January 01, 2009 | Our Member's Stories by Dave Leidy
Dr Stephen Harberts: Pastoral care with a motorcycle
Dr. Stephen Harberts filled a very important role as an Associate Pastor to the congregation during much of the John T Galloway, Jr. era. His leadership in pastoral care was exceptional. He had a gift for coming alongside those in need and offered compassion that was palpable. He and John often acted like brothers to each other, each relying on the other’s gifts. And each was more than willing to give the other a hard time, just like brothers sometimes do.
In addition to his knowing compassionate manner Stephen had a jovial side that enjoyed a practical joke now and then. Having gotten to know him outside the church setting he felt comfortable asking me if I could assist him with a bit of a practical joke in helping a parishioner check off an item on her bucket list.
Stephen and his wife Diane had become very close to a woman in the congregation who was approaching her eightieth birthday. In casual conversation, at one of the dinners they had gotten to sharing, she mentioned that she had never ridden on a motorcycle but had always wanted to do so. She expressed the fact that she still hoped it might happen before she died, not that that was in any way imminent.
Stephen knew I owned a motorcycle and often made remarks about it. “Did you ride the cycle this weekend?” etc., Well, he called me and asked if I might help him fulfill a friend’s dream. He thought if we could surprise dear Alberta with the opportunity of a motorcycle ride she just might accept.
I agreed and we set about executing the plan. Diane called Alberta and invited her to an afternoon backyard cookout for her 80th birthday, explaining that it would be a good idea to wear slacks because they had numerous lawn games planned. I don’t believe the other guests were aware of what was being planned, but there were several couples at the Harberts’ home by the time I arrived on my motorcycle.
After greetings were shared Stephen conspicuously announced to those gathered that he knew of Alberta’s wish to go for a motorcycle ride and in that there was one present he thought she should take advantage of the situation. As he expected she was quick to reply “Well I don’t see why not, I always wanted to, just never had the chance.”
It took a good bit of assistance and the use of a step stool but we got Alberta in place and tightened a helmet on and she and I took off to the cheers of those assembled street side.
We rode through the neighborhood at a leisurely pace and then I took her on Rte. 202 very briefly so she could experience a little more speed. She held on to my waist but was very relaxed and seemed to genuinely enjoy herself.
When we returned the partygoers gathered to welcome her back and after getting assistance in getting off the bike, Alberta exclaimed “Well, I guess I can die now!” Stephen just stood at the back of the group and beamed. Then he gave me that knowing look that said “Yes, this was good thing to have done.”
Dr. David S. Leidy