One of my clients died over the weekend. No need to sugar coat this entry. Francis “Digger” O’Dell died on Saturday May, 31st 2014. He was 92. This is my first ever client dying on me and it’s sad and amazing all in one huge wave of emotions. Death comes; plain and simple. It is a way of life, but what is actually spectacular is how that life is measured.
I had the pleasure of meeting this gentleman about two years ago. His insurance was not willing to pay for the physical therapy he was receiving after his heart stint that was put in six months prior. Lucky for him, I was dating, and now marrying one of the interns that was working with him. She suggested that Digger start to work with me (great business ploy by my future wife!) and so began our two year journey of training together.
We worked on everything, and I mean EVERYTHING! Strength, balance, cardio, flexibility and hell, I even made him get up off the floor all by himself after a series of falls, or “slithers” as he called them at his home. No way was this guy going to lie on the floor all night waiting for somebody to find him. NOT ON MY WATCH! We worked on how to roll over to all fours, crawl to a sturdy object (a toilet or sink) and pick yourself up. Why would I do this? Because I know he would need this and guess what? He actually did have to use this! I promised I wouldn’t tell anybody :(sorry bud) He worked with me three days a week for an hour. On Monday’s and Wednesdays he would take the “Swinging Seniors” class, THEN work out with me. Talk about dedication! I nicknamed him Diesel because once he started it was hard to stop, especially when I would tell him to stop at 15 reps and he would go to 20. Awesome barely begins to describe him.
Digger was an incredibly smart man. He went to Cal. Poly where his smarts were used to help make the trigger on the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yes. This man used his Mechanical Engineering (I think*) degree to help end World War II. He later owned and operated his own business that did the gold plating on micro boards, micro chips and other types of electronic circuits. On top of all this, he was a jokester! He always loved to say how he was going to call my fiancé and ask her,” Do you know what you’re getting yourself into?” after I would demand another set of an exercise. Even at 92 he loved to laugh and pick on people.
If there is something I can learn from this are two things; persistence and patience. There were many times when Digger was slow moving getting out of a machine and I thought he needed my help. He would say no, take his time, rock back and forth a few times, and maybe try to get up and fail, rearrange his feet or hands, then stand up and away of the machine. If he was to stand, dammit he was going to do it himself! He taught me patience, something that some of you know is not one of my strong suits. Working with the elderly, you go at their pace. They get tired pretty easy and their recovery isn’t as fast as you or I. There would be a lot of down time in between exercises. It was during these down times we would have some of best conversations. He would tell me about his life, his travels, and his wife. He would give me some great insight into some of my own actions in life. Sometimes he would raise the question of maybe I’m being too selfish on an issue. Sometimes he was right. When I really think about it, persistence and patience will get a lot out of life. If you want a goal, you must work at it and you must be patient as it will not happen overnight. You will fall, you will fail; but if you keep at it, pick yourself up again, retool and rethink, you will succeed! For that, I am forever grateful that I had the honor of meeting such a man capable of teaching me such things. Until we see each other again, farewell old friend you will be missed.
*( Originally I thought it was Chemical Engineering, changed to Mechanical )