This is part two of Marvin’s story. Allow me to update those who missed part one. Marvin was seventy-two years old when he enrolled in hospice with terminal prostate cancer. He was a successful real estate broker, spiritual lay leader and active hospice volunteer for several years. But Marvin eventually ended up on the receiving end of hospice.
In part one titled, “Guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride”; we caught a glimpse of Marvin’s character as portrayed by his wife, Jan: “He never talked about anybody. He never said anything bad about anybody, not even to me. You couldn’t get him to. He wouldn’t repeat a wrong. He always saw the good in people…”
Now for part two! It was a beautiful spring day in May when I pulled up to Marvin’s home. Marvin, his wife, Jan, and two close friends, Doug and Betty, were relaxing on the front porch when I arrived. They talked about having over one-hundred years of combined marital experience; so naturally I had to ask, “So what do you think is the key to a successful marriage?” Jan answered, “We kept busy. We each had our own interests, our own lives.” Doug said “I’m gone six days a week, farming, keeping busy.” Doug pointed out that Marvin also had a small farm with a pond. Jan said, “But we were never there.” Doug smiled and replied, “Marvin was!” Marvin sheepishly grinned and nodded in agreement. Jan resumed, “Don’t you think young people crowd each other too much today? They expect their partners to be with them all the time. When you expect your mate to make you happy you’re in big trouble. Another person can’t make you happy.” Marvin agreed, “That’s true!”
Scott Peck, the author of “The Road Less Traveled” wrote, regarding dependent people, “They passively look to others as the source of their own happiness and fulfillment… they are endlessly angry because they endlessly feel let down by others who can never in reality fulfill all their needs…”
I’m reminded of the wisdom that the minister imparted to my daughter and son-in-law at the closing of their wedding ceremony, “You are one, but remember you are still both individually responsible to God.” What great advice! It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “We being many are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:3-5) I love that statement, “individually members one of another”.
You see, we never lose our individuality; but at the same time we are individually responsible to God no matter what anybody else thinks, says, does, or doesn’t do. I learned a long time ago, the hard way, that with freedom comes responsibility. Therefore, when we attempt to escape responsibility by blaming others, or by making excuses for our actions, or inaction, we escape freedom. We become self-incarcerated prisoners, voluntary victims. Perhaps that’s why Paul exhorts us to, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” (Philippians 2:12-13)
In conclusion, I’m leaving you to ponder a random compilation of pieced-together excerpts from Tim Keller’s book, “Counterfeit Gods”; but I highly encourage you to read the book; it’s an eye opener: “The human heart is an idol factory…an idol is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God; anything you seek to give you what only God can give you…The human heart takes good things like a career, love, material possessions, even family…or children…achievement or critical acclaim or social standing…and turns them into ultimate things…that we tell ourselves we cannot live without… If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning of life and identity, this is an idol… No person, not even the best one, can give you all you need…No human relationship can bear the burden of godhood. No lover, no human being, is qualified for that role. No one can live up to that… putting all the weight of your deepest hopes and longings on the person you marry will crush him or her with your…divine expectations… The inevitable result is bitter disillusionment.” Or in Jan’s words, “Another person can’t make you happy”
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525