I was incredibly fortunate to have my Dad for the first 57 years of my life. He was the best male role model a boy could ever hope for and his friends were just as much of a positive influence as he. Most of his close friends came from our church, Ward Parkway Presbyterian. For such a small congregation, we had a virtual honor roll of successful men to look up to. My Dad’s best friend from church was Keith Worthington.
Mr. Worthington was handsome, intelligent and sophisticated. Classy and charming would be the words most people used to describe him. He was an executive for an exclusive men’s clothing store and he always looked the part. Beneath his Cary Grant good looks and stylish personality was a heart of gold and that’s the part my Dad liked best. They met in the early 60’s and became fast friends. They served together on every church committee and then in their spare time they looked for other ways to walk the walk. I think it was Keith’s idea to visit Lansing Prison weekly for Bible study with the inmates. They stuck with this impossible task for several years before they decided it might be easier to keep people out of prison if they could reach them at an earlier age.
From the hardened criminals they moved on to working with children at the Jackson County, MO. Juvenile Detention Center. Every Sunday in the late 60’s, they got up early for Sunday School there and still made it back for the late service at Ward Parkway. When they weren’t preparing lessons, they tried to raise money for their annual Christmas Party so every kid would get great presents. More often than not they paid whatever it cost out of their own pockets. I never heard them ask for donations but every year they filled up Dad’s Ford station wagon with gifts. Keith and my Dad were just 2 grown men playing Santa Claus for kids who had nothing.
All of their good works eventually came to a sudden end when Keith was diagnosed with ALS. Lou Gehrig’s Disease, as we all know, is always fatal but Keith fought for his life harder than anyone had ever seen. He lived for more than 12 years with the slowly debilitating disease and my Dad was there for him till the end. In his last few years Keith was on oxygen and bedridden but mentally he was alert and eager for conversation. My Dad made weekly visits to see Keith and give his wife Sue a break from the 24 hour care that he needed.
The thing that stood out for me was how much my Dad was uplifted by his visits with Keith. They never dwelled on the sadness of his fate or cursed God for letting this happen to such a wonderful man. Instead, they talked about the richness of life and all the opportunities they had been given. I’m sure they laughed more than they cried because they believed in God’s plan and their lasting friendship was proof of their strong faith.
All of us can learn a lot from these old friends. Keith Worthington’s last days were as classy and dignified as any of his younger ones. My Dad’s willingness to share this experience with Keith was just one more way he made a difference for someone in need. Keith inspired my Dad in every way one man can for another and his spirit passed into my Dad’s hands on his last day. Now that both of them are gone I believe that gift has been given to me and I intend to share it with as many people as they did. Goodness and grace will always find a new home in willing and hopeful souls.
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.