To The Daily Sun,
When the Old Man of the Mountains fell several years ago, the state of New Hampshire was stunned and deeply saddened. How could such a landmark, a huge granite "face" on a mountain top ever fall? It had been there for perhaps thousands of years. One newspaper cartoonist pictured the Old Man with a tear running down his cheek. Hundreds of people heard the news of the fall and cried as well.
Perhaps, many of you, too, were stunned and saddened by the announcement of Pastor Bob's retirement last Sunday. How could such an institution, the only pastor of our church for more than 35 years, ever retire? You may have envisioned a man who would die here, never wanting to leave his ministry before that, a man who would be "forever" helping people, reaching out, especially to the "forgotten" ones, loving each of you in such a Christ-like way. As his wife for almost 54 years, I've often told you that the caring, giving man you see has always acted the very same way toward me at home. He is a wonderful husband. Like you, I've been indeed blessed.
On Friday, Feb. 26, I flew out to Phoenix to see our oldest grandson, Troy, get married. Bob stayed at home because he wanted to work and he doesn't enjoy flying. In Phoenix, I had dinner with some of our son Paul's family then returned to my motel for the night. At 2:30 a.m., I received a phone call from Massachusetts General Hospital saying that Bob had had a stroke and had just been flown to Mass General from our local hospital. You can imagine the shock I felt. Paul arrived quickly to the motel and, by 10 a.m., he put me on a plane to Boston. I stayed at the hospital with Bob for five days.
After much testing, it was confirmed that the blood clot, a very large one, had been thrown by his heart because of atrial fibrillation. Praise God, because they caught the clot within four hours of the stroke. They were able to give him a clot-buster which makes the stroke much less severe. Even so, doctors said that he had still suffered a very bad stroke. The stroke was on his right side, so, to look at him, one might think there was nothing wrong. While there is no paralysis, the stroke affects mainly his cognitive skills. He has trouble walking, standing for long, remembering sometimes, reading, etc. He also has very little stamina and takes long naps during the day. For six weeks, I had to drive him everywhere. While his progress has been great, stroke takes a long time to heal, most often at least a year.
How does the stroke affect his ministry? Even at 78 years old, Bob continued to have an amazing amount of energy, absolutely loving work. People would say, "We get tired just watching him!" He never minded when I when I was gone overnight because then he would fill his time working at the church. Unbeknownst to me, he had told several people before the stroke that he wasn't feeling well and, the day before the stroke, he had worked 19 hours straight. He also did his usual 21 trips that week to the local grocery stores picking up food for the food pantry and lugging many, many heavy boxes. (He has had to give up the food runs since the stroke as he has so little strength.) Office work, which he still does, is now the most tiring for him as he has to use so much mental energy.
Stress and anxiety are big contributors to atrial fibrillation, we have since learned. It has proven to be true. If Bob has a stressful day even counseling and talking with people, (his ministry), or being pressured, he becomes very weak and fatigued. Doctors all have told him that, for the first time in his compassionate life, he must be selfish. He needs to take care of himself first before he can get completely well. This goes against every grain in Bob's body. As he begins to get well, Bob sees the needs around him and is beginning to overdo again. This week, at a routine doctor's visit, she found he had a 101 degree temperature and sent him to the hospital ER. A serious internal infection had recurred. He had been suffering with it for two weeks but kept putting off seeing the doctor because he was too busy helping others. Again, the ER doctor warned him of dire consequences if he didn't take better care of himself.
A few weeks ago, two pastors, both whom Bob knew and trusted, spoke with him. They had seen first-hand what a struggle Bob was having physically and mentally. They also knew of some personal emotional issues I was having. They asked him to seriously consider retiring in October so that we could fully heal and have a brand new start together. Thus began the most difficult decision Bob has ever had to make in his life. His ministry defines him and his love for our church people is very, very deep. While the Old Man of the Mountains shed a tear, Bob shed many, many gut-wrenching tears. As I have thought of this, I picture Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane where He shed drops of His blood as He agonized. While we believe it was because of the cross before Him, I also think it was that He was having to give up His earthly, human ministry which He so loved. When Bob finally said, "Not my will but Yours be done," he finally received some peace. He'd made the decision to retire.
After Bob retires, we will be relocating to a place where the winters are much milder, a place where there are some wonderful Christian family members nearby. We'll deepen our already wonderful love for each other and have much more time to pray and study the Bible together. We also believe that, unhindered by stress, Bob will heal 100 percent. And then, perhaps, we'll start a new, very different kind of ministry. Who knows?
How can you encourage Pastor Bob? First, you can stop into the church to see him. He'd love it if you could attend one or two of his services. I'm sure that you and he will greatly miss each other. Second, please get in touch with him by sending letters and/or cards to bless him. Phone calls really tie up his overworked cell phone. He doesn't text. And he doesn't email. But he loves cards. Our address is: Pastor Bob and Barbara Farah, PO Box 350, Center Harbor
Most importantly, show your love for Pastor Bob by spreading God's love to others. He has been a great example to you. Shine like him.