Straight Paths

(Editor’s Note: This column by Loren Hardin originally ran in 2015.)

This is part three of a series about Mary, “Rose “, who was admitted to hospice at age 67 with Pick’s Disease, a rare form of temporal lobe dementia. Several months ago I wrote two previous columns about Mary and her husband, Ken, titled, “Don’t be such a Ham about it!” and “He makes me want to be a better man”. Ken continues to lay down his life to care for Mary and he still makes me want to be a better man.

Several months ago, while Ken and I sat at the kitchen table over another cup of coffee, Ken proclaimed, “If I have a message to people it would be, ‘Do it while you can’; because there will come a time when you can’t. Do you see that Air Stream out there? That’s Mary’s. She wanted to buy it; I didn’t. We were driving through Kentucky when she saw it on the side of the road, and we pulled over and bought it right there on the spot. We’d planned on putting it on a lake somewhere and keeping it there so we could do a little fishing. But Mary got sick so we couldn’t. You know, some people save every penny and don’t do anything. But don’t get me wrong. Our bills always came first and we saved; but if there’s something you want to do, you better do it while you can; because there will come a time when you can’t. And then it’s too late.”

I told Ken that a motorcycle road trip was still on my “bucket list”, but I’d sold my motorcycle a couple years earlier and I’d have to buy another one. And I told Ken that I’d also considered installing a small above-ground pool at our house, but hadn’t. My wife, Susie, and I always had and enjoyed above-ground pools while the kids were growing up. But after we moved we decided not to install another one; after all, our children were grown and we were older. Then Ken exclaimed, “If you can afford it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, I’d do it! Loren, I’m telling you, I’d do it while you can!”

Well, I ended up taking Ken’s advice. I bought a suitable used motorcycle and my friend, Jerry, and I embarked on a five-day, 1,700-mile road trip through seven southern states. We took the two-lane back roads, through Western Kentucky, to Memphis, across Mississippi, Alabama, to Georgia, North Carolina thru “The Dragon” and the Smoky Mountains. What an adventure! We made memories to last a lifetime. Or, on second thought, maybe the memories made us. And my wife and I installed the swimming pool; and I took Ken to the house to see it. When I introduced Ken to Susie I told her, “This is the guy you have to thank for the swimming pool.”

Ken’s advice reminds me of some advice from another pretty wise fellow. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., was born in 1809 in Cambridge, MA. He was a physician, professor, lecturer, poet and writer. He wrote about medicine, psychology, sociology, democracy and theology and even wrote a few hymns. His father, a Calvinist minister, wanted Oliver to follow in his footsteps, but he respectfully declined, explaining, “I may have been a minister myself if I hadn’t heard a minister speak as if he was an undertaker”. Oliver was also interested in photography and invented the stereoscope, two eye glasses that when looked through made images look like they were 3-D, a precursor to the popular “View Master” which has been around since 1939.

Now that you are acquainted with the source it’s time to share Oliver’s wisdom: “Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” So in the words of my good friend Ken, “If you can afford it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone, I’d do it! I’m telling you, I’d do it while you can!”

“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’ … Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes chapter 12)

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,” from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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