Love finds a way.
Despite passing away more than five years ago, Mildred Lang’s husband, Richard, found a way to comfort his bride after she had hip replacement surgery.
She is sure of it.
The day after surgery, June 2, 2020, at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital, Mildred received what she is calling her miracle.
“They were getting me up to do therapy and they brought me this walker from their unit, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw it,” she said.
On the side of the walker, in her own handwriting in black permanent marker, it said R. Lang. It was Richard’s old walker—the same walker the family donated to a Goodwill store in Muskegon 45 miles away, years ago, after he died.
Eighty-year-old Mildred was shocked.
“It really struck me,” she said. “I just felt like he was watching me; he was there to help me.”
She said there is no doubt it was Richard’s.
“Oh no, I remember doing it, that was my handwriting,” she said. “I felt elated. It was just meant to be. It gives me a feeling of peace, that he is with me. I can’t help but cry.”
She wasn’t alone.
“All the nurses read it and it brought them all to tears,” Mildred said. “It was really touching. I couldn’t believe it. It’s truly my miracle.”
Mildred’s daughter, Maria Van Hoeven, heard about it when she visited her mother in the hospital.
“I’m still surprised thinking about it,” Van Hoeven said. “I think of all the hospitals, all the patients, all the rooms—and that it was donated in Muskegon 45 miles away. How did this walker get here?”
Hospital staff assume a patient left the walker there and it was somehow incorporated into their inventory.
“It’s made me feel like anything is possible,” Van Hoeven said. “If you’re a mathematician and crunched the odds, the odds are against it, but incredible things happen every day.”
‘It was love at first sight’
Van Hoeven said there was never a doubt about her father’s love for her mother. She remembers something he said shortly before he died.
“I remember my dad saying my mom was the prettiest girl in the whole school,” she said. “And then he said, ‘And she still is.’”
The feeling was very mutual.
“I think he was the most handsome guy in school,” Mildred said.
That school was Muskegon Heights High School. The couple grew up only a few miles apart in Norton Shores.
Richard was two years older and his sister was Mildred’s best friend.
“I went home from school with her one day and it was love at first sight,” Lang said. “He couldn’t ask enough questions about me.”
Richard enlisted in the Army after high school. He served four years of active duty and two years of inactive duty.
“We got married shortly after he got home,” Mildred said.
The young couple raised four children—Maria, Juanitta, Richard and Robert—on a hobby farm in the Fruitport area. Mildred named the girls. Richard named the boys.
Tragedy struck the family in 1989 when Richard became partially paralyzed after a hunting accident in Newaygo County.
“The tree stand broke apart,” Mildred said. “He shot his deer and he was climbing down to get it and the wingnut snapped right off the tree stand and he fell.”
Richard landed on a tree branch, shattering two vertebrae.
He would spend the last 28 years of his life paralyzed from the waist down. Mildred became his primary caregiver.
“And I worked two jobs besides,” she said.
Mildred worked as a school bus driver for 30 years and as an insurance clerk for two doctors. She also worked as a restaurant hostess and did some catering.
She and Richard were married 58 years and dated four years before they married on Nov. 7, 1959. They have 30 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Richard died seven days short of his 77th birthday in 2015. He had developed bladder cancer.
As for Mildred’s health, she continues to rehabilitate her new hip.
“I’m getting a little stronger every day, doing my exercises and walking,” she said. “It’s been a struggle, but we’re making it through.”
Van Hoeven submitted the story of Richard’s walker to Guideposts magazine at the urging of a friend. A short feature was published in the Mysterious Ways February/March edition.
The whole experience has given Mildred comfort.
“It just gave me a peace in my heart thinking he was with me,” she said. “In 62 years together, you become a part of each other.”