Just a couple of months ago when I would go by the Shawnee Apartments, I would see my friend Laura Park’s blue car in the parking lot and would wish I had time to stop and visit a bit. I knew she was involved with the activities there and happily busy helping older and less able apartment dwellers. Her son Jerry and daughter Susan stayed close, and she was always there for her adored grandson Dylan who would go to her place after school while his mother was still at work. So she did not “need” a visit from me, but I missed her and would have liked to stop. Bur always there were other responsibilities waiting, and I would drive by.
Then her daughter Susan, a Facebook friend, put out a frantic prayer request as Laura had had a massive heart attack, which was going to require a long into-the-night risky surgery. She came through that surgery because of those prayers, her surgeon concluded. Susan reported how well her mother was doing as she left the hospital, but then later she had to report set backs. Next, problems arose that sent her to Saint Louis for more surgery and there was another successful report. Then another set back. Her family were seeing her suffer as one problem after another developed. .Friends continued to pray but with an awareness that quality of life might be poor for someone as active as Laura who loved participating in the apartment activities and crafts and helping others.
Over 33 years ago, she unexpectedly lost her husband at age 46 leaving her to finish raising their two children. Susan commented that her mother had to be both mother and father to them before the phrase “single mom” became so common. Laura was not a whiner, however, and she did what she could to give a good life to her children and to keep involved with both her large extended family and with the community .
At our church, Laura’s interests were not only with the preschool Sunday School class that she taught for many years, but also encouraging all of us to not forget the shut-ins in our village. Later she sold her home and bought a trailer to be next door to an elderly woman with severe disabilities that she was helping care for. After that, she was often a caretaker for her grandson in the same neighborhood.
When Laura moved into the apartment in town, she began going to church with Susan rather than driving back out to our village where she had lived so many years. But I continued to use her list of shut-ins with their addresses and birthdays that she had supplied us. Years passed, and one by one these elders died, but I kept the list, which now has only one living soul on it. I suspect that list in her handwriting will stay in my file folder even after that person passes, and I will remember Laura and will continue to try and send occasional greetings to the those who have become shut-ins in more recent years.
Laura’s children released her to go ahead to their father, and she was buried Wednesday next to him in one of our rural community’s peaceful cemeteries. We gathered in our new fellowship hall at our village church to serve a dinner for her family and friends after the funeral and burial a few weeks before her 80th birthday. Somehow it seems fitting that she did not ever have to be one of those house-bound invalids that she cared so much about.
Then on Friday. on his and Jackie’s 49th wedding anniversary, our friend David Hancock, 70, drew his last breath after a long courageous battle with a brain tumor that forced his retirement from the extraordinary life of service that he lived. A bi-vocational pastor of several small rural churches in this county. David had preached for 52 years, and he meant so much to the many people he ministered to while he visited in their homes and hospital rooms, performed their marriage ceremonies, and conducted memorial services for their loved ones. His friendships were lasting, and people counted on his help and counsel long after he might have gone to pastor a different church in the area. He spoke at the funeral for Gerald’s brother Kenny and our daughter-in-law’s Aunt Janice not that long ago. David and Kenny had been prayer partners and good friends, and he had pastored Janice’s country church.
He worked in the insurance industry and was always a national top-ranking life insurance salesman. Somehow despite two vocations, David managed to also participate in community activities, local and city politics, and numerous organizations and institutions. For the last five years, he was one of seven trustees at John A. Logan College and was serving as board chairman at the time of his death. His visitation and funeral service were yesterday at the Conference Center at the college, where a room was recently named for him.
We were unable to go yesterday because of previous commitments. We have many memories, however, such as David helping Gerald years ago pick up chunks in one of our fields and helping with other farm tasks where he worked as enthusiastically as he did when he worked with Scouts or when he decorated their beautiful country home and surrounding yard with countless strings of bright Christmas lights. Jackie entertained the Women’s Club there in December just so we could see and enjoy David’s handiwork. He was a dedicated family man, and his children were home to attend to him during these final weeks.
The Lyons Club was also one of his passions, and years ago having late night coffee in a restaurant now long closed, I received David’s assurance that he would see that Gerald would remember to make sure doctors knew I carried a signed card to have my corneas donated at the time of my death since time was of the essence to accomplish this. That was before the driver’s license carried that information. I realized today I might need to have someone else ready to remind Gerald of that desire if death came suddenly. David’s life of service touched many lives, and his death will leave a large vacancy. .
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