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Old Blue Eyes

As I sat weeping next to Sam’s just deceased body, what I missed most was the playful glint behind those beautiful blue Irish eyes. They truly were the window to his kind and gentle soul.

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Old Blue Eyes

As I sat weeping next to Sam’s just deceased body, what I missed most was the playful glint behind those beautiful blue Irish eyes. They truly were the window to his kind and gentle soul.

He had been a strapping young lad from Wisconsin camping in the Grand Tetons when Nancy and her family arrived for their vacation. Sam and Nancy hit it off straight away and, in fact, Sam followed Nancy’s family back to Utah. He simply showed up on her doorstep and never left. That was sixty-seven years ago and part of the story Alzheimer’s had erased from Sam’s memory bank.

Also gone was a lifetime of working for the forestry service, raising two loving sons, untold hours fishing, and traveling the country with Nancy in their little camper. Bedbound for the last several years of his life, as his body ever-so-slowly diminished so did a lifetime of memories and even an awareness of who he was.

What did not diminish, however, was that playful kindness in those deep blue eyes. Always present to the moment, Sam loved to laugh and tease. After months of visits and simple conversations Sam could vaguely remember my face but not who I was or why I was there. Most of the time I simply told Sam his own life story. It all started naturally enough. On one of my first visits, those blue eyes looked like a deer’s caught by headlights as Sam told me he couldn’t remember who he was or why he was still here. So I just started to remind him. As I told him his own life story, those blue eyes began to water and relax. When I told him he was a good man and had lived a good life he smiled. That mischievous Irish grin captured my heart.

Over the months Sam taught me so much about living in the present moment. That’s all we really have anyway. With him, the present was all there was. He taught me how lost we can get when we forget who we are, when we forget our story—and how important it is to have good friends and loved ones to remind us. He also taught me about emotional investing. Because of the love he had deposited into others throughout his ninety-plus years of living, he earned great dividends and was able to benefit from those investments when it was needed. His memory bank may have been depleted, but his emotional and relational accounts continued to thrive.

The night before he died, Nancy and their daughter-in-law Joyce were up caring for him and got no sleep. The next afternoon, Nancy had just lain down to get some rest in the next room. She told me she really didn’t sleep—she called it being in a “twilight zone”—when she saw a golden luminous ball suddenly appear on the door of the bedroom. She was thinking, “Is that Sam’s spirit?” when Lynn came in to tell her that Sam had just passed away.

Was that luminous golden ball that manifested on Nancy’s bedroom door Sam’s spirit as she believes? Was it the divine spark that animated the playful glint behind his beautiful blue eyes? I don’t know. But what I do know is that my own life has been incredibly enriched by simply spending hours with a good man, basking in the glow of his love with and for Nancy, and having the distinct privilege of re-telling this kind man with the beautiful blue eyes the story he actually lived.

Submitted by: Fred Grewe, Providence Home Health and Hospice

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