She always wheels halfway into the hallway so she can watch me walk away. When I get to the corner I turn and wave. There is one more hall before the elevator. The sadness settles in for me as reflect on the losses my friend has processed.
She was a volunteer ministry assistant with me for many years. A relentless chronic illness is gradually sapping her energy and her abilities. Now she is confined to one small room in this extended care facility.
On this visit she told me that the woman in the next room was dying and nobody cared. She talked of the wife who comes every day and stays all day to be with and feed her husband. There is no conversation at the meal tables. A disoriented man had tried to break into her room. The person across the hall is sleeping. The sound of labored breathing penetrates the atmosphere and stirs uneasiness when it momentarily stops or is interrupted by choking.
The morning after this latest visit my phone rings early. The call is from this friend in extended care. She tells me that after I left yesterday the social worker had come for an assessment. After learning of the above report, an offer was made for transfer to another unit. This would be a place where the patients would be higher functioning and she could feel safe.
My friend asked if she could have a day to decide. She wanted to talk to me, her pastor, before making this change.
She told me she wondered if she should choose to stay in her current environment. She said she sees the decline in the other patients and knows that is her future, but should she not try to be useful for as long as she had something to give/some ways to help?
“Maybe I am where God wants me to be?”
I recognized, as I listened, that we were walking on Holy Ground. My friend was choosing a sacrificial life style because of her relationship with Jesus. Her favorite song is I surrender All and this is what I see her doing. She is denying a more comfortable experience for herself in order to respond to this call.
After praying with her, I said, “The safest place you will ever be is in the center of God’s will. Knowing you, you will get more energy from serving than from being served.”
She said she was hoping I would say that. I told her this was her mission field and we would build a prayer support team for her work.
Our conversation ended with her saying, “This is exciting.”