Tuesday, July 27, 2021

To Go Hiking or Not to Go

I have been yearning to get on trail for two years, Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Arizona Trail, Camino de Santiago in Spain, just somewhere. 

In February of this year, our pastor, Gary Nock, was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Treatments were suspended after a week, and he was placed on Hospice care.  On a Thursday I was called by Ken Wemp to see if I could help with Gary the next day.  Help was not only sitting with Gary, but to physically move him from bed to wheelchair, from wheelchair to recliner, and then to and from the bathroom. Gary had had a seizure and his right side was pretty much non-functional.  Gary is a big man and it takes some doing to move him. 

That first Friday, Ken Wemp, Axel and Debbie Stephen, and I covered the day from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.  After church on Sunday, Debbie asked about covering a night so Dawn (Gary's wife) could have a good sleep.  When I checked with Dawn, she countered with afternoons from noon to 5:00 pm.  I told Dawn I would see what I could do.  So it fell into my lap to be an afternoon helper and to coordinate all afternoon helpers.  

Hospice and a home-health company told Dawn that what we were doing (helping Gary move about in the afternoons) was unprecedented and that it was not sustainable.  BUT, with a small dedicated group, we began covering as many afternoon shifts each week as we could.  I did not keep records but for more than two months we covered Monday through Friday afternoons from noon to 5:00 pm.  Afternoons with Gary and Dawn was incredible--incredibly hard and painful to see Gary and Dawn have to go through this, and to watch Gary deteriorate. There were also incredibly precious times--reading to Gary from his latest preaching Bible, witnessing tender moments between Gary and Dawn, discussions about many topics. 

And we were learning that life is not always fair. 

From June 24-28, Gary was put in the hospital for five days to give Dawn some respite.  I was Monday Charlie, and covered Monday every week and sometimes another shift later in the week.  I texted Dawn that Monday to see what time Gary would be moved back home.  She had made the most painful and the hardest decision of her life to admit Gary into a 24-hour care facility called Coolidge House. 

This news stunned me.  I was unnerved by the void in my Monday afternoons.  A few days later, while visiting Gary, Dawn asked, "When are you getting on the trail?"

Maybe there was an opening for a hike.  There ensued several conversations with my wife, Becky.  GracePoint Church has decisions to make and I am one of the elders.  If I could still be engaged with elder duties, Becky was giving me her support.  

I had many things to do, fast and furious--getting food for resupply boxes ready, making travel arrangements, and hiring people to take care of the yard, etc. 

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