Good luck, #8216;Pick#8217;

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2008

Laverne G. Pickles, lovingly and affectionately known to everyone as “Pick,” has started a “new cycle in his life,” as he called it.

A “new cycle,” as he puts it, entails traveling to Ohio from Franklin to live in an assisted-living facility.

“Pick” resided with his stepson, Dr. Douglas Boyce, president of Paul D. Camp Community College, and Dr. Boyce’s wife, Grace.

Since living in Franklin, “Pick” has been a member of Maggie Evans’ Fit and Flex Class at the Y. He has not only been just faithful to his exercise program; he has endeared himself to all the members of the class. First of all, one must understand that our class is not your usual class. We sing, we dance, we laugh, and oh, yes, we exercise.

Maggie is an excellent leader who emphasizes proper form, etc., and insists we give all we attempt our best efforts, while she realizes and allows some of us our limitations. I think it was a perfect fit for “Pick.”

Since “Pick” was the only man in the class, and since he was the epitome of chivalry and good breeding, we showered our affections on him. And, he loved it, too. He was seldom, if ever, late, and one by one, as we filtered into the class, whether or not the class had already begun, we would seek him out and hug him from behind or kiss his bald head, etc.

He would always say in a booming voice, “Hello, dear!” When it was time to get our mats and get on the floor, someone would put a towel on his mat and roll up a towel to put under his head. He so freely handed out hugs, kisses, thoughtfulness, etc., and his manner of delivery was so wholesome and grandfatherly/fatherly. He clearly understood and appreciated the healing power of touch.

Grace always invited us to brunch on Christmas and “Pick’s” birthday. This seemed to please him so much, and he would thank us all for thinking enough of him to be there. He would speak as if he were honored that we would come, while we were thinking of what an honor it was to be invited to be with him. Sometimes, he would play the drums for us. And I always got a handwritten thank-you note for any little gift.

When we had our one-on-one visits at the hospital, he would be very profound and deep-thinking. He told me that he “never in a million years thought he would be the recipient of so much unexpected love from Douglas and Grace.” He said, “Grace takes care of me, and oh, I am going to miss her.” He talked of how unselfish they were in taking care of him and thinking of him. When his granddaughter, Laura, brought his coffee, and then had left the room, he said “she’s a wonderful, loving girl, and that doesn’t just happen overnight — the way she is.”

“Pick” also told me that he “hoped he had a few more years, because there were more things he wanted to do for Him.” He told me that he “hopes he’s worthy.” In disbelief, I’d say to “Pick,” “Don’t worry, you’re worthy. You have lots of stars in your crown.” He didn’t understand that statement, so I told him that when I was a little girl in Tennessee, we always sang a hymn “Will there be any stars, any stars in your crown when at evening the sun goeth down.” So, I assured “Pick” that he had lots of stars in his crown, and he was definitely worthy. Definitely.

So the day before he left for Ohio, Grace had a brunch for “Pick” and invited the class. Maggie’s face showed great emotion. As all the “girls” gave hugs and wished him well, the lump in my throat and the pain in my heart grew bigger and bigger.

“Pick” was so brave and courageous and so accepting and cheerful; it made me feel ashamed that I couldn’t compose myself more. After all, he said, “I’m going on a great journey.” “Pick” knows who walks beside him. It’s as simple as that. He’s got faith, and faith gives you strength.

I managed to say goodbye and walk to my car with a friend who had ridden with me, and as soon as I let her out of the car, I thought my heart would break. I couldn’t hold back any longer — I pulled over beside the road and wailed. Wailed.

RITA McCORMICK lives in Ivor. Her e-mail address is