Her dementia was pronounced. Most of the day she wore a blank stare, and seldom broke the silence with a word. Her body was atrophied as well.
As a Hospice Chaplain, my job was to bring her spiritual encouragement. (Anna, by the way, is a fictitious name but she was a very real person)
I had been a pastor for 32 years and had learned to care for the sick and dying. I thought I knew the ropes, but then I met her and wondered, “What could I possibly do to make a difference?”
I made my first visit just as the aide was finishing with Anna. She got her looking good and smelling sweet as a rose – but Anna didn’t like the primping. She was hotter than a tamale.
Nor did she appreciate my intrusion. She said the first and only word to me I would ever hear her say – a four letter word. OK, not the best time. I got that.
On my second visit, she was on her bed, thrashing and groaning, obviously tormented by something in her hazy mental world. I spoke but she ignored me. I tried again but she would not be interrupted.
I sat with my Bible in hand, perplexed as to what to do. She wouldn’t or couldn’t listen. I had my guitar with me. Maybe I could at least compete with the din she was making.
As I began to croon Jesus Loves Me, her groaning started to ebb. She even paused at times. Wow! I played another song and another and she seemed to take it all in.
After the concert I held her hand and prayed and I told Anna I loved her. I left the room feeling good – like maybe I got through.
Next visit: She was alert and peacefully laying under a sheet. Her pretzel of a leg was propped up on the other with her foot dangling in the air.
Once again, I grabbed the guitar and sang to her. There was no response, but I guess it was appreciated because she didn’t groan or cuss me out.
But during the second song, I noticed that her suspended foot was moving. I couldn’t believe it! It was bobbing – up and down – to the tempo of the music – in perfect time. A metronome could not have been more accurate.
She was really listening, even participating in the experience. I really was getting through. Excellent. It made me glad that I didn’t give up.
The apostle Paul had a message for people like me. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58-(New American Standard Updated Version)
Paul knew of the discouragement that comes with what appears to be a futile effort – preaching to the hard hearted, or teaching the apathetic, or trusting and untrustworthy coworker.
He passed on what he had learned when he said, “be steadfast (stick in there) immovable (like a rock) always (not sometimes) abounding (with complete commitment) in the work of the Lord.”
He gave us an incentive when he promised that our toil (extremely hard and sometimes disappointing work) would never be in vain (useless or fruitless) in the Lord.
When we persevere in doing that which God wants us to do, good things eventually come of it.
So, Mom: When your 2-year-old throws a tantrum, stay the course. He needs you to be firm.
Student: You may have blown the test, but you haven’t blown the course. The Lord got you into that school and He will get you through it. So, work smarter and harder. It will be worth it.
Husband: The marriage seems to be hopeless, but you can do wonders by consistently loving and serving your wife – no matter what. It will take time, but it will not be in vain.
Teacher: Your class seems to be incorrigible. Give them your best, every day. It’s what the Lord would have you to do. Your persevering love and devotion will change them.
When I get to heaven, I hope that Jesus will remember my attempt to be a steadfast man for Him. I long to hear Him say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” If I should hear sweet Anna chime in with an, “Amen.” Even better!