Today I did a visit. A hospital visit. For a gentleman who’s second sentence to me, was “I don’t want to die yet.”
He then mumbled at length, about his cancer and his surgeries and his mother and his time in the Korean war. What he was telling me was his sacred story. I could tell. But I could only catch every third word or so. I tried to commit those words to memory. In case I might ever need them again. In case he died, ‘yet.’
I imagine that’s how the gospel writers felt as they tried to commit to memory all that Jesus said to them.
I could feel myself straying: wondering what time it was…why in God’s holy name it needed to be exactly 110* in that particular hospital room…how I might start to wrap things up. (Honest. We try to stay engaged…we really do. And most of the time, we do a pretty good job. But then we don’t.)
So I pulled out my best stuff. The redirect. Bible grab. The shifting shuffle. The purse touch.
The “shall we pray together” line was up next. (I never said I was proud of myself.)
When he started over.
And told me about his cancer and his surgeries and his mother and his time in the Korean war. This time though, he was getting tired…or I was…so I only caught every fifth word.
I started wondering why Old Navy’s online prices weren’t the same as in the store. And what I might have for dinner. And why that dadgum therapy dog that just walked by, didn’t stop to say hello! (Internal puppy squeeeee!)
Then he sat up straight and as articulate as anyone, said, “I’m gay. And I don’t want to die yet because I’ve read the Bible and gone to church my whole life, and given all that, I’m not sure what waits for me on the other side.”
And so I knelt down at his bedside, took his hand and we talked. We talked about his cancer and his surgeries and his mother and his time in the Korean war. We talked about God’s grace being so big that nothing, not even what other people try to tell us is sin, can keep us from God’s embrace. We talked about how pleased God is, when God forms our inward parts and sets us apart as ‘good.’ And we talked about what it might mean to find peace.
I still only caught every seventh word or so. But the heart seemed to speak of relief. And I guess sometimes, that’s all we can hope for.
That we might tell the sacred story.