In April of 2001, I was describing Ben’s Living Facility to a friend who lives in St. Louis and had never seen the place I was talking about. Here is what I had to say, and I STILL feel this way to this very day, November 20th, 2016.
You are correct in picturing the scenery on the way to Conway, Arkansas as beautiful, and it IS comforting and restful to bring them to mind. There are mountains, lush greenery, and yes…the river winding its way all along, and very close to the highway in many instances. There are many lakes and pine trees, and at one particular spot called “Ozark,” you find yourself on top of a ridge where you can see for about 10 miles in all directions. I love that place. I think that is why I enjoy the ride down to Conway so much. If Ben has to be away from home, I am thankful that’s where it is. It takes about the same amount of time to get to Conway as to Kansas City, and Jay drives it all in one day (4 hours each way). That’s why I always try to visit friends along the way, and stay with them overnight. I can’t handle that long ride.
The title of the book you mentioned (Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People) reminded me of an incident many years ago as I was coming home from Conway. I had to leave Ben recovering from the flu (they can only stay home for two weeks without losing their Medicare/disability benefits). On the way home, the mountains were so beautiful and I was mournful. I was taking in all this beauty…the cattle grazing on the hills, and the absolutely peaceful setting. I kept thinking, “God, how can such sadness be going on when it is so beautiful and serene on that hillside?” The Lord spoke to me quietly within myself and said, “This beauty and peacefulness is the way I meant it to be for mankind…but there will be sadness until I come back again.” I checked the Scriptures in the days following and found that to be true…Romans 5:12 (I like it out of the Living Bible) says… “When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. His sin spread death throughout all the world, so everything began to grow old and die, for all sinned.” Romans 8: 18-23 goes on to explain it even more thoroughly. You might check it out. It makes it all so much clearer and easier to understand.
So, it was on a trip to Conway that I first understood why “Bad Things Happen To Good People.” I don’t know if that is how that author explained it, but that is what I came to understand. I love the Scripture in Revelation 21:4 that says, “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.” We sang that as an anthem in choir and it is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. I have it on a tape of our choir singing, and I listen to it as I’m driving to and fro on my longer outings.
The Conway Human Development Center is a very special place. It is laid out like a village in itself and many of the people we deal with there have been working there as long as Ben has lived there…25 years (now, 41 years). I think that speaks well for it in itself. They know Ben well, and lovingly care for him, and I’m sure that he thinks of it as “home,” even though he certainly enjoys being with his loved ones and having a “vacation” from all the problems he lives with because of the varying disabilities involved. It is interesting to go there…like a whole different world. There are people that look every kind of way, but are still able to communicate fairly normally, and there are ones similar to Ben…who look normal enough, but cannot fend for themselves in this world. I am thankful there IS such a place. It is not perfect, but it continues to be the best that we’ve ever known of in all these years. They are faithful to keep up with all their accreditations, and are well thought of throughout Arkansas and the surrounding area. There are pine trees all over the grounds of the Center, and it is very pretty there for such a place as it is. There are huge swings strong enough to hold an adult, and Ben has spent many an hour swinging to his heart’s content. I wish you could see him as he swings. He has a smile on his face that is “radiant” and looks as though he is in “ecstasy!”
Ben has been treated at the Little Rock University Medical Center many times for various physical ailments (EEG’s, Esophagus problems, etc.), and we are thankful it is so close, and that he gets such “expert” care. Before I started my Chemo, I went down to see Ben because there wasn’t time to bring him home before I was to begin the treatments. I very plainly explained to him that we were going to do this visit differently because I was going to be taking some medicine that would made me very tired…that we would go to a hotel and stay all night…eat dinner and breakfast out, and then I would take him back. He seemed to understand perfectly and was very happy to be taken out just overnight. He seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. Maybe we can do that with him again (and we have…many times). That was a time when he “went with the flow” SO beautifully! I think he understands a LOT more than we know.
I hope that helps you to understand and picture Ben’s living arrangement more thoroughly. Again, we are thankful he has a “home away from home,” and can still come and visit us, and continue to be a vital part of our family. PRAISE GOD!