Monday, September 15, 2014

A Life Lesson (Revised

I only know bits and pieces of Doc’s early life since marrying his baby girl. This many years later, I find my spouse the last living member of the expanded family that belonged to Doc. He was a life-long Oklahoma general practitioner who spent a short stint in Houston, TX. I’ve heard numerous stories not repeated here. Some family members remembered a time when Doc wrote off more than one million dollars in bad debts that his depression-era patients could not pay, a reminder that there had been better financial times.

By the time I met Doc he was still vigorous and dynamic, but was aging and old. I could easily envision him a force to deal with, standing six feet in his stocking-feet and ranging from 250-300 pounds. Four sturdy sons by Mary all towered over him, his baby standing 6’4 ½”.  When I came along, I found a man well into the latter years of his eighty-plus span. It had been an impossibly-long journey that had begun in North Carolina.

There, he was someone’s five-year-old mixed-birth male child, propped up on a plank in their part of the departing wagon-train. His responsibility was to hold the reins and hold their team of oxen on course as they began their personal “Trail of Tears”. Dee Brown described that journey in her gut-wrenching record in her best-selling narrative, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. “Doc” made the journey as far as Lead Hill, AR.  There, he began his new life as a Razorback.

In that new and hostile western environment, he carved out his own niche, having grown up fast as a five-year-old. He paid the necessary toll - physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually, utilizing sheer grit and gumption. He graduated from the University of Arkansas before Oklahoma became a state. He paid for his medical education by working as a fireman shoveling coal, shuttling back and forth between Little Rock and the Crescent City.

A former translator for the nearby Indian Court, Doc was concluding years of working hard as an entrepreneur that provided the livelihood of several tenant families. Doctoring a wide-swath of east-Central Oklahoma’s impoverished, Doc served without fear or favor anyone unable to afford regular medical care. Simultaneously, he kept his hand in Oklahoma politics.

When his first wife died prematurely, he married a young Kansas girl whose New England descendants migrated west to build new in business and cattle. At some point, Doc and youthful Mary Woodard experienced a religious conversion following their marriage and were swept up in the Reformation of the Oklahoma Church of God. There, for three exciting years Doc proclaimed the Gospel of the Reformation Saints.

When the leadership exercised more exuberance than sense, Doc’s preaching days shortened. They offered to ordain him into gospel ministry, with which he had no problem. However, he had the good judgment not to throw out the baby with the dishwater! When they insisted he burn his medical books and renounce his medical training, he forthrightly rejected their extremism and never again preached.

He taught the bible to his growing family. He supported the church in many ways, yet refused to dissect their theology from the good sense God gives most of us. That forever changed Doc’s life, leaving him warped in many ways. It left his family searching and sometimes sickened, often striving to make sense of what was not always a pretty scene.

Mary held steady! Exposed to the gospel by Nazarene friends, she spent her life in the Oklahoma Church of God. Ever faithful, she completed her eighty-nine years long after Doc’s chaotic death. She followed faithfully; trusting God as her medicine, until departing from the East Tulsa Hospital she checked herself into.

For years she had awoke at five a.m. and done her devotions at the end of the path behind the house, before waiting on her family. Her final day, as every day; she enjoyed her audience with God while hospital staff fluttered about tearfully. Boarding her final flight, she left no doubt among the staffers of the Divine Presence and her final home-going--a whole other story.

I became part of this scenario long after Doc’s departure from church; yet, he was never far from it. That ordination committee did what they knew to do. Yet, in their zealous ignorance they possibly ruined one that potentially far excelled them as a powerful witness. Their gross misunderstanding was short-sighted and unnecessary.

Some of life’s lessons are more helpful than others; I leave that for your determination. For myself, I believe God alone determines such judgments. At times, people expected me to draw conclusions of immortal import, but I am happy to confess my infallibility.

Had I but one lesson to leave those nearest me when I depart, it is that we can trust this Sovereign God who sometimes seems to leave us dangling on limbs of uncertainty. What He does in our lives, will sooner or later reflect our best interest--if we but trust Him! Doc's kids also shared this conclusion while "Mose" (pictured) and I spent our lives as career servants of the church. 

Believing the best is yet to come, 
we all look forward to the best of all judgments possible 
. . .

No comments: