I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
~ Psalm 27:13 - 14
This morning I took time to walk in my yard and see the changes that are occuring as autumn embraces the breeze, and leaves turn to gold. Over the past week I have been checking in on this monarch chrysalis. When it first appeared, it was a gray color, nearly matching the boards in the fence, blending in, and protecting the miracle that was happening within.
This morning, I can now begin to see the outline of a wing, and the markings that will soon define the wings of the monarch as it appears. It's amazing to think that last week this was a caterpillar, and soon it will soar over the trees.
A few years ago, one of the families from the church I was serving encountered a health crisis while out of town. Don had received a kidney transplant nearly two decades earlier, and as with all things and time, the kidney was slowly falling behind. Don had to be lifted by helicopter from Dallas to Galveston. There, the kidney unit where he got his kidney years ago, was waiting for him to arrive. His wife called and I shared I would be there to meet him when he arrived as she made the drive from Dallas.
I arrived just as the helicopter was approaching the hospital. I watched as the tail spun around, making a soft landing, and the team from the unit, taking him from the helicopter up to where there was a room full of staff waiting.
I stood outside the door as vitals were taken, and initial assessments completed, and then I was invited to sit next to him and wait on his family to arrive. Don was not conscious, and appeared comfortable. I remember making just some light remarks, always remembering that people who are not conscious are always listening. I remind my hospice families of this all the time, encourage them to say positive things to the patient, and remind them that our hearing is the last thing to go when we die. I often will continue to talk to the patient, even after death for some time, thanking them for allowing me to be present for this important milestone in their life, and that I will see them again.
Don didn't stir. I began to hum "Amazing Grace" among the sounds of an occasional beep from a monitor and the rise and fall of the automatic blood pressure cuff on his arm. As I began to hum the song again for the second time, I could begin to hear Don humming the tune along with me. No movement. Not even the slightest lift from an eyebrow. Only the sound of the tune, flowing along with me.
I don't remember how many times we hummed the tune, but I could sense that his spirit was present, and that somehow I knew that "this time," things were going to be okay.
In many ways, I was seeing Don as I do the monarch chrysalis. It wasn't so much as to what my eyes could see, but what my spirit understood, as I listened to his spirit within, still humming, and lifting up a song that brought joy to the moment.
Like the chrysalis, I don't understand how the miracle of this transformation takes place. I guess in many ways, I don't care to know, because of the joy I encounter when wings push forth, and the butterfly emerges.
As I was reminded by Mary, one of the oldest members of the very first church I served who was bedbound in a nursing home years ago, "Don't let this old body fool you. My spirit is good and I am a warrior when it comes to praying for things. Just let me know what I need to pray for."
I am thankful for the miracle of the chrysalis, but moreso, I am thankful for knowing that my spirit, no matter what my body may encounter, belongs to a God whom I will sing to, even when my body is no longer able.
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.