“May you live all the days of your life.” (Jonathan Swift)

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.


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4 Responses to “May you live all the days of your life.” (Jonathan Swift)

  1. DAb says:

    Three words jump off the pages in this great story that are so important to all—Dignity, Goodness & Grace.
    The first two we should take initiative to exhibit in our treatment of each other to better prepare all of us for receiving the “gift of Grace” that comes from God.

  2. RLWThomas says:

    Hi Mr. Horst,
    I am designing a resume in an attempt to find a new nursing job. As I am looking at samples of nursing resumes, I keep finding more & more things I should be putting on this resume, to make finding that job a little easier. So as I was thinking back on my past working experiences, I realized that I did have a healthcare experience outside of the hospital setting as I worked with Keith Worthington & his family. I was Keith Worthington’s Friday Night Nurse for the last four years of his life. I got the opportunity to work with him, because a nurse I worked with in the PACU at the hospital we both worked in, was dating a respiratory therapist who worked with the family & Keith. She told me that they were needing someone to work with him on Friday’s, primarily in the evening & overnight. I would get there in time to assist with dinner, get him ready for bed with the assistance of Sue, then take care of him during the night so Sue could sleep. I continued to work with them after graduation from nursing school, because I loved them, & felt a deep commitment to seeing the journey through to the end with them. Keith died on a Friday night. I should have been there, but I had to commit to work one Friday night every 4-6 weeks on the unit I worked on in the hospital, & that Friday night was the night that I wasn’t there, as I was working at the hospital. I got the call around 2200 that night, that he had gone home to be with Jesus.
    I learned valuable lessons in life from the Worthington family. Commitment means being there the whole way through, no matter how hard that way is. I learned that love is the key for this. I learned that no matter what the circumstances in life, you can make a difference in the lives of others with God, family, friends, strangers who care, to assist you along the way. With them, especially GOD, ALL things are possible….
    Even though Keith couldn’t speak with his mouth, he spoke volumes with his eyes….and through the people that have been placed in his life along the way & who continue to speak on his behalf as they continue to fight the fight to find a cure for ALS.
    You wrote a beautiful article on the love of two friends for each other & for others.
    Thank you,

    • grhgraph says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think Keith and my Dad are two of the greatest men I ever met. I can tell how much that time spent with the Worthington’s means to you still today. You obviously chose the right profession. You are a caring person who understands the meaning of life. Best of luck in your job search.
      Guy Horst

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