Straight Paths

Bill enrolled in our outpatient hospice services with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Bill and his wife, Betty, were both in their eighties. Bill was bedridden and required twenty-four hour total care which Betty provided. Betty waited on Bill hand-and-foot even though she desperately needed a hip replacement, and walked with a limp. When her physician insisted she have surgery she responded, “But who is going to take care of Bill?”

Betty is a seasoned lady, seasoned by the influence of a “wonderful mother”, hard work and responsibility. Betty is unconventional, tough minded and just as willing to be honest about herself as she is about others. Betty engenders the respect due a college professor but lacks the formal education and degrees. Betty is a student at heart and therefore a teacher indeed.

One day, Betty and I were discussing the wisdom of heeding the “Still small voice” of God” (1 Kings 19:12) when Betty suggested, “When we ignore our urges they can turn into, ‘I meant to’s’”. Like most of us, Betty admitted she had a few regrets and Betty shared the following regret that had “haunted” her for years: “One Friday evening back in nineteen-sixty-one, I drove to Sciotoville to spend my supper hour with my mother. I worked at Montgomery Wards and the store stayed open until nine o’clock in the evening on Fridays. Mom and I talked of many things, but mostly about my husband’s niece, Helen, who was in the hospital dying with kidney failure. In order to give Helen’s mother some much needed rest, I had been spending my nights with Helen; and I was getting pretty worn out myself. My mother was concerned about me and followed me outside as I was leaving. We chatted as I walked away to my car. She called after me urging me to get more rest, because she thought I was doing too much. I had the urge to walk back, put my arms around her, tell her I loved her, and that if I was too giving, it was because I had learned it from her. I thought about it but I didn’t. On Sunday evening, two days later, my mother was struck by a car on her way home from church. She lived nearly a month with internal injuries, a fractured skull and two broken legs. She was in and out mentally. The night she died was the worst night of my life. I had a premonition or something. I didn’t want to be there alone. I felt like I wanted someone to be with me. She died that night. How I wish I’d walked back and put my arms around her that night and told her I loved her. I meant to.”

After finishing her story Betty went to another room and fetched the following poem, titled “I meant to”, written by a former pastor, Rev F.H. Wilson: “There was a neighbor who was ill, I’ll make a visit, yes I will. I’ll show them I really care, I will for them a meal prepare. I meant to! I’ll tell to all so close to me, how much that each one means to me. I’ll tell them that I love them true, and treat them with respect that’s due. I meant to! The neighbor now is in the grave, no witness now his soul can save. Too late my neighbor now is gone, I meant to witness, what went wrong? Will I the same mistake still make with my loved ones till too late? Will I fail to show my love until they’ve all been called above? Then sadly say, I meant to!”

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course”, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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