The Chaplain’s Corner: Joy on Wheels

Without having known him, I would not be the chaplain I am today. Let me take this opportunity to memorialize a longtime client. For the last 16 years of his life, Darold W. spent his days at St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care enriching the lives of everyone he met. (Teasing everyone, too!) In May of this year, Darold passed away at the age of 66.

Darold started using a wheelchair at the age of 13 due to cerebral palsy. A few years ago, when the progression of the disease took away his ability to eat, he had to get used to tube-feeding. Darold’s ability to speak clearly was gradually taken away by cerebral palsy, too.  However, rather than dwelling on his complicated health problems, he chose to celebrate life to the fullest and follow his intuition for the best adventures. Shannon, the owner of his group home, helped him enjoy his life, and Darold was most grateful that Shannon treated him with dignity and respect.

I greatly miss his visits to my office because Darold’s entrances were delightfully dramatic.  Since my door is kept ajar, unless I have a client or staff member with me, Darold would let me know he wanted to see me by first, strategically  backing-up his fancy electric wheelchair. Then, he would make a fast run smack dab into my door creating a hearty “bam” and opening it wide. I loved it!  Recently, a reliable source told me Darold’s nickname was “Crash.”

Darold took delight in buying presents for others. Every Friday, he would select some treasures from St. Ann Center’s dollar table for friends and staff. One Friday afternoon last December, he crashed into my door and rolled into my office. He had the look of someone about to ask a favor. Now, I hadn’t known him too long, so I was a rookie at understanding his speech. Eventually, after Darold fixed his eyes on a roll of gift wrapping paper behind my desk, it all clicked. “Oh,” I said. “You want me to wrap a present for you?” He nodded in the affirmative. “Sure, no problem, Darold.” He smiled radiantly!

In all honesty, as a new employee, I silently pondered, “Will my supervisor be OK with me wrapping a gift for a client?” Well, so much for wrapping one gift. Darold looked down at a side pouch on his wheelchair as if to say, “Please open the bag in there.” So, I did, finding six more items. “Darold, do I look like one of Santa’s elves to you?” I joked. “You are sitting in a pastoral care office, not Macy’s gift wrapping department!” Darold laughed his distinctive laugh by moving his head to the left and back, and making a loud guttural “ah” sound while blushing and grinning from ear to ear.

As much fun as Darold and I shared, I was honored to listen and converse about serious subjects that mattered to him, such as God’s love and forgiveness, grief, the Bible, the power of kindness, the promise of Heaven and positive thinking. Observing Darold’s honesty, openness and courage inspired me to pay close attention to my intuition, too.

In fact, during one of the last times Darold visited me, I felt compelled to share how he made a difference in my life, and expressed words of gratitude to him.  I am most grateful and relieved I listened to my intuition because soon after, the center closed for many weeks. Upon re-opening, Darold did not come back to us.  There isn’t a day that goes by without the staff bringing up one Darold story or another. We sure miss you, Darold!

May we tell the special people in our lives about the good we see in them, and how thankful we are to have them in our lives. No matter how awkward it may feel, let kindness roll!

 

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