An air of peace surrounded the aging pastor as he napped on the metal-framed single bed. One leg hung over the edge, his arthritic toes touching the floor. A long oxygen tube ran to a concentrator that hummed at the foot of the bed.
Explore This IssueACEP News: Vol 29 – No 10 – October 2010
After placing his leg back into bed, I collected a newspaper that was scattered on the armchair and sat for a few minutes. A flood of happy memories of shared experiences with our families in Ottawa Hills, at their cottage on Lake Erie, and at our church washed over me.
I hesitated to wake him from what I gathered was his usual late-morning nap at the extended care facility.
A collection of pictures hung on a bulletin board on the wall of the tiny room. Our most recent Christmas card was there. Framed photos of his close-knit family sat prominently on a wooden desk – signs the pastor had lived a full life of successes in his calling, in his marriage, and in his raising of sons who went on to have fine families of their own.
Loss of good health and independence came quickly now. These losses would make many men bitter and depressed, but not the pastor. He remains engaged in life as much as his restrictions allow and is still very much interested in the people around him.
I touched him on the shoulder. He awakened quickly and oriented to the presence of a visitor much faster than I would, even though I was 35 years his junior.
He sat up and pushed back his disheveled gray hair, and we entered conversation as if I had interrupted a game of solitaire. His voice was weaker than it was during our previous conversation, but his mind was as sharp as ever.
We exchanged recent news of our large families and then reminisced about times gone by. My father, who was a pediatrician, and the pastor shared a tight bond of friendship for decades. Several years before his death, my dad remarked to the pastor that if you can live to be 80 years old and still have three truly close friends, consider yourself blessed. They counted each other as blessings.
the consolation of the physician is doubly helpful and appreciated because of the weight of our position.
The pastor spoke about how he and my father would get together regularly and talk about their lives and about troubling events. At that time, 30 or 40 years ago, children died much more frequently from conditions such as meningitis and cancer. My father carried these deaths as a heavy burden. By just being there to listen, the pastor helped to carry the load.