Steve Blevins

Steve Blevins
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA
November 05
Steve Blevins teaches medicine at the University of Oklahoma. He enjoys reading, music, and travel. He is interested in American and European history, French literature and culture, and music for piano and chamber ensemble.


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Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 10, 2010 7:45AM

A Beautiful Heart

Rate: 166 Flag


Each weekday morning, I review my clinic schedule to see who will be visiting. With just a glance, I can predict the tenor of the day. Certain names evoke joy, others indifference, some dread. 

I still remember the first day of spring, some years ago, when my schedule augured a banner day:  Opal Hendricks was on the list. I had met Mrs. Hendricks seven years prior to that visit. Her previous doctor had retired and I had assumed her care. She was eighty-one then and not a day younger. Her wizened face was framed by long sheaves of metallic grey hair. Her hazel eyes were large and round like saucers.  She had thin lips and crooked teeth, and wore a faded brown dress, which was immaculate. She sat upright with her arms neatly folded. Her hands were arthritic, her legs were like twigs, but when she smiled, she was Helen of Troy.

During that visit, I asked about her health, which caused her to giggle. "I'm fine," she replied.  She had the voice and manner of a child. Her eyes were curious like a toddler in the attic. She looked at me as though I had given her a box of candy.

She was not concerned about her blood pressure, which was high. I asked if she had taken her medicine. She replied that she had been without medicine for several months. Her previous doctor had not given her a prescription because she had missed several appointments. 

Why had she missed them?

"Because Willy needs me."

"Willy?" I inquired.

With that, she effervesced. Her smile grew large like the sun. Her eyes radiated joy. She lifted her hands like a girl impatient to tell a story.

Over the next hour, I learned about Willy. He was "slow." When he was born, the doctors predicted a short life. That was sixty-two years ago. Now he was well — and happy. He loved to sit by his mother on the porch and watch the cars go by. And he could sit all day long, unassisted.

As I listened, I could tell that his mother assisted him with everything: walking, bathing, clothing, eating. But this had to be inferred, for she spoke only of what he could do. She savoured his every achievement and marveled at his independence. Once, he had almost buttoned his pants. On several occasions, he had correctly used a spoon. And he always recognized his aunt Myrna.

As Mrs. Hendricks spoke, I was drawn into her ethereal world. She was bewitching. With her soft, feathery voice, she pranced from word to word like a fairy. Her bubbly manner and impish tone had an anachronistic charm. She had aged; yet, with her son, she occupied an evergreen world where innocence prevailed. If sadness ever visited, it left no footprint.

To hear her was to enter a realm of verdant pastures and placid lakes. Perhaps her elfish tone was an accommodation to her son's simplicity; or perhaps, by some miracle, her heart was impervious to erosion. I luxuriated in the cadence of her voice and was sad when her story finally ended. Before she left, I gave her a prescription and asked her to return in two weeks.

And return she did -- repeatedly for seven years. At each visit, we reveled in Willy's exploits. He was Achilles in an ongoing epic, the provenance of a legend. Her tale was lush and limitless; her enthusiasm, incandescent. She had the world's greatest job — Willy's mother, exalted and triumphant.

Over the years, Mrs. Hendricks missed only two appointments, both because she could not find a sitter for Willy. But that did not matter. To fault this paragon of motherhood her truancy was unfathomable.

And so on that lovely spring morning three years ago, I was delighted to see her name on the list. As always, she arrived punctually.

I entered the room and turned to greet her -- and upon seeing her, was stunned. She was gazing forward, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her tortured face made me recoil.

"What happened?" I asked.

She responded with the plangent cry of a lamb being devoured. Her eyes protruded as if a ghost had appeared. Her lips quivered; her hands shook. Through sobs and snorts, she muttered a few broken words. Then, slowly, as her voice cleared, she began her lachrymose tale.

Willy had caught a cold. After a few days, he had started to feel better, but then developed a fever. Soon he was coughing and congested. The next morning, he was confused. The ambulance was called, but he fell asleep before it arrived and never awoke.

