Helpless but present

A geriatrician holds the hand of an elderly woman with arthritis.

After a few weeks of activities at the Manor, Villa, Memory Care Center and the Health Center Fr. Jacobsen gave us a new list of people to visit.   The list contained names of people receiving hospice care, and therefore in the final stages of their earthly life.  Judy (not real name) was on the list.

Pam and I went up to visit her room late on a Friday night.  We did not know what to expect.  The door was open and a very kind hospice nurse was sitting with her.   We introduced ourselves and asked if we could come in for a few minutes.  The nurse was very glad that we were there.   We walked in and Judy was lying in bed.   She was in her late nineties and had a very small frame but with a lovely head of beautiful white hair.   She was curled up and obviously in a lot of pain.   Pam and I sat with her and I struggled to find words to say.  In so many ways I felt helpless.   She was not able to respond to anything that we asked but we felt that she was aware that we were there.

We asked if we could pray for her, we held her hand and I managed to pray what felt like a clumsy prayer, but one from the heart (note to self: never leave home without a bookmarked BCP).  We then said the Lord’s Prayer and at the end I swear I saw her say “Amen”.

This is where we were meant to be, helpless but present, lacking but adequate.

We said goodbye and left the room.   We both felt that the time of passing was very close and went home subdued.

The next day we returned and whilst still in pain Judy clearly was in a better condition than the night before.   Armed this time with both the BCP and Ministry to the Sick our prayers were more coherent.  On the Sunday she was brighter still and we said one of the daily devotions with her and she responded multiple times.    Judy’s time of passing is close, and we continue to visit her every time that we are at the Villas.  Walking softly, being present, praying that she feels the blanket of Christ’s love as she journey’s home.

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One comment

  1. alextfe

    Richard, Thank you for another fine blog which, as is your custom, comes from both the head and the heart. I did want to respond but not as a comment. I commend you for your sensitive and caring listening/reflecting/praying/speaking. The 1979 BCP is a helpful background piece as too is the Book for Prayers for the sick.However, both are terribly dated — outdated. I recommend that you be thoroughly familiarwith the text, with what they attempt to express but then after thought and reflection, begin to compose and write down your own prayers as a handy starting point when visiting eg the admiral or the lady in this blog. My prayers continue to be with you/Pam as you continue to make Jesus present to those whom you visit. More once I return from General Convention. Best to Antonio. Alex The Rev. Dr. Alex NagyDirector of Theological Field EducationSchool for Ministry, Episcopal Diocese of San Diegoemail: nagyaf@yahoo.comphone: 760 231-7345mobile: 760 576-7875car: 760 637-4422

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