Friday, February 02, 2007

Ministry

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that our pastor of 31 years has left our church to accept a call to another community. This has been quite a shock to our congregation, but we are rising to the occasion. It is encouraging to see new initiatives springing up, even without a spiritual leader. We're about halfway through what I'm calling The Gap -- the period between the previous pastor's departure and the arrival of the interim pastor who will be with us for at least a year and helping us to prepare for the calling of a new pastor. All in all it is a very interesting time.
. . . .
As a seminary graduate with experience in hospital chaplaincy, I offered to handle pastoral care needs until the Interim Pastor comes on board. There have not been a lot of requests, and I've been glad to respond to the ones I've received. I have a dozen or more trained Stephen Ministers available to help, as well.
. . . .
Yesterday I went to visit Laura, a lovely woman in her mid-forties who has been battling breast cancer for about fifteen years. That battle is nearing its end, though all who know Laura are in agreement that even with her death, it is Laura who wins the battle and not the cancer. She has made this disease work very hard to claim her. At home on hospice care, she has weeks rather than months to live. A number of weeks have passed since I last saw Laura. I had heard that she was very, very sick, so didn't know exactly what to expect from our visit.
. . . .
I'd left home without my gloves so my hands were cold. I'm a kind of "hands-on" caregiver, but I surely didn't want to touch my patient with these icy paws. When I pulled up in front of the house, I tried to warm them from the heat vent in the car, but that wasn't effective. So I stuffed them in my pockets as I waited for the door to open.
. . . .
Laura's room wasn't brightly lit -- I wondered if the light bothers her eyes -- but there were a couple of pretty candles and an immense, lush "Morris" type of cat lounging on the foot of the bed. The "Tree of Life" quilt that Kathleen made for Laura hangs above the bed. It is a very inviting space. Laura smiled and reached right away for my hand. I apologized for how cold it was, and her smile became more broad. She has the use of just one of her own hands now and she used it to rub and massage the cold out of mine. It felt just lovely. "You feel so good to me," I told her and the smile grew even more. I noticed that her nails had been groomed and polished beautifully and it made me remember when my mother, in the last week of her life, had received a home manicure as a birthday gift from the woman who cared for her. "Now, do the thumb, please," I asked and Laura's hand moved there to continue its work.
. . . .
We visited for about a half hour. We didn't have a lot of real conversation -- Laura has lost many of her language skills and much of her vocabulary at this point, and she would close her eyes and drift in and out of sleep. We prayed together and I promised to return on Sunday to bring her Communion. It was a short and pleasant visit, and what made it particularly meaningful is the role reversal: I was the designated caregiver, but even in her diminished condition, the visit began with Laura's ministering to me.

3 comments:

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

You are the face of God, you were to Laura during this visit and you are to so many, those too many to count! Nancy, it was my privilege to read this post. I am humbled and in awe. Thank you.

Ms. Jan said...

How sad to be losing a woman such as this. You were indeed the right person, at the right place at the right time.

Susan said...

Isn't that the way it often is with those who are still in the world, but not quite of it any more? I know you love this work you do, and cannot give without also receiving.