Archive for the ‘Death’ category

Well, Hi Son!

February 14, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          February 14, 2019

                                            

One year ago I hopped on a  few planes heading from Denver to Houston to Charlotte to Charleston, West Virginia. It was Valentine’s Day, but bittersweet in many ways. I had talked to my sister on Monday night, February 12, and she told me that Dad was probably in his final hours. I went online and bought a plane ticket that left very early on the 14th.

About five o’clock in the afternoon I entered his hospital room and stood by his bed. My sister said, “Dad, there’s someone special here to see you!”, and he opened his eyes and looked at me.

The words came out as a whisper, and yet they were the words he would always say to me when I would call him on Sunday evenings.

“Well, hi son!”

“Hi, Pops!”

Nothing else was said. His dinner tray was in front of him, but he had no appetite. My sister coaxed him into eating some of the butterscotch pudding and maybe a couple of bites of mashed potatoes, but he was in his final hours of a long steady life. He held my hand in those moments when my sister, Rena, slowly urged each spoonful into his mouth. 

My dad was 89, four months short of hitting the 9-0 mark! I was thankful that I had a few hours with him before he crossed over. Rena and I sat there and talked about this, that, and the other as he drifted in and out. 

St. Mary’s Hospital had become like a second home for him, kind of like a time share! His heart episodes and cancer treatments- mostly for skin cancers- had made him a “frequent flyer” of St. Mary’s. His grandson was now the supervisor of the floor Dad was a patient on. Dad knew doctors, nurses and radiation technicians and assistants. There was a sense of loss filtering through the hospital as word spread that he was close to passing on.

When you sit by your dad’s bed and realize his time is short a flood of thoughts and memories race through your mind. There’s the thoughts of when the funeral gathering will be…even though he hasn’t passed yet. There’s the “listing” in your  mind of who needs to be informed about it.

But then there’s the memories and pictures. For some reason the picture of Dad having his hand on the back of my bicycle as I learned how to ride it came to the front of my mind. I was the baby of the three kids. He already had taught two others to ride bikes…and they had survived the experience. I was in good hands, or would I say, my bike was held upright by a good hand!

Then there’s the memory of Dad teaching me how to drive our 1966 Chrysler Newport in the back parking lot of Ironton Junior High School. He was standing outside the car giving me directions. 

“Turn! Turn!”

And I did! I turned the steering wheel with such power and effort that the power steering fluid burst! I can still see his expression of frustration. He didn’t voice any expletives, but I’m sure he thought of a few!

And in the last year of his life while I was back visiting I had driven him to the eye specialist, and while we were there Rena called me to tell me that Dad was suppose to have gone to the Emergency Room the day before but he hadn’t told anyone. He had just celebrated his 89th birthday and didn’t want to spoil the festivities for the others…not, mind you, for himself! He knew a cake was coming to Wyngate, his senior adult apartment complex, and wanted it to happen for the residents.

As I’m driving him to St. Mary’s he says to me, “Bill, let’s stop at Wendy’s and get something to eat!” And so we pull into the Wendy’s about a mile from St. Mary’s and have a cheeseburger and fries before I deliver him to the ER. The next day he had surgery!

A year ago, as I held his hand, I realized that the strong hand on the back of bicycle was now too weak to hold a spoon and the man who modeled what being a father means was drawing near to his heavenly Father.

I think back to those few closing hours of his life and know that I have been very, very blessed!

Too Old, Too Young

January 16, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       January 16, 2019

                                      

I ventured to see my Physician’s Assistant this morning about my back muscle spasms. Two months ago when I saw P.A. Mark Smith for my annual physical he said I was doing well, looked healthy, and all my vital signs and blood tests were great!

And then he told me that I’m at an age where the impact sports and activities need to be lessened and it would be wise to switch to exercise activities like swimming, stationary bike, tiddilywinks, bridge, etc. (Okay! I paraphrased the last two!)

Last Wednesday I played early morning basketball at the YMCA, and by Thursday the spasms had arrived. Soooo….I saw Mark Smith again this morning. He looked at me and my chart. 

