As I walk in, I hear him on the phone, “She only needs forty more dollars to post her bond and I really don’t want her to be in jail over the weekend.” He looks up and winks at me, motioning me to come in and sit. “Is someone going to the hospital to see Tom? I’m sure he could use some encouragement. I have a few other needs on my list, but I’ll have to call you back. My friend is here to visit.” I’m honored he calls me a friend.
He smiles, “It’s so good to see you.” As we embrace he adds, “I’ve only got about 45 minutes before I’ve got to go to B Wing to lead devotions.” He sits back in his recliner. “My dear Susan, tell me how I can help you today?”
I laugh. “I've told you, you’re not supposed to be helping me, I’m the one whose here to help you.”
He chuckles, “Well, I know that, but you’ve got a tough job, let me at least pray for you.” He stretches out his hand. I take it and kneel next to him. He lays his hands on my shoulders and prays the most beautiful, heartfelt words. Tears make their way down my cheeks.
As he says “Amen”, he hands me a tissue. He knows me well, and he knows his prayers always make me cry. We chat for a while. He updates me on several patients on the hall. I try to redirect the conversation back to him, but he doesn't like to focus on his own needs.
You see, he doesn’t work at the nursing home, he’s a resident. He has chosen to live here with his wife. She is dying and lies in the bed next to us. He is a retired minister. Scratch that. He is a minister, actively serving anyone who crosses his path. He is ninety-eight, and at first glance he appears frail, hobbling around on his cane with gnarled, arthritic hands and stooped posture.
When you take a closer look, his inner strength and fortitude are evident. In fact, he’s the strongest man I’ve ever met. He continues to work long hours, encouraging, counseling, helping anyone in need.
We walk into the hall and as he greets several patients, he whispers, “I’m so glad God gave me this wonderful mission field in my twilight years.”
I’m in awe of his perspective. I give him a hug and tell him he’s the most inspirational person I’ve ever met, and he is. I ask how I can pray for him.
He grins, “Pray for XYZ”.
I kiss him on the cheek and as I turn to leave, I say, "You know God is already answering your prayer, right?"
He raises his cane to the ceiling as if in triumph."XYZ to His people."
I leave, laughing as I remember his explanation of XYZ, his need for "extra years of zest. " He shared that his one desire is to be used by God until he takes his last breath. God is indeed answering his sacred request.
Walking across the parking lot, I have a renewed outlook. The busyness of my day no longer seems overwhelming. Nuisances are irrelevant. I thank God for my mission field.
Whether we’re at home, in the office, grocery store or a nursing home, if we adopt Pastor Taylor’s perspective, we will realize that it’s all our mission field.
May we all have XYZ to finish the race well and with as much grace, passion and dedication as Pastor Taylor.
About the Author: Susan Rush has a psychology degree from Furman University and a Masters degree in social work from the University of South Carolina. She has been hospice social worker for nearly 20 years. Her hope is that readers will discover that there is joy in the mundane, comfort through the crisis and a lot of laughter in the middle. oodlesofgrace.blogspot.com