About three years ago, my father was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. I did not know much about the disease. I went to see him in Texas. I realized that the disease process had progressed to the point that he was tethered to an oxygen hose.
Yet, he was still working. He was a real estate broker. He had his own office. He had done that since 1963. He lived in a small town, and he was just one of a handful of brokers for the whole town. Everyone knew him.
Hauling around a big oxygen tank was embarrassing for him. He had one installed behind the backseat of his pickup. He had one installed behind the desk in his office. Many times when he would see one of his clients, he would try to take off the oxygen and make it through the meeting.
Shortly after I saw him, he had a major episode, similar to a stroke. We simply did not think he was going to make it, but he did.
In the course of my conversation with him after the stroke, he was really wanting to get back to work. I asked him why he did not use a portable oxygen machine. According to him and my stepmother, he would get anxious when he would go to the doctor and his oxygen level demands would get too high, higher than a portable oxygen machine would put out for him. Apparently, the oxygen machine, which compresses the air without a tank, could not go beyond eight pounds per hour. He was recommended to have higher than that.
After our conversation I got on the phone and started calling around. I finally got a hold of a representative at a company and told her what was going on. I told her that every time we went to the doctor, he would get anxious and his need for oxygen would go up. She acted like her hands were tied.
After a couple of more phone calls, she relented. She agreed to send the oxygen machine to me rather than my dad. I, in turn, took it and provided it to my dad.
I cannot tell you how happy it made him. If he had won the lottery, he would not have been happier. He was so proud of his little machine. Right away, I got a photograph of him sitting on his back porch with the machine sitting on the table and him enjoying the backyard. He would take his machine, go to the office, draft his contracts, close his deals, and see his clients. He was back on track.
About three months after my dad got the machine, he passed away.
I want to share this story with you because sometimes we do little things that can mean so much to people. I have friends that go to nursing homes just to visit with people who do not have families. I have other friends through our church that visit people in their homes that might not otherwise get out.
Just taking a meal over to someone’s house when they are dealing with a crisis, or a health issue, or a loss, can mean so much. It is a little bit of joy in a time when perhaps there is none.
That oxygen machine cost me about three or four phone calls. That is it. But, it made my dad feel like he had worth; it let him enjoy his last days; and it made me feel like I had done something important for him.
If you have somebody in your life, whether it is a friend, a relative, or even someone that you know is alone that has no one else or someone who is going through a crisis, take some time to say hello; make a cake; or just spend time with them. Sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference in someone’s life.
Randy Clinkscales founded Clinkscales Elder Law Practice in 1985. He is a 1980 graduate of Washburn Law School.