Editor’s Note: As I promised, today we’re bringing you the very best, most heart-warming story we’ve ever published on For His Glory. Enjoy and be blessed.
By Don Robinson
Doyle Rucker was ready to die. For years he had wanted to die. He prayed for God to take him home, but, instead, he lingered with us. Through medical emergencies, in poor health, unable to drive, walk, play cards, socialize, or care for himself, he lingered. Those of us who cared for him during his last months couldn’t understand how he was still alive.
Years ago, when Dot was initially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Doyle’s strong motivation was that he not predecease her. He wanted to be here to take care of his Sweetie. He knew then, even in the early stages of her disease, that there would come a time when Dot would need help with everything, and Doyle knew that no one would love her more or care for her better.
Theirs was a special love. Married for 73 years, when they looked at each other you could still see the spark. You could hear the tone in Doyle’s voice when he spoke to Dot or of her. He never mentioned her without smiling. Failing health may have overtaken Doyle, but it never diminished his love for Dot, even as she began to slip away from him into her private world. Over years, Dot became unable to recognize those around her, either by sight, sound, or name.
Her eyes remained continually closed even though she was awake. Her conversations were restricted to those who resided within her mind. Doyle wept at his inability to penetrate Dot’s retreat, to get her to acknowledge him, to get her to hold his hand. Over time, for all intents, Dot was no longer with us. She rarely responded to a spoken voice, and, if she did, it was a response completely unrelated to what she’d just heard. Living on separate floors at Lenbrook, as their conditions demanded, Doyle continued to have
Dot brought to Sunday services so that he could sit with her. Her agitation eventually prevented her from being present at the service. Doyle’s time with Dot became restricted to those times when he’d drive his scooter to her room to sit with her, but those visits became less and less frequent because they were too painful for him, each visit a confirmation that he had “lost” his precious Sweetie.
Because of his rapidly declining health and his bed-ridden condition, we could sense that Doyle had let go—he knew he could no longer take care of Dot, and, after living for Dot for so long, the prayer for release that he prayed became fervent.
His nurses, the aides, his friends, and his family knew, as Doyle did, that his final peace was near. He was so ready to be with Jesus! Goodbyes were said, and we encouraged Doyle to place his hand in Jesus’ and go with Him when He called Doyle’s name. We even told Doyle to be sure he didn’t tell Jesus when he got to heaven that he was “…terrible,” as was his habit to say to anyone who asked how he was.
Doyle’s last few days were not without struggle. Having been in hospice care for some time and having been medicated to mediate his pain, he had breakthrough moments where he fought against his discomfort. All of us in his room were torn and in tears when we saw his pain and confusion. We prayed for comfort and peace for him and for strength for ourselves.
We had been called by the hospice attendant on Wednesday and told that Doyle was
“transitioning,” and we rushed to be with him. He was medicated the entire time, but he survived the day and night, though we expected to hear any minute that night that he had passed. Again, on Thursday, we got the same news. We rushed to Lenbrook. Our sons, Keith and Matt, came, but, amazingly, Doyle survived the day. He seemed to be fighting something, and, knowing Doyle’s stubborn nature, the light-hearted observation in the room was that he still had something to attend to and wasn’t leaving us until he did it.
On Friday morning, with the hospice attendant, Shaquita, the hospice chaplain, Ashley, and Patty and me in the room, we were all dumbfounded by Doyle’s persistent resilience. Still properly medicated, his breathing was shallow. He seemed unaware of his surroundings. We had whispered in his ear that we were there and that he could go, but he resisted, with cold hands that we tried to warm with our touch.
It had become increasingly distressing for Doyle and Dot to be together, she in her confusion in a distant world of her own, eyes constantly closed, speaking to unknown people in her private place, and he in his sorrow. In the last days we had kept them apart so as to agitate neither one of them, but Patty and the chaplain both thought it wouldn’t hurt to have Dot brought to Patty went to get her as we all prepared a place beside Doyle’s bed for Dot’s wheelchair.
Patty wheeled her Mom toward Doyle, and we noticed that Dot was somewhat animated when she came into the room, speaking words and non-words to whomever shared the place where her mind was at the moment. Patty reached for Dot’s hand and told her that she was placing it on Doyle’s hand, and, where, normally, Dot would resist anyone positioning her, she became quiet and still as she rested her hand on Doyle’s. Then, in a clear and resonant voice, Dot said, “This is so warm, and it feels so good!” Dot continued to hold Doyle’s hand, remaining still and silent, and within two minutes, Doyle was peacefully gone.
As each of us in the room was sobbing at the sweetness of what we had just witnessed, I looked down and saw a huge smile on Dot’s face. Not really expecting a cogent answer or an appropriate response, I leaned toward her shoulder, found her no longer slouching but sitting erectly in her wheelchair, eyes closed, still holding Doyle’s hand, and asked her what she was smiling at. In the sweetly refined southern voice we had all known for decades, she said, “Y’all look like you’re looking at the most beautiful scene you’ve ever seen.”