On Giving Care
(This week I witnessed a family who gathered to share memories about their father, who had just passed away. As their pastor, I invited his Care-giver from our church to come and share with the family. This is my reflection about this beautiful exchange)
For 6 years he walked by his side. Listening. Waiting for a time where the veil would be lifted and they’d have that talk about his disease; his “Why God?” angst; his anger at the possibility of being taken away. Every Saturday they’d meet. At the care-receiver’s house at first, but later at a care center. Every time he expected to see a defeated man; broken in heart and body.
But every Saturday he saw the opposite. A mean who was always trying to give…advice, story, welcome. A man who refused to talk about his disease and who only really wanted to talk about his family. His son, grandson, and daughter. Baseball, vacations, and adventures…a year adventure with the entire family in Saudi Arabia. And of course, always and everywhere the love of his life: his wife.
Later on at the care center there were days when he never said a word. There were days where it seemed he couldn’t speak. It was then that this care-giver would reach into his magic hat and try to find something…a picture, a memory, a joke, a question…to spark speech, conversation, relationship. Occasionally he received a precepted nod, but mostly he got silence. And then this man’s eyes would suddenly light up and his face would crack into a smile bigger than a half moon, as the caregiver watch as this man’s wife of 50 years walked into the room and pure, unbounded joy would burst on his face.
After 6 years of going to see this man almost every Saturday morning, it ended. This dear, brave man was given final rest and healing…and now resides in a same place where he can watch and witness his family grow in new ways.
The pastor asks the caregiver to share a few words. What do you say after 6 years. All those moments. Many of them ending in silence and frustration. But as he looks back at his notes…yes, he took notes…something strikes him! It strikes him just how much he has learned from this brave man! The utter first place his family owned in his heart. The sure joy he expressed when his loving wife entered the room. The advice he tried to hive him, the supposed advice-giver. The graciousness and welcome he gave to him on every visit. The willingness to let him walk with him in these tender and naked years. It strikes him that that man, who had so little to give…gave his all! This man humbly showed him that a real relationship there is never care-receiver and care-giver…but only those who receive. Al those years wondering where God’s grace was…and to finally realize it was there in between them all the time…in his hand, in his nod, in his smile, and in his silence.
Today I give thanks for care-giver and care-receiver and what God is able to do in the midst of them.
Your friend and pastor, still stunned into wonder at what God continues to do, Brook