“So, Bill, you were playing basketball and now have muscle spasms in your lower back?” He gave me the parental look! 

“Yes, Mark!” I said, leaning towards repentance. 

He talked about treatment and then took on his fatherly expression, even though he’s the age of my son. “We talked about steering away from impact activities, didn’t we?”

“Yes!!!!”

“You need to work on your core strength, as opposed to activities where you’re doing a lot of twisting and turning. At your age there’s some things that are going to adversely affect you physically.”

In other words, someone who is getting daily advertisements in the mail about his approaching entry into Medicare may be too old to hoop it up! Back in college I could touch the rim! Now I’m being told I’m too old to touch a basketball! 

But I’m too young for other things, like senior water aerobics, bridge, and scrapbooking! I’m too old to hoop it up with the high school varsity, although I can dominate the freshmen and sophomores (I think!). I’m too old to run the Pike’s Peak Ascent anymore, but I’m too young to join a walking club. 

I’m a ‘tweener’! Too sophisticated for rotary dial telephones, but too dumb for my own smart phone! It’s an uncomfortable age because you realize that most of your life is now in the rearview mirror and the rest of your life has a degree of uncertainty about it.

Too old, too young! Been there, done that! And not sure I’m ready for that! I’m ready for the Icy Hot muscle ointment, but not quite ready to be covered up with a blanket!

Maybe I’ll start playing pickleball!

Down In the Back

January 13, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   January 13, 2019

                                   

I’m preaching this morning. Could be a short sermon!

As my Papaw Helton would say, “I’m down in the back!” The muscle spasms in my lower back came on Thursday night. I could blame it on the 20 missed free throws my boy’s basketball team…17 for 37! That makes me flinch just thinking about it, and when I flinch…Ouch!

Back problems are no fun! I’ve had them on and off for twenty years now. A herniated disc afflicted me back in 2001, and since then I’ve noticed the warning signs of the possibility of spasms before they arrive.

This time I had played early morning basketball at the YMCA on Wednesday. That must have lit the fuse! On Thursday night as I coached I could tell the back wasn’t doing well. When I coach during a game, I’m usually in a squat position, like a baseball catcher. By the second half on Thursday night I couldn’t do that!

And so I’ve become cozy with a heating pad, and closely attached to the recliner. Last night I watched “Enemy of the State” with Will Smith and Gene Hackman for about the seventh time. In other words, it was an unproductive evening.

I believe that God sometimes puts us on our back to teach us something. Most of us learn best in the midst of uncomfortable situations and personal pain. The story of Jonah’s time spent inside a big fish comes to  mind! 

It’s when we’re “down in the back” that our listening needs to be even more acute. Years ago a man from our church had a serious heart situation that put him flat on his back for several weeks. Afterwards he told me that it was a life-defining moment for him. He had been slowed down enough to have long chats with God. If he hadn’t ended up on a hospital gurney he would have kept going full steam ahead and been oblivious to the presence of the Almighty.

After I preach this morning to the saints in Simla, Colorado, I’ll drive back home and spend the rest of the day  with “R’s”…recliner, reflection, rest, heated up RICE BAG, and reading. I’ll pick up my “One Year Bible” and perhaps get ahead in my reading of the scriptures. 

Maybe I’ll skip ahead to the Books of Job and Lamentations! 

Heading Towards Medicare

December 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 5, 2018

                              

The secret is out! Five months from today I turn 65! Everybody and their mom seems to know about it. Not a day goes by, except Sunday, where my mailbox is void of at least one reminder that my Big Day is coming!

I snickered for a while at the amount of mail my wife received with reminders that she was approaching 65. That was back in June and July (Her milestone happens this Saturday!) But I’m past the snickering and chuckling as the daily trip to the mailbox has me finding someone else who has discovered what happens to me on May 5. 

It’s a little disconcerting to know how many insurance companies and agents have this personal information. I’m guessing that if there is money to be made they will find out. I wish other information that I long for certain people to know was as widely known. Like…someone contacting me about when Blue Bell ice cream is going to go on sale…at least two weeks from now! that way I can better plan out my daily consumption rate instead of eating a half-gallon all at once! That would be useful info for me.

