Allow me to introduce you to Barb who was sixty-eight years old when she enrolled in our outpatient hospice program with chronic airway obstruction. Barb is homebound and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around in her home. She may be down but she’s not out. She hasn’t given up. She cooks and cleans from her wheelchair and clings to what abilities remain.
Barb and I, and sometimes her daughter Angie, periodically convene around the kitchen table for coffee and conversation. One day while reminiscing about “the good ole days”, Angie shared, “When mom was younger she was really hot. The guys were really after mom.” Barb looked me straight in the eye and suggested, “You probably don’t believe that, do you? All you probably see is an old woman in a wheelchair, but I didn’t always look like this!”
It’s true, Barb, wasn’t always confined to a motorized wheelchair. Barb was one of seventeen children, born to an oil rig worker, a “tool dresser”. She was born in the state of Delaware, but her parents moved back to their hometown of McDermott, Ohio when Barb was six months old. Her father’s work required frequent temporary moves and Barb lost count at five moves. I asked Barb if it was difficult for her as a child to change schools and she replied. “Not really. I really loved school. I was good at school. I was always advanced so I was the teacher’s pet. When I was in first grade I went to school in a one-room schoolhouse where all the grades were in the same room. I was only in the first grade but I helped teach the third graders math.”
Barb enrolled in college at age thirty and earned a degree in business administration with a minor in psychology. Afterward, she took numerous civil service exams, passing all of them, and landing a job with the state examiners office, auditing political subdivisions for ten years. She also taught part-time at a local business college, but Barb’s proudest achievement was her box of awards she earned as a 4-H and Girl Scout leader. Barb sifted through the box, pulled out one patch, one medal, one certificate at a time and relived and enjoyed each memory.
Barb concluded, “It’s not a fault; It’s human nature to see people as they are right now. Some people can’t see with their mind’s eye. When you use your mind’s eye you see beyond the here and now; you imagine. Have you ever seen those TV shows about the pyramids and ancient ruins? Can’t you imagine what they looked like years ago? Can’t you imagine them surrounded by palm trees? Can’t you imagine how beautiful they must have been?”
I told Barb, “I’ll tell you what I see when I look at you. I see a very intelligent person; someone who is very discerning. I see a person who studies people, who is able to read people and who sees through pretenses. I see someone who has something to teach others.” Barb replied, “Maybe someone can learn something from this and a life will be changed.”
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,”(I Samuel 16:6-8).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center-Hospice, and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s new book, “Straight Paths,” online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.