“I will sing of your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy” (The Valley Song- Jars of Clay)
Those who know me or follow this blog have heard me speak often about the continual joy that I experience as a Eucharistic minister to the nursing homes. In bringing Christ to each of these faithful, the gift of grace that is experienced is immeasurable. There is both communion and community in these moments, a sharing of stories and of ourselves. It is an invitation into their day, their families, their sickness and joy. And I leave feeling God’s presence so profoundly at work and the gift of my time well spent.
Over the years, my husband and I have said goodbye to many very good friends in the course of this ministry. I call them friends because that is truly what they are. With each I cannot help but remember the little things, simple moments and conversations. Like putting on the shoes of someone who can no longer move their fingers or bodies they way they used to. We have been there in the last moments too, knowing that that this will be the last time we will probably see that person. So too is where God’s mercy and grace found me today.
I met “Joe” just days after he had arrived and had yet to get accustomed to his surroundings. My husband, who usually accompanied me was sick that day and could not go. Knocking on the door and introducing myself, I was invited to take a seat beside him. “I do not know how long I will be here…you see I fell and I need a little help for awhile.” “I see, well I am certainly glad to meet you and visit for as long as you are here.” There was a long pause, then he broke down and shared how he missed his wife, his home and familiar surroundings. “I feel so alone.” Listening intently, I knew how important it was for me to be there. “You are not alone today. Would you like to share in communion together?” “Then let’s begin with the Our Father.” Together as we prayed, and then spoke the words of contrition we felt Christ was indeed present.
This day was almost two years ago and I have joyfully watched as he settled in and found comfort in the loving care of the staff and his family who visited often. Several close calls in the past year have prepared me better for today, and yet I will miss him so. When we walked in, he was resting peacefully after hospice had visited. I hugged his wife and took my place beside her. “I’m afraid he may not be able to partake today..” “Well, how about a prayer together?.. The Our Father?” His family agreed and there we stood holding hands around his bedside praying the prayer “Joe” and I had said in our very first meeting. As we finished he opened his eyes and smiled! What a beautiful sight that must have been for him to see his family praying!
Saying goodbye is never easy, but I am so grateful for the time that God has given. In these privileged encounters where grace abounds, Christ fills the space of loneliness that those like “Joe” feel with unimaginable love. Though feeling loss, my heart too also knows the joy that awaits each one in the day they walk hand in hand with our Savior.
Thank you Father for allowing me to serve by bringing You to those who hunger and thirst for your presence. Help me to say goodbye when it’s time.