"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Death of an old friend


My nursing home friend, Elmer, died today.

He was, by his own admission, a handful as a youngster.  He went off and joined the Army during WWII, served in the European theater and then came home.  He had dropped out of school and never acquired much formal education.
 He held various odd jobs and then, in his 40s,  he began to attend this small Pentecostal Church after marrying his second wife.  He was a faithful member there and one Wednesday evening, the pastor asked him to give the message.  Elmer thought this was a crazy idea but when the pastor asks you to do something, you do it.  So he gave the message and the pastor told him he wanted him to preach more.  So Elmer did. 
In the course of time Elmer became the pastor/preacher of that little Pentecostal Church in a run-down community of some antiquity.

By this time, Elmer was working at the Naval base and making a decent salary based upon his standards.  He ended up pastoring that little Pentecostal church for 14 years and never received a dime for his ministry.  He took his own money and fixed things up; repaired and ministered.  From what Elmer said, I don’t think it ever exceeded 50 people but Elmer didn’t seem to worry about things like that.  He was just amazed that God took someone like him and called him to pastor.

I met Elmer when he was about 80, his wife had died, his health was breaking down and he decided to enter a nursing home.  And so began his last journey.  He was classically the “old codger” and would both tease and joke with the staff.  He liked to call the staff psychologist the “nut doctor.”  The psychologist seemed to take it in stride.

Elmer had never fathered any children and his only relatives were just a sister and niece and they were out of state.  So visitors were few and far between.  The staff at the nursing home ultimately became his family for the last decade of his life.  They treated him well and on the last day of his life, a lot of women entered his room to check on him and make sure he did not die alone.

He had a TV,  it was always on but he didn’t really watch it.  He colored and did crossword type activities.  He built relationships with the staff but not much with the residents.  He always had his Bible open to be read.

Over the years, C.O.P.D. ( chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) became a bigger problem but somehow he held on.  Then earlier this year it got pretty bad and he was sent to the cardiac ward at the downtown hospital where he resided for a few weeks.  Much to my surprise, he got somewhat better and returned to the nursing home.  But he had lost a lot of ground that he would never make up.

When I came in this morning, the staff indicated he was doing fairly poorly.  So I write this sitting next to his bed, he’s on full oxygen but medications have been ceased and the staff has been instructed to just make sure he is comfortable. 
He is not responding interacting anymore.  He still has a feeding tube but that seems unnecessary at this point.

The staff has not been able to contact his sister though we’re pretty sure she’s alive because she sent him some mail a few days ago.  I read it to him this morning though he did not respond.  His sister recounted how he used to call her “Skeeter” when they were little and how furious that made her.  But she tells him in his letter and in the Christmas card, how much she loves him and prays that God might bless him.  She signed it, “Skeeter.”

I don’t know if he heard what I read; but it was  the last communication he would  receive from what is left of his family.

I told him I loved him too.  He’s an old saint and I don’t doubt he’ll be in the presence of the Living God the moment he breaths his last breath on Earth.

His eulogy should read:  He loved His God, he loved his wife, he treated others well and with a sense of humor.

It can be said of Elmer , “he finished well” and blest us with the last years of his life.

So on this first day of 2013,    R.I.P. old man.  You earned it.

(He died 8 hours later).


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