This is part three of a series about Patrick who enrolled in hospice at age fifty-five with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Patrick is wheelchair bound and has lived in assisted living facilities since age forty. In part one, “Open your eyes; you’re not looking at me”, we considered how people want to be seen not only as patients, but as persons. In part two, “All for one; and one for all”, we considered how we are “individually members of one another”. (Romans 12:3-8).
Patrick has “good days” and “bad days”; and on one of his bad days Patrick admitted, “Between me and you I don’t feel like I have long, not over a year or so.” I asked, “Do you still get any pleasure out of life? And Patrick replied, “There’s nothing to get pleasure out of.” I noticed that his TV was on, so I asked, “Are there any particular shows that you enjoy watching?” He replied, “I really like ‘Cops’. Not the dramas, but the real cop shows; real life stories.”
I admitted, “I wish I could do more for you”, and I asked Patrick if there was anything he needed or would like. He replied, “I can’t think of anything”, but after a second or two he stated, “I sure would like to have some Three Musketeers bars. I love them and I haven’t had any for years.” The following week I brought Patrick a bag and he exclaimed, “I can’t believe you did that for me!” I asked Patrick if there were any foods that he especially enjoys. Again, he thought for moment and then replied, “I’d love a Big Mac!” When I questioned his ability to eat a whole one he declared, “You just bring it to me and I’ll show you!” Well, I did; and Patrick gobbled it down, one-handed, in two minutes flat, and said, “See, I told you I could!” Then he wiped his face with a napkin and said, “That was wonderful! Thank you!” Patrick and I talked about the value and importance of life’s simple pleasures that day; therefore I offered to bring Patrick a bag of Three Musketeer bars and a Big Mac every Wednesday. I suggested, “That’s the least I can do.”
I faithfully brought Patrick his Three Musketeers bars and Big Mac; except for that one fatal Wednesday that will forever “Live in infamy”. I was already on the west side of the county, near Patrick’s; and I said to myself; “Shoot, I’ll have to backtrack to town for Patrick’s Big Mac! That’s at least a forty-five minute drive.” I thought, “I have Patrick’s Three Musketeers bars. Maybe I’ll take him the Three Musketeers this week and a Big Mac next week. He’ll understand. He probably won’t even care that much. After all, it’s not that big of a deal.” I should have known better!
Even the other residents knew what Wednesdays meant. When I entered the building that day, Penny asked, “Did you bring Patrick his Big Mac? He’s been looking forward to it all day.” Immediately I thought, “I should have known better!” Patrick wasn’t in the dining room as usual. He was in his room sitting in the dark. He admitted, “I’m in a terrible mood. I hurt all over and I really don’t care if I wake up tomorrow or not. I don’t know why I’m here.”
Boy, did I dread telling Patrick that I didn’t bring his Big Mac! When I explained my rationale Patrick responded, “I didn’t order lunch today. I told everyone that you were bringing me a Big Mac. I hope they don’t think that I’m a liar now.” I told Patrick, “You’re not the liar; I am”. I told him, “I’ll be right back. I’m going back to town to get you a Big Mac.” Patrick insisted, “No, don’t do that! I feel guilty making you drive all the way back to town.” I told Patrick, “You aren’t the guilty one; I am.”
On my way back with Patrick’s Big Mac, I thought, “How could I have been so blind? After all, I’m a Social Worker! I should have known better! I thought about how, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12); and about the words of Jesus; “…let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no.’” (Matthew 5:37). And I realized that sometimes a Big Mac is more than just a Big Mac; that un-kept promises and commitments may be forgiven, but they also leave lasting impressions. When I returned with Patrick’s Big Mac, I suggested, “I think I know of at least one reason why you’re still here; God is using you to each me a thing or two.”
“Whoever falsely boasts about giving is like clouds and wind without rain.” (Proverbs 25: 14)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at [email protected] or at 740-356-2525