- Phil Collins
In hospice I visited a patient whose illness affected his voice box - he can't talk.
My first visit with him (last week) was one of those times when I mostly talked about what the day was like and asked yes/no questions. He was quite tired and unable to share much about what was going on. His family was not in the room, but I could tell from the cards, flowers and balloons that someone cared deeply for him. We talked about this - or, rather, I talked to him about this and he listened and nodded. He was helpless and sleepy, so we shared a short prayer and I let him know that I would visit again.
These kinds of visits are awkward for me, so I try to let them go and just place them in God's Love.
My second visit with him (this week) revealed that he has become much more alert. He's walking around his room with a very long nasal cannula that keeps him pretty much connected to the wall - but it's still long enough for him to get outside on his little porch. His eyes were bright and he was munching on a nutty-type sports bar when I entered the room. Nearly a different person!
Yes, he's up for a visit. No, he's not watching TV. Wife is gone to get her hair done.
There's not much you can talk about with yes, no and demo-type answers. "Aha!" his eyes revealed. Just a moment. He walked across the room, dragging his cannula along, and grabbed a whiteboard that is just big enough to fit across his lap. With a dry-erase marker, we had a marvelous conversation.
As I guided the conversation with questions, his SELF came alive. He told me about where he worked before he retired, where he was raised, what his daughter is like, when she was born, what she does now, that kind of thing. We spent a good bit of time just me getting to know him.
I was aware that as he wrote very methodically, I found myself trying to fill in the writing for him, kind of like finishing the sentence. Soon as I noticed this, I took a chill pill and relaxed into his cadence. I waited for him to wipe the board clean, to carefully place the top of the dry erase marker on the end, to hold his nutty bar with one hand as he wrote with the other. It was a spiritual practice to concentrate on his letters as much as he was.
I found it to be very intimate, particularly when I asked him what he hoped for. He paused, looked at the ceiling, and began to write...among other things, he hoped for a strong faith in God. He gestured that he felt many others had such a strong faith and he hoped that during his time here at hospice, he might grow in his faith. It was at once a confession and a faith statement. I felt honored that he would share this with me. I wanted to save those letters on the white board, but instead we prayed together and offered them up to God. Standing on his cannula, he gave me a big hug as I left our visit.
I think that writing causes us to be very careful and thoughtful about the words we choose. In my mind, God knows what is on the white board that I write in my heart each moment, and is gracious to allow me to dry-erase them willy nilly - God knows that I'll come up with some new letters and new phrases next time.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:14
What's on your white board, this moment?