Last week I told you about the farm auction we attended and the perspective it brought to my life. But I wanted to share something more.
My Grandma Jean ((Moyer) Shafer) spent some time at The Springs, an extended care facility in Richmond, over the winter and early spring. We made regular visits when Grandma was moved to The Springs, usually on Mondays and Fridays, after breakfast but before lunch. When you have a toddler and a baby, you avoid any opportunity to eat a meal in public; I planned our trips to see grandma so that we avoided the community dinning room.
We were in one day and my mother stopped by to check on Grandma Jean.
“Did you know Dick Kinsinger is here?”
“No kidding? Who is he visiting?” I asked. The last time I saw Dick he was mowing yard.
“No, he’s a patient.”
“Oh no, I hate to hear that.” Though The Springs is a nice facility, you always want your kind of people to be back where they belong – on the farm.
“You should go see him. Go down the hall, take a left. You’ll see his name on the room,” Mom said.
I looked at her like a dog looking at a high-pitched sound: head cocked to one side and slightly confused. I have yet to meet a person who enjoys going to hospitals, nursing homes or care facilities, myself included. You are only there because to have to be; someone you love or care about is within the walls. No one comes to The Springs to pass the time. So when Mom suggested I go visit Dick, I made every excuse in the world.
He probably doesn’t want visitors.
He wouldn’t know who I am.
I have the kids, and they are chaos.
I hate to leave grandma, she looks so lonely (yeah right – I think she was ready for a nap after the Sankey kids).
My mother gave me a look that I haven’t seen since high school. She expected more. She even offered to keep baby Cyrus.
Moments later, I grabbed Caroline’s tiny paw, told her we’re going somewhere where she needs to sit and be quiet, and together we marched to Dick Kinsinger’s room.
Dick was in a big comfy chair, looking out the window. His daughter, Carol, was in another chair visiting with him. She was happy to see us and as I predicted, Dick wasn’t quite sure who I was. In his defense, he often saw me in cut-off shorts, gum boots, a tank top, absolutely losing my temper and herding Shorthorn heifers off a road of which we’d not yet replaced the fence. Looking back, we were probably his entertainment for 25 years, as he saw our family begin a herd of Shorthorn cattle with bad fences early in the game.
Once he realized I was the neighbor kid, he seemed almost proud to see that I had a little girl with me, a job in agriculture and that I would stop by to see him. He told me he was ready to get back home to sit in his lift chair and watch Purdue basketball. I told him I couldn’t blame him one bit. Dick had aged greatly since I last visited with him. His eyes longed for home. I am a firm believer that when you take the farmer (or farm wife) off the farm, they age at least a decade. There is something therapeutic for those raised on the land to remain there.
But Caroline was restless, unsure about who we were with and why she didn’t recognize him. She adores Great-Grandma Jean; she was ready to get back to her room. Our stay with Mr. Kinsinger only lasted seven minutes.
That day was February 7, 2019. Mom called me on February 13 letting me know that Dick was gone.
If Dick Kinsinger taught me anything in the 34 years that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him, it wasn’t anything about raising beautiful Angus cattle, or kids (and grandkids) with strong work ethic, or even caring for your homestead so much that the neighbors feel compelled to keep up.
When I remember Dick Kinsinger, I’ll remember the power in making time for a visit.
I don’t know a single person who looks forward to hospital, nursing home or care facility visits. There is something so terminal about leaving such a place. You often wonder if this was this our first goodbye or our last?
Life offers us so many situations where we will feel comfortable. Pleasure, happiness, laughter, comfort and safety. Don’t we love them, all? But I believe it is in the moments when we are not in our comfortable lift chairs that we learn the most.
Dick taught me that, when I feel uncomfortable in a situation, I should remember that it isn’t about me. It isn’t about my comfort, schedule, awkwardness, convenience or need. It is about the person who won’t sleep in their own bed tonight. Dick taught me that bedside visits are the best opportunities to pay respect. My goodness, how those away from home long for it. Sure, I went to his visitation, but our final visit at The Springs was one where I could show him that I turned out ok, despite my 13-year-old temper.
Go to the nursing home. The bedside. The facility.
Go to the home. The farm. The hospital. The apartment.
Give 30 minutes of your life to make 36 hours of theirs.
Cry in your truck before and after if you have to. That’s why God made truck consoles and McDonald’s napkins.
Bedsides and funeral homes are places of which I’ll never regret visiting.
They say when an old man dies, it is as if a library burns down. I know that another fell to ash when Dick Kinsinger left us in February. Thank goodness he was one heck of a teacher while he was here.

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