As we Americans know Monday, May 31 is the traditional Memorial Day, commemorating U.S. men and women who died while in military service. It was first enacted to honor deceased Union soldiers of the Civil War.
Admittedly this holiday does not mean much to me because I have no personal history of losing anyone I knew on the battlefield. The closest I came was when my oldest son dodged land mines hidden in the sand during Desert Storm. Thankfully he wasn’t injured and returned home safely.
Memorial Day causes me to think about all people I have known who are deceased. There is one woman who is right up there on top because she was a true fighter on the battlefield of life. Barbara Hocker began her battle with diabetes in 1969 when she was a senior in high school. She almost didn’t graduate because she spent most of that year learning to live with the disease.
Her first kidney transplant only lasted four years and the second in 1988 caused severe complications which led to a coma. During the coma she had an encounter with (in her words) “Jesus Christ My Lord”. He did not speak in words, but his message that it was not time yet became imbedded in her mind. She survived, but spent the rest of her life on dialysis. Barbara said she used the experience to lift her up when she was down.
Diabetes took a real toll on her body, over time she lost a leg, several fingers and toes and became legally blind. In 2000 she gratefully adopted a yellow Labrador Guide Dog named Panama. He was her constant companion until she died in September 2007. The whole town was relieved, that because of the dog’s age, Guide Dogs for the Blind allowed her husband to keep Panama.
Despite her physical problems Barbara was a very active member of our community. She and John raised three boys. She loved her family and her church and her friends. She took many college classes to continue her education. She once told me that chemistry was a real challenge because she couldn’t see what she was measuring!
For several years before her death Barbara ran a snack bar at New Mexico State University. She was a great role model for the students and they adored her sense of humor and never give up attitude. Four days before she died, recovering from the recent amputation of all but her pinky finger on her writing hand, she planned to go back to work. God apparently decided she had done enough.
The morning of her death I happened to look up into the sky and noticed a word written in a child like scrawl. When I realized it said Jesus I knew Barbara had sent me a message that she had safely arrived at her destination and was just fine. I related her message to her husband.
Barbara’s obituary stated, “Because of her never ending will to live she affected everyone she came into contact with. Her life was cut short at 55, but her impact on others because of her heart, strength and determination will live on forever.”
This Memorial Day I choose to remember my friend, Barbara Hocker and her ability to fight for her life until she took her last breath.