Dale Hartwig stood out from the crowd. He wrote for himself. His was a rich inner world, a necessity for survival as Parkinson’s shrank his world to the size of his room at the care center. His writings, shared with a group of six close friends, deserve a larger audience.
Dale’s verses and poetry often echo the Hebrew psalmists. They are visceral, sometimes crying out like Vincent Van Gogh exercising in his asylum at Saint-Remy, and at other times delighting at the sight of a fluttering leaf or falling snowflake outside his care center window. None of Dale’s pieces have titles.
Like prisoners, they only have numbers – the order in which he wrote them, as best we can tell.
Behind and before, Thou goest, O Lord.
Like the wind I cannot see.
But why so silent in ways of my need?
To let you but walk to trust in me.
O my steps are oft frozen from fear,
And my thoughts locked to the darkness around.
O God, only You can move me beyond
The prison that seems to abound.
Come, Lord, and move me, just one small step
Toward the One who would give me so much.
I am who I am, so little sometimes
But, with You, so much, so much.
The last time Dale joined the annual Gathering of classmates in Chicago, he surprised us. He wasn’t supposed to leave “home” – but he did. He somehow managed to get himself to the train station in Grand Rapids, Michigan, board a train for Chicago, and make his way from Union Station to Hyde Park by public transportation carrying a suitcase on the stiffening legs he still exercised daily.
When it came his time to share what had been happening in his life, he handed me a sheaf of papers and pointed to the number 5 on one of the pages he had typed. I read it aloud for him. Every face was wet. “I am who I am, so little sometimes But, with You, so much, so much.”