What do you say when there is nothing to say?
My friend had been battling leukemia for many years. The dreaded waiting period between the routine blood draws and the test reports had become fraught with familiar anxiety.
I waited for a call from this friend on the day I knew her results were due. When my phone rang she simply said, “Get your Bible and meet me at the park.” I said, “OK.”
We sat across from each other at a picnic table. She looked into my eyes with a steady gaze and said, “I am going to die.”
I said in response, “I will walk with you.”
This began a year of deepening an already precious friendship. The gift of walking with the dying is one we need to experience in order to fully appreciate. The trust, vulnerability and shifting priorities both sharpen faith and challenge conformity.
In my years as a community health nurse I was always in a relationship with a dying person I had grown to love. Then, in my years as a Children’s Pastor, the death of a friend was rare. Now, that I am a pastor for Senior Adults, I again find myself walking intimately with those whose time on earth can be measured in hours.
As I reflect on these seasons I am convinced that the times when the face of a dying friend is my daily companion I live a healthier spiritual life. The grief does not lessen in its intensity. The losses still tug heavily on my heart. But I am thankful for tangible reminders that the tents we live in are only designed for temporary use.
The next time a friend tells me he or she is dying I will be grateful for the gift of being able to say,“I will walk with you.”
What will your response be when you learn someone you love is dying?