Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A friend died

2/5/13 Tuesday
          Time is moving awful fast these days. It is already five days into February. Got a phone call this morning that saddened me. It was the son of an old friend, informing me that his dad had died. Wayne Schmidt was a man I met while staying in a homeless shelter in the days I wandered after waking from the coma. He was a veteran as I was and not a drug addict or alcoholic as so many in the homeless shelter were so we connected quickly. Wayne had Multiple Sclerosis and struggled to cope with the debilitating effects of that. He had become homeless because he was no longer able to work in his vocation as a truck driver because of the MS. Coming home one day he discovered all his belongings out on the street as people went through and took what they wanted. His landlord had summarily and illegally evicted him.

          Wayne had primary progressive MS, the worst kind, and it affected his body and mind too. His thinking was not always clear and his short term memory was failing as well, both issues I was very familiar with as I struggled to function in those early years after the coma. But I could help and he needed help so despite my desperate circumstances I worked to get Wayne the help he needed. The lessons I had learned through having to combat the many government agencies in order to obtain the help I needed I could now apply for Wayne. He could barely walk even with the help of a walker and the heat would wither him, a common issue with those who have MS. I would go with him to the library, which was air conditioned and walk alongside everywhere he had to go.

          I got the process started with Social Security to get him recognized as being disabled and to eventually qualify for the benefits he had paid his whole life for. That is always a fight as the government makes this process incredibly difficult. It took over two years of fighting to finally obtain that approval. I ended up finding a lawyer in Kentucky who would take Wayne’s case for a fee that was not as hefty as most and she got it done. What a shame our Social Security system has become, what an embarrassment of uncaring bureaucracy.

Here's Wayne in front of the downtown library 

        I took Wayne to the HUD and public housing office and fought to get him a place to live, a nice apartment he could call home instead of nasty crime ridden homeless shelters. The first place he was put in was not much better than the homeless shelter. Cherie and I had been reunited by this time so her family and others all found and donated furniture for Wayne’s new place. Like many public housing areas there was rampant drug use and all the issues that come with that. Wayne kept a gun handy and there were several occasions that gunshots rang out in the parking lot, along with fights. So I began to search for a better place, using the list of approved places the HUD office gave me. We had prayed and I think the first or second place I looked at was perfect. No stairs to climb and everything easy to reach so once the paperwork was done we got him moved in.

          I fought with the VA to get Wayne’s MS finally recognized and to obtain the care he deserved from the medical side. It seems that everything was a fight. Wayne had me recognized on all his paperwork as an authorized advocate. I located the local MS society and began taking Wayne to the luncheon and support group meeting with other victims of this terrible disease. It was good for him to be around others who endured the same hardships. In the process we found more people who just needed a friend and Cherie and I were blessed to take the time to love them.

          The MS group held yearly events. One of them was a big dinner thing with speakers that included the actor who played Squiggy on Laverne and Shirley. Here’s a picture of Wayne with him. There were others that were focused on medical advancements for Multiple Sclerosis and we went to as many as we could.

          One of the great sadness’s that came with moving to Texas was leaving behind all the people we were caring for. There was Wayne but many others too. As I browsed through the thousands of pictures we have (about 30,000 on this laptop) looking for the ones of Wayne it brought back memories of the many we helped. I had forgotten just how much we did back in Toledo. Cherie told me a few minutes ago that she missed helping others and I told her that we would be finding plenty in need here.

          Now I regret not calling Wayne more. I would always think of it but then get busy and forget. His son had gotten Wayne into a rehabilitation facility where he evidently kept falling. The last fall broke his femur and that somehow resulted in his kidneys failing so he died yesterday. It is always frustrating to have this distance and inability to fly to Toledo when needed. I would be honored to preach Wayne’s funeral. I told his son that Wayne is in a better place now, with no more pain and that he has a new body for Wayne did have a relationship with God. Also mentioned to the son that if he was right with God then he could look forward to seeing his father again.

          Death is always with us, it is the inevitable conclusion to life. I am reminded again that we will all die and stand before God. It is sad to watch others bicker over small things and live a life that makes it clear they really don’t believe in a judgment day. My friend is gone, and I will miss him but am grateful I had the chance to help him out. Like I said on the plaque I carved after the accident, “Money and things can vanish in a flash. What has true lasting value is the lives we touch."

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