My sister, Marilyn, insisted that I read Debbie Macomber’s book, God’s Guest List. Debbie’s one of our favorite authors because she often writes about her passion for knitting and how it brings women together. In this book Debbie writes about an author, Richard LeMiuex, who is on her guest list.
Richard was a successful businessman whose business failed and as a result he lost everything including his family. While he endured the agony of being homeless he typed on an old Underwood typewriter everyday in parks and libraries about the people he met who touched his life. I’m currently reading his book, “Breakfast at Sally’s.” I, too, am touched by his story and the way he captures the kindness of homeless people and the few who reach out to them, especially the Major and cooks at the Salvation Army where Richard has breakfast with 80 other homeless people every day.
Debbie encourages her readers to develop their own guest list. She says, “The gift of seeing God at work through life’s guests gives us new eyes to see and appreciate God like never before.” This is my first entry into my guest list.I worked in Brad Melton’s Edward Jones office yesterday while he and Debbie attended a Forum in St. Louis. Late in the afternoon a gentleman strolled into the office, the first customer of the day. He said, “Debbie told me to come and see you.” So I introduced myself and he did the same. With a warm handshake he said, “I’m Larry Pulley.” Even though I’d never met him, I knew about him. Emilie, his dear wife, currently lives at Guardian Angel Homes because of her Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Dementia. I’ve known Emilie for 20 years. She worked at the Director of Nursing at the Idaho County Nursing Home in Grangeville when I worked at the facility up on the hill. I was delighted to find out in 1999 that she now worked at Royal Plaza, a skilled nursing facility down the street from Juniper Meadows. My question of “how is she?” led to an emotional discussion of her disease and how it’s robbed her of most physical functions. But, he said, “she’s in her body…she can still laugh and shake a finger at the staff.” We talked about Emilie’s dedication to the elderly and how she perfected her role as evidenced by good surveys and staff longevity. Now she’s on the receiving end of a service that she provided to hundreds of others in her career. I recalled seeing Emilie walking on the levee about the same time I walked with my friends. “She loved to walk, but towards the end, she kept falling down and sometimes I needed help to get her up.” I can still see her sitting in a pew at St. Stan’s. I gently inquired once about why she never went to communion and she told me she had a “marriage issue.” I felt sad and angry that this loving woman could not receive the Eucharist because the church did not recognize her marriage. Now this strong “marriage issue” stood in front of me sharing the story of losing Emilie while visiting the Statue of Liberty. “It was then that I knew she had Alzheimer’s. We never did get to take our dream trip to Italy that we’d planned to do after she retired. It was one thing to lose her in this country, I was too afraid she might get lost in a foreign country.” When I asked how he was doing he replied, “well today I was her manicurist…I cut her nails because she’s a diabetic and the nurse is the only staff member that can do it and she’s much too busy.” He also brings her chocolate and why not? He did mention that it hurts him sometimes that Emilie’s friends don’t visit her. I wonder now if I’ll be able to go see her, preferring instead to remember her as a vibrant leader and lover of the elderly. Larry said, “she won’t know you, but she’ll look you in the eye and you can hold her hand.” I told him I was grateful for his visit and complimented him on his dedication to his wife and he gave me a big hug before he left the office. He’s on my guest list because he honors his marriage vows, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health.” And because he’s still in love, still smiles, and treasures tender moments with Emilie. His visit made me appreciate my health and the opportunities I had in my career to notice the loving dedication of spouses who visit their loved ones every day in nursing homes. It’s there that kindness and unconditional love happens. It’s there that I was able to appreciate God like never before.