Imagine that you are restricted to a wheelchair in a long-term care facility. I stride into your room and tell you about the love of God, then walk away. Would you listen to me?
Suddenly, at the age of 55, a crippling stroke ended his life as he knew it. In spite of hard work, determination and a good attitude the results of therapy were disappointing. Instead of being able to converse with passersby as he worked in his garden it was now a major event just to go outside. For someone who loved to chat with everyone he met, his vocabulary now consisted of only a few words and phrases, such as: I will, mother, no good, I know, don’t be silly, oh boy, ‘s alright, thank you, I’m trying, sorry. Yet, whenever I went to visit him his eyes would shine, he would smile and say, “I will”, and point up. He would get better. Maybe on earth, maybe Heaven, but God would heal him.
This man was my dad, Denis Budd. For twenty-two years he confidently told anyone who listened, “I will”.
Most years Dad would go to a facility for a couple of weeks during the year so Mum could have a break. Arriving in my usual rush I’d hurry to his room. Not there. Okay, maybe he’s in the cafeteria. Not there. Sigh. I’d ask the nurses. No, there are no activities going on. Grrr. At first I was often impatient with my Dad. Why wasn’t he in his room waiting for me? No, he didn’t know when I was coming, but I had driven 45 minutes to get here. I was in a hurry. My limited visiting time was being wasted because he wasn’t where I wanted him to be. Eventually I would spy him. “Hi Dad. Where were you? I’ve been looking all over. I can’t stay too long you know.” Dad would smile and shrug his shoulders.
As we traveled the halls Dad waved at everyone he saw. Some would stop and say “hello”. He would point to me and I was often greeted by “You must be Denise, his daughter”. This was usually followed by more facts about myself. Often the staff told me how much they looked forward to my dad coming, what a gentleman he was. They also remarked on how amazing it was that while singing Dad could articulate all the words of the songs. “How Great Thou Art”, “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah”, “The Lord’s Prayer”, and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” were his favourites, along with a newer song at the time by Stuart Hamblen.
During one of my last visits Dad and I were sitting in his room when a man, in his forties, burst in, “Denis, I was just… oh, you have company.”
“‘S alright,” Dad replied.
“I was just visiting with my wife and we wondered if you’d come sing for us.”
Dad smiled, “I will.”
“You’ll come later then?”
“Who was he?” I asked my dad. “Do you often visit with them?”
Dad shrugged his shoulders, but he wasn’t getting away with that anymore. After some prodding I discovered that Dad spent much of his time visiting the other residents, “chatting” and singing for them. He knew he would be going home with Mum in a short while, but others had little chance of ever going home again. Following his death we learned that after the nurses put Dad to bed for the night he would sing for them as they did their rounds.
Imagine being bound to a wheelchair. Imagine nursing these ones. Imagine knowing a man who had his capabilities unexpectedly and suddenly, stolen from him. A man now wheelchair-bound. A man who sang to you of the greatness of God, of a God who is faithful, a God who is loving. Would you believe him?
I often wonder about the impact of my Dad’s life after his stroke. I marvel at his faith, his trust in a God that he was willing to serve regardless of the circumstances. Then I wonder what my excuse is. God is the God of the implausible as well as the impossible. He can work through any willing heart.
When my Dad greets me at Heaven’s door we’ll sing that Stuart Hamblen song together. It is a song that defined his life even when others would say he had nothing to sing about. “…Until then my heart will go on singing, until then with joy I’ll carry on—until the day my eyes behold the city, until the day God calls me home.”
“Until Then” by Stuart Hamblen
Let’s journey together…