My old departed friend Bob was 99 years old when we met. He was a little more than five feet tall with platinum grey hair, combed straight back. His posture was slightly stooped but still poised and dignified. He always wore a dark suit and wing tipped shoes, indicative of his profession. Bob once sold shoe leather to the numerous shoe factories that once thrived in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Our relationship spanned several years. Each time Bob’s wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease, was hospitalized; I met with Bob as a discharge planner to address any questions or concerns about her care. Eventually Bob had to concede to placing his wife in a nursing home. But Bob continued to regularly visit me at the hospital even when his wife wasn’t there.
He always showed up unannounced, peeked around my office door and asked, “Do you have time for a cup of coffee?”
We ritually argued about who was buying as we walked down the four flights of stairs to the hospital cafeteria. But I didn’t put up much of a fight. After all, I didn’t want to be disrespectful; and besides, I didn’t feel like I was taking too much advantage of our friendship since the employee price for a cup of coffee was only fifteen cents back then.
Typically Bob and I talked about how his wife was doing, about current events and past events. He once told me about walking across the Ohio River before the system of locks and dams was constructed. He shared his secret of establishing relationships with his clients: “You have to find out what the person cares about, what their hobbies are.”
Our conversations always concluded with Bob asking me, “But, how are you doing?” He always listened attentively, and anytime I expressed any worries or concerns he would respond, “Well Loren, the way I look at it, a hundred years from now what difference is it going to make?”
It’s been several years since my friend, Bob, passed on. So you might wonder why I’ve decided to write about him now. On New Year’s Day, a few years ago, I started reading a book that two good friends bought me for Christmas. It’s a little outdated now, but I’m sure many of you are familiar with it, “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. Pastor Warren made several remarkable points within the first few chapters:
“We fail to find true purpose in life because we ask self-centered questions instead of God-centered questions…we discover our purpose only as we make God the reference point for our lives,…When you fully comprehend that there is more to life than just here and now, and you realize that life is just preparation for eternity, you will begin to live differently…You will start living in the light of eternity…suddenly many activities, goals, and even problems that seemed so important will appear trivial, petty, and unworthy of your attention…” Or in the words of my departed fellow pilgrim, Bob, “A hundred years from now what difference is it going to make?”
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life…” (I Timothy 6:12-19)
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.