Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
~ James 5:16
I seem to be emotional these days. In my visits with patients and their families, I have a number of things shared with me. End of life, and the process of dying, can be filled with many moments where efforts of reconciliation are extended, difficult conversations are had, and sometimes, dark family secrets come to light.
Years ago a man lay dying and as we sat and shared, he told me about killing another man. I listened as the man shared of "being drunk," with a friend and "playing," along a set of railroad tracks.
"Nobody knew where we were. I'm not sure even we knew where we were."
The two had grown up together and were "as close as brothers."
They were crossing a bridge when a disagreement erupted, and they began to struggle with one another. "It's not like we hadn't had a fight or two before. We knew each other our whole lives. It wasn't really a fight. We just pushed each other, but then I punched him and he..."
The man paused and shared of the friend falling into the darkness below. "It was just quiet. I don't even remember any sounds. I tried to get down there, but it was too steep and I was too drunk. I just went home."
A few days would go by and the man would be reported missing, and then a few days later, his body was discovered. The toxicology report would show that he was drunk and it was ruled accidental.
The man would never share of what happened that night until he lay dying in a hospital bed a few decades later.
He gave me the name of the man and the town they lived in and asked that I let his family know what happened and that he was sorry.
A number of things happened after that, and I remember trying to locate the parents of the man who had fallen to his death. They had already both died, but I was able to find the man's sister and share the story of what happened to her brother on the night he died.
While talking with another colleague about something that was shared with me this past week, I thought of this man again, and that there are some of us who have been entrusted to be the gatherer of peoples' stories.
I remember then, and now, of trying to remain a non-judgemental presence. Of someone who offers a space to listen, and to try to make sense of, "what next." I am reminded that our lives can be, and often are, messy.
Jesus offers love. There is nothing that I love about some of these stories, but being the person who hears the story, has to a place of sacredness.
Moses is told to "take off your sandals, the ground you walk is holy."
Knowing that we are made from the ground, with the breath of God blown into us, we are walking and breathing vessels of that same holy ground. Embraced by a loving God who knows our steps, our decisions, but most of all our hearts.
Being able to be bearers of these stories, also is the invitation to allow for Christ to walk with us, and to carry these as well. It is about surrendering to the overwhelming presence of grace and mercy. But most of all, the invitation into the most sacred of relationships. Of being one with one another, and with God.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
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.