I was reminded of this today as I drove to Rochester/Mayo Clinic to visit with a parishioner in ICU. For the past four years she has struggled with a variety of ailments, from breast cancer to pancreatitis with a couple of falls for good measure.
When I arrived she seemed surprised to have her pastor visit her way up there. Not once during our time together did I hear a complaint about how she felt or about the difficult journey that she is on...instead I was struck by her humilty and her sweet spirit. We talked, I witnessed the nurses draw blood and care for her immediate needs, I read scripture, we prayed and even sang a hymn together. It was worth every mile of the drive there and back again.
Another parishioner volunteered to ride along. During the 200 mile round-trip we talked about the Church, our families and the challenges that we have both faced through the years. He is a retired school teacher who's first wife died of cancer and left him with four young children, by the grace of God, he shared, God gave him a 'special flower' - his 2nd wife and her 2 children (she too was a widow). They have been together for 30 years now - and together they have spoken to numerous college students at Wartburg College about Death and Dying and witnessed to their faith and how God was present in the midst of it all.
When I was 25 my mom died...that was almost half my life ago - wow, I guess I never thought of it that way...sigh. A few months later my fiancées daughter was killed in a car accident - she was only 6. Somehow we made it through the summer of '87, but I am not sure that either of us ever 'got over' the pain of the loss - not completely - I don't think one ever does.
I try not to dwell on death and dying - but its hard when one of my best friends is grieving the death of her daughter earlier this summer. There are no words adequate to speak to the pain she is feeling right now - 'I'm sorry' rings hollow. And yet, I have to say something - I have to acknowledge her pain, just as I remember Mom and Angie - to say nothing is too cruel and it is not faithful to our friendship or my belief that God is in the midst of the bad as well as the good in our life.
It shouldn't take a serious illness or a death in the family to wake up to the reality that life is fragile. Anyone who has eyes to see and ears to hear can see that there is pain and suffering all around us. Likewise, those same eyes and ears should be able to see the sweet things in life... to me these are almost as painful to see because they are so precious and sometimes in short supply.
A phone call from a friend this morning who was checking in - and willing to listen to all of my stuff...wow!
The drive through Eastern Iowa and SE Minnesota - and the breathtaking views of fields and forests in full autumn color...
The smile on the face of the church member as we reassured her that we would check in on her husband - precious...
My boys inhaling their Subway sandwiches this evening, chatting about their day - even tho mom was really late getting home tonight - all very, very sweet... and all in the span of one day!
What a blessing - what a reminder of how God truly is in the midst of everything - if we are willing to seek His face - He is here, there and everywhere - but we have to have eyes to see and ears to hear.