by Shirlee Vandegrift
I went out to have lunch with a friend. Seated at a table next to us were two men of advanced years, like my friend and me. They must have been, at the least, 75.
You know how it is in a restaurant, conversations going on all around and only little snippets getting your attention. Well, I wasn’t making a point of listening in, but I did hear one of the men talking about feeding someone. He said that sometimes the person he was feeding wouldn’t open her mouth. It became apparent that the person he was feeding was his wife who, it seemed, lived in a health care facility. I gathered his wife was past knowing her husband, or speaking to him, as he ministers to her lovingly.
Do you overhear pieces of conversations in public and make up your own story about the lives of the talkers? Could I tell a lot about the men and their marriages from these few minutes of eavesdropping? Did these men still think their wives were beautiful? Did they remember the wedding day when they promised to love through sickness and health? Did the bride and groom ever believe that solemn vow would come to this? Surely not. After all, they were healthy and hardy when they married.
Here was a stranger to me, with obvious love and concern, telling what it is like to try to care for a wife who has gone somewhere he can’t follow. But he is walking the walk the best he can.
And then he related a recent occurrence. He had given his wife a spoonful of food and while he was waiting for her to swallow he filled up the spoon for the next bite. As he moved the spoon toward her mouth, she unexpectedly mumbled, “Wait a minute.” He was surprised and delighted, you could just tell from his voice. His friend knew it was an important happening too. The friend said, “It gives you hope, doesn’t it?” The husband, quietly and gently indicated that there was really no hope for a reversal of his wife’s condition, but he was O.K. with that.
I silently praised God for every wonderful thing that I learned in a couple of minutes. Long marriages still took place and love lasted. Two men trusted each other enough to share their heart feelings. God had blessed these men with long lives, good women, enough health of their own to care for wives who had cared for them for years, and a quiet satisfaction for a life that was still meaningful even after experiencing losses.
For me, I started out to have potato pancakes and got a feast instead. I thought of the joy that was mine all the day long. When we say “Praise God” we don’t always say it with conviction. It is one of those automatic responses, like “How are you?” To which we say, ”Fine.” To this snippet of conversation I say, “Praise God” with all of my being. I thank God for the two men, who unwittingly included me in their day. I thank God for the gifts He gives all of us and the ability to not only recognize gifts but to be thankful for them. I thank Jesus for being with me on my journey and pray that I will give help where I am able and take help where it is needed.
Most of all, I feel love all around me. Praise God!