I was at one of my lowest points when I chanced to meet Doc Hanson at our mailboxes. He drove up and got out of his truck as I pulled a few envelopes from my box. Generally, that was the only place where our lives regularly came together. We lived far-flung in the country. Our mailboxes sat atop a long wooden rail mounted between two wooden posts where a rural road split in two directions. My house was nearly two miles from the boxes on one fork. Doc Hanson’s place was at nearly the same distance on another fork.
“How are you?” Doc Hanson asked me.
“Honestly,” I said, “I have been better.” I appraised his face. A kind face, if there is such. “Could I ask for some advice, Doc?”
I told Doc Hanson my story. I told him how my wife was in Salt Lake City and had been there for several weeks—mostly paralyzed—maybe facing a future where she would never walk again. Doctors there were divided into two camps so far as her diagnosis. Some said transverse myelitis some said multiple sclerosis. I told Doc Hanson that I was confused and afraid. I was upset that I had to come back home to Montana. Among other things, I wanted to know how to deal with the doctors.
“Specialists, like those working with your wife, tend to look for their disease. That might explain why they have a split diagnosis. The important thing is that she is getting the care she needs.”
We spoke for several minutes. I probably took up more of his day than I should have. Before we parted, Doc Hanson said the one thing that has bolstered me time and again in the twenty years since that day. “When you feel you have reached the end of your rope,” he advised, “tie a knot in the end and hang on. Just hang on.”
Doc Harris Hanson passed a couple weeks ago. I am guessing that he hung on for as long as he could. His passing leaves a hole.