“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
~ 2 Corinthians 8:8
Waking up this morning for a second time at Houston Hospice where my cousin, John, continues to make his journey home. As I sit with my laptop, I look over the screen and watch him, gently breathing, and comfortable. It was an uneventful night, unlike the night before where he began to transition, having moments of confusion and uncertainty.
It's interesting how our dying seems to remind us that some things are just no longer important, and that as we die, we finally learn to surrender.
One of the doctors placed this heart in the palm of my hand, folding my fingers over it, and then having me place it in my pocket, "You will always be able to carry John with you," she shared.
I have cried. In all the times that I have encouraged the families of my patients to allow for grief to enter, for me, it has impacted me in ways that I could not imagine, providing for a greater understanding of how our spirit can groan when our emotions cannot be described.
I have loved. As I rub John's chest over his gown, I feel the wiring that is still in place from where his chest was opened eighteen years ago, and the pronounced tapping of the mechanical valve that once reminded me of a Timex, ticking away each time it opened and closed. Now I can just feel it opening and closing as it needs to. I look at the tattoos that have served as reminders of milestones in his life, and of decisions that he has made. They are both reflective of good times and bad, but do not define the man that now lays dying. I hold his hand and tell him that I "love him," and that it will "be okay."
I have known. Last week as we walked out of the hospital where he had spent five days, and doctors had attempted to somehow regulate his heart by injecting his stomach with blood thinners, and then pushing blood pressure medication, we realized that something was different this time. I heard him say, "I'm tired, so tired," and we knew that our journey was about to change. As I looked at the clothes I had seen him wear for the last several months, and the stains left by the sweat of summer, as he tried to hustle jobs to simply survive, I knew that he was more than just, "tired." We walked into a store and purchased new clothes and new shoes. A few things that would make him comfortable, and help him to keep his mind focused on what he had, rather than ache for what might "fix" how he was feeling.
I have watched. He has always had striking blue eyes. A characteristic that several of my family members have, including the beautiful eyes of my daughter. I have witnessed them close for the last time as he gently rests. I have watched as caregivers have embraced this restless man, and demonstrated that he is worthy of love and care, not focused on what he has "done in his life," but where he is now. The place where we accept ourselves for who we are, and that God's redemption is available to both the saint and the sinner.
I have learned. As difficult as this process has been at times, I have learned to have greater trust in God. I have learned that if we could just be, for a few minutes each day, fully where we are, we would indeed learn that we are not alone and that the One who is with us wants only one thing: to give us love.
John's journey, like ours, is one of Exodus. We are being brought into a place where we belong. Where God has called us to be. We leave this world to enter into full communion with God. As I look at the ceramic heart given to me by one of John's doctors, I realize it is possible for us, like Jesus, to send our own spirit of love to our friends when we leave them. Our spirit is deeply rooted in the Spirit of God, and is the greatest gift that we can provide to those who we love.
The abundance of our life is realized in our dying. When we leave, we will encounter the words of Jesus when he said, "It is good for you that I leave, because unless I pass away, I cannot send you my spirit to help you and inspire you.”
John's life inspires me.
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 and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.