Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memories of Grace

A few years back I volunteered for a year as a respite person for Hospice, and was given the most beautiful patient. Often volunteers are only able to know a patient for one or two visits, but "my" elderly gentleman, Mr P, was a twice-a-week blessing for over four months! We became dear friends, and I was blessed by the most graceful person I have met to date. 

He had lived full-time in bed for the three years prior to my meeting him. His body was curled and in constant pain from rheumatoid arthritis. He could not hold a pen or a spoon. He was on very strong pain medication through a drip line and patches. All of his bodily needs were taken care of by his wife and the hospice caretakers. One would understand if this man was bitter, frustrated and suffered bouts of self-pity. And I never heard him utter a negative word. 

 He lived in a world that was so filled with God. He adored his wife, children and grandchildren. He was so grateful to God for all he had experienced in his life, for his work, his years as a Scout Leader, for the sunshine through his window, for each person who came to his home. Each time I would visit his first words were, "How are you feeling? How is your husband?" I spent time alone with his wife and inquired, "Is he always this kind and positive? Her eyes gleamed with her love for him, "Yes," she told me, "and he has always been this way. God shines from him, doesn't He?"

Mr P decided he was going to walk before he died. Since it was so easy to tear his fragile skin just by shifting him a few times a day, and his pressure sores were constantly in a state of healing, the RN, counselor, home health care workers and ministers (yes, BOTH ministers adopted him!) and I that made up his team all wondered how that could happen and prayed it could be so. 

The day before he let go he rallied from his almost full-time sleep of the prior week (as often happens at the end) and asked his wife and the nurse to sit him up on the edge of his bed. It took a long time, but they very carefully and gently did so and he touched his feet to the floor for the first time in years. Tears were pouring down all three of their faces with the effort, the pain and his amazing determination. He was beaming with joy. It was his final walk. 

He stepped out of his body and into what he KNEW were Jesus' loving arms as he slept that night. There is absolutely no question in my mind he was greeted by his loved ones saying Hello, and that his laughter that was so contagious in life continues to bubble and expand in many peoples' memories and wherever his spirit now resides.

May I have even half of the grace that you showed me was possible, Mr P, when it is my turn to pass over. Fly free dear friend.

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