By Leslie Criss
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
– Mother Teresa
“When I think of Jesus, I think of Rick White.” I was having a conversation Thursday night with a dear friend, and Rick’s name came up.
Without thinking, those were the words that came out of my mouth. My friend agreed, “He is an angel.”
My family met Rick during a difficult time. My mother’s health had declined to the point my dad could no longer care for her by himself.
Alzheimer’s disease and congestive heart failure had taken a toll; the stroke seemed an unnecessary cruelty.
Still, we decided as a family we wanted to take care of her at home as long as that remained a possibility.
So my folks relocated for a time to Tupelo and moved in with me.
We asked a few questions about home health agencies and, quite honestly, chose the one we did because I’d heard through a physical therapist friend about another therapist named Rick who was “really, really good.”
I now know that is the greatest understatement of all time.
The first day Rick walked into my house, he was cordial to me, to my roommate, to my dad. But he charmed my mother – and in those days, that was not always easy to do.
Mom was weak and spent most of her day in a lift chair. We still had not given up hope she’d once again be able to use her walker.
That first visit, Rick pulled up a chair so that his knees nearly touched my mother’s. He looked her in the eyes and talked directly to her. Not through us, like some folks had begun doing.
He patiently waited for her to respond, and respond she did.
When he left that afternoon, he had, in less than an hour, made us all believe Ann Criss could once again be mobile.
There were days he came when Mom was, well, much less than agreeable. But Rick was not deterred. With his soft, kindness-filled voice, he’d talk to her, tell her stories, encourage her – and before he left, she was once again smiling and chatting with him. If any of us tried to talk to him, she’d quickly tell us, “He is here to see me.”
A month after Rick and the other home health folks began their visits, Mom had what we thought was another stroke, but it turned out to be a fast-growing brain tumor.
We no longer needed home health care; we needed home hospice, so we said goodbye to the kind people who’d become a part of our lives in those weeks.
One afternoon a quiet knock beckoned me to the door. It was Rick. He just wanted to come by and see Mom, and the rest of us to see how we were. That was no longer his job – but, as we learned, that was just who he was.
That was not the last of his visits. On the day my mother died and all our wonderful Sanctuary friends had left, another knock brought Rick, who offered hugs rather than handshakes, and cried along with us.
It hasn’t been quite a year since my mom’s death, but this past summer, my dad happened to be visiting at my house. I noticed a car in the driveway, opened the door and there stood Rick. He’d brought a column I’d written last September about my parents’ 58th anniversary. He’d wanted Dad to have it. When he saw my dad was there, he sat and talked with him for a time.
He’d left his job, and he and his wife would be moving to Alabama to be near kids and grandkids.
I believe Rick White is an angel in human form, sent to my family – and I’m certain many others – to help us through a terrible time.
I’ve wanted to write his former employer to tell them how much we love and value him and the kindness and compassion he showed Mom and the rest of my family.
And it’s true …
When I think of Jesus, I will forever think of a man named Rick White.