"Above all, love each other deeply, because loves covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling."
1 Peter 4:8 and 9
The morning began with thunder rattling my bedroom window, and the sound of rain upon the roof of our home. I leaned over to look at my phone, read a few emails from work, and then received word that a patient of mine had just died. I quickly moved from the bed to the shower, pouring a cup of coffee and headed out the door to meet a coworker at the death, and to provide support for the family.
The rain poured and I placed the windshield wipers on their fastest setting and I still struggled to see the road as water was displaced by passing cars and the monsoon that seemed to have settled over me.
Forty minutes later I was parking at the home where the woman lived, and I was soon face to face with her daughter. We greeted one another and I told her how sorry I was that her mother had died, and expressed appreciation for allowing us to care for her mother.
With her thick Spanish accent, the patient had requested that I call her, "Mama." Many times I would greet her with the name, "Mama," and she would take my hand and kiss it. While she struggled to remember names, including her own, there was still a connection that overcame illness and our differences. Initially she could still make the sign of the cross, and later I would help her when her mind forgot. I remember praying the "Lord's prayer," with her, and her love for chocolate milk.
A picture of she and her husband sat beside her bed, and often I looked at it and wondered what she was like, "in her prime." This morning her daughter and I viewed a motionless face, finally resting, free from confusion and the struggles that she had faced for the last few years.
"She will finally have all her words again," her daughter shared. We stood beside her and offered prayer. We prayed that God was welcoming her, and that she was finally healed from all the struggles that this world seemed to have offered her.
Again I am reminded that healing takes place in unexpected ways. That death is not always something to fear, or for that matter, unwelcomed. It was the mark of a journey completed.
I watched as the funeral director loaded her into a parked van outside, and listened as a daughter said one last "good bye, mom," as they drove away.
As they pulled away I realized the rain had stopped, and that the sun was beginning to appear. Her daughter looked at me and said, "It's going to be a sunny day."
It was in that moment that I realized that we had emptied ourselves and allowed for God to fill the moment with new meaning, and focus. While the pain of the loss was very real and present, there existed the honest recognition and confession of our human sameness. We were both participating in the care of God who came, not to the powerful, but the powerless. God created us in a way not to make us different, but the same. Not to take our pain away in moments like this, but to share in it.
Each day we are invited to participate with our brothers and sisters to open our hearts to each other, and to create relationships. In doing so, we are the walking illustrations of God's love for us and one another.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.