Her story complete, Mrs. Hendricks fell silent. Her head was bowed, her eyes were closed, her arms outstretched. She was the pieta incarnate. I gazed at her as I would gaze upon the Pyramids of Giza -- with awe befitting a work of ineffable grandeur. That she had been devoted to her son was unremarkable, but that she had subsumed every thought, word, and action for more that sixty years to the care of a disabled child, boy, and man — indeed, to her very soul — was breathtaking.

I tried to comfort her. I told her we would discuss her health another time, but I knew there would be no other time. She would never return.

Three years passed without a word. Then one day, her nephew called to say she had died.

I forwent dinner that evening and went to my bedroom. There I listened to a recording of Beethoven's final sonata -- and journeyed into sublimity. As the piano evanesced, I was transported to the very altar of music.

Mrs. Hendricks's influence had been similarly transcendent. She had been my bard for seven years. My fascination with her, born of amusement, had evolved into a reflection on archetypal virtue. Indeed, to gaze at her divine countenance was to rise above her broken heart, bask in her goodness, and witness the face of Love itself.


*Artwork by Scott Plumbe.

**The patient's name was changed to maintain confidentiality.

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true story, motherhood, love

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Lovely, Dr. Steve. This is such a loving and poetic appreciation of that lady and her son--her Achilles. How devastating for the poor woman when he died, and, yet, how rich her life for six-plus decades, as she had the privilege to be there for him, which was so clearly her purpose in life. You make the devastation of that last visit come alive, but what makes this a wonderful piece is how you celebrate the sixty-plus years, for they are the real story.

Just lovely.
This is moving beyond words. My heart broke when Mrs. Hendricks revealed the death of her son. The poetic way you write about her and her all-emcompassing love brings me to tears. Beautiful, inspiring post.
It takes a beautiful heart to tell this tale, and you have one, good doctor.
I don't have words to touch this. _r
Beautiful Steve. Truly beautiful and inspiring. Fantastic writing and a fantastic woman.
I love you.

"If sadness ever visited, it left no footprint." ~ I cannot think of a more beautiful thing to say about someone.
Beautiful smooth soft... or something.
I laughed especially at ... bloodpresure.
I loved the manuel BP. It's a Wow Wow.
I remember (O gads on.on.vamc-wack0).
A handheld under the nurse arm - breast.
You know. the old fashion way by - wave.
no insane.
good wack.
Serious. Your stories are Care. Care is courage.
It's a reread. It looks like the end of the world.
It's white. It must be four feet deep and windy.
How fortunate you were to have experienced such a beautiful friendship with such a stunning soul. And how devastating a loss...for both of you.
Steve, if I could, I would give you a hug, look you in the eyes and say, "Thank you for sharing this with me."
This is a beautiful story told beautifully. It caused a lump in my throat.
This is so beautifully and lovingly told. It seems that many parents with special needs children wish to outlive their children. Your story brings the other side of this--the great joy that that is shared. Thank you for this.
You are able to see the goodness in people Steve, how lucky both you and they are.
There has been so much pain here, on OS. My own, and so many other's. Grief has been a meme.
You come along and give us this beautiful sermon - meant in the best way, of course - about eternal love, loss, grief and complicated redemption.
I can't thank you enough for this lesson, this story, this parable of how life can be lived.
Thank you!
Wordless I am here. None left.
You're killing me here, Doc.

So lovely and so loving: such exquisite joy and sadness. This is why we read, and why we write. Thanks.
Steve, this is why I write on OS , why I read on OS, why I stay in spite of rwnutjobs and flames and foolishness. You are why, now.

This is singular.

I know his woman, she was my Nana. She cared for me, simply. Abused by my father, abandoned at 11, she filled my unfurnished life with books and goodness.

You write well, Steve. Every line builds upon the other, and the portrait you paint of her life, fer devotion, her physicality, is indelible.

As with her, you reveal yourself by describing another: a professional who takes life personally, who knows soul when he sees it, who drinks deep from Good and True and is instructed, uplifted by it.

