There’s this old guy I hang around with as part of our church’s outreach program (“Stephen Ministry”). It pairs us with people going through a rough time… death of a loved one, divorce, unemployment. Our job is to provide a listening ear, typically for 6-12 months.
In 2012, I was matched with an 89 yo guy whose wife had just been institutionalized with dementia. He reminded me of Pop…one year older, depression era, Greatest Generation. He never complained, served in WWII…no matter what was going on, everything was always “pretty good.”
For seven years, we walked together; the decline and death of his wife. His transformative journey and gradual loss of independence as his heart grew weaker. The death of two siblings and a niece. We talked about things; personal things, private things. I was supposed to be the caregiver, but I think in many ways I was the beneficiary. His faith was low-key, never showy, but I saw his daily devotionals and his bible next to his chair and knew from our talks that it was his faith that had sustained him during his dark seasons.
Yesterday he was moved to Hospice. He was heavily sedated and his breathing was labored. They said he could hear us, but that his time was near. I pulled up a chair and said quietly some final words and a prayer. His hand tightened around mine; I know he heard me. This morning, they called; my friend passed away at 8:15 on this last day of summer.
I thought about the brevity of life…tenuous, no promises, ephemeral. We are “a mist that is here for a while, then disappears.” What matters is the state of our soul at the end. My friend left peacefully…into, I’m sure, the embrace of He who ordered the winds and seas to cease. Just a gentle reminder that we don’t have a guarantee of tomorrow.
“You don’t have a soul. You ARE a soul. You have a body.”
~ C.S. Lewis