Friends from a life: Enoch S. Follett (4)
By the time I knew Enoch, arthritis had ruined much of his ability to serve others, and sometimes himself. He was weak, so he couldn’t cut the lawn, rake, or prune the shrubs and trees. One thing he still did, though, was care for the roses and dahlias in the formal part of the garden. Through Google I notice the present owners have replaced this garden with a large arc of a swimming pool. That part of the estate used to be beautiful.
There were two stone walls about four feet tall running parallel to each other about thirty feet long and thirty feet apart. In between the walls was a rectangle of the best-kept grass on the property between eight feet of roses and dahlias on each side, extending from the bottom of the walls out to the grass. As I said, it was beautiful, although I admit to growing up with a mother and grandmother who long ago had prepared me to love it. Both were inveterate perennial and vegetable gardeners. They also raised roses—dozens of them. There were always cut roses in our house and my sister, brother, and I all caught the fever and raise roses ourselves. None of us, though, have ever tended our roses as well as Enoch did.
It was one of the only things he could still do despite his hands gnarled at every joint by arthritis. They were practically useless, but Enoch poured love into his roses and dahlias. In that regard, the only help he asked of me was storing the dahlia tubers each Fall. Under his close supervision, I would dig them up, clean off the dirt, place them in peat moss, and carry them down to the cool, dry cellar where they were stored for the winter.
The tubers bore an uncanny resemblance to Enoch’s hands.
Which brings me to one day of humiliation for Enoch that became my lesson I haven’t left behind.
This past week I spent in bed with the flu. Sounds pedestrian, but it wasn’t. The bug hit me so hard that, as I said, I spent the week in bed. Slept and slept and sweated and slept. Day and night. Didn’t answer the phone. Didn’t talk to Mary Lee. Didn’t respond to email or texts. After a week of it, I was happy to come down with strep throat and finally qualify for an antibiotic, at which point I began to improve. Funny things, antibiotics.
All week I meditated on Enoch saying, “You never miss the water until the well runs dry.” I’m a proud man who tends to take his health for granted, but last week that health vanished and I remembered Enoch.
One day I arrived at the estate and walked into the basement where we had our work area and bathroom. Enoch was standing in the middle of the work area, his head tipped down toward his legs where he was fumbling with his hands.
“Boy, come here and give me a hand,” he said. (I was over thirty at the time, married and with children, and I always took Enoch’s “boy” as a compliment.)
At first I didn’t realize why he needed me. Then, as I walked over, it hit me: Enoch wasn’t able to get his fly closed. He’d used the bathroom but couldn’t zip up his fly.
“Give me a hand here, boy,” he said. So humiliating. For him. For me. Did it as quickly as I could and walked away.
“Boy, you never miss the water ’till the well runs dry.”
That was all, and we were off to our work.
Over the years, I often heard Enoch repeat it. Enoch’s trust in God extended to dry wells—and without a note of whining or bitterness. What he had learned was how much each of us takes God’s providence for granted, especially in those little things we never stop to thank Him for until He takes them from us. For years Enoch had played the piano for his little Baptist church. Because of his hands, he played it no more.
So last week, sick in bed, I spent the week grateful to God that I’m usually healthy. Also that during my years of seminary He sent Enoch to teach me gratitude.
(To be continued.)