uniform type pants and a white tee-shirt. His hand shake was firm and enthusiastic. I found him to be rugged but gentle, strong but humble and giving God the credit for everything good in his life. Tears filled his eyes as he talked about his family and friends, about God’s love for him and his love for God. He was animated when sharing his vision of Heaven and how thankful he was that he would be going there.
Over the next few weeks David shared freely about many things, but one thing in particular made an indelible, sobering mark upon my conscience. One day Dave’s typically exuberant expression suddenly paled as he looked me in the eyes, as if to say, “Pay attention. I’m about to tell you something really important”. He then reflected: “Sometimes you might be working and out of nowhere the thought comes to you, ‘I wonder how old Jim is doing. I haven’t seen him for a long time. I should drive around the ridge to see him.’ But you put it off. A couple of weeks go by and again you think, ‘I wonder how Jim’s doing. I really need to stop and see him.’ But you get busy and again you put it off. A few more weeks go by and you run into Jim in town. You look each other in the eye and you both feel that something’s come between you and it’s not anything either of you did, it’s what you didn’t do.”
While driving between hospice home visits one day, I tuned-in to a local Christian radio station that was airing a weekly broadcast by Dr. David Jeremiah. It was the first of a two part series on procrastination. Dr. Jeremiah quoted a poem by Charles Town; which took me back to those wonderful conversations with David a few years earlier. As you read and reflect on the poem you’ll understand why: “Around the corner I have a friend, in this great city that has no end. Yet days go by and weeks rush on, and before I know it a year is gone. And I never see my old friend’s face, for life is a swift and terrible race. He knows I like him just as well as in the days when I rang his bell, and he rang mine. We were younger then. And now we are busy and tired men; tired with playing a foolish game; tired with trying to make a name. Tomorrow, I say, I’ll call on Jim, just to show him that I’m thinking of him. Tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes, and the distance between us grows and grows. Around the corner yet miles away, here’s a telegram, ‘Jim died today’. And that’s what we get and deserve in the end, around the corner a vanished friend.”
David’s been gone for a few years now, but as an old friend once said to me about his deceased son, “The music’s ended but the melody lingers on.” David’s melody still lingers on too. Do you hear it?
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.