Marvin was seventy-two when he enrolled in hospice with prostate cancer. Marvin’s situation was unique. Marvin had been one of our most active hospice volunteers. He spent numerous hours with patients and families, giving to and supporting them; but now Marvin was on the receiving end of hospice.
Marvin and his wife, Jan, were civic minded. Marvin was a lay leader and teacher at his church. He and Jan owned and operated a successful real estate business for over thirty years. Marvin was a true gentleman; and it felt more like I was sitting under his instruction and being mentored, than serving him as his hospice Social Worker. For example, during my first visit, Marvin shared that he’d been reflecting on the things he loved. He handed me his notes, six pages; one page dedicated to each thing he loved the most: “I love God!”, “I love the church and God’s word!”, “I love my family!”, “I love my friends!”, “I love nature!”, and “I love the hope of Heaven!” Marvin and I talked in depth about each one; what a privilege! Page six of Marvin’s notes ended with, “When the doctor looks you straight in the eye, and makes that announcement, believe me, at that moment you need to know that you are at peace with God. See you up there!!! Please don’t disappoint me!!!”
Marvin talked with me about how much he loved and appreciated his family; “Jan has had this role of wife and mother; and she has stood by me night and day. And the role of caregiver isn’t easy. I owe Jan a great debt of love and gratitude; and our son Craig and our daughter, Donna; each one of our seven grandchildren and our seven great grandchildren; I love them each and every one.”
But the thing I remember most about Marvin isn’t anything he said or wrote, but something his wife, Jan, said about him. During one of my visits, Marvin was exhausted and sleeping soundly, so Jan and I sat at the kitchen table and talked. Jan praised Marvin’s character and his respect for others: “He never talked about anybody. He never said anything bad about anybody, not even to me. You couldn’t get him to. He wouldn’t repeat a wrong. He always saw the good in people. If anyone did anything wrong he would just say, ‘You need to give them time.’ I’ve never heard anybody say a bad word about him either. Everybody liked him.” Is there any wonder why!
Marvin’s example reminds me of a worship song we used to sing back in the early seventies: “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord…and we pray that all unity may one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love. We will work with each other; we will work side by side…and we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Marvin guarded each man’s dignity and saved each man’s pride; but to be honest, I’m feeling more than a little convicted right now.
Unfortunately, we sometimes casually and cavalierly slander and defame one another, don’t we? We talk about others faults without considering the possible consequences; the possible damage to the person’s reputation. Following are some poignant and admonishing quotes about slander; “Slanderers are like flies, that pass all over a man’s good parts to light only on his sores”; “Slugs crawl, and crawl over our cabbages, like the world’s slanderers over a good name. You may kill them, it is true, but there is the slime.” You see, slanderous words are irretrievable, especially on social media; “We cannot call back the arrow we’ve shot into the air, the water under the bridge, or the spoken word”
In light of the wounds and bruises that our words can inflict, I can see why Jesus declared, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” You know, I think Marvin actually believes that Jesus really meant what He said; and that the Word of God is actually true. Imagine that!
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32, NASB)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at [email protected] or at 740-356-2525