by Norman Scott Edwards
July through October, 2008, were good months for PABC. Two Servants’ News issues were produced, and we sold a lot of offerings on eBay, enabling us to make two $1000 mortgage payments. That progress was interrupted by a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles at Lake Geneva Wisconsin, and then the terminal illnesses and death of my parents. I spent most of November through March at their Arkansas home or hospitals.
I would like to take the first part of this column to honor my parents, who had a profound influence on my life, and then share some significant news about PABC.
In a way, the two are related. At age 53, as far as my family is concerned, I am now the older generation. I no longer have any parents, aunts or uncles from which to seek wisdom.
Indeed, the majority of leaders in Sabbath-observing ministries are even older than I am. If the next generation does not soon get directly involved in teaching and propagating the Sabbath and other Biblical doctrines that we have taught for so long, then it is likely that much of what we have learned will be lost. (See the end of the article for more.)
My Parents Last Struggle
Ten years ago my mother, Rosemary, was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and osteoporosis. She took prescribed calcitonin salmon to strengthen her bones and reduce associated pain. Shortly afterward, she experienced one of its known but rare side effects: extreme insomnia. She stayed up continually for 72 hours. She could not be left awake alone in the house, as she might harm herself or the house (leave the store or water on, etc.). Exhausted, late in the third evening, my father, Hugh, took her to the emergency room where they gave her haloperidol. She went to sleep for several days.
Haloperidol is normally used to calm people down from drug overdoses. Destroying brain motor function is one of its listed side effects—it is more likely on people with Alzheimer’s. After that one dosage, Rosemary never walked again and had only very limited ability to communicate. She was not expected to live more than six months, but the two of them surprised everyone. For nine years, Dad took care of Mother at home: feeding her, turning her in bed, lifting her from her bed to her wheel chair, and speaking kind words to her.
During 2008, Hugh developed cancer. He continued to care for Rosemary as best he could, but began to need more and more outside help. It was obvious to those helpers that he was having difficulty getting around, but he continued to take care of his wife, his house and his yard. When Norman made the 16-hour trip to Arkansas last November, Hugh was no longer able to walk. The medical professionals did not know why. One actually said, “he just decided he didn’t want to walk any more”.
Wrong! My father was never one to make excuses. He did the best he could, even if it hurt. In spite of the great pain in his right hip, he would stand on both legs to help transfer himself from bed to wheelchair, etc. Two months later, when a doctor was preparing a treatment plan for the cancer in his spine, I asked if the plan would include his right hip. The doctor decided to actually look at the 3D bone scan results and discovered that his leg bone was completely broken right below the hip joint! Scar tissue indicated it was not a new break. It had broken when he stopped walking, but he had been standing on that broken leg for 2 months! I will not attempt to cover the rest of the various diagnoses, mis-diagnoses, treatments and mis-treatments that occurred along the way.
Managing Complex Illness
Trying to process all of the information about treatments available from doctors and alternative medicine is a massive job that cannot be done to perfection.
For a complex illness such as cancer, various mainstream medical establishments have many different approaches, from very good to very bad. There are even more alternative herbal, dietary and other natural approaches, again from very good to very bad. One can find testimonies from people who recovered by using every one of the treatments. One can also find someone who died using each treatment. The exact chance of success of any particular treatment is often very difficult to establish. Even if those chances were known, not everyone responds the same way to the same treatment. The best health practitioner with the best treatment for a given disease still does not ensure success.
I quickly realized that my parents were likely to die before I could possibly feel confident of what was the best treatment for them. And then, would they accept my recommendation over their own opinion, or the opinion of other relatives?
How a family handles a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, is a test of how a family can work together. A person’s life is on the line, and there is no simple way to guarantee success. Just as the struggles of raising children have the purpose of preparing a child for adult life, so the struggles of a life-threatening illness have the purpose of preparing a person for the Kingdom of God.
Simply turning over all decision-making to a doctor or hospital is to me, idolatry. We should not let another man stand in the place of God. While everyone should pray for healing and follow the Biblical instructions to request healing (Jms 5:14-16), there is no biblical teaching against physical procedures to help a person recover (2Ki 20:7; Luke 10:34; 1Tim 5:23). We should accept tests and treatments that we believe will do more good than harm—just like we put a band-aid on a cut or eat citrus fruits when we have a cold.
The key is to focus on what God is doing in a person’s life—as well as focusing on the treatment. Do they need to make peace with someone? Do they need to finally overcome a sin? Are there messes in their lives that need to be cleaned up?
By early January, it became clear to my father that none of the health care professionals he was dealing with felt that he would recover—they were only talking about easing some pain and delaying some inevitable events. Hugh decided that he was done with medicines and treatments, and simply wanted to go home. He blessed his children and grandchildren and prepared himself to peacefully meet his maker. As Solomon said, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth” (Eccl 7:1).
Hugh Edwards’ Obituary
Hugh Edwards peacefully died Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009, in his Lincoln, Ark. home at age 86. He was born June 27, 1922, in Brewton, Alabama, and grew up in Montgomery. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, then obtained a degree in electrical engineering from Auburn University. He continued with postgraduate studies at Princeton University, then he worked for the Medical Systems division of General Electric Co. from 1950 to 1974. He worked as Biomedical Equipment Maintenance Manager at Washing ton Regional Medical Center in Fayetteville from 1975 to 1987.
Hugh was survived by his wife of nearly 59 years, Rosemary (Fochek) Edwards; three sons, Douglas (and Ruth), Russell (and Diane) and Norman (and Marleen), and four grandsons, Joel (and Erica), Josh, Jesse and James Edwards. He was the youngest of 9 siblings, all of whom preceded him in death.