Or…even more vital…when my favorite stool at Starbucks isn’t occupied! Recently there’s been a guy who has already taken it by the time I arrive early in the morning. Yesterday I asked one of the baristas to notice when his arrival time is so I can beat him to the spot. This morning I arrived at 7:08. The barista told me he got here at 6:58. It would be great to find out seat availability so I don’t have to adjust! I don’t sound bitter, do I?

All the advance information about turning 65 has me a bit concerned. Kind of like getting information from different colleges during my senior year of high school. Each school of higher education tried to make you believe it was a slice of heaven, but then I arrived in the fall of 1972 and found out freshmen English Composition was closer to hell! 

All this advance stuff about Medicare has me a bit nervous. Will it be more like a birthday celebration dinner or a scheduled colonoscopy?

Sitting Bedside With Someone Awaiting Glory

November 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        November 25, 2018

                            

There are people who come into your life for a season and bless you for a lifetime!

Jim Newsome is one of those people, arriving with his wife Pat in the last three years or so of my final pastorate. A gentleman and a gentle man, a man of faith and a faithful friend, he is now in his final days.

And he’s okay with it! About a month ago he was discovered to have pancreatic cancer. Jim, now 84, understands the prognosis and for his final days he is resting at home, welcoming friends from near and far who have come to have final visits and conversations.

Carol and I went yesterday and sat beside his bed. When we left I said to her, “That was a great visit! I’ve never laughed so much sitting beside the bed of someone who only has a few days to live.”

In fact, when Jim and Pat received the news of his cancer and entered into hospice care, Jim’s comment was “I’m ready to go, but when’s it going to happen?” He said it like a Frontier Airlines passenger whose flight keeps being delayed- a common occurrence it seems with Frontier!

We talked about his life, how the Lord has guided his life, and various situations where this couple, who celebrated 64 years of marriage two weeks ago, simply trusted that the Lord would lead them.

Jim survived polio when he was in the Navy. He spent a month in an iron lung, realizing that several other sailors at the time were succumbing to the disease. It caused him to give thanks to the Lord and to understand that God had a purpose for his life. For him to live to the age of 84 would not have seemed possible back in the early 1950’s. 

Yesterday he told us stories that caused our souls to laugh. His skin color is showing some signs of jaundice as the disease affects his liver, but his face continued to smile. He told us stories of life redirection, like how a bout with pneumonia that landed him in the hospital short-circuited his graduate studies for his Master’s degree at the University of Northern Colorado. When Pat came back to the hospital the next day, worried and wondering, Jim told her that he and the Lord had talked it over and gotten it figured out. A few days later someone they knew, connected to a mission organization, called him and asked if he could do some welding work for him. Twenty years later he retired from the organization!

As Carol and I left they shared with us that they were grieved when I retired at the end of 2015 from ministry, more specifically stopped being their pastor. I replied, “The best thing about pastoring is the relationships, and the hardest thing about pastoring is saying goodbye to those people you’ve had special relationships with. 

Jim and Pat Newsome are people that I’ve been blessed to know, and saddened to leave. We joined hands and prayed as Carol and I were about to leave. As I came towards the end of the prayer Jim squeezed my hand. It was his punctuation mark on our friendship. 

“Jim,” I said, “if I don’t see you again I’ll see you on the other side!”

He looked me in the eye and replied, “Plan on it!”

Signs That I’m Really, Really Old

November 22, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                               November 22, 2018

                    

People often say that I don’t look like I’m just six months away from being eligible for Medicare. That’s nice to hear. After all, not too many of us get up in the morning with the goal of looking OLDER than we are!

Recently, however, I’m encountered a few situations where I realize I AM OLD! The most recent experience happened this morning when I opened up the newspaper, stuffed like a turkey with Black Friday store advertisements. I sorted through most of them and came to the ad from Best Buy. 

