This morning we arrive in Cleveland to pick up 85 year old Elliot and it is overcast and raining. As we transfer out cot into the ambulance the skies open up and the rain begins to beat down hard, so much so it causes some of us to wait inside of Nellie and some inside the ambulance for a few minutes. Finally it has let up enough to begin our ride to the clinic.
After about 15 minutes, our lengthy trek through the hallway mazes of the Cleveland Clinic have finally come to an end as we have arrived at our destination, Elliots room. We walk in through the door and his wife Shirley calls my name in her Bronx, New York accent.
The two of them are each sitting in a chair in front of the vast window which gives an awesome view of downtown Cleveland. They are quite adorable.
Elliot is smartly dressed in his hagar slacks and a nice button down shirt. He is short in stature and between that and his round face he reminds me of Danny Devito. His nose is broad, dark thick eyebrows and a 5 o’clock shadow. He has a thick polish accent and a gentle smile that spans ear to ear when he flashes it. He looks pretty good for a man who recently underwent a major cardiac surgery.
Shirley is by his side holding his hand. Her blond hair neatly pinned up, rosey cheeks and a great smile as well. The one thing that is evident is, she loves this man. She too is 85 years old and together they have been married for 60 years. She will be flying home commercially by herself but, has flown their 26 year old grandson Gary in to fly home with grandpa.
With the help of his great nursing staff Danielle, Shannon and Nick we get Elliot onto the cot and as comfortable as possible. The staff are each hugging both Elliot and Shirley between tears as they bid them goodbye. They have enjoyed caring for this sweet couple.
By the time we arrive back at the airport the rain has stopped and Hal prays for Elliot. Elliot is very thankful for the prayer. We all board Nellie for our flight to Long Island. During our flight we took advantage of our time with Elliot to get to know him better. There are not many like him left her on this earth.
You see Elliot was born in Poland and he and his family are Jewish. During WWII his entire family, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles were all put into the concentration camp. He was there for over 2 years prior to escaping into the forest. He, his father and 1 sister are the only survivors of his family. The rest of his entire family died of starvation, illness or were put to death while in the concentration camp. He does not even know when his birthday really is since all of his family documents were destroyed.
When he was around 13 years old his father brought him and his sister to the United States. He has worked very hard to make a life for his family here. It was while working as a stock boy at a drugstore that he met Shirley. She happened in one day to shop and immediately caught his eye. As he tells it, he said to her, “this is your lucky day would you like to go on a date?” As cliche’ as that line sounds it definitely worked to Elliots advantage because here they are 60 years later and they could not be happier.
They have raised 3 children and have 8 grandchildren whom all live within about 15 minutes of one another. Elliot still runs a family business and several of the family work there with him, Gary being one. Matter of fact his business is right at the Farmingdale airport where we will be landing.
Speaking of landing, we are here already in Long Island. It is now time for us to bid goodbye to Elliot and Gary. We pray once again for their family and as I kiss Elliot on the forehead he smiles gently and thanks us once again in his thick Polish accent.
What a wonderful privilege and honor it has been to spend time with this sweet gentleman as he shared parts of his life with us. I was able to reflect upon this as we flew back home.
Now with storms in our path we are diverted both north and south weaving in and out through small pockets between the storms clouds.
We arrived back in Indy just barely ahead of the storm. As we taxied down the taxiway toward the hangar the storm clouds were moving rapidly toward us.
As our line guys waved us up to the hangar the clouds could no longer hold the rain and they burst open with a downpour so heavy we could not see in front of us. As always God’s perfect timing saw us home safely.
Once inside the hangar I called Shirley to make sure that she too had made it safely to Long Island and she answered the phone from Elliot’s bedside.
BLESSED IS THE NATION WHOSE GOD IS THE LORD,
THE PEOPLE WHOM HE HAS CHOSEN AS HIS HERITAGE!
Thank you to Hal and Jason for sharing this mission with me.
Shelli Engle RN