And the dear Lord told John, his disciple,
"... Behold, your mother ..." - John 19:27
... and in so doing, He indicated how we are to care for each other, how we are to care for those of us who are in need: the ailing, the hungry, the disabled, and the elderly - the oppressed, the homeless, the orphaned and the widowed.
This widow, soon to be bereft of her eldest son, soon to be overwhelmed with the immeasurable grief of a mother - caring for her and those like her as we would for our own mother - this is our duty. This is the Lord's will (Deuteronomy 16:11).
How can we express what a privilege it is to enter the home of those who are ailing, disabled or otherwise in need? What a blessing there is in making the patient's life a little better, in oh so many ways! Whatever the patient may need at this time in her life, we do.
When the patient is nearing the end-of-life (as she is here with us tonight), it is especially a privilege to be with her. Is there anything more we might do to comfort and strengthen her?
While the exact path taken may be different for each patient, the atmosphere around many of the dying is unmistakable. When you enter, you can feel a wave of peace washing through the home and through you.
When you look around, you may even see the golden glow filling the space all around - a glow like a brightly lit sign shouting out, "God is at work in this home!" "He is here!" (John 8:12) "Remove the rough edges of your being, for the ground you walk on is sacred ground." (Exodus 3:5)
Stop! Take note! This is sacred ground! He is preparing her!
See the patient - often elderly, once child, once vibrant young adult, and very much still fellow member of this world.
Beyond the rough edges of her being, see the sparkle He placed there still shining in her eyes. See her yearning to love and be loved.
See the person, the child of God before you!
Recognize your brother, your sister. Behold, your mother, your father, your daughter or son. Recognize what at any time might be you or me.
You struggle to blot out the very thought and cry out, "There is no way I would ever be in such a position!" "I plan on doing so many things before that time comes!" But you would be so very wrong (Luke 12:15-31).
And those of you who are so sure you will die before me or any other, because you are ailing - you are also mistaken. (Ecclesiastes 9:12) There is much you do not know about others, but even more, no man knows the exact time of his own death till he is facing it. Only the Lord knows beforehand.
And so it is with these patients. As if it makes some caregivers more important, many like to predict with a great and haughty certainty the actual time of this or that one's death, though they don't really know for sure. And if they do know, when the signs of the active phase of dying are not yet evident, then it is a death of their own doing, imposed so slyly that they believe that they will never be held responsible (Malachi 3:5). That they imposed these manipulated deaths is the only thing we can know for certain from their predictions.
We care and strengthen those we serve. We validate and honor their lives. Whatever they do, it isn't caring, and it doesn't strengthen or validate anyone's life. They rob the little strength there is left, destroy the time remaining to both patient and family, negate the worth of these priceless gems, and trample upon the will of the Lord.
But we know another way, and what we can know for sure is that to enter such a home, to be worthy of entering such a home, we must first care, then care every moment we are there. There is no need to "fix" all that is going wrong in their body, because that is not what can happen or what is meant to happen.
We are to be with the patient as we lovingly and mercifully care for them, - ideas not communicated in most schools of healthcare - but the most essential of things we need to understand, to do, and to be: loving.
To do anything less is an abomination, a betrayal of our patient and the dear Lord we serve. To these most vulnerable of all, we must offer the greatest respect and kindness.
Yes, there may be dozens of tasks to do that may fill the day, but on this day, this night, can we remember we have entered the sacred space? He is at work here! And we are mere assistants in His work.
How do you walk and work within the glow of His Presence? You pray. You remember Him. You tread with love, however fast or slow the need may demand.
People talk about space - public space, social space, personal space and intimate space, but beyond and much, much closer, is the sacred space where we work and live, caring for those at the end-of-life.
When we enter, we must see our mother, here before us, and then there is no question, "What must we do?" (Matthew 19:16-24)
People question whether there is meaning to life, or even if there is a God. Within the glow of His love, within the sacred space, there is no question at all whether there is meaning or God. These are the most pervasive truths of life!
Ask a mother and father if their child's life has meaning! Ask a husband or wife if his or her beloved's life has meaning! Ask yourself if your family members' lives have meaning! Then, ask yourself, "Whose life is not counted as part of someone's family!
You may say, "She's old!" "She will be forgotten and nobody will ever know that she even existed!" "What does it matter?" "Why waste time on this one or any of them?" But He knows. He remembers. He is aware!
No thing, no one, no event ever is forgotten in His book of life (Malachi 3:16; Revelation 20:12).
If we only open our eyes to see, we will know that all of life is filled with meaning, that He guides our feet even now. He and the dear friends who follow Him have taught us how to walk, this night and through all time, as we serve (Matthew 28:20).
And if we are blessed, His glow will remain with us as we walk through life, guiding us every step of the way from darkness into light and onward into the sacred space (Exodus 13:21-22).