I am a non-believer, but i wish with all my heart there was a heaven, and that she and her son were there now, delighting in the buttoning of his shirt. Thank you for the great gift of this.
Beautiful post.

But, tho it was a devastating end to the mother's life, better she should die first than leave her son alone... (I guess.)
Steve, this was an excellent piece. You are a great doctor, to spend time with an old woman talking about her beloved son. I doubt there were many others who listened. Great Post!
Steve, thanks for making me cry....what a beautiful story. I think the reason it brought tears to my eyes is because it's a story that most Mothers can relate to. There is nothing stronger than a Mother's love for her children...nothing.
I so enjoy your writing.
I'm completely moved. Thank you for sharing this beautiful work.
Steve, once in a while our faith in the power of a gigantic heart is rejuvenated. this is beautifully written, traversing the spere of devotion that exists between Mother and Son. I thank you for the way in which you deliver this to us. It is difficult to read through these moistened eyes
I keep looking for a way to apply the word "transcendent" to this piece . . . must be because it is. Each of the relationships transcend "the usual" expectations, including yours. Thank you, Steve . . . this is stunning.
Through a mothers eyes (and now yours we see a wholeness), a perfect mother and son, and yes a perfect balance of them in her doctor. Thank you for such a beautiful and deserving story, and having the talent and grace to see it, know it and share it.
"If sadness ever visited, it left no footprint"- wonderful.

this will stay with me all day. thank you for that.
Steve, this was so beautiful and moving. First, I loved how you described looking over your schedule to see who was coming to "visit." And you described so well the love and optimism Opal had-- the emotions were palpable. What a lovely remembrance and valentine.
stories like this renew my faith in humans. writing like yours makes me try harder next time. it's all so good.
I have a name for these people. I call them the hidden heroes. They are the ones who go about their lives trying to make things in their bit of orbit better. They do so not for any accolades but for the pure enjoyment and love they need to share. I am glad you got to experience this angel on earth, this hidden hero in your life and now I have gotten to also. Fine chronicle, Steve.
You could write a book of stories like this from your experience. Lovely piece.
A magnificent telling. Just beautiful.
I shan't speak of why this meant so much to me, but thank you for writing it.
What a sweet heart - yours and hers. Beautifully told. This I love best: "Her eyes were curious like a toddler in the attic."
oh steve,

what a beautiful post. you are such a dear man. thank you for sharing.
it's an honor to read your words Dr Steve...Mortal Lessons indeed. I can't thank you enough for the recurring installation of hope and grace.
To witness the face of Love itself. What a gift, thank you for sharing it.
You have a grace and insight into the world like no one else I have ever encountered. Whether I am laughing or crying by the end, I feel blessed every time I have the opportunity to read your words.
Good lord, Steve, you wrote the HELL out of this. Such a vivid onslaught of images. Highly, highly rated.
How lucky she was. How lucky he was was. How lucky you are.
A beautiful story, beautifully told.
I started reading this when it had 2 comments and 2 ratings, but became distracted. I came back to it, refreshed the screen, to find an EP and 39 rates. I think that speaks enough as to its interest and worth. It takes a rare breed to parent like that. I know a couple and know what you are talking about. Great story. Anachronistic Charm? I like that turn of word.
This is simply gorgeous! It brought tears to my eyes. Poetically and inspirationally brilliant! And oh so touching, I am so moved by this.
Thank you!
What a great way to start out my morning. Beautiful and sweet:)
Beautiful piece. You paint a vivid picture of Mrs. Hendricks and her effect on you. It's an unforgettable story.
I love when you write like this. I'm thankful to "know" you. A raging sharp wit with a tender, unwavering kindness - I learn from you every day. Beautiful post.

But, just so you know, I don't like to cry so early in the morning.
Lovely, lyrical, poignant, uplifting. One of your best, and that's really saying something.
No words. Only tears.
I think my Doctor is like you. That's one reason I feel lucky today. Otherwise I would move to your town.
Wonderful post... Beautifully written.

