Hope in a Hospice
My son, Nathan, is a hospice nurse in Vidalia, Georgia. He is present often when his patients leave this earth. I have been in the presence of those passing many times as well. It is humbling, sad, exhilarating and mysterious when a soul breathes his/ her last.
How do you minister to someone who is dying? You trust the Spirit and point them to Jesus. But that is not always the only pathway. This article “Hope in a Hospice” written by Percy McCray and published in Leadership Journal (Spring, 2015) is a beautiful reminder of what it means to be the very “presence” of Jesus. Enjoy.
HOPE IN A HOSPICE
The power of presence is its own gospel message.
One of our HIV patients now had full blown AIDS. He refused to allow me to speak with him for almost three months because of what he thought I represented – and understandably so.
But over time he was willing to see me, and we got to know one another, talking mostly about his love of hunting and fishing. We never talked about God, never talked about faith, never opened the Bible – not once. But he believed I was there for him, not for my own need to see another person “get saved.”
On his last (and final) trip, he had me paged to his room. His family was in the room with him.
“I just need you to sit here and talk to me,” he told me. “Just hold my hand and talk to me. I’m dying.”
“I know,” I said.
I realized that we needed to go somewhere we hadn’t yet. So very quietly, very peacefully, I said, “My friend, if indeed you’re dying today, I need to ask you something. Is that okay?” He nodded. “Have you thought about what will happened to you beyond today, if today is your last day on Planet Earth? What would happen to you? Where would you go?”
“It’s interesting that you would ask that question, Rev. McCray,” he said. “Because the last time we met, I went home and sat in my backyard, and I had a conversation with God. I asked him to forgive me of my sins. Then I called my family members, and I reconciled to some of my family members that I had been at odds with. I asked God to forgive me. I asked Jesus into my heart.”
I was flabbergasted. It was a day of epiphany that I shall never forget. Then he said, “But really I just wanted to see if you would sit down and hold my hand without a latex glove.”
So we sat there hand in hand. Until he quietly slipped away. That’s when I understood the power of Christ’s presence, and my role of being a deep listening presence. Being able to connect with people, being available, being present, allowing that person to take you with them on their journey. It becomes a shared journey.
I didn’t preach. I didn’t quote a Scripture. I just needed to be present and to display the love of God to this man. Somehow God took over from there.
Percy McCray is director of pastoral care at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Illinois, providing spiritual support for patients and caregivers.