Saturday, November 19, 2011

Willard and the Bronze Star

I haven't been able to get Willard off my mind.  I keep thinking about, reliving, picturing, yesterday's visit with this heroic gentleman. Willard, our new friend, lives on the 2nd floor in a local retirement community, the floor where precious men and women battle & live with the disease called Alzheimers.  

Willard and Chester seem to have a special connection. I think it has to do with God, and His kindness. Though these two met only a few short months ago, there is a bond between them that I cannot explain. And when we visit, Willard's memory kicks into gear.  

On our first visit to see Willard, Chester jumped onto his bed, uninvited I might add, and gave continuous kisses and snuggles. It was love at first sight, slobber, and tail wag.

Amazingly, with each return visit there is recognition, memory, and connection. I cannot explain it. All I know is that something special happens when Chester prances into his friend's room.

Which brings me to yesterday, Friday.  My friend, Dori, who is a therapist to these dear ones, took us to Willard's room once again.  In her loving and enthusiastic voice she announced, "Willard, guess who's here?  It's Chester!"

Willard, who was curled up & snoozing in his bed, opened his eyes.  Dori gently turned on the lamp by his bed and touched his shoulder.  He frantically began searching for something lost under the sheets and blankets.   His teeth :-).  Dori helped him find his lost treasure, he put them in and relaxed, stretching out his hand to find his furry companion.

His eyes shone, and happy sounds came, as he patted Chester's soft head.  I sat on the chair next to his bed, Dori stood at the foot.  We both watched, staying quiet as these friends greeted one another. 

After a time, Willard took his hand off of Chester and patted the bed.

"Would you like Chester to lay next to you?" I asked.

He patted again, and turned over on his side, making a place for his friend.

I motioned for Chester to climb up.  It took awhile to find just the right spot, but Chester nestled in.

Willard's aged hand rested atop Chester's paws, stroking them continually.  Gently. Chester watched his companion, sometimes resting his head on Willard's side.  Content to just be there.

Dori pointed to the wall. "We honored Willard on Veteran's Day in our church service here," she told me quietly.  

I looked to the wall, focusing on  a large, framed, certificate of honor.  I saw his name.  Willard.  A Veteran.  A Hero.  Awarded the Bronze Star*.   1952. 

This war hero, over 6ft in stature, lay curled next to Chester. I thought of his life, his sacrifice, his love for country, his heroism.  I had no words, as I watched these two, very content just to be together, enjoying the warmth and company of one another.  So sweet, so tender. I felt I was standing on Holy Ground.

I don't know how long we stayed, 10, 15, 20, minutes.  I have no idea. I was just thankful to be there. And I prayed... Dear Lord, please bless this dear man.

Before leaving, I gave Willard a picture of Chester.  His eyes sparkled a bit. The nurse set Chester's photo in a treasured place, right next to the worn Bible on the shelf.

We waved our good-byes. We will see you next week, Thanksgiving Day~~an appropriate day to visit such a dear dear man, a beloved hero and friend.

*Bronze Star:  The fourth highest award for bravery, heroism or meritorious service in the U.S. Armed Forces.   Willard, we love and honor you.

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