There is a purity here rarely found-- hers, her son's and yours. Thank you, Steve.
"To hear her was to enter a realm of verdant pastures and placid lakes"

what a beautiful post,
Steve: Your prose is so utterly gorgeous, so mellifluous, it makes me sick. (From envy.)
Thanks for me letting me get to know Opal and her son, even at second hand. It's people like her who make me think humans may be OK.
Apart from the beauty of the story and the wonderful way you told it... thank you for being the kind of doctor--nay, person-- who would listen to an old woman go on about her disabled son. I'm certain that meant so very much to her. Very few people have the patience or respect that you showed her.

Oh, and the story was beautiful and you told it wonderfully. :)
Beautiful and inspiring story, Steve. What a gift to open your heart to her -- and to us.
This is truly a beautiful love story of a mother and son and a caring doctor with a huge heart. Thanks Steve.
Amazing how some people enter and touch our lives. A beautiful and well told story, Steve.
Inspiring Dr., inspiring story of a mother's love, true devotion and selflessness and inspiring in your telling, so rich with compassion, respect, and admiration for your patient.
witness the face of Love itself
Oh Steve you are SUCH a great writer, with such a great heart. Beautifully told.
Oh Steve, this is beautiful. I am touched and moved. How wonderful to read your writing and such a lovely story of devotion. Makes me want to be a better mother.
A wonderful story.
The son lives a life arrested at the point of independence, and so is able to experience the simple joys of life and comfort.
A mother whose most important task in life is extended for a lifetime, where she finds joy in tending to life and giving comfort.
The story of their lives had to end, but the truest tragedy was avoided by the son passing first. That both would agree is certain.
Opal's demise underscored the symbiosis of their near perfect relationship.
She belongs in the Motherhood Hall of Fame.
Very moving and poetic. The joy of a mother's love--the gift she also gave to you--poignant and symbolic. A hard choice if we controlled fate--to have the mother devastated by his loss or the worry if he were left alone.
Thanks for sharing
What can I add to what's written above? This is a truly remarkable post in both style and substance. Invoking Achilles is apt; you've captured the epic in the ordinary, which turns out not to be ordinary at all. I'm sorry I can only rate this once.
A true heart donor...beautiful piece, Steve. xox
So moving, the story and the telling of.
Steve how lucky we are that you chose to teach physicians. This is a heartarming and bittersweet tale. Thanks for sharing.
A beautiful tale told by another beautiful heart. Thank you.
"Indeed, to gaze at her divine countenance was to rise above her broken heart, bask in her goodness, and witness the face of Love itself."

Facing true love - realizing what love really is, is a gift in an increasingly superficial, plastic and materialistic not only know love, Steve but also live love that shows consistently and beautifully through your writing.
Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for being the kind of doctor and human more people should strive to be.
This is a wondrous thing, Steve - what you experienced, and how you wrote about it. A beautiful heart, indeed. Yours, too.
simply beautiful, Steve! Kudos!
It is a very, very beautiful thing you have observed and written and shared. Thank you.
Oh how joyfull and sad at one breath, it is never less than easy to have a disabled child. In the face of many problems that people experience most are fixable. But in those certain ones, the answer is clear, of acceptance and love. When people question so many of lifes imperfections, it has to be a stark contrast of difference to see the lives of those that are deemed to be less than perfect. But in their everyday lives reflect the contentence of those that they love, and that love them, so completely that a replete sense of serentity completely takes over, and all is well and fine as long each other is able to care for the other. I will truly cherish this particular story, being I have an eighty two year old aunt with a special needs son, who will be turing 57 in March, God willing. He is her guiding light as was Mrs.Hendricks to her son. My cousin does a lot by her continued reminding of what he must do, and by the same token he has been a loving companion and endless source of listening to all kinds of endless chit chat, the kind that comes from knowing.
An amazing woman. A beautiful example of how we each have our path, and it's no one else's path, and a good life means embracing that path, whatever it is. She had as much satisfaction in her life as if she had won the Nobel Prize, which she probably would if there were one for mothers.
You are such a blessing to OS. I hope I think of this woman as often as you do, or at least once in a while, whenever I forget what privilege it is to be a parent.
That you are such a talented and devoted doctor and one of the best writers anywhere is one awesome combination. I love your language. And what mostly everyone else said. You are a reason to come to OS. You are a beacon, a light, and a wordsmith extraordinaire. amazing grace.
A simple, stunningly beautiful story. Loved every phrase!
This is lovely, and yet so sad, Steve. What some would do out of duty, resenting the burden, she did out of love, and did with joy. In one way, it's good she survived Willy. What would have become of him without her had she died first is tragic. But without the person who needed her so much, she didn't have the will to live very long.
rated for two beautiful hearts, hers and yours.
Willy lacked a hardening of the heart; this can be the healing.
Steve, this is beautiful. Thank you for your fantastic writing, and for being an exemplary human being. The field of medicine is lucky to have you, as are we. Thank you.
A wonderful telling of a wonderful story.
A beautiful story. A story of hope. Thank you for posting this one. r
Wonderful, inspiring and beautifully written, Steve.
So that's pretty much our valentine's day story as far as I'm concerned...
What everyone has said, I second and third.
Steve, this is a lovely testimonial, and so needed in these times of gloom 'n doom. Thank you. Lately, if I come on OS at all, I have tried to remain positive, and I've posted short pieces that begged us all to listen to our heart; and rejoice. However, my last blog was another piece stimulated by the unrelenting barrage of deceit authored by our Congressional fakirs, who claim to represent US.

