I followed the nurse’s directions but I wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn. I was relieved when I finally saw the campground sign at the corner of the dirt road. It was a rustic private campground with one road, a half dozen campers and a pond under construction. Larry and Wanda’s home was a tiny camper on the left. A garden hose stretched about forty feet from a water spigot to their camper to supply water. Another larger camper was on the right.
As I drove slowly up the dirt road for my first visit, I noticed a screened-in shelter house about fifteen yards off to the right. There was a crowd of people inside and it looked like there was a party going on. But I noticed that they were all standing motionless, staring at me as I drove up the road. I felt their eyes following me as I walked to Larry and Wanda’s camper; and I tried to avoid making eye contact. Man it was eerie! I felt like I was in a scene from “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
About a week later I headed up the narrow dirt road for my second visit, and to my surprise, there they were again; still standing motionless and staring at me as I got out of the car. I concluded, “If I’m going to come here every week, I’m going to have to confront these people sooner or later!” As I walked towards the shelter house I saw, to my surprise and embarrassment, that it was a crowd of manikins strategically posed, probably by the owner of the campground, to scare away would-be thieves and intruders.
It’s humbling to admit that I was stared-down by a group of manikins; not once, but twice!
Now about Larry; Larry was in his forties when he enrolled in Hospice with terminal cancer. He and his wife were struggling in every way; financially, legally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. But Larry was highly intelligent. His wife stated, “He’s so smart. He uses such big words, sometimes I don’t even know what he’s talking about.” About a month after Larry’s admission to Hospice he and his wife separated. Larry moved to a dingy, old dilapidated motel room, the type you can rent by the week or month.
Larry was alone, angry and bitter. It was one of the saddest endings I’ve witnessed in my many years in Hospice. It was evident that Larry didn’t have long to live, and he knew it; so I asked Larry, “Are you spiritually ready to face death?” He replied, “I gave God a try once! I even went to the altar; but God didn’t do what I asked him to do. Things didn’t get any better for me, so I gave it up.” I suggested he might have things turned upside down, that we have to approach God on his terms not ours; that we have to surrender to God’s will; He doesn’t surrender to ours. But Larry said he wanted no part of God.
Man, my heart went out to Larry; but I felt helpless. I believe God’s heart went out to Larry too. But God is a gentleman; He doesn’t force himself on anyone. He doesn’t barge in, He “knocks”; “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him…” (Revelations 3:20) Larry died all alone in that motel room two days later. I can only hope that sometime during his last two days he heard His voice and opened the door.
Now, consider Barbie, the sixty year old daughter of my ninety-year-old friend, Ed. Barbie is developmentally delayed; I would guess her mental age around five or six; but she has such a sincere childlike faith. Ed stated, “Anytime something good happens Barbie says, ‘Thank you Jesus’”. Ed told me about them narrowly avoiding a collision with another car and that Barbie automatically shouted, “Thank you Jesus”. So who do you think is wiser? Larry may be more intelligent, but I suggest that Barbie is the wiser.
But of course I wouldn’t expect you to trust the opinion of a man who was stared-down by a group of manikins. So I’ll leave you with some words from King Solomon, considered the wisest man on earth in his time: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10) “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2) “A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident.” (Proverbs 14:16) “Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.” (Proverbs 24:3)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at email@example.com or at 740-356-2525