“Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see You.” This is the opening lyric of a great Christian song by Michael W. Smith.
Well today God did just that…….allowed me to see Him through this wonderful family. 86 year old Dorothy and Larry have been married for 67 years. They have 3 children, 4 grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.
Larry retired from GM where he worked hard for 40 years and Dorothy cared for the children while working as a nurse. Dorothy has been pretty much bed bound for the last few years and their son Larry who lives nearby has been helping his parents during this time.
It was their son Steve who contacted us requesting our help in getting his parents down to Alabama to be near his family. From the moment I spoke with Steve over the phone we had an instant connection. He worked diligently on his end to get things together even setting up the ground transport in both Cleveland and Muscle Shoals.
When we contacted the ground transport ourselves they too were very excited to help this family whom they knew so well. It was evident how much this family was loved by their community in both cities. I literally could not wait to meet them and looked forward to doing so all week long.
Upon our arrival to their lovely home we are greeted by Stacy the hospice nurse who has been caring for Dorothy for the last few months. Next in line is Steve, a gentle giant, he once played defense for the Florida Gators. He wears kindness on his face, a smile so enlightening that as his cheeks began to fill out his eyes start to close and a HUG I will never forget. I walked to the dining room table to meet his father, Larry.
As I leaned over to hug him I could see where Steve inherited his sweet disposition from. Finally it is time to meet Miss Dorothy. She is laying in her bed with the TV playing, her frame is tiny and when she smiles, I can definitely see where Steve gets his smile. Her family has been taking very good care of her.
We place her onto the cot with ease and cover her with one of the special quilts made by the ladies from “Quilts on Wings” as we place a hat on her head at Larry’s suggestion. While Dorothy is being placed into the ambulance Larry places a leash onto their 10 year old little Jack Russell terrier, Bubbles. Stacy the hospice nurse, has inherited this little guy and will be taking him home with her now.
Larry stands to put on his jacket and take hold of his cane (age and time have taken away his once taller stature) he places his brown herringbone ivy style hat upon his head and grabs his leather gloves.
As he and I walk out of his home, he gently calls back to Steve softly reminding him of a few last minute things. We walk down the ramp together toward the ambulance.
His walk is slow and purposeful, it is the kind of ‘slow” that a person would wait all day for, as not to rush gentle man.
The kind of “slow” that makes you very proud just to be in his presence and you find yourself thankful, is as it just allows you more time to spend with him.
As we make our way down the driveway a neighbor approaches Larry to wish him his best and give him a hug, possibly the last time they may see one another.
We arrive at the airport as the sun is doing it’s best to melt away the small amount of snow still left from the previous days.
With Dorothy bundled we prayed and then assisted Larry on board Abe just prior to Dorothy.
With everyone in their places Abe took flight heading for warmer weather down in Alabama. Miss Dorothy did well during her flight with her only complaint being pain in her tailbone. Caused from her arthritis, we did our best to keep her comfortable with padding and gentle massage.
God richly blessed our conversation with Larry and Steve. Steve shared how he met his gorgeous wife Stephanie at his sister’s beauty salon many years ago. He would drive back and forth from Florida to Ohio and his sister ran a salon in northern Alabama. He said the first time he laid eyes on Stephanie he thought, “if you look that good before you get your hair done, I can’t image what you must look like after.” Together they have raised their 3 children while owning a “Popeyes” franchise that they built themselves.
He told us how they prayed over the ground prior to shoveling that 1st mound of dirt and dedicated their store to God. They kept Christian music playing inside and had scripture on the walls. Over the 20 years that they owned and operated their store they saw God’s provisions for them on a regular basis.
About 2 years ago they offered it to their children who said they really had no interest in running it and so they sold it. Their 2 daughters have since graduated college and started their own successful daycare center. They love children and the daycare center is really taking off. Their youngest son is still in high school. All 3 of the grandchildren are looking forward to having their grandparents close.
Wow,…. here we are,…. already in Muscle Shoals and as we taxi in I can see someone waiting. She is neatly dressed in black slacks, a mango colored top, cute short haircut and a beautiful smile. She is gorgeous and as she approaches the plane I knew that had to be Stephanie. She is very excited to have Steve, mom and dad home. We hugged immediately as she thanked us for bringing them home. We all load into the ambulance for the very short ride as Stephanie drives separately to meet us.
We arrive at the nursing home and the crew moves on ahead with Miss Dorothy. I once again have the great privilege of escorting Larry down the long corridors to her room. As we walked I asked him if he was excited to be living with Steve and Stephanie now and he said he yes he is. We joked as we wondered if they would expect him to abide by a curfew.
Now in her room we place Miss Dorothy into a much more comfortable bed and are joined by several staff as we all pray. We all hugged one last time, Steve again with a HUG I will not forget and as I lean over to kiss Dorothy on the cheek she smiles. They all thanked us graciously.
….And just like that…..God opened the eyes of my heart and I saw Him. I saw Him, in the eyes, and smiles, the kindness and gentleness, the slowness and patience, the gratitude and love of this entire family. I find myself missing them as I share a very minute part of their lives with you. Through them He was “high and lifted up, shining in the light of His glory.”
1 CHRONICLES 29:14
BUT WHO AM I, AND WHO ARE MY PEOPLE, THAT WE SHOULD BE ABLE TO GIVE AS GENEROUSLY AS THIS? EVERYTHING COMES FROM YOU, AND WE HAVE GIVEN YOU ONLY WHAT COMES FROM YOUR HAND.
Thank you to Hal and Jason for sharing this mission with me.
Shelli Engle RN
PLANE FUN FACT:
“Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers” these are great lyrics found in the song “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Perhaps I am the only one who ever wondered what that line meant? Located on the bank of the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals was once known as “Hit Recording Capital of the World.”
The Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section AKA Swampers were made up of local guys who backed many music artist in the recording studios there. The music that came out of this area in the 60’s and 70’s and still today include soul, funk, rock and roll, blues, jazz, country, gospel and R&B.
It is literally full of the rich history of music that we continue to enjoy today. There happens to be a great movie by the same name, “Muscle Shoals” I would encourage you to watch if you have a passion for music.