By Loren Hardin –
This is the last of a five-part series about my friends and fellow pilgrims, Tom and Faye. Tom is enrolled in our hospice program with advanced Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). He is a retired minister and he and his wife, Faye, were partners in ministry in Wisconsin.
After retiring to Scioto County, they dreamed about converting their home into a bed and breakfast, but illness has a way of foiling our best laid plans. Tom is literally imprisoned in his body now. His mind is sharp but he can barely move a muscle. Tom lamented, “I have so much to say but so little time to say it.”
Even though I’ve only known Tom for a few months I consider him a spiritual mentor. He’s taught me about humility that, “In order to be humble we have to see who God is and who we are.” He’s taught me that patience is perseverance under trials, believing in and caring enough about something or someone to wait for the reward, “even an eternity for some things”. (Hebrews 11:13)
He’s taught me about integrity, the courage to lean into the wind, about not being a parrot just dutifully repeating what it’s been taught to say. I’m convinced that when Tom sees Jesus face-to-face he will hear, “Well done good and faithful servant”, not because he’s perfect, but because he’s a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14)
Faye made a statement that I instantly knew I had to pass on. My visit with Tom and Faye was my last stop for the day. My day started out on a sad and disturbing note. I’d spent time with a married couple in crisis. On the outside the house appeared perfect. The lawn was well manicured and beautifully landscaped, the interior exquisitely decorated, a place for everything and everything in its place, a reflection of responsibility and discipline. But a cold mist seemed to have settled upon their marriage. Warmth, intimacy, and affection were nowhere to be found. The wife confessed that she had never felt truly accepted and understood by her husband. She felt dominated and controlled. Instead of understanding or apologizing, her husband fiercely defended himself, “But haven’t I done everything for you?” It seemed they’d lived their entire marriage together all alone.
As I pulled up to Tom and Faye’s home, I thought about how their marriage n with the couple I’d visited earlier that day. Tom and Faye’s home was in need of repair and Faye had declared on numerous occasions, “One of these days I’m going to get this house organized!” But she puts first things first, Tom being the first. I reflected on the many times I’d listened to Faye as she stood by Tom’s bed, holding his hand, talking about what a wonderful life they’ve had together, an adventure, a partnership.
Being careful to protect the first couple’s anonymity, I shared their tragic state with Tom and Faye. I shared how the husband fiercely defended himself by telling his wife of all the things he had done for her. Then Faye interjected, “That’s where he went wrong. It’s not what you do for somebody that counts, it’s how you make them feel.” I asked Faye how Tom made her feel and she replied, “Like there was no one else in the world he would rather be with. Even if he was going to the hardware store he would ask me to go with him. I would drop whatever I was doing and go. We didn’t always like the same thing. He loved sports, but I didn’t. But I didn’t say, ‘Why are you watching another ballgame?’ I would sit in the room with him, doing something else, while he watched the ballgame.”
Faye’s right isn’t she? It’s not what we do for others that matters most, its how we make them feel. The contrast between Faye and Tom’s relationship and the couple I‘d encountered earlier the same day, reminds me of the lyrics of a song by Big Tent Revival, titled “Two Sets of Joneses”:
This here’s a song about two sets of Joneses:
Rothchild – Evelyn, Reuben and Sue
Just for discussion, through random selection
We’ve chosen two couples who haven’t a clue
Rothchild was lucky to marry so wealthy
Evelyn bought him a house on the beach
Reuben and Sue had nothing but Jesus
And each night they would pray that He’d care for them each
And the rain came down
It blew the four walls down
And the clouds, they rolled away
One set of Joneses was standing that day
Evelyn’s daddy was proud of young Rothchild
He worked the late hours to be number one
But just newlyweds and their marriage got rocky
He’s flying to Dallas, She’s having a son
Reuben was holding a Gideon’s Bible
He screamed, “It’s a boy!” so that everyone heard
The guys at the factory took a collection
Again, God provided for bills they’d incurred
So, what is the point of this story
What am I trying to say
Is your life based on the rock of Christ Jesus
Or a sandy foundation you’ve managed to lay
Needless to say, Evelyn left her husband
And sued him for every penny he had
I truly wish those two would find Jesus
Before things get worse than they already have.
Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at (740) 357-6091 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order Loren’s book, Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.