For several years I voluntarily cared for a man named
Howie, who was a bit of a hermit, had no family and no
running water, and was a hoarder. The social worker assigned
to Howie’s case warned me that his living conditions
were alarming and that several other volunteers
had not been able to “make it” after the initial visit. I
admit that I gulped when I first saw the shack that Howie
called home. It took everything I had to commit myself to
care for him. It was a great challenge for me, but where
others had failed, I became determined to succeed.
The first months were difficult, but we were able to
establish a routine. Once I was able to see past the lack
of personal hygiene and the mounds of junk that filled
his home, I found that Howie was a great conversationalist
and a bit of a charmer. He’d often nudge me as we
stood in the checkout line at the local grocery store and
say, “Hey, do you see how that clerk is checking me out?”
Despite his outward appearance, he had a great smile
and made others smile too.
I brought him to my home several times, and he
loved my kids. He had a small garden and was sure to
give me strawberries and tomatoes to take home to my
family. I came to enjoy Howie. I know he appreciated my
time and friendship before dementia and Parkinson’s
disease took control of his mind and body. His home
was eventually condemned, and he was forced through
legal guardianship to move to a local nursing home.
I continued to visit him regularly for several more
years as his health deteriorated. With very poor health
habits to begin with, and advancing dementia, he became
quite a burden on the facility’s staff— often even
defecating wherever he pleased. Eventually he couldn’t
remember my name, became uncommunicative, and mostly lay shaking in his bed.
As I returned home one day after a visit during which
I found he had once again made a mess of himself, I asked
God why He would allow a person to be such a nuisance
to others. Why hadn’t God taken Howie, since he wasn’t
able to speak or think for himself any longer? Then it
suddenly occurred to me: Howie was there for me! God
was teaching me how to love someone even when he offered
nothing in return…no conversation, no interaction.
What a great lesson for me, and one that gave me
strength to continue to care for Howie until his death.
Excerpted from Strength for the Moment by Lori Hogan. Copyright © 2012 by Lori Hogan.
Excerpted by permission of Image, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.