They do not.

But you have brought me back to where I long to be, embraced by the warm blanket of love that we all so sorely need and long for. 'Tis a sweet moment to read a piece such as this. Thank you.
came back to re-read. the third time in 3 + years I have done that on OS.

Steve this isn't just beautiful as a story, as a fable and moral lesson and elegy, it is superbly crafted.

And despite what one commenter said, there is no waste of life here. This is life fully lived, compassion embodied, suffering transformed.

This is the rebuttal to hate. A post of posts.
This is so beautiful...I have no words.
What a wonderful woman she was.
And I'm sure she knew what a good friend she had in you.
"She was the pieta incarnate."

Yes she was... you sculpted her in words.
Transcendent, in her life--and your words! Thank you!
My goodness! Your marvelous telling of this transcendent experience in your life has now transcended mine. My eyes are filled with tears of sadness, wonderment and...I don't know. I wish I had Beethoven's sonata at hand, as well. I'd say bravo, but I know this was more than a brilliant performance. It came from your soul, and I am deeply grateful to you for sharing it. (r)
I am so glad I stopped by to catch up on reading here. Wonderful, Steve! You certainly framed this woman's love very well.
I luxuriated in the cadence of your voice.
I wish more doctors were like you.

such beautiful writing in this, steve...loved it
Thankyou Steve - what a gift.
... and thankyou also, for introducing ( to me, at least ) the art of Scott Plumbe.
Your patients are the luckiest patients.

Thank you.
This is sublime. In what was told, and how it was told. Simply, perfectly sublime.
A mother's love has great power. The death of a child, no matter how old, is the deepest sorrow. An inspiring story told with tenderness.
That was a glorious post. Thank You. Rated, of course.
On another post, we've been discussing the relative merit of a writer from the Romantic period. This, my dear fellow, is proof that era did not end with Austen and her ilk, and this is in so many ways, superior. Well done.
When I clicked, the first thing I saw was 119 ratings.
Wow, that's high for a non-meta post, I thought.

Then I read. Tears streaming, I understand.
I'll add mine to the rest now.
Excellent, Steve. Excellent
You were touched by a pure soul.
I love how the mother's care for her son is mirrored by the doctor's care for his patient. There is that same appreciation, love and respect for simply who they are. Such a very beautiful and beautifully written piece.
How kind of you to befriend this elderly lady and take the time out of your busy schedule to show her patience and consideration. Wonderful story. r
All I can say is: Wow.

