“I surrender all, I surrender all,” All to Jesus, I surrender, I surrender all.” ( Words from an old hymn)
These words are a testimony to my brother Arch’s life which ended on this earth last week. He had dreamed of being a medical missionary to go to Africa to use his passion to teach and heal among the poorest of the poor. For whatever the reason, that door was closed so Arch changed course and went to West Virginia to the heart of coal country to serve there. Because he was not happy to have the union tell him how to practice medicine, he left for East Tennessee which is also in Appalachia. I remember he was the only doc for 18,000 souls when he first went to minister to them. He was on duty 24/7 , and often delivered babies and officiated at funerals as well as healing. The people loved this big bear of a man who was always full of stories and love. He was the doc who would tell patients to lose weight when he himself struggled with his love of food and also his struggles with nicotine. He was understanding when patients were not perfect. Patients would sometimes pay with potatoes or other items of barter. Arch built a clinic and later a hospital. I remember the first time I visited there that many houses and barns were unpainted. I had never seen that before. It was due to poverty that people had no money for paint. This was Mountain City years ago, but now it is more thriving. It is here that Arch wish to be buried.
The family grew by leaps and bounds as 5 boys arrived in 5 1/2 years. Dot had her hands full as did Arch with his never ending line of patients. They stayed until another door was closed and Arch had serious eye problems that made it necessary to find a less stressful practice. He went to work in an Emergency Room..less stressful? He also joined the Veteran Hospital system to work with the veterans and especially loved the World Word I I vets with their stories of courage and determination. And he cared for the Native Americans who were near his V A Hospital in South Dakota.
More and serious health problems arose and he retired from the VA system. But he was going to try one more time to go overseas . They were all set to go to Belize when there was a medical crisis that made this move impossible. With such grace, he and Dot said that they were happy some other younger couple would now get the opportunity to serve…no anger at yet another door closing in their lives.
They moved from Florida to Alabama and Arch was exhibiting more and more symptoms of Parkansons …again with no complaint or anger.Slowly he became more and more inferred, but his mind stayed clear until the end. He asked Dot to try and keep him at home as long as possible. He died at home. They cherished the time to remember their life together, to talk and just sit together after years of the life of a busy committed doctor. Arch, ever the story teller, was able to share and inspire residents from the University of Alabama . Many of them continued to visit long after their class was over.
Life in bed became a reality and lasted for nearly five years. That long and final refining seemed to many a burden almost unbearable, but Arch and Dot surrendered that as well. Arch would always be cheerful on the phone and never angry or complaining. This was the life he was to live and he met it with the same joy of other seasons in his life. He was quick to share his faith and hope and to encourage lovingly all who called even when speaking became more and more a struggle. Last week, his time on earth was over.
His life was a continuum of loving God with all his heart, mind , and soul and loving his neighbors as himself. For all the “least among us” to whom he ministered body and soul. I thank God. For his example of perseverance, love, and faith, I am also grateful.
I also thank God for His promise:
“Blessed is the man who preservers under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. ” James 1:12