Straight Paths

This is the fifth and final part of a series about Michael Powell, born September 20, 1947, and died April 23, 2010, at the age of 62 in our Hospice Center. I’ve written about Michael the athlete, the coach, the mentor, the man; but this week I’m writing about Mike’s father, Bill. Bill and I have collaborated over breakfast at Bob Evans for the past several weeks to write this series. And Bill continually orders me, “Now don’t you mention my name. Keep me out of it.” Well, I’m sorry Bill, but I just can’t keep you out of it this time. You played too big a role in the man your son became. After all, Mike is just “a chip off the ole block”.

Bill has been a hospice volunteer since April 16, 2001. I asked Beverly, our volunteer coordinator, about Bill and she reported, “Bill is a phenomenal volunteer! I wish I could clone him. He has five patients right now that he visits. He felt called to be a hospice volunteer because of the experience he had with hospice when his wife was a patient. Each holiday season, Bill continues a tradition of his late wife. He makes thousands of chocolate buckeyes and distributes them to various groups and to families of past patients he’s sat with.”

In light of Beverly’s comments, I asked Bill about his wife’s hospice experience and Bill reminisced, “Joyce had pancreatic cancer and was at the James Cancer Center back in 2000. They said there was nothing else they could do for her so they called hospice in for her from up there. By the time we got home everything was already set up. She knew she didn’t have long so she asked me, ‘What are you going to do when I’m gone? I hope you don’t stay out in that old building by yourself making toys for the kids in the neighborhood.’ I asked her, ‘What else am I going to do?,’ and she told me, ‘Do what I used to do; volunteer your time. Volunteer for hospice. Go to people’s homes and sit with them so their families can go shopping.’ I told her, ‘I can’t do that. I can’t talk to strangers like that.’ Then she told me, ‘Yes you can!’ And she didn’t smile when she said it.”

Bill admitted: “It was harder for me to lose Mike than it was Joyce. You think your child has so much more to do and you feel like their life was cut short. And I knew that Joyce got what she wanted. We dated each other since we were 14 years old. Neither one of us ever dated anybody else because we knew who we wanted. We prayed together every night and for years her prayer was, ‘I hope I go before you because it would be too sad for me to be by myself.’”

Bill continued, “The day before Joyce died she told me, ‘I want to listen to the song, "For the Good Times."’ I played it for her, but I told her that I couldn’t stay in the room.” So that you can better understand why Bill couldn’t stay in her room, following are excerpts from the song Joyce requested: “Don’t look so sad, I know its over. But life goes on and this old world will keep on turning. Let’s just be glad we had some times to spend together … Lay your head upon my pillow, hold your warm and tender body close to mine … For the good times.” Bill continued, “Then she told me, ‘If at all possible I want to die in your arms.’ She died at 6:45 the next morning with my arm around the back of her neck.”

Over the span of my life there have been a handful of older men who I’ve secretly adopted as role models, men who have made me want to be a better man, and Bill is one of them. Oswald Chambers wrote, “We can’t give to another that which we have received but we can live in such a way that others become homesick for what we have.” (“My Utmost for His Highest”) And I’m convinced, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that what Bill and Michael have is the love of Christ Jesus enthroned in their hearts, for “Herein is our love made perfect … because as He is, so are we in this world.” (I John 4:17) I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a little “homesick” right now.

“Break my heart and change my mind, cut me loose from ties that bind.

Lead me as I follow You, give me strength to follow through.

Oh more, more, I want to be more like Jesus.

More of Jesus, less of me, by His power I will be,

Like a flower in the Spring, brand new life in everything.

Holy Spirit fill me up, gently overflow my cup.

Touch my eyes and let me see, me in You and You in me.

Oh more, more, I want to be more like Jesus.”

(Mylon LeFeve, “More”)

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at lorenhardin53@gmail.com . 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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