Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 19, 2006


It made my day to take the time

to hold the hand of a good friend


          The man who called me made an unusual request. “Walter, I need a favor. Could you find a man who could come to my apartment in the morning and hold my hand for awhile?”

          He went on to explain. The movers were coming to pack up his things so that the following day he could move into a nursing home nearby. “It is not easy,” he said with feeling, to box up all my stuff and move again at age 83.”

          I assured him I could find a man to do what he wanted. So the next day I showed up. I was the man. I wanted to be that man. I would not have missed that chance for a million dollars.

          Russ is a gracious man. His mind is still sharp. He is a bit unsteady on his feet but he can still move around on his own, albeit very slowly. I poured myself a cup of coffee and watched with him the men who carefully boxed his belongings.

          He commented about the blank walls. The pictures were down and boxed up. “I will be able to hang some of them in my new quarters but not all of them. My place at the nursing home is much smaller so I will probably have to store some of my things.” He seemed to feel alright about that.

          We talked for awhile until my friend said, “Why don’t we go have lunch together?” I told him I had hoped he would suggest doing that. We talked some more about the past as we shared “Po Boy” sandwiches at a nearby deli.

          Russ told me about Evelyn, the dear wife he had lost some 14 years before. He has missed her. Life has not been the same though I sensed that he had made a heroic effort to carry on without his precious companion.

          They lived in Atlanta for 41 years. Then, having moved into his eighties, he decided to move to Montgomery to be near his son’s family. That chapter was over now. He is no longer able to take good care of himself. It is nursing home time.

          He seemed surprisingly upbeat about living in the nursing home. “They serve excellent food there; I have sampled their cooking twice already.”

          At the nursing home he will not have to do his own cooking. He seemed pleased that he would have three meals a day prepared for him there. He looks forward to that, even expecting that he may have to watch his weight.

          “They have a beautiful dining room there,” he said. “Have you seen it?” he asked me.  I told him I had seen it one day when I gave a devotional to some of the residents. He said he hoped I would come and speak there again, and I assured him I would so I could visit with him.

          Russ was pleased that I would take the time to sit with him and chat awhile. I assured him the privilege was mine. I explained it this way. I am only a few years behind you and I hope someone will come hold my hand when it comes my time to make such a move.

          The dogwoods are beginning to bloom in our town. Trees are exploding with buds. It is beginning to look a lot like spring even in mid-March. But I don’t think Russ paid much attention to nature’s emerging beauty. He was wondering how it would be to unbox his stuff and start life over again in his new digs. Once again he would have to do it without his dear Evelyn by his side.

          As you must know, I never held Russ’ hand. That was simply a figure of speech. He simply wanted a friend to be with him as he bravely faced yet another of the challenges the aging must handle.

          There were no tears, no sighs of regret, no complaining, and no self-pity. His words as we parted were positive and cheerful. “I will be alright,” he said, and I know he will.  He asked for no sympathy. I gave him none, only my deepest respect.

          The movers came the next morning. Our mutual friend Ray dropped by like I did – to hold his hand and drive him to the nursing home.

          How Ray feels I do not know. I know how I feel. I feel so blessed that this good friend honored me with the high privilege of holding his hand as he thanked God for what has been and welcomed with joy what is to come.

          I wish the world had more men in it like Russ Krantz. + + + +