This is the third and final part of a series about Larry, who was forty years old when he enrolled in hospice with end-stage cirrhosis of the liver. In part one, “The House of the Rising Sun”, Larry shared, “I started drinking when I was fourteen. I was a shy person, but when I drank I came out of it. It was ‘liquid courage’…I just want to tell others not to go down the same road I went down. Be your own person; but make wise decisions. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not just to fit in.” In part two “A Broken and Contrite Spirit”, we explored the difference between “the sorrow of the world” and “Godly sorrow”, which “…produces repentance leading to salvation,” (2 Corinthians 7:10).
Now, for the rest of the story; Larry reflected, “I was the black sheep of the family. I even had a T-shirt and a hat made up with ‘The Black Sheep’ printed on them.” Larry’s mother, Debbie, testified, “He was the black sheep because he was the one who would tell the rest of the family what he thought.” Debbie added, “And Larry was an agitator. He and his grandpa were really close and Larry loved my father and they liked watching wrestling on TV together. Larry would tell him it was fake, just to get him all riled up. And his grandpa was a preacher so Larry would say things he knew weren’t true about the Bible to get dad all worked up, and dad did.”
As Larry’s cirrhosis advanced he needed progressively more care. I was so impressed by Debbie’s tender loving care of her son. But I guess that even at age forty, a son is still a mother’s “little boy”, and a daughter, still her father’s “little girl”. When Larry started having difficulty swallowing Debbie crushed his medications and coaxed him to take it. Larry described it more like being petered to take it. “When I take my medications mom tells me ‘Good boy!’ like I’m a beagle.” I told Larry, “That’s just the way it is when someone cares about you when you are sick.” I shared that when I told my sweet, soft-spoken, frail mother-in-law, who was living with me and wife Susie at the time, what she “needed” to do, she told me in no uncertain terms, “Don’t be making any goals for my life.” I invited Larry to use my mother-in-law’s line on his mom the next time she tells him what he needs to do, but Larry merely nodded and grinned. I guess, “discretion is the better part of valor.”
Larry confided, “It’s good to have someone to talk to about things that I don’t even want to talk to mom about.” He continued, “I haven’t told anybody about it yet, but I just feel like God is telling me to just trust Him; that everything is going to be alright. I’m afraid to tell anybody, because I don’t want them to think I’m crazy.” I assured Larry that he wasn’t “crazy”; that God frequently speaks to us in a “still small voice,” (I Kings 19:12).
A couple of weeks after Larry departed this earth, I visited Debbie, to deliver several Xeroxed copies of part one of this series. Debbie told me, “A couple of days before Larry died he had a dream about his grandpa; that his grandpa came to him and told him, ‘Don’t worry Larry, everything is going to be alright. Me and Star (Larry’s deceased sister), are coming for you soon.’ Two days later Larry died.”
Larry’s dream about his grandpa reminds me of what Jesus told his disciples before He was crucified. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)
In times of changing weather, when clouds move in and the thunder rolls, when waves of uncertainty and fear break over us, sometimes nothing but His “still small voice” can calm the storms. Larry’s cousin, Tina, commented, “I was honored to take him to church with my momma. I’ll never forget when he got in the car after church he said, ‘I feel so light, like all the weight has been lifted and I want to shout it from the rooftops that I love Jesus!’” God enabled Larry to praise him in the midst of the storm.
“I’ll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands, for You are who you are, no matter where I am. And every tear I cry You hold in Your hands. You never left my side, and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm…I lift my eyes unto the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth…,” (“Praise You in this Storm”, Casting Crowns).
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.