By Paul Koch –
My arrival at her home was announced long before I rang the doorbell. Two little dogs proclaimed the approach a visitor by the time I started down the driveway. I was going to visit a dear old member of my congregation. I had been to her home many times before, and each time began the same way: with the hushing of yapping dogs and clearing off a place to sit.
However, this time I wouldn’t be sitting at all. I was greeted at the door by the hospice worker and immediately informed that my sister in Christ was having a particularly rough morning. As she was now nearing the end of her life, her loss of eyesight was now accompanied with lengthy periods where she lost her lucidity as well. She would talk freely to her long-dead mother or to her late husband or to any number of other figures who appeared around her bedside with increasing regularity. These shadows of the past became clear in her eyes and the would have conversations with them. In a way, it is as if the realities of this age were being abandoned for something else.
If you’ve never spent time with someone at this stage of life, it can be a bit unnerving. You feel that you have already lost them and often don’t know what to do.
I usually touch a shoulder or grasp a hand and speak clearly in hopes that they might fix their eyes on me and come back for a moment. Sometimes it might be the praying the Lord’s Prayer or reciting a Bible verse or even singing a line or two of a favorite hymn that does it. Sadly, this day, none of that seemed to work. She was fixed on a conversation with someone I could not see and didn’t seem too concerned about my presence.
I felt foolish standing there. I wasn’t able to help, I wasn’t able to do my job. I had come to bring communion, to proclaim he forgiveness of sins, to give reassurance of the promises of Christ that stretch beyond the grave to this faithful and suffering child of God.
Faith comes by hearing, but will she hear? Can she hear me? Simple commands, “take and eat,” “take and drink,” but she didn’t seem interested in taking anything.
Yet, I learned something here, something about the surprising and ceaseless working of our Lord. For just as I was getting ready to leave, feeling completely useless to provide for a sister in Christ, she suddenly shouted out, “Who’s that?” and once again I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “It’s Pastor. I came to pray with you.” She never looked at me, never fixed her eyes on mine, but simply said, “Oh, okay…” And then before I could say anything, she started to pray—for me.
“Lord Jesus we need you this day, your comfort and your assurance. We need you to help us in our doubts and fears to trust in your promises. Remind us that you won’t let us go…” She trailed off after a bit and I sat speechless. She still never looked at me, never held a conversation with me, and in the end all I could do was thank her.
I thanked her for reminding me of the powerful working of our Lord. A Lord who keeps his promises. This was his child, an heir of his kingdom, a saint on the doorstep of paradise, and she prayed for me, for my faith in his promises.