Hugh was an honest and hard-working man who was faithful to his family. Ever since I can remember, he was either at his job, or at home with his wife and children, frequently including them in the garden or some other project he was working on. He was a it yourself” man. If he did not already know how to do something, he would be reading a book and then buying the tools to get the job done. His tools and equipment were well organized, and if something broke, he would usually fix it. I can see that I acquired many of these traits—even more than I realized at first.
My Mother’s Influence
During the first 40 years of my life, I certainly would have said that my father had much more influence on me than my mother. But since that time, I have come to realize that it was indeed my mother who was probably most responsible for my success in life. I was glad that I was able to express this to her at that time, when her mind was still functioning. My mother was always ready to listen to my creative, unconventional ideas, to help me in sorting out the good ideas from the bad and to encourage me to bring the good ideas into reality. Not all parents can bring themselves to encourage their children to do greater things than the parents did—but that is clearly a Godly method of parenting (John 14:20). It was my mother who gave me the confidence to try and accomplish things that nobody had done yet.
My mother was also greatly responsible for the peaceful family life that we had. While my father was calm and considerate of his family, he generally wanted to make the final decision on nearly everything. My mother nearly always went along with his way to keep the peace. And we had peace; I can remember only a couple of times in 18 years when they had a loud argument—and it was short. I suppose one could say that my mother sacrificed her own desires for peace with her husband and the good of the family. This was a wonderful Christian example.
My mother was also a source of inspiration for me to marry and raise children. Marriage and child-rearing cannot—or at least should not—be run like engineering projects. Marriages and families cannot be precisely measured and calculated beforehand, and made to perform to specifications. They are too complex and all of the relevant factors are rarely understood when they are over, let alone beforehand. Whenever one marries or conceives a child, they are facing huge unpredictable events that must be dealt with as they occur. One has to make one’s best assessment of the known facts, and then just do it. Faith in God is for more valuable than the best-known figures and formulas. My mother could operate in this realm.
When I was a teen, I can remember my mother telling others that she had prayed that one or more of her children would go into the ministry. I do not remember my father ever commenting on this one way or another, but I distinctly remember her wanting to dedicate her children to God. When I heard it, I thought of our black-robed minister and said to myself, “I don’t want to be like that”.
It was not until many years later that I studied the Bible to understand that a “minister” is a “servant”, one who helps others in physical and spiritual ways—not a person who has been declared to have an elevated spiritual status by a human church organization. My mother agreed. For the last 14 years, I have been involved in humble, “servant” type of ministries: the Servants’ News publication and the Port Austin Bible Campus. Even as I reflect now, I realize that most of my family has been opposed to these ministries from lesser to greater degrees, but my mother was always encouraging.
I would like to publicly thank my mother for all that she did for me—and to encourage other mothers-to-be to learn from her example.
Rosemary Edwards’ Obituary
Rosemary Fochek Edwards died peacefully in her Lincoln, Arkansas home, Friday, March 6, 2009, 3 days before her 88th birthday, just 15 days after her husband Hugh passed away. Rosemary was born and reared in Omaha, NE. She obtained a Bachelor's degree in social studies at Grinnell College in Iowa, then took a job in Princeton, NJ, where she met Hugh on a tennis double-date. They married on May 27, 1950. (See Hugh’s obituary for children & grandchildren.) After her first child was born, Rosemary worked at home, taking care of her children and husband.
Important PABC News
There are now six people who live at PABC: Norm, his wife, Bill Buckman and William Swenson, all who have been here for several years. Since last fall, Richard and Karen Heath have been here full time, helping with maintenance, kitchen work and other aspects.
We hope to soon finish paying off the winter utility bills, and generate additional money for improvements via eBay sales. We would be happy to accept one or two young people who would like to live here and learn to work hard selling on eBay. We would also be happy to receive offerings of things you are not using, that are mailable and saleable.
The results from the back page survey from the Sept/Oct 2008 Servants’ News were encouraging: The readers asked us to:
50% Continue sending SN, continue with PABC (6% of these offered to help in some way).
5% Continue sending SN discontinue PABC.
5% Continue sending SN, not sure about PABC.
32% Continue sending SN, said nothing about PABC.
8% Discontinue sending SN.
Many people called us by phone or send e-mail instead of returning their response page. However, there were several hundred people we did not hear from at all, so we removed them from the mailing list.
The local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous now meets in one of our PABC rooms. Chip Drake, one of its members, had alcohol and narcotics addictions in his younger days, but has spent the last 20 years clean and helping others to recover. He has opened up his home as a half-way house for recovering addicts, funded by his own money and the addicts’ meager incomes. Tony Loewe, the Port Austin mayor, was also an addict many year ago, and has spent much time helping individual addicts, as well as serving on government boards that allocate recovery funds. Most CoG groups are more interested in “teaching truth” than dedicating their lives to helping “sinners”, but Jesus said:
"Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little" (Luke 7:47).
Mr. Drake and Mr. Loewe believe they could obtain government funding and enough dedicated people to operate an addiction recovery facility on the PABC property. While both of these men are dedicated Christians, they agree that the program would have to be outwardly secular to obtain government funding. Also, we all agreed that it would not be good to mix recovering addicts and college-age young people.
We still plan to educate/mentor Sabbatarian young people here. We continue to look for more similarly dedicated Sabbath keepers. Perhaps the work will actually be done by our young people, the next generation. More on this next time. &
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