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Friday Hampton with his wife Gwendolyn and family

Remembering Friday Hampton

Friday Hampton, who cofounded the Peace of Wisdom Ministries in Santa Barbara, died late last year from complications associated with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the nervous system that he battled for 20 years. As his MS symptoms worsened, he checked in to urgent care more frequently at Sansum Clinic, where one of his longtime doctors, Tom Anderson, had become a friend to him and his wife, Gwendolyn Hampton. Anderson liked to call Gwendolyn Dr. G, and the day after Friday’s memorial service, he wrote her this letter.

Dear Dr. G,

I was so very touched by the memorial service for Friday. I was able to learn a lot about the man whom I only knew from times I would see him in urgent care. Everyone had such kind, wonderful memories about him, and I was very glad that they all remembered you and what an amazing and loyal wife and friend you were to him for the many years that MS was continuously devastating his body — how courageous you were in providing care and comfort for him during the times he was in such agonizing neuropathic pain. 

I wanted to say a few words about Friday and you [at the memorial] but felt that the people who shared their memories [had] collectively painted a very clear and poignant picture of this wonderful man. Had I not felt that my standing up to speak might have seemed a little intrusive, I would have shared these words:

Calm, kind, gentle, slow to anger and quick to forgive, intelligent, bold, a true difference-maker in this troubled world, and an inspiration, role model, and mentor to those who had the privilege and joy of knowing him — these are some of the ways in which Friday was described by family and friends, old and new. 

The compassionate care Friday Hampton received from his wife, Gwendolyn Hampton, earned her the nickname Dr. G from one of Friday’s longtime doctors.

I loved to see Friday smile. He had such a genuine and warm way of letting you know that he liked you, even when he didn’t know you well. My nurses especially remember him this way. He was not judgmental, and though he grew up in the Deep South, where he was witness to untold atrocities and prejudice, his was a spirit of love and acceptance, not of bitterness and resentment.

About two years ago, Friday’s wife, Gwendolyn, brought Friday to urgent care to see me. I had known about his MS since about 2000 and that he had to be watched very carefully because his legs were no longer reliable. He had had several falls with various injuries. 

What I didn’t appreciate, however, was that the worst part of his MS was the neuropathic pain he would experience multiple times each day, a burning, agonizing pain involving his right side, causing him to shake violently and grip tightly to anything nearby. He was in the throes of one of these “fits” on that particular day, unable to even speak because the pain was so severe.

Over the past 42-plus years of medical practice, including emergency medicine, I have seen people in pain many, many times. But I have to say that his level of pain was different, a pain so intense that the first thing I could think of was getting some morphine or Dilaudid IV immediately, something to relieve his suffering. 

Dr. G was very calm and reassuring to Friday and me during this very scary visit, explaining to me that she helped him through these painful bouts many times each day, and that they always go away before any pain medication could be given. I observed this horrific yet transient pain, and before we could get the pain meds for him, Friday slowly started coming out of this “fit,” much to my relief. I observed him for another 60 minutes or so, and he eventually returned to his baseline. Friday had seen many specialists both at Sansum and in Los Angeles, and all of the different medications and combinations of medications couldn’t control these horrible pain attacks.

What I remember so vividly about that day was how gracious and matter-of-fact both Friday and Dr. G were during and following the ordeal. There were no pleas for addicting narcotics. No anger or bitterness for the neurologists involved in his care. Just a thanksgiving when his pain cycle finally broke, courtesy, smiles, love. What I had witnessed for only 15 or 20 minutes — a feeling of helplessness in not being able to immediately relieve Friday’s pain — was occurring multiple times daily, interrupting his and Dr. G’s sleep frequently (the bed literally would shake until the pain remitted) and changing the quality of life that both Friday and Gwendolyn had enjoyed for so many years. 

I was so blown away by the courage displayed by this amazing couple, their trust and faith in God, which clearly helped sustain them through so much pain and adversity for so long. And I was in such awe of Dr. G for her standing alongside this wonderful man, caring and comforting him as he bravely dealt with such a devastating disease as MS. She made such personal sacrifices on a 24-7 basis without question, without bitterness, but with love and grace.

Friday Hampton and his family

There are other adjectives I would like to add to memorialize Friday: loving, loyal, brave beyond comprehension, honorable, perseverant, humble — a truly unforgettable human being and a man of great character. And there is one last impression I have of Friday that I will always remember, a single word: Jesus.

In every interaction I had with Friday, I saw Jesus. I saw Jesus in his gentleness and courage. I saw Jesus in his decision to be a part of the early days of the civil rights movement in the Deep South — Friday could have withdrawn, even hid, but he chose to place himself in potential harm’s way to help bring about change, to speak words that needed to be spoken, and to stand tall and firm against bigotry and hatred. And I saw Jesus in his pain and suffering, how he handled this with such dignity and without complaint, calmly, and reassured by the presence of his amazing wife, Gwendolyn, who has all of the same qualities of character as her husband.

Yes, Dr. G, all of us who know and love you see Jesus in you, as well, in how you choose to live your life, in your love for the poor and downtrodden, in your commitment to making a difference in this community and beyond, and in your kindness, generosity, and truly amazing grace. 

May God bless and surround you with his loving arms, Dr. G. We all love you and feel your loss but feel relieved that both you and Friday don’t have to endure more suffering and that he is smiling happily with strength and peace in Heaven.

For information on MS support groups, events, and other resources along the Central Coast region from Thousand Oaks to San Luis Obispo, visit calcoastms.org

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