Sometimes the wounds are self inflicted. And the treatment requires trust.
At GraceMed, we treat physical pain every hour of every day. But our mission calls us to treat pain that is spiritual in nature whenever our patients express a need for that support. Through the way we care for our patients, we want them to experience the healing love of Christ.
Milton Choens is one of our patients for whom we were blessed to provide that spiritual care. The journey he has made in his life has been a hard one. And, perhaps for many, it may be a hard one to understand, as Milton readily admits.
A hard story to tell. Harder still to live with.
“You may not want to write about me,” he said at the outset of his interview. “I’m just saying, there’s a lot of things I’ve done that I’m not proud of.” And true enough, from an early age, Milton was arrested numerous times for burglary. And he was once involved in a tragic traffic accident that, 42 years later, he still couldn’t mention without welling up with tears.
“My conviction was overturned, but someone still died,” Milton recalled. It was clear the 61 year old parolee was swallowing hard on a memory that he would never forget.
In the Biblical story of the prodigal son, there’s a father whose son abandons him. Milton’s is a story of a son escaping a difficult relationship with his father. Although he has a wiser perspective about his father now, at the time the relationship left him with a lot of anger issues. Driving him towards one mistake after another. And one incarceration after another.
“I just had a lot of hate in me,” he says of those long, troubled years. “When you’re in a dark place like that, it’s hard to see your way out.” He made a determined effort though. While in prison he completed an associates degree but ultimately, for Milton, the way out was illuminated by self-esteem, acceptance and forgiveness.
Learning the lessons that trust can teach.
From his childhood, he carried a connection to his mother in the sewing skills she taught him. A company in Wichita entrusted him with an opportunity to use those skills sewing canvas products, including the “ballistic blankets” that cover the floor of Humvees to protect troops in Iraq.
Among his siblings, his brother, Bill Choens, proved steadfast in his belief in Milton through a lifetime of hardship. He also met the love of his life in Dana Ballew. Her willingness to love and accept him for who he was made an enormous difference in what was possible for Milton. Their relationship has been lighting up his life for the past 24 years and counting.
And for the past 14 years, GraceMed has also played a healing role in his life. Beginning with his first provider, Carolyn Bland to his current one, Sara Farmer, Milton has always felt fully accepted at GraceMed. “Sara is a lot like Carolyn,” Milton recalls. “She really listens to me, and then she gives me options instead of just telling me what to do. That makes a big difference.”
Now diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Milton’s health is fragile and requires a great deal of vigilance. But Sara says she gets as much from Milton’s visits as he does. “Milton is one of my patients who reminds me why I do what I do. Some patients don’t need medication as much as they need someone who is willing to listen. I truly believe that treating the patients is about treating the whole being, the body, mind and spirit.
The treatment appears to have had its effect, as Milton will tell you. “I’ve found so much love at GraceMed. I’ve learned that in order to receive compassion, you have to give it. God is all about love and forgiveness. He’s forgiven me, so I’ve learned to forgive myself.”
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” Luke 15:4