This is truly, truly beautiful. Thank you.
Love it. Beautiful writing, beautiful story.
Thank you. This brief story brought me further out of myself (and all my "important" problems and self-pities) than anything I've read in a long time. R
Steve - you are one of the best writers on OS. Truly caught my breath on this one.
Hands down, this is probably the most beautiful post to ever appear on OS, written beautifully by one of the most beautiful people I have ever had the honor and privilege to meet. You never cease to amaze and move me, Steve. Hugs and hearts to you. xoxo
Dear Steve,
Your writing is admirable, and the story is absolutely moving. I am happy that you are a doctor, in contact with people, learning from them, listening to them, helping them. I am happy that you are a writer, sharing your stories so finely -the sounds of Beethoven are still in my mind. I´m happy you are here sharing your art and your heart.
Thanks so much for this.
(PS: I had missed this post, just came here after reading Greg Correl´s post on Maria, where he mentions you. How fortunate I am for being surrounded by people like you and Greg on Open Salon)
"As Mrs. Hendricks spoke, I was drawn into her ethereal world. She was bewitching. With her soft, feathery voice, she pranced from word to word like a fairy. Her bubbly manner and impish tone had an anachronistic charm. She had aged; yet, with her son, she occupied an evergreen world where innocence prevailed. If sadness ever visited, it left no footprint."

Every paragraph a small jewel...............
little victories might be the real ones. nicely done
When I saw the number of comments on this piece, I a;most thought about not commenting, telling myself that it would be helpful to you. One more comment to which you'd not have to respond. But then I thought, I gotta tell him, that was my mother!!! Just foolin'!

This is well told, and of course, well written. You have a whole lot of heart on that sleeve, Doctor!
Beautiful story, beautifully told. Thank you.
Not only is the subject of your account a great care-giver, but I think, as a listener, you are too.
beautifully written, painfully absorbed, thank you.
I have no words.....I cannot find them through my tears......thank you.
You are a wonderful writer.
Love, love, love this. I read it before and just read it again. Can't believe I didn't comment the first time around...
Assuming this story is true, it raises the question of whether one can love humanity as a whole, or only particular humans. If the latter, Jesus was crazy and compassion is conditional. If the former, where's the evidence?
Oh Steve...this is so wonderful and lovely. Transformative and transporting. A perfect piece...appropriate for the subject...sigh. What a gift she was...and what a teacher. wow. I need a bigger scriptier R. Many many thanks!
Though no clear words come to mind for comment, because I'm sitting here in meditative appreciation, tears welled up in my eyes, I can't stay silent. I must thank you. This woman's life is beauty and your written account honors her perfectly.
All this time after your post, I stumbled upon this and, yes, cried when her son died.

Your words are transcendent. Love in every one........

I am so pleased to read you. Honored to read you.
Thanks, Steve! This is wonderful!
Wow - powerful and beautifully written. Thanks for this great story.
Poetic, amazing, wonderful...the best of medicine...the art of medicine.
Heartfelt and beautifully written.
This is exquisite. I am touched more than you can understand that you celebrated Opal and the love for her son in such a luminous manner. I have not been the mother of a disabled person, but I am the sister of one. And for the 43 years I was blessed with him on earth, he was my boy. And you capture that verdant place in which we lived as if you have travelled there. Thank you; I am so glad Catherine Forsythe, directed me to your site.
I followed Catherine Forsythes link here, read the whole story - could have sworn that I read it before, but no one mentioned it was a repost. I saw all these old faces that came back to applaud this post....and then I looked at the date. I think it made MORE of an impression on me the second time around. Thank you Steve....Come back......!!!
This story was born of three loves creating a circle. Exquisite storytelling Steve.
Thanks to Richard Brown for posting this again, re-visitation to this remarkable woman and story was just as inspirational as the first time I read it!
Mothers Day 2013: the perfect time to read such a tribute to an archetypical mother. Perfectly/poignantly written, Steve.
What a gift to re-read this beautiful story of love on Mother's Day.
Time and again powerful words come back around. This lives in so many hearts. Thanks again
I'm so happy to see this now, because I missed it the first time. Beautiful, tearful post. Thank you.
We have just GOT to meet someday for lots of reasons, but really, so I can say, Thank you for adding beauty to my life.