For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.
~ Isaiah 41:13
Each day I end my blog with the words, "Stay in God's grip." Today I had the honor of being with a woman as she surrendered herself into the hands of God.
For the last several months she has defied all understanding of the human condition, and has taught all of us who have spent time with her what shear determination looks like. In our time together I have learned about so many things. I believe if this woman was part of an ancient tribe, she would have been revered as a "Great Elder."
I loved the stories that she would share. Her love for education pushed her to create a school that women would actually plan the birth of their next child around to fit the opening that might be available. She shared the story of finding a literal "camel" for a church event, and her daughter laughed until tears rolled down her face telling about a time that they loaded a grown sheep into the back of the family car for another event.
One day we were talking about her resourcefulness, and that she was the original "Google," before it existed!
She would share pictures of gardens she planted, and even went so far as to suggest a tree for my yard. After ordering it by way of a nursery based out of Delaware, that actually shipped the tree from Florida, the "Fireman's Cap" or as our family lovingly refers to as the "Nancy Tree," named for her, found it's way into our back yard. When I first planted it, every leaf dropped, and I thought that it had died. She assured me that it was only in shock, and that it would recover. She was right. It began shooting out new leaves, and branches, along with THORNS! When I shared, "You didn't tell me about the thorns," she responded, "Well, you didn't ask me if it had thorns."
Another moment where laughter erupted.
Our conversations then turned to her funeral, which included directions and suggestions on songs, scripture and even the need for yellow balloons. I laughed and said, "I suppose that I should wear a yellow bow tie as well?"
To which she responded, "That would be a nice touch."
One of the hardest things about being a hospice chaplain is knowing that the time that you have with someone is limited. There are those people that you meet that will forever change your life. The hospice relationship is usually six months or less with that patient, but for every encounter with her, I learned more about myself that will last a lifetime.
Living with a terminal illness can be a reminder that time is limited, and for some it involves "bucket lists," and a series of "lasts," but what I have discovered it can still be filled with hope, prayers, and possibilities. Miracles and healing exists, even in the final moments of life. Without going into a long story, she touched a very wounded part of me, and at the time of her death, I realized that she had brought it out of me, into the light, and that it no longer had power over me.
It's on days like these when I have been present for a person's last breath, I am reminded of the man who hung next to Christ who was promised, "Today you will be with me in paradise." While there were no words shared today by her, her final look to see that she was not alone, was all that she needed to trust that the next moment would be welcomed by the outstretched hands of God.
Once again I am reminded to have faith in the things that I have not seen, but in what I have watched others experience.
Even Christ called out to God, "Into thy hands I commit my spirit," just prior to his final moments. Once again reminding each of us of the importance of the hands of God, and that we are to trust that we will always be in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2019
Rev. G. Todd Williams is the author of the book, "Remember Me When..." and is a former hospice chaplain and pastor.