Sunday, July 14, 2013
Mr. Richardson was praying. His head bowed, his eyes closed. It was a quick yet powerful scene as I glanced into Mr. Richardson’s room while walking down the hall. The room door was wide open, as it was always his preference. He cared less if people would see him praying, or listening to his gospel music, or watching religious channels on his television. He kept the door open so anyone was welcome to provide care, or just to visit.
“I’m devoting my life to the Lord,” Mr. Richardson expressed one day when I was visiting with him in his room. His voice carried a tone of humbleness and honesty. “I have made many mistakes in my life. I can’t change my past, but I’ve deeply repented. I promised I’d follow His word every single day I have left.”
I was sure the transition to becoming a permanent resident in the nursing home was more challenging to Mr. Richardson than I had anticipated. I learned that he had lived alone most of his life, after his wife divorced him about thirty years ago. He said he was a stubborn and private man, difficult to live with. He traveled all over the United States as part of his job. He and his family had an estranged relationship, that included two daughters who were teenagers by the time the divorce was finalized.
“I didn’t lose my family because of my job, or my friends, or my traveling,” Mr. Richardson expressed with saddened words, his shiny blue eyes flooded with tears. “It was my drinking... I was an alcoholic.”
For the last four years, Mr. Richardson had quit drinking, with the help of his best friend, Larry, and people from the church he had joined. His spiritual life became relevant, and an inspiration in his new journey.
Mr. Richardson had moved to another town, closer to Larry, and also to complete medical treatments. He had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer.
“I don’t know if I have a month, a few months, or a year to live,” Mr. Richardson said. “I can’t change the past, and I don’t have much of a plan for the future. I just live in the present, I go day by day. This is my home now, and I’m thankful to be here.”
I did notice Mr. Richardson was adjusting well to the facility environment and the overall routine. He didn’t appear merely resigned to his current living arrangements. Mr. Richardson seemed genuinely content, despite his deteriorating health condition.
Not only his words reflected his repentance, but a gesture I learned later he had pursued evidenced his reflection on life.
Mr. Richardson asked Larry to attempt to locate his daughters, and give them a message. Mr. Richardson wanted them to know how much he regretted being estranged from them for so many years, and he asked for their forgiveness.
Larry went to Mr. Richardson’s hometown, and although he couldn’t locate his daughters, he was able to connect with other people that seemed fairly optimistic about carrying over the message.
I never saw anyone visiting Mr. Richardson other than his friend Larry. I believe Mr. Richardson never heard back from his daughters. But I was certain he had finally come to terms with what he had done, or left undone. Mr. Richardson had allowed himself to ask for forgiveness from others, and from the Lord, but equally important, he had found the path to forgive himself.
“I finally feel at peace,” he said, showing a noble smile. I observed him as he scrutinized his oxygen tank, and confirmed his tank was full. He was breathing comfortably. Mr. Richardson’s lungs seemed well oxygenated at that moment. As so is his soul, I mused.