This is the old part! You know you are old when you don’t know what half of the gadgets in the 16 page ad actually do. I recognized the washer and dryer, the frig, and a few of the vacuum cleaners, but other devices had me as clueless as I was in trigonometry class!

The good news in all of that is that if I don’t know what it is…I don’t yet know that I’m suppose to need it!

On to a different “old” subject”! About a week ago I bought new ear phones to listen to my Lawrence Welk music with. They are wireless- another term that mystifies me- and I opened up the instructions. THERE WERE NO WORDS! A sketched finger pointed to different buttons and tried to communicate the purpose of that button with the use of a picture. 

GIVE ME SOME WORDS TO READ! I’m guessing it was a sign of how our culture doesn’t like to read anymore. We now seem to be a society that likes to communicate by using a finger!

In the Walmart Black Friday ad there was a whole page devoted to video games that shoot ‘em up, blow ‘em up, and run ‘em over. One tiny picture at the bottom of the next page advertised three books for toddlers. That was as close to a library as Walmart got!

So I’m feeling old. We bought a new vehicle almost two years ago, but I don’t know how to use half the fancy stuff on itl…and it has a thick manual with WORDS! The steering wheel has abbreviations instead of the whole word. Give me the letters “MN” and I know the state it’s referring to is Minnesota. Put those letters on my steering wheel and I haven’t a clue!

I’m just really, really old! Lord, have mercy! I’m turning into my Kentucky grandfather, Papaw Helton! Before I know it I’ll be sipping buttermilk at supper and wearing suspenders that hold my pants up all the way to my nipples!

Dad’s Hairbrush

September 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W                                                       September 2, 2018

                                     

When my dad passed away last February it was the end of a generation. It was also the end of a gathering place for family keepsakes. Dad’s apartment in the Wyngate Senior Living Complex needed to be packed up and moved out. That task fell upon my sister and brother-in-law to complete after my family flew back to Colorado, and my brother drove back to Frankfort, Kentucky.

A few weeks later a box arrived at our house packed with family pictures, an iron skillet, and various other items that had meaning to the Wolfe clan.

And in the box, stuffed down in a corner by a tube of Brylcreem, was Dad’s hairbrush. The bronze-colored handle fit my hand easily. When I picked it up out of the box a flash flood of emotions surprised me. I recognized that this hairbrush had stroked the hair on Pop’s head for years. In his last few years it would be accurate to say that it didn’t have that many hairs to brush…kind of like a cornfield during drought conditions!

Each morning since I opened that box I’ve used Dad’s hairbrush on my own head of hair…well, with the exception of the few weeks when I shaved my head because of a lost bet with one of my basketball players (See “WordsfromWW.com” 3/4/2018 blog post “My Last Day With Hair For a While”). 

I’ve moved my part over to the left slightly to allow the brush to take a longer stroke. Having a part in my hair isn’t as easy with a hairbrush as it was with a comb, so I’ve just relocated it closer to my left ear. Darla, my barber, shows me a path that I simply trace over each morning.

And each day I pick up that hairbrush and hold it in my hand I think of Dad. It’s a simple thing, a moment of reflection and connection. 

There are some people that you miss about as much as a hemorrhoid…and there are other people you miss like your heart has been cut from your chest cavity. Dad was our heart, our wisdom, the groomer of our civility. 

As I ponder the words I write this morning my emotions rise up from within. It is the way things should be; that our parents reappear in the moments of ordinary routines. 

For my mom, who passed away five years ago today, she comes back to life every time I see a crossword puzzle, or see a pair of those fuzzy looking house slippers, or eat a ham and cheese omelette. (I ate one last night!)

For Dad, he shows up anytime a Kentucky basketball game is on TV, I put hamburgers on the grill, and…brush my hair!

A lot of people think of flashy events and extravagance when they remember people from their lives. Flashy would not have been a word that anyone would have used in describing my dad. The motorized wheelchair that he used for the last year or so of his life was about as flashy as he got! His life was more like a consistent steady walk with strides of patience and humor. 

It was more like a stroke from a hairbrush, long and loving, the same day after day.