My Friend Ken
by John C. Westervelt
Nelda and I first met Ken and Sheila Bays in the late 1950s in the Wedding Ring Class at University UMC in Tulsa, when our children were in preschool. We soon became close friends. Our friendship continued when all of us moved to Asbury and the Joy Sunday school class.
For many years, Ken and Sheila taught young children in Sunday school at Asbury. Today many families of those children remain friends of Ken and Sheila. They have been invited to the weddings of young people they first met in kindergarten.
Nelda died twenty years ago. During the ensuing weeks, months, and years, most friends never talked about Nelda. It was as if all her living had vanished. But not Ken. He called me almost every week and often talked about Nelda and the good times we had together. Ken would ask about my children, grandchildren, and my widowed sister, whom he had met.
Ken and Sheila finally had to give up teaching children when they could no longer hear well enough to understand a child’s words. They shifted their serving to Stephen Ministry.
I was aware that Ken kept a journal of all those at Asbury with cancer and prayed for them every day. I asked, and Ken obliged my request, to add my friends and relatives with cancer to his journal. Ken is Jesus’ special man. I always imagined that Jesus had a smile of approval when He listened to Ken talk to Him about the needs of his cancer victims.
A few years ago, Ken was stricken with bladder cancer. He fought the hard battle and won. Then in 2006 cancer returned to a bone in his leg. In time, he was admitted to the hospital to control the pain. He is now in the nursing facility at Methodist Manor.
Recently, I visited with Ken and Sheila at Methodist Manor. They are pleased with the facility and the nursing staff. The Bays live a few blocks south of the Manor, which is a big plus for Sheila as she maintains a home and spends most of her time with Ken. Despite the very painful bone cancer in his leg, Ken and Sheila have countenances that reflect the presence of Jesus.
On the day of my visit, Sheila sat in a chair close to Ken’s bed. Nancy Parks and I were seated in nearby chairs. As we talked, I watched as Sheila, likely unaware, gently stroked Ken’s arm. I thought, “There is love of a parent for a child and of a child for a parent. Love is expressed and felt for a friend. God planned a growing intimate love for young married couples. Could it be that the deepest love is that of a spouse for a spouse when one of them is helpless and suffering?”
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