An aide stopped at the door of the nursing home room.
“They’re getting ready to have Bible study,” she said. “Clyde’s here.”
“Do you want to go?” I asked mom. “Clyde’s here.” She brightened immediately.
“I love Clyde better than…” She trailed off. She was going to say, “better than anybody,” but then she realized that wouldn’t be very tactful with me sitting there beside her.
Clyde was the pastor of the little church that she went to for most of her 95 years. The church was right across the street from our house so he was her closest neighbor before she had to go to the nursing home. But more than being her pastor and a neighbor, she loved Clyde because he was friendly, caring and joyful — a big man with a booming voice and a hearty laugh — a lot like Daddy was.
“I like to run around with him,” she confided.
Of course, she wasn’t running around with him or anybody else. Her running around days had ended a long time ago and all she could manage were a few halting steps with a walker. But what she was saying, I think, was that he made her feel like maybe she could run around again and that he was the kind of person she liked to be with.
And, lastly, she loved Clyde for the same reason everyone else in that nursing home loved him — because he loved them.
I pushed her to the big room where the service was being held. Clyde was well into the story of Daniel and the lion’s den, stopping to ask the more alert ones, “Isn’t that right?” when he made a point, stabbing his finger emphatically into his Bible.
I counted 20 there, most in wheelchairs. His talk was short, ending with a prayer for those present. Then he strode quickly to the side of a woman who had kept up a low moaning while he talked. He put his arms around her and asked God to bring her peace, calling her by name. He then went to every one of the 20 people there and prayed for them individually, calling each one by name, touching them, holding their hands, rubbing their shoulders.
Everyone was silent as they waited their turn with Clyde. Not one of them wanted to be there, had always hoped they wouldn’t end up this way, so old, so frail, so helpless and alone. But, somehow, this man, dressed in khaki pants, a short-sleeved bright blue shirt and cowboy boots, called by everybody not reverend nor pastor but just plain Clyde, knew exactly how to ease their pain
The circle completed, he boomed out the first words of “Amazing Grace,” and a few softly followed along, one clear soprano blending with Clyde’s deep bass. “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me…’Tis grace hath bro’t me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.”
Almost everyone had tears in their eyes and so did I.
Mary McClure is a former newspaper editor who lives in Lawton.